Friday, January 21, 2011

A Bad Morning (German Bureaucracy Leads to Australian Beer)

October snowfall in Bayern.  Smiling because its our last one!
This morning sucked.

For those who want to read it, I've got reams of moaning about German stupidity.  (After looking at my photos of Dresden, I've decided I really do LOVE Germany.  I love it so much it DRIVES ME NUTS!)  For those who would rather LAUGH about it, click on over to Liz's blog.  She's got a way better sense of humor than I do.  For those who really don't want to hear it anymore - YOU MOVED CHRISTINE, GET OVER IT! - skip down to the end (after the third photo, Ayers Rock in Dresden) and read about my time with the kids.  That was what this blog was supposed to be about, after all, wasn't it?  

Once I have to get involved with the remaining bureaucratic crap from Germany, the day just naturally deteriorates. The kids and I are working on using appropriate language (mostly me and mostly on NOT using INAPPROPRIATE language) but crap really does fit in this case.

Germans like to be known for their efficiency. But I honestly never saw a heck of a lot getting done while I was there and they are certainly wasting a lot of time with us now. Unfortunately MY time as well as theirs. It’s methodical, it’s bureaucratic, but it is no longer efficient if nothing gets done and IF IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. (Except for the Altdorf Rathaus; they have always been a liferaft of tranquility and helpfulness in an otherwise turbulent – and senseless – ocean of bureaucratic stupidity.)

When we spent WEEKS getting the runaround when we first moved to Stuttgart 7 years ago I thought it might be an anti-immigration thing. People will not answer your questions – no matter how simple - if you are not in the proper office for asking that question. And no, they will not tell you which office can answer your question or how to get there either. They treat you as if you are an ignorant loser unworthy of their attention. And make you feel that way until you get home and realize that these are the people who are supposed to be helping you so that you don’t remain ignorant!

We’ve had this in TOURIST INFORMATION areas too, most recently at the Ludwigsburg castle. When I asked about the children’s museum they told me I should have come yesterday. But I’m here today with four children. Well, the museum was only open yesterday. As if I should have known that. Do you have any other suggestions for the children? The children’s museum. But you should have been here yesterday. No kidding. And this was at the INFORMATION DESK. We ended up walking around the courtyard of the castle that we’d never seen before (we usually do the garden, which is what we were doing YESTERDAY, when we apparently should have been at the children’s museum!) IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Why not show some enthusiasm and tell us how beautiful the courtyard is?!

Now I understand why the supposedly simple things took Damon hours and months to work out.

You can only cancel the TV Skye service at one year intervals. So we cancelled our contract, due to renew the end of August, in June. When mid-September hit and we were still receiving channels we called again.

You can only cancel once a year, they told us. We cancelled in June, we responded. No you didn’t. Yes we did. No you didn’t. Yes we did. No you didn’t. Yes we did. So much for the customer is always right. In Germany, the customer is always the idiot. Damon finally told them we just weren’t paying/ But you have to pay for September, they said, because you’ve been getting it for two weeks.

NOW they are STILL harassing us, because, as they inform us, you can only cancel once a year and since we didn’t pay September we have to pay the full year.

You'd think a civilization that built - and rebuilt - the Frauenkirche in Dresden would be able to disconnect cable TV service with a little more class!

Thank goodness we are in Australia.

I sent a snotty email to my old fitness company too, the central offices who insist that the written notice I gave them three months before leaving is insufficient. It should have been six months unless we move somewhere that doesn’t have an associated fitness club. The manager at my local club laughed and told me they do that to everyone, just trying to get more money.

Our school did this too – accusing Ryan of destroying a book – and demanding 30 Euros. I ignored that letter…..also having been told it was just a way the school uses to get a little extra cash. And after hearing from Ryan that she had been reprimanded in front of the entire class for it. Rudely. And, having seen the book, also disagreeing that was destroyed. If you have a problem with my child, do NOT speak to her IN FRONT OF THE CLASS and then send me a letter for money. Without consulting me. They sent me THREE written reminders – all just as rude as the first – but never had the guts to address me to my face. You want to hear inappropriate language, read my thoughts on THAT one!

And now the fitness company.

HELLO! WE ARE IN AUSTRALIA! I wrote. What shall I send, PICTURES! (What they want is an Abmeldung. You are required to register your whereabouts when you live in Germany – frightening I know.) What they want is an official piece of paper. What we have is electronic. What they really want is 90 Euros.

Honestly, stop quibbling over the small stuff and start learning to serve customers. You’d waste less time, make people happy and, in the final result, earn MORE from satisfied customers. But sorry, that is CAPITALISM!

That self-vaunted German efficiency is taking a real beating here in Australia, the laid back folks who supposedly take nothing seriously.

Uh yeah? Just because they’re smiling doesn’t mean they’re not getting the job done. Health care? Check. Come back every 3 months til my permanent VISA comes in? Oh – don’t be silly. You’ve registered the kids in school, gotten a license, an apartment and a bank account. Why waste time reapplying every 3 months? Come back in a year.

Damon still can’t believe the phone and internet and electronics service people who help him find the most cost-efficient solution for his personal needs.

Ah yeah. CUSTOMER SERVICE! Keeping people happy – even the little people – so that they come back and buy more later. Instead of gauging them for every little bit so you can take all you can while they are there. Really, in Germany the BANKS insist on all 10 years of interest on a home mortgage, even if you sell the home and pay off the mortgage before then. You see, they don’t want to lose their money on that interest. Instead of taking care of their customers, meeting their need and thereby creating a loyal customer. Honestly, I never bought into all this while I was in the USA!

Ularu - still called Ayers Rock - in Dresden.  German schnitzel and Australian beer.

So yeah. That was not good morning.

After that, the two items we did not buy for the kids in their school packs, two pencil sharpeners and two rulers, had either disappeared or been broken beyond repair over the summer break.

Prompting me to yell and scream and tell the kids that they would have to use their Christmas money to buy them.

The coloured pencils I had bought for Aidan and Matthew kept breaking in the one Sesame Street pencil sharpener we COULD find.

Aidan then reminded me that the words I was using were not words of love. To which I responded that I was tired of being told what to say by a four year old and that if he wanted to swear then by all means he should go ahead and do it. This frightened him so much that he DID swear. And throw pencils.

Andrew then came out of his bedroom with a fistful of small change and offered to buy school supplies with his savings.

At which point I felt small enough and mean enough to crawl under a rock.

Which is when I decided 12:40 was NOT too early for a beer.

Beer at lunch.  In the Czech Republic, technically speaking...

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