With my new position as a Senior Project Manager in Germany was provided an on-site relocation service. A relocation agent had me appointed to assist with my work permit; registration to the Town Hall; apartment search; transfer of driving licence; etc. Normally, this agent is a person who knows very well the administrative and social particularities of the region in question. As it turns out, the (oh so powerful) Murphy's Law strikes once again on my ass as I'm trying to figure things out in my new environment.
Among the most common stereotypes the popular world associates to the German people are the fact that they are direct; they love rules, organization, and structure; they are punctual; they love soccer; they are well insured; they are distant; they love to drink beer; they know how to bake bread; and they love sausages. Based on these above-stated perceptions of the German people from a foreigner's eye (and a fair amount of personally experienced spots), I can assure you that my relocation agent is NOT German, especially when it comes to organization, structure and punctuality!
I have indeed gone through some rather negative experiences with my relocation agent, which managed to bring me to total dissatisfaction in terms of customer service. Keep in mind that this is the first time that I go through such a process, so my expectations are pretty low since I have no previous experience to base myself on. And yet, she managed to bring it to a level that could only be explained by the fact that she must have been Italian in a previous life (based on the same previously mentioned Popular World Common Stereotype Framework). You would think that with so much money invested into making a new employee comfortable in his new environment, the company that hired me would insure a high level of customer service, but in the end all of it can be completely screwed up by one person if her very self is as backwards as Kriss Kross pants. Unfortunately for myself, it was the case of the relocation agent I had the privilege to come across.
It all started on the very first day that I landed in Germany. I was on my way to the temporary relocation apartment when the so called relocation agent reaches me asking to meet her in a few minutes. Apparently, we needed to go register myself at the Rathaus (Rathaus is the German word to say Town Hall... How ironic, right?) and it could not wait until my post-travel jet lag recovery nap. When I arrived at the apartment, she was indeed on-site, waiting for me. When we got to the Rathaus she realized that she had forgotten the necessary papers without which it would be impossible to go through the registration process. No worries! Let's walk to the car and get the papers. At the car, she realizes that the papers are not there. Therefore, they must certainly be at the office. No worries! Let's walk to the office and get those darn papers so that I can register and finally get to my temporary relocation apartment where I will be able to recover from the 10 hour trip (all the way from Montreal to Amsterdam, Nuremberg and finally, Herzogenaurach) from which I found myself unable to sleep on the plane. This was the first time it ever happened to me... Stressed, are we? New job; company; industry; city; country...Alouette! So yeah, definitely! Back to my relocation agent, it really seems like she never has all the papers at once. It would have been nice if she would have come prepared with all the necessary documentations the first time. So we walked from the car to the office and then, back to the Rathaus where we re-did the line and went through the registration process. If only she had the papers with her in the first place, all of this precious time we lost could have been used on my recovery!
Two days after my arrival, I had a second appointment with my relocation agent at 8:00am sharp at my doorsteps to go open a banking account, pick up my temporary work permit and bring my driving licence to an agency to have it translated to German. She arrived in front of my apartment door at 8:15am. Not bad, but not German-like. On top of that, only then had she asked me to bring 200€ with me to pay for the work permit. This kind of expanse should have been planned in advance as one cannot assume I have this kind of money in my apartment if no one told me to plan for it. One would think that it has been enough misfortune in only one day... WRONG! The cherry on top was that when we got to the offices, we realized that they only opened at 10:00am. This translated in my mind into two extra hours of sleep which I will never see again! At this point in time, I have to admit that my blood started to warm up a little.
