Monday, August 9, 2010

I Wanna Go Home....

I suppose its fairly normal in the expat community to have weeks (or in some cases months, years...) where you loathe your adopted homeland and long for the sanity of your own country.  Last week was one of those weeks, officially an "I Hate Germany Week."

The feeling came upon me last week that I never have respite from dealing with the bureaucracy of living, working, and moving around in Germany.  There is always something to be done.  Some error at the bank, an issue with my paycheck, insurance, Ryan's HR department being unreasonable.  But the last straw was an unwelcome visit from the GEZ.

I should explain.  In the United States we have public television, which is so-so, and funded by selling tote bags during semi-annual "pledge weeks."  I have never bought one.  In the UK and Germany public television is funded by a TV tax.  This is not a tax when you buy a TV, but rather a tax on owning a TV that you are supposed to self-report and pay monthly.  I loved the BBC when we lived in the UK but never paid this tax, despite threatening letters describing the Licensing Agency's heat-detection systems that could find any hidden TV without even entering your front door.  (Seriously.)

German public television is pretty bad, and it has commercials, so it beats me as to why I should have to pay for it.  I tossed the warning letters on the grounds that if they wanted people to pay this stupid tax they should make it more enforceable-- their problem, not mine.  Several friends had advised me that agents from the GEZ could come and search your house for TVs, radios, and computers, but only if you let them in, which legally you are not obligated to do.  So that was the game plan.  Until last Thursday.

I was actually home cooking dinner around 6pm, instead of at school, as usual.  The buzzer rang and since it was after working hours, I figured it must be Ryan lugging a crate of beer.  He does that sometimes when he doesn't want to set the crate down to hunt for his keys.  So I buzzed him in.  Then I opened the apartment door and sure enough he came up the stairs a minute later, but with an older lady.  She asked "did you buzz me in?" and I told her yes, not letting her in the door, but talking to her in the hall.  Too late.  She flashed her GEZ badge and could apparently see the TV from some bizarre angle standing in the doorway.  I was so irritated I asked Ryan to deal with her while I finished cooking.  He  confessed to everything; not following the rules makes Ryan anxious.

So now we owe the stupid Licensing Agency something like 170 Euros.  Its enough to make me throw up my hands and say "To hell with this country!"  I'm still quite irritated, although having a great neighborhood festival this weekend somewhat makes up for it.  All I'm saying is, Germany better appreciate me, or I will leave and then won't it be sorry!