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Old 12.02.2011, 07:58
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Kreisburo Rant

Hi folks,

I just wanted to relay my experience in dealing with the Kreisburo. Possibly the most frustrating experience I have had here, and one that has unfortunately progressed my negative attitude to this country and their people.

I have been here almost a year, and it is time to renew my B Permit. I gave Kreisburo 4 a call to try and organise an appointment/find the best time to come down and renew my B Permit. Now, my German is horrible, but I like to give it my best go to try and fit in here. My telephone conversation with the Kreisburo employee went as follows:

Me (IN GERMAN): Good morning, my name is ... I live in Kreis 4 and I would like to renew my B Permit. However I speak only a bit of German, do you speak English?

Her (In German): No

Me (In German): Is there somebody there who can speak English?

Her (In German): No

Me (In German): Is there somebody who will be there later that can speak English?

Her (In German): No. (followed by a big string of sentences in German).

Me (In German): I'm sorry I dont understand you.


Her (In German): (big string of sentences in German).

Me (In German): I'm very sorry I dont understand you, is there anyone there who can speak english or who I can call that can speak English.

This is where it gets interesting....

Her (IN FLUENT ENGLISH!!!!!!!) Do you have a letter? Because I need the number on your letter in order to find out what you are calling for.

Now, I was totally shocked, albeit impressed, by her suddenly learning fluent English in the past 2.5 minutes. But I decided my B Permit is much more important than telling this woman what I really think of her.

The conversation concludes with this (all in English from here on out):

Me: What time do you close today?

Her: 5:30

Me: So is it ok that I come down at 4:30? Do i need an appointment? would 4:30pm be too late to come down given that you close at 5:30?

Her: Yes. Anytime before 5:30 is ok.

Me: So just to confirm, if I come down at 4:30 today, I will be ok to get my B Permit renew.

Her: Yes, any time before 5:30pm.

Anyway, I strolled down to the Kreisburo arriving on the dot of 4:30.

THE THING HAD CLOSED AT 4:30PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So after lying to me and jerking me around with her linguistic ability. This C-bomb (and this woman has me so angry that is the only word I have for her) screws me around with having me come down after they have closed.

I am at my wits end with this country and its people. I'm considering my exit strategy as we speak.
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Old 12.02.2011, 08:04
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

Opening and closing times of a Zurich Kreisbüro

See.. you should have asked here first.
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Old 12.02.2011, 08:22
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

I saw that, hence why I was confirming the time. When an employee tells you 5:30 over and over again, you tend to go for that.
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Old 12.02.2011, 08:41
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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I saw that, hence why I was confirming the time. When an employee tells you 5:30 over and over again, you tend to go for that.
Sounds like that classic English-German time translation error. As you probably know half past 4 = Halb fünf (half 5) in German. Over 4 years of living here and I still screw up on that one from time to time, as I can imagine a native German speaker speaking English doing so as well.
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Old 12.02.2011, 08:54
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

Some people just are not overly comfortable speaking in English, even if their english is very good. I have asked this question also at some places, they often say no, or a little, and in reality when the speak it is very good.

We live in Switzerland so kind of have to expect the need to get by in the native tongue to some degree especially with the government agencies.
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Old 12.02.2011, 09:05
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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Sounds like that classic English-German time translation error. As you probably know half past 4 = Halb fünf (half 5) in German. Over 4 years of living here and I still screw up on that one from time to time, as I can imagine a native German speaker speaking English doing so as well.
That was exactly my first thought, when a local tells me the time in English eg half past four, I always ask them to confirm if they really mean 4.30 or possibly 3.30......

Also, whenever I ask a local if they speak English, to them speaking English means fluently so they usually say no. When we progress in my interesting German they often start to speak pretty decent English. But not fluently, therefore, to them, they do not speak English.
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Old 12.02.2011, 09:55
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

This follows on to the whole discussion in multiple threads here about English and how we're all just guests here and we should be speaking 11th century Glarnertüütsch or whatever. I have the same thing with my Sanatel health insurance - I had to call them to notify them of my need to see a doctor but no one spoke English. They said they'd have to call me back in an hour!!

I have no problem with people not speaking English, but I love how they're all willing to sell you the super deluxe, super expensive health insurance in fluent English, but unwilling to service the product in the same language! Same with permits. They should be saying "I'm sorry, we're unwilling to accept any more British or American people unless they speak German fluently. But no, they issue the permits to get the huge tax money, but they can't fund a couple of English speaking people in the Kreisburo. Grrrrr
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Old 12.02.2011, 10:07
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

I can totally appreciate the snafu on the times, I'm sure I've mixed that up a million times when trying to give times in German. And I've definately encountered the Swiss being coy about their English speaking skills. However, it was more the fact that I kept asking if she spoke it, if there was anyone there who could help me who could understand English, or if I could call back later to speak to someone who spoke English.

I gave her three opportunities to pipe up.

