04 September 2011

American Abroad

I moved to Germany in July. I love Germany. But learning to live "German style" takes some adjustment. My friend and his wife needed to get their car worked on so he calls the place and asks for an appointment. The car mechanic offers an opening in TWO WEEKS. My friend needs something sooner (duh, who has two weeks to wait for a minor car repair) and asks if there is anything else. The mechanic responds, "this is not America" and hangs up. They wait two weeks to have their car repaired. Another friend plans her wedding from Starbucks because she has been waiting for Internet for 4 MONTHS!! I am blogging from my minuscule iPhone keyboard because I have been waiting a month for Internet. Germany is amazing in so many ways, Internet and banking however, are decades behind. There is no online banking. To pay something or someone you must take down their banking details, physically go into your bank, and fill out the paperwork for essentially a wire transfer. I have to pay my rent this way, parking tickets this way, and any utility etc must be paid this way. Sometimes, like with Internet, they make you think the process is easier because the company you are paying takes your banking details and sets up am automatic transfer. What they don't tell you is that they take the payment whether or not they provide the service you are supposedly paying for. I moved into my apartment on 1 August. On 3 August I realized after some research that I would not be able to get phone, Internet, or cable service by simply calling or using the Internet to sign up. Nope. I had physically present myself and my banking details at the Internet kiosk a few kilometers from my house. So I take off work and walk there. The guy explains that I have a couple of Internet options. 1) A ridiculously slow speed comparable to Sandra Bullock using dimes for dial-up in the Proposal. 2) Something so fast that it's similar to Napster days when you felt lucky if you downloaded a song in less than an hour. I decided to skip the dimes. I give out my banking details and sign a two year contract for landline phone, cable TV, and Slowsky Internet service. The kiosk guy explains that he will pass my information to the call center who will talk to the installation guy who will give the call center the day he is available who will call me and tell me when the installation guy is coming. Yeah. Just go with it. I have to remind myself hourly that in the USA we hire fewer people and expect better results. In Germany they hire as many people as possible and care little for results. More people are employed that way. Anyway, I get a call on 11 August that the installation guy is coming 15 August. I take of work. Everyone tells me it's to good to be true. My Starbucks wedding planning friend just laughs and says "don't get your hopes up." I totally get my hopes up. I have been living from my iPhone and after three days of use I was pushed into "superuser" status which means the phone company thinks I use to much data so they downgraded my speed making it impossible to even load Facebook. But that is a tangent. So. Installation guy arrives. Looks at all my connections. Tells me that my apartment is not wired properly for Internet or cable. He can't wire it while he is here. He will go back to his office and tell the call center who will get in touch with all the installation guys who will give the call center a day and then the call center will reschedule me. That was 20 days ago. I called the customer service line, which costs €0.14 a minute, and they told me "oh yes. We will call soon," after I was on hold for 12 minutes. So I am starting month two by blogging from my iPhone. I guess the take away for me is "this is not America" and be thankful I am not planning a wedding from my iPhone.

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