How To…Office Hours


Your time has come, you have to go to one of the (in)famous German offices. You’ll have to convert your drivers license, register your new apartment, apply for child benefit or get a visa. These appointments can be scary, confusing and above all – in German.

Here are some tips, which will help you deal with the German offices and come out of the office with a feeling of “Yay, I made it, I got my *insert weird document*!”:

  • Always have your passport with you – yes, uh, the obvious one.

  • Even if the forms/website etc. does not directly ask for it, take your registration (Anmeldung) with you – it’s asked for almost always.

  • Smile and have the right attitude – everyone is doing their job and it is not always just pleasant (an office job with many annoyed people coming in…ugh).

  • Be prepared about what exactly you want – before entering the office, think for a second about what exactly is your question/need/request, it will be a time saver for everyone

  • Have all your paperwork which is (or might be) needed on you and in the best case ordered and marked with post its (if its a lot).

  • Yes, unfortunately it’s true – some people working at the offices are just not very nice people and make your life harder than necessary. From all the experiences I have with bureaucracy, I can tell that most of the people working there are nice and want to help you. Some are not the nicest people on the planet, but that’s just how it goes – some people are not nice. But, think about it, they are in the “position of power”, so even when you wanna fight them, get mad or whatever, it will never help you or improve the situation. Always stay calm – for your own good. But always keep in mind, that most of the office workers actually wanna help you. And it’s a nice thing to come with a smile. A smile and a friendly “Hello” opens many doors.

  • Don’t be scared – it’s bureaucracy and not a huge octopus that wants to eat you 😉 (credit for the octopus metaphor goes to my friend and client Zack, who once compared German bureaucracy to a giant octopus)

  • Of course, in some cases, things unfortunately depend on the mood of the one dealing with your case, but most of the things you would have do deal with are maybe complicated, maybe a massive amount of paperwork, but once you manage the paperwork and understand what all of it is about, there is no other way than actually getting through with your requests and needs.

  • Take one step after the other – When you have this massive thing to deal with, like a visa application or the general organization of your life in Germany (bank account, health insurance, registration etc. etc.), don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks you’re facing. Keep calm and take one step after the other. Get paper A, then attachment 21C, then a copy of this long forgotten document of yours and step by step you’ll get to where you want (or need) to be.

  • If it’s possible, take a German speaker with you or have some keywords (like for example the name of the form you ask for) on hand. Be prepared that most office workers don’t speak English well or not at all.