In the second post I mentioned that I would tell this story, but haven’t been able to write it until now. At first I was just too angry, a common feeling after dealing with German bureaucrats, and then other things, better, more fun things got in the way. Now, of course, I have to write about our Anmeldung before I can get to Tuesday’s adventures at the Ausländerbehörde.
Anmeldung means registration and everyone, foreign or native, must register their new address each time they move within two weeks of doing so. I was worried about it. I figured, it sort of like the DMV. We’ll go talk to a person with a small amount of power and incredibly tedious job and after a lot of sighing and eye-rolling this person will send us on our way. Something like, Guten Tag-this-is-my-name-and-this -is-my-address-can-we-go-now?
Then our number was called and we walked into the assigned office only to see the woman who has gone before us still sitting at the desk frozen with tears (Its worth mentioned that unlike the american DMV, once your number gets called you go to an actual office, not a numbered desk in a communal room). We sat down. Wir sind die Familie Fine, my husband said as he began taking out the forms and certificates we’d carefully collected and labeled. I moved the baby’s stroller so that it would cause the least disturbance even though just being their seems to disturb the Beamterin (civil servant) assigned to us. The sighing and eye rolling started, but it didn’t matter. It was just part of dealing with bureaucracy, any bureaucracy. We had done everything right. It couldn’t take that much longer.
No, it can. We did everything wrong. Starting with where we got married. “What is this?” she spat at us, pushing our marriage license back to us with a sneer.
There was some grumbling, some shifting and sighing, but she moved on. The baby’s birth certificate came next.
“This is in English. Why is this in English?” She looked directly at Jon with such anger I couldn’t stop my mouth from hanging open. He remained perfectly stoic.
“Weil unsere Tochter in den USA geboren war.”
“but you are in Germany now! Where we speak German! What am I supposed to do with this? I can’t read this! WHY DOESN’T SHE HAVE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE IN GERMAN.”
I could not keep the confusion and anger off of my face let alone control the tiny wiggling infant in my lap. I am not well suited for Germany. Every emotion shows on my face, in my hands, my arms and shoulders. I probably should have taken Italian. Yet, there I was sitting in the Kreuzberg Bürgeramt with a lunatic trying to punish me for having my daughter in my own country. Never mind the fact that I signed a sheet of paper promising to the best of my ability NOT to have any more little Ausländeren while residing in the Bundesrepublik. Oh no, never mind that!
While all of this was running through my mind, Jon was still staring down the Beamterin, his face a perfect oval of orderly non-emotion. He told her that California does not issue German birth certificates* and pointed out that we were clearly her parents, that she could verify that by looking at the passports she still had on her desk.
It seemed as though we had gotten through the worst…
*I now know about apostilles. However, no where does the German government specify that one is necessary for the local Anmeldung process and none of the many people we know who have spent similar years in Deutschland mentioned it. We did get one for our marriage certificate for the residency permit process, which turned out to be unnecessary.