I recently learned from my friend Tabea that if you are a wanted researcher/engineer in some natural science the state of Germany pays you to come back from abroad. They give you money!
I can’t really say the same thing about me, there’s no money but there is at least as much work re-integrating into German bureacracy. This sounds ridiculous (I know!) but I seem to have forgotten everything I ever knew. I missed the deadline to matriculate at university (“Wait, is there no central website like antagning.se?”), then figured it is not advisable to fake-study Physics anyway, I am even after reading every google entry on taxes in Germany entirely clueless whether I am acting legally (“Do I have a tax number? What is a tax number?”) and it seems the authorities think it is an impossible thing that I actually do not live anywhere yet. Of course, before you can register for anything you need to permanently live somewhere and if you want to live anywhere permanently, you have to register before. You get the irony…I walked into one authority with one request and came out with a to-do-list with no less than eight points to take care of (Krankenversicherungsbescheinigung, Rentenversicherungsnummer, Sozialversicherungsnummer, just to name a few beautiful terms.) I know I was sceptical to the personnummer-system but now I feel it is bureaucratic salvation.
Also, I learned that because I am moving 165 kilometers north in a week, everything could be completely different there. Because Germany is a federal republic and each federal state seems to do what they want to in their respective authorities. Not at all complicated.
When I got to know all the papers I needed to collect, I wanted to start calling the respective responsible agencies. However, my parents do not seem to believe in functioning telecommunication. (“We are a different generation”. They are born in the 1960s.)
The internet works most of the time as long as you do not go into the kitchen, but the phone does not. Their general advice is, “Turn it on and off three times” and when the cell phone doesn’t work, my mother recommends to go outside to get reception or go to the neighbors to borrow a phone. Their neighbors don’t know me, though, they even give me weird looks when I only walk up the street…!
Today, my mother also asked me a question that revealed the extent of Swedification I have undergone. “What kind of curtain should I get to make the living room as dark as possible?”, she inquired and I looked at her, completely flabbergasted, “Why on earth would you want to make it dark?!” I mean, living in Sweden, I’ve not even darkened my room during Midnight Sun. Then, my mother explains that it gets too warm if she sun shines in all the time – another phenomenon I did not understand. Is there such thing as too warm?
Well, apparently there is, and it is not surprising, actually because here, at the end of February, spring has already come. I woke up to bright sunshine that lasted the entire day. This town has had more sunshine hours today that Stockholm in all of January! It is even warm, temperatures coming up to 13 degrees. Plus. I feel I need to do some shopping for sunglasses.
No wonder I feel like I am an exchange student/on vacation. My brain is quite convinced that I will be back in a few days which might also serve as an excuse for why I don’t manage to decide what kind of phone company I should choose. Tie myself down on a contract for two years? Two years? The guy in the shop tried to charm me with putting a lot of weird English-German into his talking (“Wir sind da schon vorgejumpt”) but for some odd reason that didn’t do the trick with me.
One symptom of my tourist-feeling is also that I am completely lost in my parents’ city. I have not grown up here and only find places by mere intuition. My mother actually knows Stockholm better than I know Oldenburg. (When I tried to explain to her where Martina lives, she placed all the part of town correctly, only misplacing Kungholmen and mixing up Solna and Lidingö.) She did try to explain the way to town to me: turn left until you come to my hairdresser (because I have full knowledge of my family’s preferred hairdressers’ adresses), turn right and then you turn right again at the pharmacy. The pharmacy? There are 53 pharmacies in this town of 160 000 inhabitants. I think I came by 23 pharmacies. Modern ones, old ones, ones where you could turn right, ones where you could turn left. There are really a lot of pharmacies. And I found my way in the end.
During my strolls through town, I also noticed once more how amazingly cringe-worthy some of the shop names are. Often it makes no sense to me at all how they came up with the name – I mean, Royal Wraps? What is royal about the wraps? The main target of terrible name-giving is hairdressers. In German, hair means Haar and that has prompted many creative Germans to invent names like “SaHAARa” or “KreHAARtiv”.
Further observations in town included a bum wearing a cap with the Swedish flag and countless Jack-Wolfskin-jackets. Olga in Berlin has poignantly declared that the Wolfskin-spectacle is a German “religious cult”. If I really was serious about repatriation, I would probably buy a paw-printed-item of clothing. But really, I am not that eager.