Apologies for the gap between posts – I’ve been spending long hours at the Pankow Rathaus (our local town hall) recently as the Bavarian and I have decided to tie the knot. As always in Berlin, there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved.
The first hurdle was figuring out what documents an English person and a German person need in order to get married. The Bavarian tried phoning, but could only get through to a central number where they insisted we had to come in to find out. It would be too much to ask for all the information to be easily accessible on a website, but they did have a contact email address – hooray! Except when we emailed, they replied to say that we should come in…
This is where Germany really differs – nay, lags behind – England, where you can do almost everything via the web from watching last week’s episode of EastEnders to paying your council tax. Here, they prefer paper and face to face contact.
So we went in. For some reason all these offices have really odd opening hours – this one is only open on Mondays and Tuesdays 8.30 – 13.00. They probably do it to generate queues. We waited in one for almost two hours before we got to see the nice lady who asked us why, actually, we had not brought all the stuff we needed with us.
I don’t know what prerequisites you need to work at the Rathaus, but being a dimwit must be one of them. We explained the situation, showed her our passports and she started reeling off list of stuff we had to provide:
- A newly issued copy of both our birth certificates
- A translation of my birth certificate by a Berlin-state approved translator
- A print off of both our registrations in Berlin that is less than 2 weeks old
- My passport
- The Bavarian’s ID
- My visa that shows I can live and work in this country
As you can see a lot of this list is bullshit. The first question we asked her was whether she knew that the UK was a member of the EU which meant that I could live and work here without a visa. She nodded vaguely and moved on. The translation is also a waste of time and money because the English words that appear on a birth certificate are few and basic- mother’s name, father’s name etc. But the biggest stupidity of all is asking for a print off of our registrations in Berlin – why? We registered as residents in Berlin, we already waited in a queue to give them our details which they tapped into a computer and that office is literally just down the hall from this office – it’s incomprehensible. Anyway, it meant another wasted morning at Pankow Rathaus.
By the time we had gathered all the bits and pieces we needed, The Bavarian was having feverish dreams about a book filled with names of people ahead of us in the queue at the Rathaus, so he woke me up at 6 o’clock on Monday morning to ensure that we could be at the top of the list and that he would make his 2 pm meeting. I think we overdid it a bit because we were there at 7 am, and there wasn’t even a list to sign. The photo shows the normally packed hallway…
Although we had all the required documents there was an issue with the fact that I have a second name that I do not use. The only place that my second name appears is on my birth certificate, which means that my birth certificate and my passport don’t match exactly – something that the English aren’t bothered about but that the German bureaucrat cannot bend his mind round.
We finally managed, after signing various things, answering questions, taking oaths, paying etc etc to submit all our papers. Now we just have to wait for about a month for a court to check the documents before we can book a date and go to the Rathaus again to get married…No wonder the rate of marriages in Berlin is so low.