Who’d Have Thought Leaving the Country Could Be Such Hard Work?

Today when I caught sight of myself in a mirror, after I’d left the house I might add, I realised that this would have been an ideal day to conceal some of the signs of sleeplessness and make me look more human. I am not sleeping. I have become a reluctant semi-insomniac. And when I try and figure out why I’m not, it’s because I’m going home. Not because I’m excited to leave Germany, or because I’m sad, but because who’d have thought it could be so damn complicated to get out of the country?

I could have sworn leaving England and getting here wasn’t that difficult. I mean, it wasn’t crease free but I feel like setting up here went by without too much stress. I currently have a list of things it will take before I can drive out of the country, surrounded by my Germany-Possessions (holding a gifted pot plant on my lap) and make for the Ferry to Britain.

–    Get my deposit back for my room

–     Find somebody to live in my room

–    Check my wages have cleared

–    Remove all money from bank account and close it

–    Find a way to get money back resulting in minimal loss

–    End phone contract here

–     Finish my Dissertation proposal (Okay, I have 24hours to complete after making it home)

–    Abmelden/ De-register with the German local government

–     Finish my placement report (which I can’t clear till my last day of working)

–     Get my boss’ half of the placement report

–     Finish everything for the next placement student

–     Get cakes for my final day at work (which you aren’t ‘allowed’ to celebrate prematurely)

–     Get presents for relevant helpers from my year – it’s a must because they will certainly ply me with chocolate

–     Get my visa application ready to go

–     Get my Pfand (bottle deposit back) and buy beer

The last on the list is the only one I’ve achieved in a stress-free manner. What does that say?

There are things you expect: to have to organize deposit, see your landlord, cancel your phone contract, book a way home etc. But you don’t necessarily expect your days at work to get busier, the opening hours of the necessary amenities to get shorter and the list to keep getting longer as you dig paper work from under your bed. I have uncovered tax forms, mobile phone contracts and work contracts that I haven’t even added to the list yet.

Getting my deposit back should have been trickier than it was actually. Most German landlords (and probably English) say it will be transferred back to you any time in the month after you leave the property, which of course is great if you’re planning on staying in the relevant country with a bank account open. And I’m not. When you’re living in a WG (Wohn Gemeinschaft = living community, usually a student house) then you also have the complication of having to advertise your room, collect replies, organise a meet up between suitable candidates and your flat mates and then let them choose your successor. Sometimes it’s really easy, if you’re looking at the right time, and other times it’s just not your month. This has not been my month. There have been plenty of replies and no one has had the time to do the ‘casting’ interviews (no one currently living in my flat that is), and then people we have chosen have promptly ‘abgesagt’ (turned us down) for a better option. And time is now draining faster than super fine sand. But I’ve managed to agree to return of my deposit anyway – the fate of the room, whether it be empty or full next month, and whether my deposit clears quickly enough before I leave the country, still float ambiguously in limbo.

 

Then there’s my wages; there’s certainly no speeding those up. They come when they come, and that’s a day and a half before I leave the country. I can currently picture myself sprinting from work, to the bank (which is only open about 4 hours a day here), finding a way to transfer or withdraw everything and then trying to close my account, all in the space of a few hours. My nightmare is that my wages won’t clear and I have to leave my account open to be closed remotely which, really, just complicates everything. This is, of course, before we mention exchange rates, which are currently not in favour of the euro for a variety of reasons, and transfer fees and all manner of transactional complications.

My phone contract is frustrating because it shouldn’t be that hard but there is no option on the website just to end it. I don’t want to be in trouble after a close my bank account and the phone still tries to remove money from it next month and I’m damned if I can contact customer services. Maybe if I just cut the card up?

I am under no illusion that the German government knows too much about me. You have to register and de-register whenever you move in or out of a town (or house) here and they want to know every tiny detail. This wouldn’t be a problem; I had set aside a time for this. The town hall is only open 9-12pm every day, except one day a week, with ‘extended’ hours where they also open 16:00- 18:30 – on this day they need to say everybody who works and has something to organize at the town hall. So when I went in, on the one remaining ‘extended’ day that I have available, I almost wailed at the woman when she said it was too soon to de-register me from the system, that it needed to be 7 days before at the earliest. How much stress do they want to put people through? And why didn’t I foresee this problem and lie? I am going to stuff the form through the post box next week and be done with it, they will work out that I have left, but I am marginally horrified about the amount of details I have to give them about the next place I’m going, it’s out of the country!

Then there’s the fun administration stuff for the other end too. The report for University, which is more or less ready to go, but it may not be handed in before you finish. Again, why didn’t I lie about my end date? Getting the report back from my boss is a nightmare too. He keeps forgetting I am leaving and getting confused about what he’s supposed to write and I don’t think he wants to give that back till the last day either. This from a man who is never in work before 11 and always has a million meetings – he’s a nightmare to track down.

One of the better things about German work places is the amount of cake. If it’s your birthday, you bring cake. If you have a promotion, a new child, are engaged – you bring cake for everyone. If you’re leaving, you bring cake for everyone but not before your last day. *Yelp of stress* I have to transport said cake(s because there are so many in the department one won’t cut it)  into the office, which went so well last time when I dropped one on the floor, and then politely have a little ceremony over them, all the while twitching to finish the administration tasks and sign out for good. Actually, maybe the cake will lure the boss out of hiding.

I will be glad when it’s over. It’s not unreasonable as an amount to do but it all has to be done so precisely at such precise times I am dreading it. I don’t feel like it’s very easy to leave the country at all, it certainly isn’t a comfortable experience.

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