I need to rant.
I’ve had enough of Germany. I know, I know, it’s given me opportunities that I could never expect in my homeland of Poland, I’ve spent amazing three years here, I married the love of my life here... But now it’s not time for good stuff. Now it’s time for a complaint.
Here’s (some of) the reasons why I want to move out from this country.
Germans don’t care if you know how do a job. Germans don’t care if you already have experience doing that job. There’s just one thing they care about when deciding whether or not to hire you: your Ausbildung.
Well, ok, not necessarily. For high-level specialists it’s skills that matter the most (but they probably have a degree anyway), and if you’re happy with working without a contract or working your ass off at McDonald’s or you simply have some luck – you can be fine without an Ausbildung as well. However, if you’re a talented, clever, young person, speaking fluently in three languages, who emigrated right after their A-levels and didn’t have a chance to start studies yet, but has ambitions beyond cleaning hotel rooms – it can be quite a while before your CV gets answered by anyone.
Ausbildung is basically 3 years of working for a company, during which you “learn” how to do a given job. You’re not an employee. You’re not entitled to minimum wage, your working hours aren’t regulated by law. The employer can theoretically abuse you as they wish. Why? Because if you get fired, you basically need to start all over again. Imagine working 10-12 hours a day for 500€/month and after two years not being able to speak up, because those two years of sacrifice would get wasted.
Also: if you need three years to learn how to be receptionist or a cashier in a supermarket, you’re an idiot. It’s not rocket science, it’s not car mechanics, it’s not IT. My husband was a fully self-sufficient, responsible and highly valued hotel receptionist after, like, two months or so of work. In Poland, a training for a cashier can take two days. Germans require a 3-year “kaufmannische Ausbildung” to handle that job.
What’s funny about that (well, bittersweet) is that even the employers are suffering from this system – on their own wish. We’ve heard some complaining how they can’t find any workers nowadays... sure, the CVs are coming in huge numbers, but none of those people have Ausbildung, so how the hell am I supposed to trust them to use a cash register and talk to people?!
There’s a stereotype in Germany that Berliners are the most rude people you’ll ever meet. You know how there’s some truth to some stereotypes? That’s definitely one of them.
Let’s start with smoking. Cigarette smoke is the stink I hate the most in the world. Not only is it nasty, it can also give you cancer. How could anyone force someone to breathe that shit in? Of course, Berliners can...
“No smoking” signs are totally ignored, the fire hazard of open fire in a subway station is totally ignored, the common decency of not producing cancerogenous stench when you’re in a crowd of people who cannot go away is not an issue anyone worries about. Seriously, I’ve wasted a ticket to the second day of Pyronale because during the first day I literally couldn’t breathe.
But it’s not only smoking. For instance, recently my husband got shouted at for “following” some lady – while he was walking in front of her. People can’t learn to stick to the right side when walking slowly up or down narrow stairs. They don’t even think of taking off their backpack when it’s crowded in the subway, or about letting people out of the train first, before they start squeezing in. Those are things that 5-years-olds are learning! There’s plenty of situations that make you doubt human decency and basic intelligence. I almost forgot that cars letting pedestrians through on a crossing is a thing – in one day in Rotterdam it happened to me more times than in three years in Berlin.
Speaking of transport and of comparing Berlin to Rotterdam: In the latter it’s trams, bikes and pedestrians who are first-class citizens. Berlin is clogged with cars. In Rotterdam I saw half-empty parkings in the city centre! What I didn’t see was idiots (pedestrians or cars) blocking a bike lane, which in Berlin or Szczecin is a sad norm.
Do you think air conditioning in public transportation should be a given in modern cities of the 21st century? If you’re coming to Berlin, think again. Not even the newest models of U-Bahn or S-Bahn trains have (or are planned to have) AC. Busses do, but it’s usually set up in a way, that you can’t really feel that it’s colder...
Speaking of newest models... Did you know that Berlin still uses wagons from 60s and 70s that are also what the Pyongyang Metro is using?
It all makes them slow. They are unable to send trains in 1-2 minutes intervals, like they do in Warsaw or Madrid. They are unable to go fast, like a subway should. To both my current and previous job, the comute by bike (with all the lights, traffic, crappy bikelanes) takes roughly the same time as by subway (you know, with engines and designated tunnels just for the trains).
