If I’m not mistaken, I’ve mentioned before that „professionalism“ means something a little different here. But I was still taken aback by the comic on my official’s office wall yesterday at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde). It showed two birds on a branch. The one on the narrow end was fat, and the branch was bent to almost a right angle under its weight. “How’s your diet going?” asks the small bird near the trunk. “F— you!” answers the big bird.

Strange comics aside, yesterday was a big occasion. As of 32 hours ago, I am the proud owner of a little pink card that authorizes me to stay in Germany until the end of December 2017. It didn’t come easy, even today, when all I needed to do was show up with my passport and a bank statement for my blocked account* with a certain amount of money in it.

The certain amount of money was deposited several months ago. But at some point, I had no other money and needed to buy groceries, so I used 20 euros from that account. Being a doofus, I waited until yesterday morning to replace them, figuring that if I deposited the money at an ATM, I could print out a statement basically immediately that would show that transaction. No such luck. So yesterday evening after class, I stopped by the bank again and printed another statement. Still 19.44 € short. After spending about 2 hours pacing my room going “ohgodohgodohgodohgod” I went to bed, having resolved to go back by the bank on the way to the Ausländerbehörde.

After discovering that the transaction had indeed been processed overnight, I expected smooth sailing at the Ausländerbehörde. But I had hardly sat down at the official’s desk when he observed that although I had the required funds, there was no indication on the statement that myy account was of the blocked variety. I told him that I’d brought the letter confirming the blockage of the account last time, and didn’t he have it on file? He said no. I told him that the letter had said that the account would be blocked as soon as the funds were in there, and that the whole situation was due to a single 20-euro grocery run. That made him laugh– „20 euros? They turned you away for 20 euros?“ That wasn’t quite how it happened, but his bureaucrat face was beginning to soften, so I decided not to correct him.

But it needs to be blocked…I can’t do anything with an unblocked account.“ It is blocked, I repeated, it just doesn’t say so right there. You can ask your colleague–I didn’t know the letter would be necessary today, so I didn’t bring it, but I had it last time, and she approved it!

After thinking for a minute, he scratched his e-mail address down on the torn-off corner of a piece of paper, asked me to e-mail him the letter confirming the blocking of the account, commented that I spoke pretty good German for an American (always with the back-handedness…), and slid my new, shiny pink permit across the table. Only then did I notice that the permit was for a full 2 years longer than I’d anticipated. But I didn’t say a word.

*I don’t really understand what the purpose of the blocked account is. Basically, it means that I can only withdraw a limited (and laughably small) amount each month. The German government is listed on my account as a beneficiary, which means nothing to me, except that if I ever want to withdraw more than the limit (or close the account) I have to get governmental permission first. It’s completely unnecessary and ridiculous.