Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Is There Intelligent Life in Bureaucracy?

The holidays are finally over here in Spain, and the kids went back to school yesterday. We spent a few more days in Cáceres (my husband's home town) than we had originally planned, so I've been secluded without Internet all this time.

The new year has started off in a sort of strange way; with a sick cat, getting barbed wire on my teeth, and me doing the bureaucratic tango with the U.S. government, trying to get my papers together so I can finally apply for Spanish citizenship. All this time I thought the Spanish government was going to give me more headaches than the U.S. government, but strangely enough the reverse is true. I was pretty jazzed when I started this whole thing since it all seemed pretty straightforward, but seems is the key word here because trying to get the documents I need from the U.S. has turned out to be an odyssey of epic proportions. It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel through all the thick red tape, but I'll keep hacking away at it and see if I can get through it without getting trapped in this sticky mess (and if I slay a few bureaucrats along the way the world won't have lost much).

I feel a bit like the man in this video, except in my case the whole thing is complicated by the fact that I am here and can't go to pick up my documents personally.

The whole process has been filled with obtuse public employees who don't seem to grasp the concept that I can't shell out a small fortune to fly over to the States to personally pick up the necessary forms. Everything is so standardized that when there's a situation that's a bit out of the ordinary, these people just lose it and don't know how to proceed. Most of the time they don't even try to help and they just point me in the direction of another office and say, "Try over there, they may be able to help." All this after sitting though the recorded phone message of "For help with ----, press 1. For information on ----, press 2...." Just listening to the menu costs me a small fortune each time I call a different office. In the age of Internet, why isn't it possible to get this stuff done on the computer?

So, while I sort my way through this crazy maze I'll leave you all with some pictures of Cáceres:

This fella kept visiting the tree right in front of the flat, but luckily he didn't bring us any babies (I told him to go visit my sister, who is anxiously awaiting one, but so far he hasn't obliged)

Now, if you're still looking for something to do, head on over to Central Snark won't find any bureaucracy there.


  1. I don't understand bureaucracy either but I do know they chose the right word for it! How much more confusing is that word to spell or say?

    Oh...every year I pick a couple places in the world to visit. I'm thinking about Spain/Portugal with a side trip to Morocco at the end of August for 10 days. Any suggestions on where to go, what I should see or avoid?

  2. Well, maybe a little bureaucracy at

    Sorry for your trouble. Tell those bastards that you know somebody at the Mattress Police. They might, you know, think you're crazy and expedite you or something.

  3. after my own dealings with government bureaucracy i can say with great confidence, no there is no intelligent life there. none whatsoever.

    good luck.

  4. Yikes. Good luck with all that.

    Love the pictures, you lucky duck!

    Time to vote at TGQDC!

  5. I think it might be universal, my husband had to fly in to sign single forms at least twice and I think three times when we were reinstating his Spanish. I cringe when I think what it cost.

  6. The answer to this post's title is no. I know that: I'm French.

    Seriously, I remember when I applied for permanent residence in Canada... drove me crazy. And I will be applying for citizenship probably this summer... more paperwork on the way!

  7. ve: Yeah, I finally learned how to spell it after suffering through it so much.

    About your trip, you should probably start off in Madrid and work your way South. Don't miss Seville and Granada. Of course the North has wonderful things too, but if you're planning on going to Morocco you should probably just stick to the South. One warning: Southern Spain and Morocco are hot in August, so be prepared. Send me an e-mail at theresaosinga at if you want any more tips. :)

    Diesel: Somehow I don't think that'll help much. It's hard to get these people out of their standard replies, so they'll probably just say, "Oh the Mattress Police, well maybe they can help you out. Have a nice day."

    Lime: So far I'm inclined to agree with you, but I can't help but hope that I'll find at least one intelligent person who will actually help me solve the problem...nah, who am I kidding? It's not going to happen.

    Cindra: Thanks, I hope to fix it someday. Okay, off to vote now.

    Orneta: It is frustrating, isn't it? And costly too. I'm afraid to even guess what I'll end up shelling out before this is over.

    Zhu: Ooh, I remember the permanent residence thing over here and it was not fun. But compared to getting citizenship it was a piece of cake. I hope it's easier for you than it is for me, because I wouldn't wish this hassle on anyone.

  8. I've definitely had problems with U.S. bureaucracy in my day, but Canada is the worst. I've had to get ten forms filled out just to get car insurance. And I can't even begin to fathom how annoying it has been to access Canada's health care, which I still am working on.

    Anyway, good luck with the paperwork.

  9. Hi Theresa, glad you are back. If we can be of any help here with the paperwork let us know ok? I did send you an e-mail because I have a different address as long as I'm in the US because I have trouble opening the netmail from het net. talk to you soon i hope!love, Mem

  10. Theresa -- I feel your pain. My husband's solution is paperwork. Flood them with paperwork -- bills, Diesel's book, kids' school papers, wedding certificate, phone books from the US, etc. Now, you don't have to give up your citizenship to the US right? No, your married to Spaniard so you have dual right? My kids were born in that country and can't have dual citizenship. I should have it just for having 2 kids in that country.

  11. Theresa, this letter reminded me of your post. Pretty valid points.

  12. Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday.

    Bureau-Crazy seems to be a universal issue. At least it's pretty over there based on your pictures. I'm sure Spain has much going for it. My wife likes it there.

  13. Didn't the Spanish first bring horses to the Americas?

    If so, shouldn't we give you a pony now, as a congratulatory reciprocal citizenship gift?

  14. are you telling me you have avoided the joys of getting a Spanish license? Oh what fun.

  15. Speaking as the husband of a bureaucrat, the federal government in the U.S. is very, very slow. They relish annoying people. They get off on it, I think.

  16. o wow those photos... glorious colour!!

    I hope you get America sorted/America sorts you


    well you know what I mean

  17. Omg, that´s the topic that makes me furious! I´m from Russia, I think the land of the worst bureaucracy, there who pays gets its documets faster!
    In Spain I was shoked that they work so little hours and so slow like they don´t care about anybody. Evetytime they say come mañana It means come in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year! They were such a pain in the ass when I was getting married, now waiting for citizenship, let´s see how long it wil take, they say 1, 5 years.

  18. Ah, bureaucracy. Yes, Erik told me about your process too and I've been following along a bit. Should be a ton o fun! I'm trying to get through our wedding first and then I'll be wading my way through the paperwork. Thanks for the tips on where to get the papers, I will keep that in mind!