Government Offices in Poland

Posted: November 9, 2010 in Poland, Traditions, Travel

Even Poles laugh at the their own bureaucracy – probably the citizens of most countries do. European bureaucracies, especially post-communist ones, seem to be in a class all their own, however. I have been pleasantly surprised this year just how nice all the government workers have become. But – some other things haven’t changed. Yet.

We picked up our car from the shipping company on Friday, and we have the rest of the week to make it to the local customs office to clear our personal items and begin the process of getting back the money we paid to cover customs and taxes. Wouldn’t you know it, though, the shipping company didn’t give me one necessary document – so I have to wait. Holiday this week, Independence Day, so it’s a short week. Hopefully the paper comes in time so we won’t pay a fine.

Meanwhile, we have been in the process of getting our temporary residence cards. We entered Poland August 14, so we have until November 13 on our tourist visas. I turned in all our paperwork about 2 weeks ahead of the deadline – in other words, in plenty of time. The very polite young woman in the immigration office, however, wrote down the wrong date on the outside of our files. On Monday I went in and asked about our papers, and she was suprised to see me. She thought we still had another 2 weeks. So all of a sudden she had to get busy with our case. When she reviewed it, she realized that one of our documents needed to be rewritten. I got it done, brought it in, but then once again – it wasn’t quite right. Did I mention there’s a holiday this week? If we don’t have the decision by Friday, we have to leave the European Union to get our passports stamped. No big deal – IF WE HAD A CAR!

Since the car won’t be cleared by customs by Friday (customs clearance is likely to take another month), we may have to take a train, or fly, to Ukraine. Not outrageously expensive, but it means a train trip in the middle of the night, with a return in the middle of the night as well. Sigh.

My buddy here says files in government offices need to “ripen.” He laughs when I dream about the possibility of getting something settled in a few hours, or days. When I told him how I always saw people dashing from one office to another in the same building, he said that’s because carrying papers back and forth gives them (the papers) more importance. He said I really wouldn’t want my case to be settled so soon. Then it would look as if they really hadn’t given it the time and effort required for such a weighty matter.

Okay. Whatever. Just please – the cases weigh enough already now. Could we have our residence cards and customs clearance soon?

Follow-up: I got a call from the immigration office about noon today (wrote the above last night). We got approval for 2 years here, so we don’t have to leave the country. I still have two more visits to the office, so I think the final total will be 10 trips to the immigration office. Again, my buddy helped me understand – by waiting this long, having me come in so many times, and calling me 5-6 times, the lady in charge of our case demonstrated how important she was. He says it’s a good lesson for me – to understand that I’m not alone in this world, that I’m dependent on someone else, that bureaucrats are important people, too. Of course, he’s laughing so hard as he tells me these things – I’m tempted to kidnap him and send him to Arizona – see how he likes dealing with immigration!

  1. Jan Hirschy says:

    Love your Blog, Randy! Gotta tell others about it. Very interesting writing…..appears that you might be qualified to write that book someday. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Jan – very kind of you. I’m working on a book – maybe I’ll post a chapter or two here

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