Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mobile Phone Disaster

Saturday evening and Gerrit is busy watching Finding Nemo on the mini-dvd player, which gives me a few minutes to jot down some thoughts on today. Gerard, Gerrit, and I traveled into Munich on the U-bahn today trying to get cell phones. We got to T-Mobile and found someone who spoke decent english. Now, typically in Germany you need to have all sorts of documentation if you are a foreigner to be able to establish credit, set up bank accounts, phone, housing, etc., but because Gerard's job at ESO is considered a diplomatic position, he is immune from having to do most of these things. The ESO personnel office prepared a document for us to let various businesses (banks, etc.) know of our situation and we were told that this letter would suffice - no further documentation needed. Well, turns out either this is not so easy as we thought OR we had an incompetent person helping us. We showed the letter to the gal and she made a copy. We even signed a contract. She seemed a bit confused regarding the letter but told us that it should be no problem. She then told us to come back at 4 pm while she activated our phones. We hung out and had coffee at a nearby cafe while people watching. We returned at 4 pm and our gal was nowhere to be seen. When we inquired, we were told she was on lunch break, but no one made any efforts to get her for us. (Now, normally this would have been okay, but we had to be back in Garching at 5pm to take one of Gerard's colleagues to the airport so we were short on time). We pushed the issue and they finally got her for us. Only when we returned were we then told that she could not complete the transaction for us unless we had the proper documentation required, and that the letter we provided for her was not enough. She asked for a residency registration (a document you receive after registering with the police department) as well as a residency VISA in our passports. When we again explained that we did not have this nor did we have to provide it, she was not satisfied. She then asked for some sort of proof of residency, such as a bill in our names at our new home. (I should mention that we had also told her several times that we had just arrived and did not have a permanent address yet so there were not bills in our names.) We offered her the ESO address and/or the address where we've been staying, but again it was not enough. We reiterated that we had just arrived last Monday and reminded her that we had set up bank accounts (she had our account numbers) with this letter provided, etc. We were then told we could not complete the transaction. We left rushing back to Garching with no phones and barely enough time to get Francoise to the airport. Argh... more "Quintessentially German" frustration.
We will likely fill out an application on the house in Neufarhn, not necessarily because it's our first choice, but because it's one of the few genuine leads we have at this point. I should also mention a bit about the housing situation here. Most people rent and stay in their homes/apartments for quite some time. It is not exactly financially easy to move out of a place, either, so for us to jump into someplace now and then leave after a year would be quite pricey. Here's why. Most houses/apartments for rent or purchase have real estate agents who charge you 2 1/2 months rent as their fee. The owner also typically charges 3 months rent as deposit, and you still have to pay the first month's rent on top of that. So you are looking at spending about 6 or more months rent right off the bat just to get into a place here. ESO does provide an installment grant you are expected to use for this purpose, but it will cover this cost once and leave little extra money for the extra things you need to buy when moving into a place. And yes, there are extra expenses.

First additional expense - closets. The places here don't usually have installed closets so you need to purchase your own wardrobes for every room. This is also the case for kitchens and sometimes for bathrooms, too. Fortunately, most of the places we have been looking at have installed kitchens, but it is not common for kitchens to come with the property. Although it seems a strange custom, it is probably no more bizarre than Iwhen people in the U.S. people move from the east coast to the west coast and discover that most rentals do not come with refrigerators. It seems odd for people to transport their entire kitchen with them (stove/fridge/cabinets/etc.), but it happens. On rare occasions, you are given the option of purchasing the kitchen from the former tenant but usually you need to buy a fitted kitchen whenever you move into a place. It is quite typical for the kitchen to merely consist of a completely empty room with piping sticking out the walls. Lucky for us there is an IKEA very close to Neufahrn where we can buy most of these things at a relatively decent price. Obviously, we will also need to purchase washer/dryer, television, and other small appliances (toaster, microwave, etc.), too, as our U.S. appliances are not compatible over here. So... as you can see... there are various associated costs that make it difficult to hop from place to place. Ideally, we'd (or at least I) would like to love the place we rent since we'll be stuck there, but it may come down to grabbing the first place that accepts dogs and is willing to rent to foreigners, and decides to actually call us back.
Tomorrow is Sunday so nothing will be open. We've been warned about the various rules we must follow throughout the week and on Sunday. During the week you must not make any loud obnoxious noises (mowing lawn, drilling, vacuuming, etc.) before 8 am and then on Saturday any such noise must cease by 4 or 5 pm. No such noise is permitted on Sundays. We've decided to spend part of the day at a "Potato Festival" being held in Neufahrn, the town where we are looking into living. It seems to be one of the few annual highlights of their village. Tonight they crowned the Potato Queen (sorry we missed that). Will let you know how all goes.


At September 8, 2007 at 1:56 PM , Blogger Adrienne said...

Stupid people at the cell phone place!!! Don't they know how important you are. Screw Gerard's diplomatic hoo hah stuff. You're a pregnant woman and you need a cell phone NOW!!! God damn it!!!

Dan had some questions about Gerard's "diplomatic position" and wondered why he wasn't consulted about who's representing him over in Germany.

At September 9, 2007 at 7:54 AM , Blogger David said...

Hi Guys,
Well, the cell phone and doctor visit could have gone better. The pictures are great and Gerrit is looking good!
Enjoy the potato festival.

At September 9, 2007 at 12:26 PM , Blogger wendi said...

yikes...things are nuts over there.


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