Bureaucracy and Language: the enemy of foreigners

Although Germany is a surprising country in the way its architectural riches are distributed and preserved, we have to say it… the bureaucracy in this country is a concept known by all and hated by many. And of course, it couldn’t be any different if a German (Max Weber 1864-1920) developed the concept. If you are thinking of living in Germany, the integration process can take several months as it consists of many steps that include rows in different state offices such as the Standesamt, Ausländerbehörde, Burgerburö, Finanzamt, Rathaus, among others.

Many times, and for each procedure, you need to obtain different documents so it is very common among Germans to have file folders in their homes where they keep all the documents sorted and categorized according to their use so that it will be easier to find them the next time it is necessary. Another complexity associated with bureaucracy is the number of identification numbers required to obtain, for example, a tax number, an identification number, a social service, retirement number, a health insurance number among others.

If we add to that the complexity of the language, we could say that it is not an easy process, which is why it is always recommended to go with a friend or acquaintance who is native or has a high level of German. Can you imagine speaking at the table of the foreigner’s office in your city and the official mentions ” Mitgliedsbescheinigung” or “Wohnraumbescheinigung”. What do you think those concepts mean? The language is characterized by the constant use of compound words, so it is quite common to find very long words that at first can be frightening but when broken down are easier to understand. This is the case of the word “Ausländerbehörde” which is broken down as Ausländer + Behörde = foreigner + department or office.


It is for this and other reasons that ExpatsGuide put ourselves in your shoes and advise you directly indicating each step you must follow. All the people who make up ExpatsGuide are or have been Expats either in Germany or abroad and that is why they understand the important work of this task and what really involved.

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Beatriz Campos

Beatriz is an academic linguist fluent in Spanish, English, and German supporting ExpatsGuide social media campaigns and administrative tasks. Chilean national who moved to Germany in 2016.

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