The Way Things Work

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When moving your whole life to another country, what it really means is you get to start over from scratch.
Your old bank accounts, electric company, gas company, water company… none of those work anymore. The convenient online setup options, nope, those don’t exist. Your name isn’t on anything yet. Nobody knows you. You don’t know anybody. You also don’t know how anything works.

So, first things first, establish yourself. Apply for residency in the country.

They way things usually work, in order to apply for residency, you need an address to apply with.

It would seem, then, that finding an apartment is first on the list.

Actually, before you’re able to call any realtors, you need to register your phone. But before you can register your phone you need a tax number. So you go to the tax office, get a tax number, pay the tax, then go set it up with the Cell Company.

Now you can call the realtors.

And the apartment hunt begins…

Once you have your apartment, the utilities need to be transferred over as well. How does one go about doing that? You take your sorry self all the way to the perspective Gas, Electric, and Water company offices, take a number, and stand (or sit if you’re lucky to find a chair) for an hour in a hot waiting room.

Your number blinks on the screen. In your best attempt, you extend your rental agreement and indicate you moved to a new place and therefore need to set up the utility. ” Of course,” they reply. “May I see your residence permit?”

In fragmented sentences, you explain how you just moved to the country and don’t have a residence permit yet, but are in the process of applying for one. “Can you just use my passport?”

“No, I am sorry, we cannot do it without your permit.”

You leave the office, feeling both defeated and confused.

This can’t be right. You need an address to put on your permit application. How are you supposed to have an address if the utilities can’t be set up, because you need a permit to do so? Do you just live in an apartment without any heat or water for three months until your permit appointment?

Fortunately, your landlord empathizes with your dilemma and agrees to keep the utilities under his name until you receive your residence permit. “But don’t tell anyone,” he says, “because I’m not supposed to be doing this.”

Believe me, your secret is safe.

Next on the list, with your house taken care of, you can apply for your permit.

After filling nearly everything out, it asks you for your local health insurance information. Pause. You go to the bank and apply for the cheapest health insurance they offer. Yes, the bank. Weird, I know.

Unpause. You fill in your health insurance and click submit. It tells you your appointment date, 3 months from today. It also sends you a list of everything you need to bring with to your appointment, including a bank statement proving sufficient wages. Back to the bank we go.

The first two banks say you need a resident’s permit in order to sign up for a bank account. You gawk strangely at them because you need a bank statement in order to get your resident’s permit… Can you sense the frustration???

Well, third time’s the charm. Finally, at a third bank, they process you through no problem. But they do need for you to notarize your rental agreement for legitimate reasons.

You follow the red signs on the street for the notary and hand them your contract, explaining your need. “I’m sorry, ” they say. “You need to go to the tax office first and pay the house tax. This needed to be done within 15 days of signing the contract, but you’re too late. Go pay the tax then come back.”

At the tax office, nobody understands what needed to be done. They send you to 3 different floors before getting what you needed.

Back at the notary office, you hand them the tax receipt and they start making faces and tsks and call for backup. The manager hustles over and tells you the tax is too small. You didn’t pay enough. You need to go back and pay more.

“Will you write a note explaining what they need to do? We don’t know what we need.”

So she writes a note and attaches it. “But you have to wait until tomorrow. Everything is closed now.”

You head over to another notary office just to see if they say the same thing. They confirm: “You need to pay more tax.”

“You need you need you need…” Sheesh. All this for opening a bank account…

In the morning you head back over to the tax office. They read the note and consult with each other. Their conclusion: “No, this is not correct. You don’t need to pay any tax for the neighborhood you live in.” They also write a note back to the notary, explaining everything.

You take the note and head to a notary closer to the tax office in case you had to return again. This noter doesn’t even blink. Before you know it, your papers are stamped. Glad to see everyone’s on the same page…. not! Oh well. Relieved, you head back to the bank one final time.

Handing them your notarized documents, they finalize your new bank account. The only thing left is to transfer adequate wages and get a back statement for your permit. This also takes time and effort with your employer, who eventually agrees to give you an advance in order to show sufficient funds.

Next stop, the courthouse. The courthouse? The courthouse.

There you will get a translation and notary of your marriage certificate to prove your marriage in the country you’re applying residency. Which is necessary because all the other documents happen to be in your husband’s name, so you better be able to prove that you’re linked, or else!

Are you exhausted yet? I know I am.

Even so, this is just a small glimpse into the way things work around here. And this is literally just the beginning.

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Elbow Grease

You know when you eat a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, and how satisfying it is to eat it layer by layer? First the creamy frosting on top, then the vanilla ice cream, then the fudge, then the chocolate, then the oreo fudge crust… Bite by bite, layer by layer, until fork scrapes bottom. Since it’s frozen, it’s almost a job to eat it in such a way, but it’s so worth it.

That’s how I felt today as I scraped goo and gunk and dust and dirt from every nook and cranny of our newly rented apartment. From a quick glance it didn’t look like much cleaning needed to be done. But once I had a sponge in my hand, I had a rude awakening: the kitchen.

Either there had been a science experiment conducted on the stove or somebody blew their nose excessively, but for whatever reason, there was a yellow gunk residue EVERYWHERE.  I went at it with determination and vigor. There is no room in my new home for germs! Layer by layer, the yellow invasion painfully began thinning, until, 7 hours later, there was not a spot to be seen. As my sponge scraped metal, I knew my job was complete. It was a job. But it was so worth it.

However, for whatever reason I was compelled to climb up on the counter and peer on top of the cupboards. Bad life choice. Awaiting me was another delightfully sticky carpet of dirt and dust that seemed to have molecularly bonded into a tar-like substance. Once again, layer by layer, I aggressively attacked that grime until it the cupboards looked like new. It was totally unnecessary  Nobody even sees up that high. But I know its clean. And I know that the only layer remaining is the shine from my elbow grease.

So satisfying.