I have said it about 20 times already and am going to say it again – living in Germany is an experience like no other. You might be a globetrotter, but nothing will prepare you for a life in this country. And this goes onto another level if you hail from Asia or Middle East.
Well, if you are planning to move here, this series (Germany 101) might come in handy to prepare you and let you know what to expect. Or if you’d like to sympathise or laugh at my expense, this is also the place to be at.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Upon arrival at Köln airport, the very kind immigration officer tried to tell me that I need to visit the foreign office as soon as possible, to register myself as a German resident. Here’s the conversation that followed:
Officer: Halo, &(“^*_#%£#^'(&€$#*%_(“€(#=@%&”&(/€($_*$_*.
Shaheen: Amm, sorry but I don’t speak German.
Officer: Kein Problem. Where from? Coming from?
S: I am from Pakistan and just flew in from Dubai.
O: Okay, Dubai. You Marriott?
S: No, my husband lives here. I will be living with him.
O: So you marriott..
S: Amm no..living with husband?
O: Go to foreign office. Monday.
S: Sure. Thank you
O: Bitte. Tschüss.
I wasn’t sure what just happened. I collected my luggage and went out to meet my man after nine long months.
I told N about my conversation with the officer and he told me that he was trying to ask if I was married. Marriott = Married? Dang! Well, at least now I will be prepared for the marriott question.
Cologne might be the fourth largest city of Germany but it isn’t exactly a hub of any sort – besides carnival maybe. Oh and it’s said to be the gay capital of Europe and hosts one of the biggest gay parades in the region. There are acres of land populated by naked trees (I am told they morph into a beauty in spring but I am yet to see it).
Anyway. Foreign office. N had gone through the entire process, so helped me out. Generally, you need to go to the Foreign Office (Amt für öffentliche Ordnung der Stadt Köln), who would then brief you about required documents, i.e. health insurance and city registration, which you then need to bring back to the Foreign Office to get your residence card.
I will tell you all about the registration process in the next post. For now, let me just share what frustrated me to no end in the process. Language. It’s frustrating and you often feel humiliated. Did I mention furious? Yes, you do lose your shit more often that you should. I have rolled my eyes to the extent of getting cross-eyed. How do you communicate when no one understands you?
To be fair, its not intentional on their part and many officials go out of their ways to support you; but it doesn’t change the fact that it is next to impossible to survive in Köln without learning the language. You just can’t!
Well, I am done with my registration and will tell you all about it in the next post. Are you still with me? FANTASTIC. See you in the next post.