>That should be the country’s PR slogan.
After 9/11, Austria changed a few of its immigration laws and revoked its “permanent” visa for foreigners, which was never permanent in the sense of forever, but good for an indefinite time. This means we all make the annual pilgrimage to the immigration offices for a renewal of our residence permits, with all our paperwork signed and stamped. Meldezettel, passport photo, passport, papers from my employer. Last year I didn’t have to get my landlord’s signature but this year I do, so I have to hunt him down and get him to sign something for me within two weeks.
The application wants odd information, such as; do I have windows with access to fresh air in my dwelling? (I know that New York slumlords used to put windows inside apartments to get around the building codes, but this is 2010 and the EU.)
It could be much worse. Especially if I was from a country with less privileges. And being a Künstler, or artist, gets me through hoops as well.
The visit to the Ausländeramt is always a bit awkward because of the way things are done. You enter the waiting area and there you find two doors. If there are other people waiting, you ask who the last one in “line” is, as there is no line visible. If no one is there you knock on one of the doors and stick your head inside, at which point you will probably be told to wait outside (which is part of the protocol, don’t take offense.) When it is finally your turn, you submit all your papers one by one, which are collected and stamped by the agent at his desk. He or she then sends you off with another paper, and you take this immediately to the cashier’s office (2nd floor, down the long, long, hall and through the glass doors. Thankfully the cashier takes debit cards.) The cashier returns your paper to you, with the right stamp, and you then head back to the first door you walked through — only this time you have been instructed not to wait, but to come right in and submit this paper. However, when you do this, all the other people waiting will look at you, and first-timers (many of whom speak very little German) will be confused and think you are cutting ahead of them. I’ve had people march right in behind me to protest at this point, only to be commanded to wait outside. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the Way It’s Done and an initial (and important) step in understanding Austrian fatalism. It may also help to read Kafka.
And, after you’ve been through this a few times, you no longer identify with your fellow American citizens who, when confronted with a line to wait in, immediately begin to complain, to anyone who will listen. Don’t gripe at me about this dinky little wait, you think. I’ve seen worse. Get over yourself already.