Thursday, April 26, 2012

the bureaucratic machine thrives in Schöneberg

I actually found this online...don't even ask how...
[Disclaimer: this may be one of those complaints like when people complain about airports and travel stress...and after the fact it doesn't really interest anyone, but it feels like such a big deal in the moment...but I need a little rant anyways...]

Have you ever had an experience with customs outside of the airport? I hadn't until living in Berlin...and now I've been twice in four months. (I have dear friends in the US who have sent me packages! Thanks Jessica and Jennie!) My friends used the US post office customs sticker (that green thing), but apparently that is not clear enough for the Germans. The writing is admittedly pretty light, but it's so obviously a private package, not worth hundreds of dollars!! But I got a slip in my mailbox that I had a package at the customs, and had to bike 8 km to the Zollamt (customs office) in Schöneberg to pick it up.

It's on bar with other German bureaucracy, like city hall where you register, or the foreign office where you get your visa. First I waited in line to get a number (maybe 20 mins), and then waited in a second waiting area for my number to be called on one of those boards with light-up red numbers(about 45 mins). I went to the desk, had to open the package in front of someone, and they see it's obviously a private gift, and that's it (20 seconds). Seriously! So frustrating! And you often have to wait 2-3 hrs. When I think about the cost to have 3 employees help me (not to mention the people in the warehouse), and to store people's packages for 2 weeks...It's crazy!! And from what I understand, almost everything that's from the US (or not the EU) has to go through there. I guess it's mostly eBay packages, and other mail-order or internet-order stuff from out of the country. Does the US control this?! Has anyone had to pick up a package at customs?

Technically, unlike when you travel, you can only order things free-of-cost in the mail up to 22 EUR, or 45 EUR if it is a gift. So I suppose they do make some money on some people, through eBay purchases or something. I guess the US should stop using those green customs stickers that are un-readable!

By the way, if you read German and have gone through this experience, you may laugh at some of these posts "reviewing" the Zollamt.  Someone said it reminds them of the worst experiences of DDR (East German) bureaucracy.


  1. Similar to taking a number and waiting in line to renew a driver's license. I recently went to the county service office (where you also renew driver's licenses) to buy a book of land maps just published....showing the plots of land people own in the county. I could have paid shipping and ordered it online, but decided to stop by and JUST PICK ONE UP...ha! I walked in and there were two to wait in for renewing license tabs, without taking a number, another where you took a number for renewing a driver's license, getting a passport, or BUYING A PLAT MAP BOOK?! So I took a number and waited while people had pictures taken for licences, etc, just to go to the counter to ask for and pay for my book . Meanwhile, the clerk in the other line was free and I could have been out of there!

  2. yeah, I think the DMV in the US is the worst form of bureaucracy!

  3. Das Regierung regiert best als regiert am wenigsten!