When thinking about what to blog about this time round, I came back to one of my seeming favorite topics, punctuality. I had forgotten that I blogged about it in October, but something is calling me back again. I had been speaking to a colleague who had worked for the Irish arm of my former German company, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was always teasing her for being German (she is Irish) after being at a German company for a couple of years. She also expects people to be on time for meetings, follow through, and generally be on time. Her patience is as tested as mine is in many of these areas, although I do admit that my blog posts are almost never on time!
A recent poll done by Reader’s Digest and quoted in a video on the Deutsche Welle website indicates that, despite the trend in lateness when it comes to German trains (they said that only 1 in 5 was in time in recent months), Germans still place high value on punctuality. As the saying goes, five minutes early is considered “on time” by Germans. Thirty-two percent of those polled were willing to wait five minutes for someone, 36% were willing to wait 15 minutes, 6% were willing to wait 30 minutes, and a mere 2% would wait 60 minutes for a person they were meeting. As a recent expat in Ireland, where punctuality is not geschätzt or even expected, I have found that I even have to mention to people that they can expect me to be on time so as not to throw them off in their preparations for a party or evening out. Continue reading →
The big day started at 6:30 a.m. when I suddenly woke up and realized that today, November 27, was the date of my appointment at the Berlin Ausländerbehörde (Aliens Authority) to apply for my long-term residence visa (Aufenthaltstitel, not to be confused with an entry visa). I had made a reservation online and then received a confirmation email for an 8:00 a.m. appointment. That part of this experience had gone smoothly.
Unbelievably, the night before I had gone to bed without even setting my alarm clock! After a recent trip to France to visit my son and his fiancée, it had just plain slipped my mind. Totally weird how I just woke up and – bang! – realized it was visa day. Continue reading →
Sitting at the pediatrician at the hour-and-forty-five minute mark with my kids to get a flu shot this past week I thought back to what my mom said a few months ago. It was June and my family was in the midst of yet another move, this time across the great big pond from Zürich to Toronto doing a repatriating of sorts after 10 years abroad. I had called my mom, feeling ill from the onslaught of summer flu and telling her that the family doctor had come by the house earlier to see me after he had closed his practice as I was too weak to drive and my husband was not home. So the doctor came by, confirmed my suspicions, ordered me to rest (as much as possible), take some medicine and Tami-Flu. Did I mention he brought all of my medicine? Yes, he did. I did as told and was able to “recover” enough to fly two days later to Toronto for some house hunting with my husband. My mother’s words are still ringing in my ears: “Well, you can kiss that kind of service good-bye in Canada, I think.” Oh, how right she was. Just finding a pediatrician has taken me two months, as not every pediatrician is accepting new patients here in Oakville. Continue reading →
Being in Ireland for the past couple of months has of course given me a new perspective about Germany and its many benefits. Every expat in Germany has some painful dealings with bureaucracy and at least one or two stories to tell that make others cringe and nod in mutual consternation. We lament the amount of stamps required and the lack of opening times. But I may have moved backward in time when I moved to Ireland. Bureaucracy is live and well, but things are most definitely not as efficient.
Like in Germany, I have gone to various offices looking for various stamps and certifications and bits of paper here in Ireland. But several times I have turned up at these offices during what should be opening times and found a piece of paper on the door proclaiming the office to be closed. I was used to being able to look up opening hours and train times and all in the Internet. The Deutsche Bahn, the regional tram schedules, the opening hours of my town’s Rathaus. Here I am lucky to find a PDF bus schedule from 2009 in the Internet, and the buses run twice a day to the town that is still 5 miles away from where I actually live! In Germany you can get a bus to just about anywhere, no matter how small. There are no guarantees that the buses will run past 10pm on a weeknight, or that they run more than once an hour on Sundays, but they DO exist! Continue reading →