Red tape

I mentioned, in a previous post, that the pace of things is just slower here.  Although Vienna is a bustling city, the vibe is just different than home.  That’s fine.  I actually think that I will come to really appreciate this about our experience here, and it’s something I’m already getting used to.  Dan & I were talking today about going back to look at our two favorite housing options.  My first instinct was, “Email them now so maybe we can go see the places tomorrow!”, but then I realized that no matter how quickly we contact them, we’re not going to go look at those apartments tomorrow.  That just isn’t how it works.  We’ll email them today, talk about it tomorrow and go see them Monday or Tuesday (because very little happens here on the weekends — I guess apartment shopping might turn out to be an exception).

I don’t mind the slower pace of life.  I like the fact that at 5:00, people are generally unreachable by email or at their work number.  People don’t work into the evening here, or over the weekend (unless that’s typical of their job).  I like that, because we will soon benefit from that lifestyle, too.  Dan isn’t going to have a laptop to bring home from his new job.  He isn’t going to be expected to get anything accomplished between the close of business on Friday and when he arrives on Monday morning.  He’s not going to answer work calls at 7:00 in the evening or on a Sunday.  And if he’s sick, or on vacation, he’s simply out, and no one expects him to check in or do any work until he returns.  That sounds excellent.

The non-excellent part of this is the red tape part of it.  And it’s not exactly “part” of a slower pace of life, but it exists side by side with it.  We’ve been jumping through hoops since we got here, and we’re still finding it difficult to make any progress on very basic things.  Our journey through red tape began with shopping for cell phones.  After finding a place that carried the cell phones that we want, Dan went to purchase them.  At home, this would be as simple as producing a credit card and signing a contract.  Well, Dan had neglected to bring his passport, so he came home to get it.  I went with him, and brought mine, for good measure.  We got back to the cell phone place, only to be told that we need proof of employment, proof of residency and a bank account.  Ok.  So, we head back home.

Dan figures the easiest way to get proof of residency is to get his “legit” card (which is what you get here instead of a visa if you or a family member is working for the UN).  So, he contacts his work to get it.  Well, turns out that you can’t get your legit card until you’ve signed your contract for work . . . and you can’t sign your work contract until your first day of work.  Turns out you also need your legit card to recieve your items shipped from home.  This includes the stuff we had shipped over by air so we could receive it 10 to 14 days after departing.  Nice.  (The latest we were expecting to get that stuff was today.)  The people in HR that Dan was dealing with knew that we were planning to be here 3 weeks before he started work.  Did it really not occur to them that we might need phones, or our stuff, or even proof of residency in the first 3 weeks we lived here?  (Or, at least, to tell us that we wouldn’t be able to have those things?)  Turns out, this is a common problem — happens all the time.  It’s something that is an issue for most people starting work at the UN.  Thanks for letting us know BEFORE we got on the plane.

So, one of the ideas we had was that maybe Dan could start work a bit earlier.  We’ve made excellent progress with the house hunting, and if it’s going to make our lives easier and allow us to make progress in getting settled (which was the whole point of coming over 3 weeks early) then why not?  Well, it turns out, he can’t start early, because the paperwork is done and people are already planning on his start date.  Sigh.

But, they did give him proof of employment!.  Starting with that, Dan went on to get his Austrian bank account (that part was remarkably easy) and then went to talk to the people in the visa office about maybe moving the paperwork ahead to get his legit card, or at least helping us get our air shipment stuff (which has been here since the beginning of the week, but which we can’t get to).  They started working on it (not sure what they can do, but apparently they like a challenge) and one of the things Dan had to go was to get pictures taken for his card.  So he did that.  Well, the boys and I need legit cards, too, so today we trundled off (looking presentable) to the UN to get our pictures taken, too . . . only to show up and find out that the picture taking office closes an hour earlier than everything else there.  Seriously?

So, now back to the phones.  On one of Dan’s trips to try and buy the phones, he was told to come back if he had at least proof of employment (including contract duration) and a bank account.  Great!  We have that now!  So, we went back today (after our failed attempt at getting our pictures taken).  Turns out, no.  Didn’t work.  Still need the legit card.  Argh!

So, here we are.  No phones.  No stuff.  The ridiculousness and inefficiency of it is enough to drive me crazy if I think about it too long.  If it were me (read as, “If I were queen of the universe, which sometimes I really think I ought to be . . .”) there would be a straightforward checklist and procedure for every incoming UN employee to follow:  start at this office, sign this form, go here, produce this paperwork, take a picture, submit this form, the end.  (But apparently, no one asked me.)

But there’s really no harm done.  It’s just a delay.  (A frustrating delay!)  Lest anyone worry, we really do have the things we need.  At least this way, when we move to our next temporary home this Saturday, we only have to move the 5 suitcases we arrived with.  Since we haven’t gotten our air shipment, we don’t have to move it.  And we’re surviving without phones — that’s not easy, but it’s ok, too.  And, just today, we found out that Dan may be able to sign his contract early . . . whether that means other things will happen sooner, remains to be seen.  And I have no idea why something that was impossible a week ago is suddenly possible, but I promise not to complain.