Bella Peacock

Surviving the barrage of German bureaucracy

Welcome to Germany, my starry-eyed Ausländer, the land of Amts and stamps, the administration nation. You must now embark on a quest through a red tape maze amounting to the world's dullest labyrinth in pursuit of series of certifying stamps! Your journey will be the ultimate test of endurance, an endless series of detours in which you will be forced to collect your body weight in paper and deposit it at various locations around the city in a form of perverted orienteering. Good luck!

After a number of unintelligibly difficult attempts to withdraw money or enrol in classes at university, you've discovered that the first thing on your Berlin to-do list is not, in fact, Berghain, but an institution with a comparable queue and an equal capacity to suck out your soul, the Bürgeramt.

"I need to register my address? That can't take too long, I'll just do it online," you might say.

Oh no, my callow friend, don't you know? All government departments in Germany were caught in a tragic time freeze and have never progressed past mullets and typewriters that pose as desktop computers.

Tip one: Surrender yourself to the insanity of a completely undigitalised system.

"Okay, so I'll make an appointment."

How does two months from now sound? Surely you won't need access to your bank account before then, right?

"Okay, so I'll just show up. There's Bürgeramt right around the corner"

Fool. One does not simply walk into an amt. One wakes up at 7am on a Friday to starting queuing.

Tip two: Don't make lunch plans. Amt stamps don't come easy

Driven by sheer desperation for a document that's existence would be deemed entirely superfluous in any other country, you stoically wait hours in the cold before you even reach the Bürgeramt bouncer, guardian of Amt, decider of your future.
"Spreken Zie English?"
"Nein"
"Oh... uh...Reg-is-traaa-tion. Ammhelden? Anheltung?"
"Geh rein, links"
"Ah, what?"
"Geh rein!"

You still don't know what she talking about but she's already onto the next person so you stumble confusedly inside. After wondering around this real world incarnation of the Ministry of Order, you eventually find someone sitting behind a counter. This is an Amtfrau. A special type of women found only in Germany, primarily in government buildings. She is middle aged, has white blonde hair sprayed up into some kind of gruesome mullet quiff, and gives exactly zero fucks about you. If you're lucky, she might also be wearing blue eyeliner. She will hand you a number, your token to level two of Amtstamps! Congratulations! After hours of queueing, you're finally in the queue!

Tip three: Learn to love the Warteschlange (hatred will send you psychotic).

In a stale, beige room, you'll wait for another series of hours next to a crying baby and a sweaty grandpa in a kind of purgatory, watching numbers on a single TV screen tick over in a seemingly senseless fashion. 928675. It's you! You jump up and start rampantly looking for the right door as if your number might expire if you don't get there quick enough. You find it, you sit down. Another Amtfrau. She looks practically the same, except her mullet has the addition of some stringy bangs. Lucky you. You sheepishly push your apartment contract and passport over the table trying to avoid the deluge hyperspecialised stationary. Without saying a word, she looks at your documents, picks up the holly stamp and BAM! The whole process is over in 30 seconds, and yet it has taken an entire day. You stumble out of the grey building and onto the street. Your free! Finally free!!!

Wait, sweet newbie, when did you say you have to visit the Ausländerbehorde again?

Tip four: Endure!


by Bella Peacock