Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bureaucracy

Establishing yourself in a foreign country isn't the easiest thing. Establishing yourself in Barcelona takes nerves of steel, guts of iron, and the patience of a saint. Apparently I have one or all of those things... or just enough anyway.

My plane from New York was delayed 2 hours on the runway at JFK (as if all the other nonsense hadn't been enough) and so of course I was late arriving in Barcelona and late to work. Knowing that the tax office is only open until 2pm - learned that last Tuesday when I tried to go there after lunch - I decided it would be a good idea to take all my paperwork straight there and then go to the office afterward.

I had already sought out the expertise of a professional, so I was sure that I had all my papers in order. And yet somehow I wasn't altogether surprised when the guy at the tax department on the third floor told me I was lacking a letter. You see, it's not enough to give them your contract, your residency card, and your social security number. You also have to give them a LETTER signed by your boss that REPEATS ALL THAT INFORMATION. But of course.

Keep in mind that in Barcelona there are two languages, so half the time you're being spoken to through all of this in Catalan, not Castellano. So you're not speaking in your second language, but a third that you may or may not (the latter, in my case) have ever studied. You know, just to add to the fun.

So I took all my paperwork and went to the office. Where I got many comments on my airplane face. I guess my showering and changing of clothing couldn't hide the fact that I'd spent the night on a cramped and frozen airplane, right next to the galley where one of the flight attendants actually got beaned in the head when a whole tray of glass mugs fell on her. And around our feet.

But I digress. My boss wrote the letter. Today I had a 9:30 meeting with an in-game advertising company and couldn't go straight to the tax office. So I went at 11:30. Oh it was also Sant Jordi, the big rose-and-book celebration in Barcelona. Traffic was a nightmare. And I guess 12 noon is THE time to go to the Hacienda because it was packed. Whatever, I went up to the third floor to see my old pal, who told me that I wasn't in the Alta. Whatever that is. I showed him a piece of paper I'd gotten months ago that clearly said "alta" on it. Nope, not from the correct office.

Go down to the ground floor, stand in line, get a number, wait in line again, and get yourself included in el alta del censo. I had to register for the census. So thirty minutes passed while I filled out more paperwork and then handed it over to a guy who only wanted to speak to me in Catalan. I noticed on the form that there were boxes for the census and also for if you get married or if you move. I am never getting married and never moving ever again. Anything I can do to avoid further bureaucracy, I love it!

Back up to floor three, where I handed over my paperwork and was told that in two or three weeks I'd receive a letter which I have to give to my HR department which will cause my tax rate to drop by 17%. If it ever actually happens, it will be a beautiful day. And I'm going to use that first 17% savings on CHAMPAGNE!

No comments: