The Bürgeramt Dance

The highs and lows of Berlin bureaucracy

Hello readers,

I wrote a post last week but stopped mid-paragraph so it's still in my drafts. It's out of date so there's no point in me continuing with it but I can't quite bring myself to delete it…so in my drafts it will remain until I decide what to do with it. Maybe I need to start writing posts in a more 'timeless' manner, or maybe I should lower the bar and just send them at the end of the day regardless of their state?

How would you react if you received a post that ended mid sentence? You’d probably wonder what happened. Did I suddenly lose interest? Or was I interrupted by a baby’s cry? I guess it would add a touch of mystery. Yet, I’m not sure the perfectionist in me would let me publish an unfinished post. “What would people think?? 😱” I can hear that part of me cry. Which makes me think that maybe I should go ahead and publish something unfinished, just to show that inner voice who’s the boss. But maybe not today.


I went to the Bürgeramt this morning with Paul to get him a child passport. That last sentence might seem innocuous to non-Berliners but getting an appointment at the Bürgeramt is an art form. It involved me setting an alarm for 6.55am to check the online booking system at 7am sharp to see if any same-day appointments had become available. Unfortunately, there were none.

Tom then got a script running on his computer (developed by someone else) that checks the website every minute, saving you the hassle of having to refresh the page all the time—by the way, I do not suggest refreshing the page all the time. That will lead to you being blocked from doing it for five minutes (yes, this happened to us at least twice). Every now and then the script would display a link to book an appointment, but by the time Tom had clicked on it, it was gone.

It was time to get creative. We needed to increase our chances of getting to the appointments first so Tom got his phone out and visited the booking page using his 4G network instead of our home WiFi. Rate limiting is based on IP addresses so we now had two IP addresses at our disposal. Tada! Five minutes later we had an appointment. It was for 10.12am at a Bürgeramt across town.

We have plans to travel in a few weeks’ time so waiting to see if a more ‘convenient’ appointment popped up was not an option. We’d spent nearly an hour on this process which left just over an hour to get ready - not ideal with a three-month old baby, but doable.

Shortly after 9am Paul and I were on our way. We arrived for our appointment at 10.09am, our number was called at 10.14am and less than 15 minutes later we were back on the pavement, a German child passport in the bag.

How???!! How can the most awful booking process coexist with a super efficient passport process?! Paul’s passport is only valid for a year and doesn’t allow travel to all countries (e.g. the US) so we’ll probably be back in a few months’ time to get a proper passport for him. Let’s hope we don’t have to go through this silly dance again, but if we do at least now we know the moves.

Take care,

Alicia

PS. Oh yeah, my FFP2 mask broke just as I got to the Bürgeramt (of course!). I didn’t have enough time to go buy a new one so I ended up tying a loop in the broken string and it kinda worked. 😅

If you liked this post and want to receive more like it directly to your inbox, you can subscribe using the button below!