One thing many people assume about the Germans is that they are efficient. After living here for a month I can tell you it is not true. The Germans love bureaucracy, but are very inefficient at it.

In my first few weeks I had to:

  1. visit the town hall and register where I lived and for this I needed:
    • a copy of my passport
    • a letter confirming that I am a student
    • a letter from my landlord to confirm that I live there
    • a separate form from the town hall
  2. register at the university and for this I needed:
    • a copy of my passport
    • a copy of my EHIC card and health insurance PLUS a letter from a German health insurance company to say that I am exempt from mandatory German health insurance. (see below)
    • a form they gave me to fill out
  3. register for accommodation and for this I needed:
    • a copy of my passport
    • a letter from the university confirming that I am a student
    • a signed contract
    • a passport sized photo of myself
    •  another form about direct debit payments
  4. register for internet access and for this I needed:
    • a form that they gave me to fill out
    • a copy of the same form that they gave me to fill out which I was told they couldn’t photocopy and I’d just have to fill it out twice
    • a new Ethernet cable
    • several visits to the office as the internet didn’t work for a week
    • a technician visiting my room to sort out the internet connection and finally getting it sorted


As you can see there is a lot of form filling here in Germany. And this wasn’t all of it. These were the bits I could be bothered to remember.

They have a form for everything. No, they have several forms for everything. And don’t go thinking that you can use the same form for two different things, or two different people. That would be too easy! There’s another, ever so slightly different form for that! Which you will probably have to get verified by some person or another. For example:

In Germany everybody is legally required to purchase compulsory health insurance. But to prove that you are exempt, i.e. an EU citizen with an EHIC card, you have to take your EHIC card to a health insurance company and ask them nicely to fill out a form for you, stating that you are exempt. Then, you have to take this form and the original EHIC card to somebody at the university and hand it in. I spent the whole time wondering why couldn’t I have just taken the EHIC card and showed somebody at the university who could have then filled out this form without me having to traipse across Potsdam to a health insurance company to get this form from them.

German efficiency? Doesn’t exist.

German bureaucracy? Now that’s a different matter.


Wish me luck on attempting to open a German bank account.