Category Archives: Bureaucracy

A brush with bureaucracy, Part III

Berlin visa office

Outside Haus A, before the surge

We arrived early, or so we thought, with 10 minutes to spare before the visa office opened its doors last Thursday morning. The outdoor plaza was already teeming with people. There were two separate crowds before each building, Haus A and Haus B. The lines snaked around and were rather unclear where they started or ended. There were baby strollers in the midst of it all, and many anxious looking people trying to press forward to improve their spot in the line.

This, our fourth visit to the Ausländerbehörde, would be our last, we vowed. We had come by car, driven by our German friend, Hanna, who was glad to be of help but also as eager as we were to get this thing settled. (See Part 1, Part 2). Continue reading

Cash economy

eurosFunny things happen when you paint yourself into a corner. Like, say, if you decide at the beginning of your year abroad that if Germany is not a credit-card friendly place, then you’re going to live in a cash economy. What you don’t yet perceive is that while cash is fine for small transactions like coffee or a meal out, kontos are the way to go for recurring costs, school fees, doctor visits, and so forth. A konto is a local bank account, and we simply don’t have one.

We found conflicting information about Americans opening a konto both online and from our German contacts, and the pileup of misinformation, anticipated fees, and red tape led us to throw up our hands at the outset of our stay and say fine, cash it is, occasional wire transfers will suffice. Continue reading

Looks like I’m an expat

Expat Focus Top BlogThose of you paying close attention may have noticed a small logo that now appears on the right side of “Lost in Berlin” from the “Expat Focus” website. The good people over there decided to add my blog to their compilation of Expat Blogs from around the world.

I guess it’s fair to say that I hadn’t thought of myself as being an expat until I started reading other people’s blogs and experiences and realized that I’m writing about similar things. The only difference may be that I know I’ll be going back home after a year, while many people have pulled up stakes and moved their whole lives to a new country indefinitely.

The Expat folks asked if I would do an interview with them that they can post on their website. I just sent it off and thought I’d post it here as well. It is now available on this website. Continue reading

A brush with bureaucracy, Part II


Interesting that “fiktion” is part of the German word for “temporary residence permit,” but that’s just the English major in me talking.

We returned to the Ausländerbehörden for our follow-up visa meeting yesterday, all five of us, plus our friend the professor who proved so helpful last time. We took the kids out of school early for this; German class, math class and Schülerläden were all skipped in favor of our visa meeting. Our experience this time around was more productive, though consistently inconsistent and in a few ways flawed to the core.

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A brush with bureaucracy, Part I

Buro resident visa office berlin

It’s a welcoming sort of place, as you can plainly see.

I have been remarkably blasé about our visa appointment. M, a stress monkey. I have been convinced there will be no problem; why shouldn’t we be allowed to stay in this country? We have everything we need to show we are a solvent family and will not be a drain on the state. What could go wrong?

As an American, you can stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa. If you plan to stay longer, you need to apply in person for a visa. There are two steps to this process. The first is to register your residence with the police.

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