Having been in Germany before I realised that German's have a long-standing culture that brings with it traditions and ways of doing things. That's part of what I like here.
What I didn't expect is to be blind-sided by the extreme of her bureaucracy, not once but several times.
A German friend once said "Things in Germany are complicated but they should work" and I understand now that it wasn't a one-off comment to the first challenge we had but an apt remark about officialdom.
We knew we wanted a bank account in Germany instead of using our money cards from home that charge exorbitant fees for use overseas. We narrowed it down to 3 main contenders who looked to extend their services to foreigners.
The first, DKB were offensive in their communications and re-iterated that they would only do business in the German language when I at one stage needed to use English to clarify something technical. So they were out.
The second, comdirect
, had great social media support through Facebook (and an online application process) and were one of the reasons we still considered them despite having one of the lowest interest rates. However the application department initially demanded we provide proof of registration at the local council office and needed to be corralled into seeing that applications from overseas do not require this, before suddenly it appeared the account would be approved.
The third bank is Number26, and for their easy online application form, we would seriously have been swayed to use them. Examining the fine-print we discovered that at this time they are unable to facilitate international deposits/transfers into their accounts, which ruled us out unfortunately.
During the process of applying with comdirect we had huge internet issues that continued for weeks - it slowed down and went stale or we couldn't connect. This meant that instead of instantly being able to download a copy of our online application form we had to wait for it in the post, and we couldn't entertain the idea of using the video identification process either. From initial application to when our cards finally arrived took 3.5 weeks. In Germany you need a bank account for almost everything even buying a SIM card (although Aldi-talk does offer an option without). Even moreso when you want to rent an appartment, hold down a job or take out insurance.
So the number 1 tip is to apply before you arrive.
In general the lack of internet connectivity hampered a lot of things for us. We couldn't find out what was open; how to get places; communicate with friends and family; try to find another place to rent, let alone post posts here or work online etc. While this may be less directly due to institutional bureaucracy it was still related to systems and processes.
We did try to register at the local council office, but were told due to the law change that came into effect on the 1st November 2015 we couldn't choose to voluntarily register for less than 90 days, nor without a rental agreement. Hence the change of tack with comdirect to the requirements for overseas applications.
We want to buy an old motorhome here to continue our travels through Germany and Europe, but while we are allowed to purchase a vehicle we are prevented from registering it due to not being personally registered with the local council office. The only ways around it are to keep registering the vehicle as going out of the country, or to have someone else register the vehicle and legally take all responsibility for it which doesn't feel right to us but it might be the only thing that we have to hope for now.
WE ARE NOT ALONE!
The Germans we have talked to about any one of these challenges totally understand our experiences and wholeheartedly re-iterate 'Buerokratie' (bureaucracy) even going as far as the volunteer fire-fighter today who extended that to 'Beamtenburerokkratie' (Official/Government bureaucracy). While empathy doesn't help us directly, it does remind us it is not targeted at us and to keep trying when all we want to do is pack up and go home.