03 April 2008
So, only 4 months after we set the wheels in motion (ie, jumping through all the required hoops) my new Fuehrerschein is here.
It started with having an American driver's license from a state that has reciprocity with Germany. Then having that translated and 'notarized' and taking that to the ADAC with my passport (and all the other official documents that they said they would not need but did). Then we (the German and I, because they were only in German) filled out forms, paid our fees, and went off, expecting to be notified of the license arrival in 11 weeks. We were told it could not be mailed, which was itself problematic, of course, because we were expecting to leave Berlin before it would arrive. I would then, apparently, need to fly back to Berlin to pick it up.That was mid-November.
In mid-January we received notification that the license would be held up because my motorcycle certification could not be transferred unless I took a written and practical test, so I said that I would take the license without the certification.
We received the letter stating that the license was in March 19th. What with all of our illnesses and the holidays, I went to the correct Landsamt, off Friedrichstrasse, to pick it up Monday. It's located just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie (so now I know the U-Bahn stop for that museum).
After going in the wrong entrance and being sent around, providing my letter, my passport, and my driver's license in one waiting room, I was sent to another. In that room a gentleman asked who I was, handed me my Fuehrerschein and bade me a cheery fare-well, while retaining my US license.
In my oh so pitiful German, I tried to explain to him that I actually needed to keep my US license. After my second sentence, he sent me along to another room. In that room, a woman explained to me, in extremely rapid German, that Germany would allow me to have only 1 license and that I should use my German license when visiting the US.
Once again, in my so slow German, I explained that I needed the license, that the German one did not have my motorcycle certification, that US citizens are not allowed to drive on German license, that although my husband, with a visa, could use a foreign license, I a US citizen was specifically not allowed to.
She offered me the option of paying 100Euros every time I needed my USA license and that they could keep it somewhere that would require my asking for it a week or two in advance, which I said was both exorbitant (zu tueur fur mich) and unbelievable (unglaublich). I asked her what she suggested I do, in a city where the average apartment costs 300Euro a month, and she just shrugged. So I said thank you and left.
I assume that the answer is to get another US license when I am in the States and I assume that is what her shrug was suggesting that I do and I think that's just great: to need to break the law in order to be legal.
Another typical German experience where the letter of the law absolutely is more important than the meaning behind it. Sometime soon I will blog about our experience with German banks and with German American Express.