It’s part of what makes us great and OK, sometimes arrogant, self-important, disrespectful: the fact we think we can go anywhere in the world, just show up, and do what we want or buy what we want, sometimes just by pointing.
And so it goes, my mom lives in Germany and we concocted this fabulous idea, this idea to quit our jobs and just go live there for a year. Everybody learns German, we get to travel a bit, work on our novels, come back better people. Right? Richtig?
And maybe because I’m American, I just assumed this would be easier than it is. That we could just rely on the truth of our story and that would be enough to get the necessary permission to stay. But it’s not.
THE SAN FRANCISCO GERMAN CONSULATE
I will try to keep this short and clean. Our in-country assistance starts and basically ends here, in San Francisco. My step-dad John used to say countries put their assholes on the border. In this case, they exported their assholes and put them in the SF Consulate.
When speaking to dogs, children and adults it’s true: people respond to tone. It’s not what you say sometimes but how you say it. And so when the fucking SF Honorary Consulate cops a tone with me, suggesting it’s unusual or off-putting my mom is not married to a German (in fact he was English and now dead) and asks my education-level, then sort of laughs and says I sink you have a weak case, well that was a bad start.
A week later we called back to see if we’d get someone else. Dawn called, this time. Same story: even worse, in fact a tone of “what do you do for income, hippy.”
I called a third time yesterday, having exhausted the other Honorary German Consulates in Seattle and Portland, who both said call San Francisco since they’re doing the fingerprinting now and we’re not allowed to talk to anyone about visas.
And the same woman answers but transfers me to someone who sounds like she’s gone to the same school of No.
And then they go outside to smoke and put their phones on DND.
MAKE IT IN GERMANY
There are a variety of websites to help, at least. This one is probably the best. It links out to other sites and rephrases things in a cogent fashion. Yet there are gaps of course, because you can’t cover everything online.
At the end of the day, it seems we need to go to Germany to apply for our visa within the first three months of arriving and then, we will either know right away or possibly three months later if we can stay longer, or just need to leave.
AMERICANS JUST THINK THEY CAN GO ANYWHERE
So we’ve rented our house out for a year, turned down job offers, and even started CLEANING OUT OUR GARAGE in expectation of realizing our plan, our manifest destiny.
But having done as much due diligence as I can without killing myself, our plan is to:
1. Apply and “hope” under the Family Reunification act we’ll get permission to stay for one year.
2. Prepare a back-up plan if we have to leave the Schengen (look it up, really!) after 90 days.
- Back-up plan is to move to Croatia or the UK (not part of the Schengen agreement), then re-enter Germany 90 days later (requires buying a car, etc.)
3. Learn Deutsch. Continue our studies at a local community college, hire tutor for the kids.
4. Hire an emigration lawyer (you read right).
5. Coordinate enrollment of kids in local German school.
This is what I didn’t like about project management, how things get impossibly complicated (almost supernaturally complicated, shit you couldn’t make up [I couldn’t, as a fiction writer] and when you talk about it [status reports] no one wants to listen or read about it because it’s painful, it’s work).
But nothing so grand as this should be so simple.
The real reason we want to go is for our kids to be different. Different in that way people who travel the world are, or at least enough of it to see things differently, to appreciate other points of view and cultures. To gain the confidence that comes with making it in a foreign place, and the attitude that yes, we can go anywhere.
Photos below of my mom’s house, some include dates/milestones in its lifecycle, built in 1494. Advice from expats, friends, artists, attorneys welcome.