Stranger in a strange land

"DIN-Sitz Berlin" by Standardizer - eigene Arbeit – own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons -
"DIN-Sitz Berlin" by Standardizer - eigene Arbeit – own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons -

I imagine some of you wondering what happened to last Tuesday’s post, and all I can say is: life is hard without internet in a new country. A lot has happened since our arrival, and a lot more will happen in the near future. Meanwhile, two posters remain to be finished before the SAS conference in a week. So what has been done until now? For an insight into moving foibles, please read on…

While we arrived a week ahead of my starting date (into a hotel), we very quickly found out that nothing could be done before our registration in the city office. But before we could do this, we needed to move to our temporary apartment, which would occur on the first working day. We thus spent that week trying to see some apartments to get an idea about the cost of living in Berlin.

We moved into our temporary apartment (without internet or phone), in a nice guest house for scientists. What coloured me nervous, however, was our discovery earlier that the city hall registration requires an appointment, and should be done within 14 days of arrival. With the first available appointment six weeks away, the first technical impossibility scared me (in Japan, technical impossibilities are often therefore truly impossible).

Giving it a shot nonetheless, we managed to wait in line 40 minutes before opening of city hall, and found out that Berliners can be flexible. Day one therefore consisted of only 2 hours of waiting in the city hall for the all-important registration certificate. Off to work, to meet my new friendly colleagues!

"DIN-Sitz Berlin" by Standardizer - eigene Arbeit – own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons -
“DIN-Sitz Berlin” by Standardizer. Licensed under GFDL via Commons –

On day two, the registration for health insurance went smoothly, after which it was time for a DIN meeting for particle measurement techniques. This was interesting, but since I was not familiar with any of the documents reviewed, there was not much I could contribute. Add to that that all the communication is in German, which still takes a moment to translate in my head.

Day three was quite well spent waiting in a queue. That day we went to the place many Europeans probably don’t see: the Ausländerbehörde, or Foreigners office. That place is where non-EU people end up applying for residence permits, visas or asylum. Arrive there at 9:00 and you find huge lines of waiting people, who promptly rush in at 10:00 (with many jumping the queue similar to what we observed quite some time ago in Copenhagen). Rush to orient yourself and get a number, and then wait. We were helped at 14:00, but only to get 6 months respite before having to go there again. The icing on the cake is that we managed to do another piece of paperwork back in city hall in the afternoon, one more to tick off the list.

And that brings us to today: the first full day at work! Here’s hoping for more soon. For now, I wish you all a nice, and stress-free weekend!


  1. Glad to see you made it to Berlin, and that you got some of that German paperwork out of the way! Will be there Sept 17-22, and hope to meet you at some point. Best wishes.

  2. Maybe you could start singing “I am an alien in BER”. How good is your German?

  3. My German is…. moderately bad. Kind of what my French must have been like when I was 2 :-)

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