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Friday, December 11, 2009
Sure, the trains run on time, everything is orderly, but people here are used to waiting for things to get done, which is fine, but it seems that the their threshold for waiting times far exceeds my threshold. Is patience really a virtue? Also, this attitude is inconsistent. I am still confused, so this post might make no sense at all.
At work, at the Arbeitsamt (work permit office), at the Auslandsamt (foreigners office), bank, post office, things take a ridiculous amount of time. Processing, obtaining a receipt, paying, and book keeping are all done with annoying meticulous-ness. You would think that people would be more pissed off, but it is me, the "mellow American" that gets mad and frustrated, while the German throws up his hands, shakes his head, and says, "well, thats just the way it is" when things do not go smoothly. But, on the other hand, you have people huffing and puffing in line behind you, as you are doing a very normal transaction on an ATM, or glancing nervously at their watch if the train is 1 minute late, or yelling at you if you cross the street on on a red. See---it is confusing!
Here is an example of the "thats just the way it is" mentality. At work, we need to do some online training for a new software package being introduced at the beginning of next year. The training is supposed to take place Dec 10. Of course, you need a login and password to access the training materials. According to Airbus, it should take up to 3 days to be granted access. Knowing that 3 Airbus days is more like 21 real days, I applied 3 weeks in advance. A week before the training course, I emailed the password people, and they said all is in order, you will have the login in the next few days. OK, so I wait a few days, and then I email back..."I need the login access by Thursday". The reply back--"If you dont have access by friday, then let us know." Thanks for that! So Dec 10 came and went, no access. Just waiting. Perfectly normal!?!
I think that people over here think they have no control over government and beuracracy, so thats where the "thats just the way it is" attitude comes from. But in their own personal life, on the street, on the train, in the bus, they try and maintain control, which is not always possible. This leads to becoming laughably upset over the slightest detour in their plans, and being wary of any slight sponteneity that may occur. In the US, if we dont like something, we become vocal, we complain about it, even if its with the government, or at the bank--places where we are not in control. It feels like maybe our vocalizations will change something, and sometimes it does (maybe that is an illusion of freedom? To think we have control ...ie the government, when really, we don't?)---you might get re-imburesed at the bank for some crazy charges. But this wont happen over here. You are on your own when it comes to beauracracy, because the Germans have put faith that someone smarter, higher up, has figured it out for you. So its your fault if something goes wrong. Or they are seemingly not caring about your problem, assuming that it is you that screwed up, Not them. "Thats just the way it is". Suck it up, weakling!
I wouldnt survive the beuracracy in an island nation, or in Cambodia, or in Egypt, where, from experience, things REALLY happen slowly...my blood would boil over day one. I guess if you are an expat in these countries, there is someone, a local, who takes care of all the business stuff for you. Or maybe I am fragile. Luckily alcohol, pretzels, and candy are cheap over here...I can forget about all this stuff very easily...German distractions :)