BVG is old, rusty and unpunctual. They don’t see any problem whatsoever with annoying musicians or stinking people in their trains. Basically the only thing they do right is laughing at themselves for being this crappy...
The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) is already known in the world for being constantly unfinished. Billions have been spent on it, but the opening date keeps getting pushed forward and forward. I think it would be fair to say it’s the biggest waste of money in Germany’s modern history.
Speaking of airports: the two that Berlin currently has (and both to be replaced by BER) are both on tops of all the rankings of worst airports in the world. Whoever has flown from Schönefeld to, well, anywhere, will be able to give like tens reasons why SXF sucks.
When it comes to less significant constructions, it’s still not impressive. For instance the U-Bahn station I live near to. How long can it take to renovate a simple subway station? In Berlin, apparently, 2,5 years already – and nobody really knows when is it going to be done. But maybe let’s not talk about the whole station. How long would it take to renovate a single entrance to a subway station? Nothing fancy, no escalators, no art, no fancy design, just some stairs with ~30 steps. I didn’t count exaclty, but half a year is my lowest estimate. Seriously.
Rent prices in Berlin are skyrocketing, growing ~20% every year. No wonder: lots of people are coming, but hardly any new living spaces are being built. The city is huge (my daily commute is about one hour, without even leaving the city boundries), but it’s unbelievably short. Berlin has virtually no skyline, no skyscrappers.
Don’t people want to built them, live and work in them? Sure, many do. But even more don’t, including the Senate of Berlin claims “it’s not in the spirit of Berlin to build high”. They are fighting like lions to protect the “spirit of Berlin”, which seams to mean crappiness, unimpressive buildings and horrible rent prices.
Deutsche Post and DHL are crap. Me and my husband weren’t able to collect each other’s mail before the wedding, even though we signed a relevant authorisation, twice. I can’t even count the number of times when a package wasn’t even attempted to be delivered – just marked as “receiver not at home” and left at the post office (and yes, we were home, we even saw the delivery guy from the balcony).
It’s not any specific post office, by the way. We had to visit at least five different post offices, some of which were kilometers away, because they were, apparently, all responsible for the deliveries to our address. And sometimes they were dropping my package at a shop ~500 m away, claiming that shop is our “neighbour”.
I’ve sent plenty of formal complaints to them about situations like this. How many were answered in any meaningful way? Just one. Only because I was especially furious – they forced me to rent a car, so I could bring some balcony furniture home from a far away post office. I specifically ordered it online with home delivery to avoid problems with transport. But why would they care about doing their job? They didn’t even attempt delivery, just made me pick it up myself. So how did they react to my complaint? They gave me a 10€ voucher for sending packages (which I never do, so it expired already).
BTW, what the fuck is the big deal with apartment numbers in Germany? In Poland, Netherlands or US people simply have numbers on their doors, mailbox and intercom. Germans aren’t convinced by that idea. So when a mailman wants to deliver something, they need to scan all the mailboxes or walk door to door to find the correct receiver. In Poland they could just think “ok, appartment 40, there’s five doors on each floor, so it would be on the 8th floor” – and that’s it.
Here only the surname matters. So having multiple families called “Müller” in one building is problematic, having multiple people with different surnames sharing an apartment is problematic, delivering stuff is problematic, picking up stuff is problematic, moving out is problematic.
Notice periods and customer rights
A notice period of three months is crazy – at least from the customer/employee side. But Germans seem to love it (it’s the legally allowed maximum for services).
And as much as I can understand it for contracts like employment or rent (where the other party needs time to find a replacement for you), what sense does it make in case of mobile phone or gym membership? None, except for them counting on you to miss the deadline and automatically prolong your contract for another year.
When I was fighting with Schenker for my right to warrantee service I came to a sad discovery: while Poland has a special government agency that supports customer rights and helps in the cases like mine, Germany does not. They do have Verbraucherzentrale, but the thing is – they’re just an association, with no authority and no ability to fine companies that abuse customer rights. And you have to pay them to help you, while all they can offer you is a consultation.
A Dutch guy who heard that we live in Germany joked “oh, so you’re coming from the past?”.
When I got my first German credit card (first available after six month living here, before that I could only get an EC-Karte that was useless anywhere abroad), it came with a leaflet, declaring that is has a brand new, shiny, modern, super-über-comfortable feature: PayPass
PayPass is a thing that I already had in my first debit card when I was 13. PayPass is a thing I was always taking for granted. But no. Most Germans still have no idea you can pay contactlessly. After a long, long adaptation period, at least the cashiers know that it’s possible.
