Out and About

Out and About

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bureaucracy Much?

There may be some differences between Spain and the US, but they do share one giant thing in common: a large and inefficient bureaucracy.

I want a job, right? I decide to visit the friendly folks at the temporary job office to get some help in my search. I go the main street of Granada, Gran Vía de Colón, and find the office. However, there is a sign on the door saying that as of October (ahem, 8 months ago), the office has been on the opposite side of town. Oh ok, that’s cool, but why does Google Maps still think it’s on Gran Vía de Colón? I march across town and find the new location. The woman behind the desk kindly informs me that I need a social security number to look for jobs through the temporary job office. She advises that I go to the social security office, on Gran Vía de Colón, where I had just come from. So I do. I arrive at the social security office and am informed that I cannot get a social security number without a foreigner identification number. I inquire about the location of this foreigner identification office and am told to go to the police station, which is about 10 minutes away. No problem, I figure, I’ll go to the police station, then back to the social security office, then back to the temporary job office, and by the end of the day, I’ll have at least 5 jobs lined up for sure.


I wait an hour and a half at the police station for my number to be called. The place is packed with people, but they all look suspiciously Spanish, and all I can hear is Spanish. Where are all the foreigners wanting to get their identification numbers like me? Finally my number is called and I walk up to my assigned desk, even though the man at the desk is still helping the lady in front of me. He glances at me and asks for my passport and Spanish identification card. I inform him I’m not Spanish. He does a double-take at me and my heart sinks. I know then and there that I’d just wasted and hour and a half of my life.

See the pissed lady in the front of the line? That's me.

He told me that as of November of last year the rules had changed and foreigners can no longer go to the police station to get identification numbers. He took me outside the building and pointed to a piece of salmon computer paper taped haphazardly to the wall that mentions something about a foreigner office. I stared at it, then at the man, and back at the sign. I jotted down the information and was on my way, yet again. Luckily for me, my cell phone has Google Maps. I arrived at the location in about 25 minutes annnnnnd it was closed for lunch.* It was Friday so I decided to return Monday.

The Spanish just really like to make lines. These students are waiting in line to enter one of the university libraries so they can study for their final exams.

Fast forward to Monday. I go to the foreigner office, this time with my boyfriend for emotional support (and his language skills always come in handy). The foreigner office finally accepts my documents, however I need to return in an hour and a half so they can prepare the documents. Well that’s fine, no pasa nada as they say here in Granada. We go back an hour and a half later, and I am given a sheet that says I need to go to a bank and pay 10 Euros. We go to the bank, I pay my 10 Euros, they give me a document, and we return to the office. They stamp the document with my identification number and I am now an official foreigner in Spain.

Super, I think, now I can get a social security number. But of course, that would be far too easy. We go to the social security office to be told that I cannot have a social security number because I don’t have a job. Once I get a job, they will give me a social security number. Um, but, I need a social security number to GET a job at the temporary job office. My boyfriend talks quickly and incomprehensibly with the woman behind the desk, nods his head, and we leave. I stare at him. He explains that what the woman said goes completely against what the woman in the temporary job office said. So we go to the temporary job office to tell them what the social security office told us. The lady at the temporary job office clucks her mouth and says with no social security number, I can’t work. We explain the dilemma of my Catch-22 and she allows me to fill out an application with my foreigner identification number.

Not nearly enough.

I’m going to hope very hard that my sheet actually gets turned in somewhere that will pay attention to it, and will, of course, hire me in a somewhat efficient manner. But no promises. This is, after all, Spain, and being in a rush goes against everything they believe in.

So all in all, I truly do love Spain, and the Spanish people really are very nice (except that one that snapped at me in the social security office), but if they could communicate just a bit more between themselves that’d be really super.

*Sidenote: Spain loves its siesta (nap). Monday through Saturday, everything, EVERYthing, except large supermarkets, gas stations, and restaurants, closes from 2 pm until 5 pm, for lunch/siesta. Nothing is open on Sunday, except restaurants and gas stations. The Spanish eat their lunches around 2 or 3 pm and then pass out in a food coma until 5 pm, when they resume their daily tasks. Stores then typically stay open between 5 or 5:30 pm until 8 or 9 pm, and people have dinner between 9 pm and 11 pm, at which point I often have stomach cramps from hunger if I have not had my merienda (snack) at 6 or 7 pm.

When they close for lunch, they mean business.

1 comment:

  1. What a nightmare!! I'm so sorry, that really is a catch-22. Maybe the American embassy can help you?