And it wasn't like her English was broken English. It was more fluent than I'll ever be in German that's for sure. All I was asking was for a little help and guidance, and I got none.

I know these kinds of things are something you have to put up with living in a foreign country, having to accept cultural differences etc but we're all human beings, we all struggle with things, we all need a little help. I was trying my best to reach out to her in the (somewhat) native tongue of her country, but she just threw it back in my face.
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Old 12.02.2011, 10:08
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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Sounds like that classic English-German time translation error. As you probably know half past 4 = Halb fünf (half 5) in German. Over 4 years of living here and I still screw up on that one from time to time, as I can imagine a native German speaker speaking English doing so as well.
What makes it super sneaky, is that since I came here and stopped hearing real living-in-England-all-the-time-and-up-to-date-English they have changed from saying 'half past four' to saying 'half four'!!! No wonder it gets muddled sometimes. I usually say 'just checking, do you mean 16.30?' and then forget what I said and turn up at half past six!
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Old 12.02.2011, 14:40
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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What makes it super sneaky, is that since I came here and stopped hearing real living-in-England-all-the-time-and-up-to-date-English they have changed from saying 'half past four' to saying 'half four'!!! No wonder it gets muddled sometimes. I usually say 'just checking, do you mean 16.30?' and then forget what I said and turn up at half past six!
Has it really changed back in England? I have been aware of people saying "half four" as long as I remember (certainly for at least 20 years). Might be a regional thing and the person you know who changed has moved or adopted a non-local version from the TV or something?

I am always extremely careful with half past the hour (I make sure always to give times as "six thirty" rather than "half past six" round here). The other one to take care with is two-digit numbers. After having someone write down the wrong house number on a form by reversing the digits, I take care to either say the numbers in German or give them as individual digits. Even that doesn't always work, though. When I upgraded my mobile phone (and I have occasionally found myself calling it a "handy"), I was careful to give the phone number (in English on this occasion) with the last four digits as "five eight seven three" rather than "fifty-eight seventy-three". The person I was speaking to still wrote down 85 37 (note I've changed the actual digits from my real number).
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Old 12.02.2011, 16:06
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

I must of been lucky.. I went to Kresiburo 4 on Tuesday to "sign in" to the area and initiate my permit registration and i started the conversation by saying "Do you speak English?" and the lady said "Yes a little bit" and she was able to conduct the whole process and explain everything clearly in English. She was very nice, welcoming me to Switzerland and wishing me a nice stay here This sounds worlds different to your experience and I am sorry to hear this!
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Old 12.02.2011, 21:14
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

Ah, but your mistake was to ask if she spoke English!

When I went to get my papers at the migrationsamt, I had to queue for ages and in front of me was a man who went to the desk, put his papers down and spoke in English. The chap behind the counter shrugged and answered in German... and I'll leave you to imagine the how long it took for him to get his papers sorted. I was a bit worried as I spoke very little German when I got here. My turn, I start to speak in my very bad German and he smiled, took my papers, looked at my passport and replied in fluent English.

I've found this all over Zurich, if you start by off asking if they speak English, they'll say no and leave you to struggle. If you start speaking in German, and continue speaking in bad German, they will, 99% of the time, switch to English and be ever so helpful.

And I've learnt the hard way to always confirm times in the 24hr clock!
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Old 12.02.2011, 21:58
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

If I had only counted all instances where I had exactly same problems in my first year with "half past" time discrepancy misunderstandings, I would have turned grey.

Next time do yourself a favour and try to show up during mid day working hours. Allow yourself more time. Beware though, they take lunch breaks those bureaucrats and when interrupted they dash fireballs from their eyes!

If someone tells me in German "halb fünf", I always double check asking: you mean "vier Uhr dreizig"?
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Old 12.02.2011, 22:07
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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If you start speaking in German, and continue speaking in bad German, they will, 99% of the time, switch to English and be ever so helpful.
Even better, go to Germany, and speak bad Swiss-German with an American accent!

Only the Ossies are man enough to continue to speak to you in German!

Tom
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Old 12.02.2011, 22:20
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

My old neighbour speaks to me in swiss-german. She loves it when I try to speak something and open up the lift for her etc. Although I think she knows no english. But we get on like a house on fire *thumbs up*
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Old 13.02.2011, 00:24
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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Hi folks,

I just wanted to relay my experience in dealing with the Kreisburo. Possibly the most frustrating experience I have had here, and one that has unfortunately progressed my negative attitude to this country and their people.

I have been here almost a year, and it is time to renew my B Permit. I gave Kreisburo 4 a call to try and organise an appointment/find the best time to come down and renew my B Permit. Now, my German is horrible, but I like to give it my best go to try and fit in here. My telephone conversation with the Kreisburo employee went as follows:

Me (IN GERMAN): Good morning, my name is ... I live in Kreis 4 and I would like to renew my B Permit. However I speak only a bit of German, do you speak English?