They usually don’t know, however, that you can pay with your phone with an NFC chip. One thought that my husband has to be trying to scam her, and she threated to call the police on him. Seriously.
There was a wind of hope last year – Vodafone introduced a service called Wallet, basically the NFC payments, like Android Pay. This year they are rolling back completely, because people didn’t use it.
Netto, a chain of supermarkets, has three (yes, only three) markets in Germany with an option of self-service cash check out. It’s only for testing of how it would be received. And well, it’s not being received well – queues to the remaining cashier-operated registers got longer, while the self-service stands are usually empty. Which makes it really fast for me to make groceries there.
When it comes to technology, Germany is in the third world.
Germans put dubbing over every movie and series they can. Trying to find a movie in OV (original version) in a German cinema might be really hard sometimes. Even though I’m fluent in both English and German, watching an English movie with a German (or Polish) dubbing is a total go-no for me. It just sounds fake. It doesn’t match the dynamics of the film at all. (With a noble exception of dubbed animated movies, of course). I had to cancel my Maxdome (German Netflix) subscription, because crappily dubbed movies was all they offered.
That’s why it usually takes Germans a couple of months more to prepare a premiere of a new movie – we can watch them only after the rest of the world already forgot about them. That’s also one of the reasons why Germany isn’t that good at English.
You might have thought that Berlin is international and multilingual. Well, sure, in one sense. During a short subway ride you could hear like twenty different languages, either from tourists or residents. But try to use English in a shop (outside of Mitte, of course). Or try to run an errand in Bürgeramt, Finanzamt or a bank without speaking German. There’s almost no way. One of my employment contracts was bilingual, but the other was German-only (for an English-speaking job). I can’t imagine signing that, if I didn’t know German.
For comparison: in the Netherlands you seem to be able to do anything in English. Employment contract, official paperwork, shopping, anything. And it’s not even their official language (except in Dutch Caribbeans).
Of course I’m learning Dutch anyway, but you know... It already felt like home, even just after first arriving there, when you’re able to communicate with anyone freely. Shouldn’t English be a given in our modern, globalised world?
Phone is the boss
As a person who worked for a couple of start-ups trying to digitalise Germany ( Campsy, Caterwings, Zinsgold, Vendomo, ...), I know how big of a struggle that is. Germans are used to communicating over the phone and reluctant to change it.
I, on the other hand, have a strange phobia of calling someone I don’t know on the phone. Especially if it’s in German (which I really prefer in writing) and if my signal reception is crappy (damn you, 1&1!). Sometimes you write someone an email (and maybe even explicitly select “email” as a preferred contact method in a contact form) and they still call you back on the phone – only to complain about my shitty reception and to present me an offer that I could mishear, I could forget, and that I have no written record of.
But nothing can beat the situation that my husband had. He sent someone an email asking for an appointment. They asked him to call. But the next day he was around the place, so he just came over. The girl at the desk told him they only make appointments on the phone. So he did call her, literally standing two meters away – and he did, indeed, get an appointment this way. What the actual fuck?
Oh, and some institutions love physical mail just as much as the others love phones. For instance our health insurance – whenever I send them a question via email, they answer it via post. Which costs them money, costs the environment and makes me wait 2-3 more day for a response. Brilliant, isn’t it?
I have praised the German healthcare system in one of my blog posts, but that was in comparison to Poland. If you look at it from the Dutch perspective, it starts to look really crappy.
~350€ each month go from my salary to a health insurance company, plus another ~350€ paid on the employer side, plus my husband had to pay 175€ before we got married. In return we get a system when getting an appointment at a specialist usually takes about three months.
In the Netherlands a similar level of coverage, for two people, will cost us 247€/month. Seriously. And although we didn’t see it yet with our own eyes, they say queues to a specialist aren’t a problem over there.
I could go on for quite a while, but I guess it’s enough already. The point is clear, I think: as much as Germany is a better place to live than my country of origin, it can still be annoying as fuck.
We moved here looking for Ordnung, modernity, innovation... We got Berlin – total contempt for the rules, hipster-anarchy-squat-whatever culture, rude people and technological stagnation. Ich bin ja kein Berliner. I’m totally out of sync with “the spirit” of this city.
It’s time to move on.
Nederland, hier komen we!