For my apartment search, I had clearly communicated my requirements many times as we have spent a lot of time looking at apartments during my Look/See visit back in April. However, the flats we have visited did not match my requirements at all. They were often too expansive, to small or very sketchy (to say the least). When I mentioned to her that I was looking for an apartment that filled my requirements in terms of location, size and cost, the only thing she thought of saying was that I should live a little and allow myself more comfort. In other words, she wanted me to choose a more expansive flat (probably to boost her sales commission). Really?! How inappropriate is that?! I think this is a very uncalled-for comment to make in a professional-client relationship. The way I manage my budget is none of her business! There are definitely many good reasons for me to look for a specific type of apartment and she does not need to know them at all. For all I care, all she needs to know is the list of my requirements and not the X and Y of them. Imagine I have a specific investment plan which requires a certain level of monthly savings if I want to reach my objective. Imagine I have debts I need to reimburse. Imagine I have decided to embrace this new hipster trend that is the one of a minimalist lifestyle. Imagine I have someone in charge back in Montreal which requires me to transfer a fair amount of money every month. Whatever the reason is, I stand my ground by saying that it's none of her business and she should not comment on my choices of lifestyle under any circumstances!
Following this event, I decided to look for an apartment myself. I found an interesting apartment in the northern part of Nuremberg (which I did not end up choosing). So I asked her to drop by and have a look at the neighborhood for a second (without even going into the apartment). To that, she answered that she did not want to drive in this area because she needs to go home to see her dog and have dinner with her husband who is already waiting for her. It looks like she prioritized her own life over the service she is meant to provide. On top of that, while looking at apartments, she never knows exactly where it is located, she mixes up with neighborhoods and loses a substantial amount of time just driving around trying to figure shit out. As a result, she rushes me to have a look around the apartment quickly to catch up on the lost time while driving around searching for the right address... like it was my fault!
To sum up, in two weeks of search, she was never able to send me listings that suited my needs, so as mentioned I decided to look myself. My search was successful in only three days. During that time I was able to contact the owner, book an appointment, visit the apartment and sign the contract. I don't understand why it was so quick and easy for a foreigner like me who does not know how the system works in Germany, while it was so difficult for her to find a handful of apartments that filled my requirements for someone who has been living here her whole life. At this point in time, I have to admit that my blood was at a burning hot temperature.
As far as my mail is concerned, I did not have an apartment yet at the time I went through the whole process of registration at the Rathaus, opening my banking account, pick up my temporary work permit and bring my driving licence to an agency to have it translated to German. Therefore, the address provided to all of these instances was the one from the relocation agency. Then, my beloved relocation agent is supposed to bring them in hand to my temporary relocation apartment until I find my own apartment and transfer all my accounts to my new address.
I was waiting for some important letters containing my banking PIN to be delivered to my temporary apartment. Only, when I mentioned it to my relocation agent, her vague answer she provided was that I would get my letters sometime during the week unless it's an emergency. I thought it would speed up the process if I mentioned that it was an emergency as I was out of money and I need my PIN to withdraw some cash. To this statement, she answered that I could pass by the relocation agency if I needed my letters so urgently. Didn't she just say that she would drop them off if it was an emergency? The problem I had was that the agency's offices are not yet open when I leave in the morning and they are already close at the time that I come back from work. In addition, my temporary relocation apartment is located at a solid 45 seconds away from the relocation agency. So how much of a pain would it be for her to walk to my temporary relocation apartment and drop what belongs to me in the first place? This situation happened a few more times where she kept forgetting to deliver my letters to my mailbox. Those letters contained critical documents such as my residency permit, my banking information, etc. She kept promising to pass by and drop them, but the promise was never fulfilled as I was found disappointed every time. I kept asking over and over to drop them as soon as possible, but it was unsuccessful. At this point in time, I have to admit that my blood was boiling and I could feel it starting to evaporate.
To be honest, I have no idea of the process to follow, nor do I know the remaining steps until the end of the service. This does not provide me with a sentiment of security while relocating in a totally new country. Thankfully, I am resourceful person who always finds ways to get the right information and get by (knock on wood) regardless of how competent my relocation agent is. Right now, I have no more blood flowing through my veins since the boiling made it all evaporate. I think it's fair to say that I have just built up an irreducible mental strength that resembles the one of a Tibetan monk. For all these above-stated frustrating moments I have experienced, I came to the objective conclusion that my relocation agent is not German! Perhaps I should buy her this book (see picture)!