So, you have found your perfect apartment and flown into town. The next couple of steps you’ll have to do are a bit time consuming, but the bureaucracy is really not as bad as some other countries. The next step you have to do is to go to your local Kundenzentrum (Customer Service Center). You will have people telling you that it is the most annoying thing to do upon arrival, and the reason why they are right is due to the insane amount of waiting you must go through if you haven’t pre-booked an appointment online.
The problem with booking online is that there literally is no appointment available for the next 3 months. But you are not alone, I also could not book an appointment online in time and thus had to do it The Hard Way. But I will try to describe it to you step by step so you know exactly what to expect.
The Hard Way
The way that I did it was to go to my local Kundenzentrum in Altona at 9am and queue at the information desk (the line here is hardly as long as the line to register). I then told them my situation, and asked for the papers they needed me to bring back in order to register. They gave me the paper translated in English and I had to go to my landlady to have her fill out the details and sign her name. The other documents you need are pretty standard, an official ID photo, your ID, your work contract.
The Hard Way then demands you to get up as early as you possibly can to be the first person that begins the ‘waiting queue’. The waiting queue is the queue that forms at 6am outside the closed doors of the Kundenzentrum. Essentially you are forming a queue to form a queue. #Meta
Some wise advice: Check the days and opening hours of your local Kundenzentrum. If it opens at 8am, be there already at 6am if you can. The earlier you are there, the less amount of time you will have to wait once inside.
Some more wise advice: If you are doing everything really well and arrive there at 6am, there might already be some crazy people before you that woke up even earlier, but make sure to remember who comes in after you, as they may try to jump the queue when the doors finally do open.
When the doors finally open, everyone kind of slowly rushes to get first in line, however diplomacy always reigns and if you try to jump the line (as my Spanish instinct told me to do) you will have 3 if not 4 different people telling you kindly to move back in place. You then have an employee from the Kundenzentrum asking for those who managed to miraculously book an appointment online. They will jump right in front of everyones staring faces while looking much fresher than you since they did not have to wake up at questionable hours to get there. You immediately hate them. You immediately regret hating them, for they are simply better organized than you. You immediately start hating yourself. You immediately regret hating yourself because you just randomly moved to random Hamburg and that’s kind of cool.
So all is good again. Next step is to queue to get your number, and then painstakingly wait for hours. Literally. You will not be there for less than 4 hours so do prepare in advance. For example, I brought my second-hand, falling-apart, text-fading German language book to practice my non-existing German while I waited. Also bring food. You have probably woken up at around 5am and if you are anything like me your stomach will begin making echo-worthy noise at some point. In the Kundenzentrum that I went to, the Altona one, they also had a photo-taking machine and some free magazines about the area and some free agendas. All in perfect German for your comfort.
Then, your number will finally appear on the big screen and it is your turn, they will ask you 3 questions, ask for your papers, ask you to pay a small fee (around 15 euros, so bring some cash) and I kid you not, in less than 5 minutes, you will be registered. And then you can’t help but compare the whole experience to the Woman’s Toilets Theory.*
*The Woman’s Toilets Theory was coined by a famous philosopher regarding the absolutely non-sensical queues always found in women’s toilets when the action they are queuing for takes 30 seconds on average.
After the visit you should get your Tax-Identification number sent to your newly registered address in 2 weeks. This number is necessary for you to be paid in your job. What my company did was fill in a tax bracket for my first month working there and once they received the actual number they could adjust my salary and refund me in the second month. Just remember to remind them to pay you back the difference.
Well done for surviving The Hard Way! No more boring stuff to really worry about anymore (for now). Time to explore some restaurants and shops in your new area!