Her (In German): No

Me (In German): Is there somebody there who can speak English?

Her (In German): No

Me (In German): Is there somebody who will be there later that can speak English?

Her (In German): No. (followed by a big string of sentences in German).

Me (In German): I'm sorry I dont understand you.


Her (In German): (big string of sentences in German).

Me (In German): I'm very sorry I dont understand you, is there anyone there who can speak english or who I can call that can speak English.

This is where it gets interesting....

Her (IN FLUENT ENGLISH!!!!!!!) Do you have a letter? Because I need the number on your letter in order to find out what you are calling for.

Now, I was totally shocked, albeit impressed, by her suddenly learning fluent English in the past 2.5 minutes. But I decided my B Permit is much more important than telling this woman what I really think of her.

The conversation concludes with this (all in English from here on out):

Me: What time do you close today?

Her: 5:30

Me: So is it ok that I come down at 4:30? Do i need an appointment? would 4:30pm be too late to come down given that you close at 5:30?

Her: Yes. Anytime before 5:30 is ok.

Me: So just to confirm, if I come down at 4:30 today, I will be ok to get my B Permit renew.

Her: Yes, any time before 5:30pm.

Anyway, I strolled down to the Kreisburo arriving on the dot of 4:30.

THE THING HAD CLOSED AT 4:30PM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So after lying to me and jerking me around with her linguistic ability. This C-bomb (and this woman has me so angry that is the only word I have for her) screws me around with having me come down after they have closed.

I am at my wits end with this country and its people. I'm considering my exit strategy as we speak.

But why did you speak German right from the beginning ? You should have greeted the person in English and seriously apologized in English for not speaking German in a sufficient way. And then proforma-wise ask "Do you speak English" !
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Old 13.02.2011, 00:49
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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Has it really changed back in England? I have been aware of people saying "half four" as long as I remember (certainly for at least 20 years). .
At least 20 years ? I learnt most of my English in the London of autumn 1972, in other words almost 40 years ago I improved my English in the 70ies and 80ies, and got some decent understanding of special variants of English like Texan-American-English or Cairene-ME-English. And the poster whom you replied to as far as I know is clearly older than me

To compare it with German you have (for example) 3.15 = Viertel ab 3 or 3.30 = Halb 4 and 3.45 = Viertel vor 4 . Back to English, 3.15 is a quarter past 3 and so the same as in German, 3.30 is half past 3, but 3.45 is a quarter to 4 and so the same as in German again. Dropping "ab" "vor" "past" "to" simply is bad language. This topic at length in recent years was covered by Prince Charles, quite correctly in fact
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Old 13.02.2011, 01:33
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Re: Kreisburo Rant

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To compare it with German you have (for example) 3.15 = Viertel ab 3 or 3.30 = Halb 4 and 3.45 = Viertel vor 4 . Back to English, 3.15 is a quarter past 3 and so the same as in German, 3.30 is half past 3, but 3.45 is a quarter to 4 and so the same as in German again. Dropping "ab" "vor" "past" "to" simply is bad language. This topic at length in recent years was covered by Prince Charles, quite correctly in fact
Wolli, "Viertel ab drei" is Swiss German. In Standard German it's "Viertel nach drei."

To make things more difficult, certain versions of German, for instance in Austria, parts of Eastern and Northern German say "Dreiviertel drei," meaning 2:45. To make things even worse, in some areas people say "Viertel vier" when they mean 3:15.

If you think that's weird, then look at the Military Time system in the USA, where they say "zero four hundred" for 04:00 and "sixteen hundred" for 16:00. Worse still, the minute after "sixteen hundred fifty nine" is "seventeen hundred." They talk as if an hour had 100 minutes, and then they have to suppress 40 minutes per hour. That's about the climax of illogicality, and that in the military.
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Old 13.02.2011, 01:53
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Wolli, "Viertel ab drei" is Swiss German. In Standard German it's "Viertel nach drei."

To make things more difficult, certain versions of German, for instance in Austria, parts of Eastern and Northern German say "Dreiviertel drei," meaning 2:45. To make things even worse, in some areas people say "Viertel vier" when they mean 3:15.

If you think that's weird, then look at the Military Time system in the USA, where they say "zero four hundred" for 04:00 and "sixteen hundred" for 16:00. Worse still, the minute after "sixteen hundred fifty nine" is "seventeen hundred." They talk as if an hour had 100 minutes, and then they have to suppress 40 minutes per hour. That's about the climax of illogicality, and that in the military.
ab/nach ? of course correct, but the placing remains the same. And the USA military time system indeed is irritating. A cousin of me, who was colonel (brigadier by Swiss standards) in the War in Korea still in the 1990ies used that way in civilian life. Giving statements like "alright, we will go to that splendid place on the Red River at nineteen-hundred. His wife intervened and said "seven p.m. to me, in other words 19.00 "
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