‘Alien’ finds home in Germany despite bureaucratic red tape

New culture exhilarating for correspondent

New culture ‘exhilarating’ for correspondent

Rita Forbes

[Editor’s note: Rita Forbes is spending this academic year studying in Germany. She is a senior mass communication and German major at Missouri Southern.]

It’s official: I’m home. My bags are unpacked, I’ve met the neighbors, and my name is on the mailbox.

Eleven days after arriving in Bremen, I’m insured, enrolled in school, registered with the city, and have even received a tax identification number. None of this was simple to accomplish.

Germany’s reputation for bureaucracy is not entirely undeserved. There are complicated procedures for everything from setting up a bank account to obtaining a residence permit. After making multiple trips to the bank, the “alien office,” the insurance office, and the university’s international office, I have finally jumped through enough hoops to be a legal resident of the city. For the next six months or so, that is.

There is a sense of peace associated with having a mailing address. I feel light and free, and not just from setting down my 40-pound backpack.

After traveling through about 20 cities in five countries in less than three months, my wanderlust is sated. I’m ready to be home.

Walking down my street, I whisper the phrase “I live here” to myself. A bookstore, post office, wine shop, and second-hand clothing store are all within five minutes’ walking distance. Both the Weser River and the Werder Bremen soccer stadium are just a few blocks away. And by hopping on a tram, I can reach the center of the city in less than ten minutes.

With about 550,000 citizens, Bremen is both Germany’s tenth largest city and the smallest of the country’s 16 states. The city is over 1200 years old. The Bremen University of Applied Sciences, where I will study, has 7,700 students, is spread over three campuses, and offers majors such as shipbuilding, architecture, biology, journalism, social work and economics.

Facts and figures, however, cannot convey this city. The cobblestone streets of the pedestrian area are lined with cafes and shops. Bakeries offer an astonishing variety of freshly baked breads and pastries. Trams and buses neatly crisscross the city, and there are almost as many bicycles as cars on the road. On warm days, the entire city seems to turn out, covering the sloped banks of the Weser River with families, sunbathers, couples making out, and students playing frisbee.

They seem contented, happy to call Bremen their home. Just like me.