bureaucracy, or why people should never move, ever

It’s 10:30, I should go to bed in half an hour, and that’s why I keep not blogging, because I never feel like I have time to cover everything. Facebook, with its little one-sentence status updates, is more my speed lately.

But that’s bad, because I should write it all down, or I’ll forget it. I’m already forgetting details, even though I’m in the middle of things right now. Today I dropped off the sign-up forms for our new doctor and made an appointment for a sort of introductory chat. Female doctor, down the street. I am now remembering that one of the new neighbors stopped by for some water (she doesn’t drink coffee, but is very nice anyway) and said that one of the female doctors around here is kind of weird and should be avoided. But now I can’t remember which one she said it was. Hm.

But I digress. This post is about bureaucrats, and the many ways in which I hate them. From only accepting a check drawn from a U.S. bank account (because nobody born in Wisconsin could ever possibly leave the country) to requiring a self-addressed, stamped envelope, even though you can’t actually get U.S. postage stamps outside the U.S… institutional stupidity is somehow more noxious than simple stupidity. The U.S. Consulate site says you can buy stamps online! But that place doesn’t ship internationally. They say that “Post offices in the Netherlands sell International Reply Coupons.” Yeah, no they don’t, and they haven’t for several years. Way to keep your information up-to-date, U.S. Consulate.

So far, though, the Dutch take the biscuit (although DrBob told a guy at the city office that this is the fifth country he’s moved to and he’s never seen such a bizarre and convoluted system, and the city office guy said “I’m guessing you’ve never tried to move to Belgium, then,” so apparently it could be worse), because – get this – you need to flash an official document to prove everything, but the document cannot be more than three months old.

Yeah. I have to prove that my kids are actually my kids, and since they are more than three months old, their birth certificates are not sufficient proof. DrBob and I have to prove we’re married, and while the marriage certificate has been accepted everywhere else, here it doesn’t count because we’ve been married more than three months. We had to send it to Denmark so they could put a sticker on it saying “yes, we issued this certificate, no we were not lying, yeah they really are married.” And I need to do the same with the Sniglet’s birth certificate, but he was born in Wisconsin, and thank GOD we kept that checking account, but we didn’t think to bring a passel of stamps when we moved back to Europe EIGHT YEARS AGO. (P.S. DrBob called the city office where the Sniglet was born, in Germany, told them what he needed, and it came in the mail within a week.)

Sigh. So I sent the birth certificate, form, and check to my friend Kelly in Maryland, with complicated instructions about getting stamps for the SASE, and more stamps for the main envelope, and mailing it off to Wisconsin, (lather, rinse, repeat for the new copies of the Sniglet’s birth certificate, because he’ll never be able to request copies of HIS OWN birth certificate, because he’ll probably never have a U.S. checking account) and I just really really hope my instructions are clear enough and that the relevant Wisconsin office gets this thing in the mail and back to me before the three months are up, or we’ll have to go through the whole thing again.

I have an appointment with the Immigration office on October 12th. Wish me luck. I have all the documents they told me I need beforehand, but of course I can’t anticipate what they’ll tell me I should have brought when I get there. Every damn desk-jockey we talk to gives us different information.

We thought we’d stay here maybe ten years, and then DrBob would think about applying to other places (me: ooo! howabout the Sorbonne? PARIS♥♥♥!). But now? Hell to the no. I think we’ll just stay here forever, thankyouverymuch.

Song du jour of the day: John Mayer, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room


6 responses to “bureaucracy, or why people should never move, ever

  • Melanie

    Poor you. Before I got to the Kelly paragraph I was gonna offer to send you a bunch of stamps. Still want me to? And do they have twist ties in the Netherlands?

    • alala

      Aww, thanks! But I hope never to need them again, you know? Stupid bureaucracy.

      Re twist ties, I still have a lot of the ones you sent me – I am conserving like crazy, only throwing them out when they are truly, truly dead. Today’s garbage day, and I tied knots at the top of my garbage bags, but the neighbors seem to have twist-tied theirs, so I am hopeful.

  • Breigh

    hehe oh dear, yes the Dutch DO love their paperwork! If it’s any consulation, after a while it sort of starts to feel normal and you aren’t surprised or overly irritated by it anymore. One thing though, when you are getting info on something, always call at least twice to make sure they give you the same story. Many times I’ve run around like a headless chicken trying to sort something, only to find out later that the first person gave me incorrect information. Now THAT never stops being annoying, so the only way to remedy it is to ask multiple people and go with the majority. Sounds insane, but it works.

    As for the doctors, yeah it’s touch and go here. You’ll probably find them weird, blunt and sort of cold at first but it’s just their way. Most are very clinical and don’t have a lot of ‘bedside manner’, it’s a thorn in the side of ever expat. On the plus side, you can get appointments so quickly and you never have to wait long. Perhaps that’s why they are so short and to the point, so that you don’t sit there waffling for ages and get them behind hehe If that’s the case it definitely works!

    Hey I am on FB too and would love to hear your one line updates!! Add me 😀

  • amy

    ok, so I need to really stop complaining about the paperwork involved in sending children to school. 😉 Good luck with the immigration office!

    And I feel the same way about blogging. I never feel like I have the time, and when I do have the time, I don’t feel like I have anything interesting to say at the moment. (Not that that last part pertains to you, the not-interesting part, I mean.)

    • alala

      Well, that’s it right there – if you have time to blog, it’s because there’s not a lot going on at the moment. If you have something interesting happening, it’s probably keeping you too busy to blog. Still, I wish I’d documented this a bit more, possibly to help future movers-to-NL, and also for perspective when I forget how irritating this all was.

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