I Will Cut You: Tale of Line Jumpers at Auslanderbehörde

Ninety days. That is the grace period for the “tourist visa” one gets as an American citizen in Germany. Ninety days. Ninety days to figure it out: get your health insurance, set-up your German bank account, find somewhere to live, and establish possible employment contacts. Ninety days, if you’re like me and many other people trying to make something out of nothing. For me, a transatlantic American dream.

The above checklist was complete, and I knew what lay ahead. A visit to the Auslanderbehörde…without an appointment. A place that the internet told me to fear. A place with overbearing Germans and long wait times, bemoaned by expat bloggers. “Bring a translator,” they all stated, however I didn’t wish to persuade a German friend to stomach such a terrible burden with me, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to pay for a translator either since I’m ballin’ on limited funds. I guess I’m a sadist that enjoys doing things the hard way.

I arrived two hours before opening time to secure a top spot in the line and limit the hours I was expecting to spend there. However, a lot of the information I found online about where to go was a resounding, “go there and wait.” Yes, but go where exactly? Is there one main line? One main hub where us foreigners huddle? Would it be so self-explanatory once there? I wandered the courtyard and found a list which assigned foreigners’ home nations to a house: A, B, or C.

Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, OK, that’s me. Haus C, étage 2. Warteraum 61, 62, 63, or 64. Great!

House C was at the back of the property and people were already lined up there. There was a small, disorganized scrum in front of the door that seemed harmless, but a single file line was forming behind it. I took my place in that line like a good ol’ girl and split open a book. Blocks of time passed, and I kept noticing individuals walking by me in my peripheral vision towards the front. My head kept lifting only to see that the scrum was growing. I peeked behind me and the single file line was still forming itself, but more people walked by and disregarded it - onwards, to the scrum.

I was getting pissed. I did not just drag my busted self out of bed early only to have Mr. and Mrs. Person & Company get here forty minutes before opening time and get ahead of everyone. After an hour and a half, the scrum looked to be on the brink of becoming a mosh pit. All of us in the single file line starting exchanging annoyed glances. Who was going to stop the madness? But, more importantly, why were we just watching and letting it happen?

Peeking behind me again, I saw two gentlemen in the distance en route towards the scrum. Then, she started coming out. That person inside of me ignited by injustice and lack of caffeine, subduing my insecurity of only knowing English and inflating the rationale that these people would never see me again.

They approached and in a stern voice I stopped them, “Um, where do you think you’re going?” They looked at one another and started speaking in German. They motioned to the front of the line with their arms and I wagged my finger. “Nuh-uh,” I pointed to the back of the line, “You go there. We were here first.”

I felt my sassiness ballooning within and fueling my head bobs. My eyes were widened as I tried to communicate my displeasure in a universal sense while my index finger cut through the air. The gentlemen slowly backtracked and went to the end of the line, certainly cursing me as they did. I received a few solemn nods from those around me and I faintly smiled back at them. I took a deep breath and recoiled back into myself.

“Bring a translator,” they said…

By Lindsay McKean

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