The Swiss (In)Efficiency

 

Sexy Hubby and I got married in Las Vegas for several reasons:

  1. We found the idea of eloping without telling a soul incredibly romantic.
  2. We fancied doing something completely different from our respective first wedding.
  3. We wanted it to be just the two of us.
  4. We felt the very strong urge to avoid having to deal with an interminable list of documents had we chosen to get married either in Germany or in Switzerland!

Yes, with Sexy Hubby being a German citizen and me being a Swiss national you would not BELIEVE the number of documents required, some of them having to transit from our local town hall to the Swiss consulate to an obscure office of the Swiss administration in Berne to finally the registry office of my hometown, these documents having then to make their way back to their original departure point, of course! It would have required weeks and weeks and as we could not wait to be married we thought: “OK, Vegas it is”!

We had the most wonderful and magical time there, and we very much enjoyed hearing the surprise in our parents’ voices when we rang them while drinking champagne at the hotel bar!

We of course did everything according to the rules and ordered the “proper”, official marriage certificate as opposed to the souvenir one you receive straight after the ceremony. We also ordered the Apostille, a document necessary in Germany, and we had the whole lot translated by an accredited company. All of the documents turned up about a month after the wedding and we walked together to our town hall, spent a couple of hours there as the employee obviously was not terribly busy and was enjoying chatting with us, then we walked out again, that was it, DONE!

It was a bit of a different story with the Swiss consulate…

I rang them up and asked what I had to do to register our marriage in my homeland, explaining that it was already done in Germany. The lady on the phone was very pleasant and told me that I needed to order an official marriage certificate in Nevada. I reminded her that I had just said everything was done in Germany so obviously we had the right certificate. She then said that it would need to be translated into German and again, I told her that this had been taken care of. This is when she replied that they would have to send it back to their consulate in San Francisco to be verified that this was indeed a real certificate and to be re-translated! I tried very hard to remain calm but probably there was an edge in my voice when I said that we were certainly not the first people registered with their consulate who had got married in Las Vegas, that I could understand that if we had had a ceremony in Thailand or in China they may not be qualified to decide whether or not the document was real but since ours was in ENGLISH translated into GERMAN surely they would be able to read it? It was a lost cause… The more I argued the more she repeated her story like a broken record. In the end I gave up and she said that she was going to send me an email with the list of mandatory documents that day.

True to her word she did… and my jaw dropped. It was as long as the one we had cunningly avoided – we thought – by getting married in Sin City! I rang back to ask WHY they needed all of this. The answer: “Well, your husband is German and therefore does not exist in our system”… Excuse me? I know that Switzerland is not part of the European union but with so many bilateral agreements is it not possible to exchange that type of information? I breathed in and out a few times and when my voice was steady enough not to end up shouting I replied that we would then of course gather all they needed. My second question was that I had noticed it stated in the email that our original certificate was not going to be returned to us so I said this was out of the question, that I had checked with the registry office of my hometown and that the person in charge had assured me that all they needed was a certified copy from the consulate. She tried saying that “this is the way things are done” but this time I was just as categorical so she ended up reluctantly saying that should I mention in my letter accompanying the documents that I wanted it back they would indeed send it back. I should hope so!

 

After a great deal of effort, we managed to collect everything we needed even the most stupid pieces of paper such as our status as registered in our village BEFORE our wedding – when they had also asked for both our divorce final decrees… – which got me odd looks from the nice employee at our town hall when she said that she could not do this as we were already indicated as married in their system and to which I replied to print if off, cross “married”, write “divorced” and add their stamp and her signature… Yes, seriously!

I finally was able to go to the post office one fine April morning and sent the package “Registered”. We had been informed that the whole process would take two to three months – which already is ridiculously long – so in July I sent an email asking if the registration was now close to completion. No answer. In August I sent another email, this time clearly stating my dissatisfaction with their services. That was enough to have the consul herself replying to me, informing me that they had got the documents back from San Francisco on July 19th and were now in a position to send everything to Switzerland. Her reply was dated August 12th so in fact they had sat on our precious documents for another month without doing anything… She also indicated in her email that our original certificate was on its way back to us and this was true, it arrived a couple of days later.

Another month went by without any news so in September, guess what? Yes, I sent another email! And finally, finally I got one in return saying that OUR MARRIAGE WAS NOW REGISTERED IN SWITZERLAND AND THAT I COULD THEREFORE ORDER MY NEW PASSPORT! HURRAY!

It took five months, fifteen emails and quite a few phone calls for this simple task to be performed. The moral of the story: please do not mention in front of me ever again how efficient the Swiss are!

 

 
 
 

7 thoughts on “The Swiss (In)Efficiency

  1. Linley

    LOL ! You are too “exotic” for them !!!! And to get married with a German ! What an idea !!!! 😉

    And in Las Vegas ! It is too much for their imagination ! 😉

    Reply
    1. funkywellies

      LOL! Well, look who is talking! Marrying a German indeed! ;o) Do you think it would have been quicker if we had got married at the registry office in our village, then?? ;o)

      Reply
  2. Aurélie

    I don’t know. What I know is that I am French, my lovely husband is German and I had got married in Switzerland. And all was simple ! The hardiest was for my husband to have all his papers (because he never lived in Germany). But to regestry my mariage in French consulat was so simple !!! Be French, in a next life 😉 That’s right that the Fench Consulat in Geneva used to !!!

    Reply
  3. Your old local friend

    To enjoy the full benefits of the global world, dear Mrs Hubby, you need a lawyer to sort out the paperwork for you! Why should the average Swiss (and German) taxpayer pay for your extravaganza?

    Reply
    1. funkywellies

      My dear old local friend,
      I cannot believe that you, of all people, are mentioning the tax payers… I do not remember you being so concerned when they were paying for you? As for us, the only difference the fact that we got married in Las Vegas made was this sending of our marriage certificate to the San Francisco consulate. Not our fault that the Swiss bureaucracy can be so ridiculous, is it? If we had got married in Germany, we would still have had to do the same process.
      One more thing: I also had of course to change my residency permit here now that I have a new name. I sent an email with a scanned copy of my passport to the relevant office last Monday and on Friday I had an answer saying that my permit had been changed and was on its way. Now this is what I call service.

      Reply
  4. Tatjana

    I’m German, DH is Belgian – and we “eloped” too and got married in Denmark! All we needed there were our passports and birth certificates, none of this Ehefaehigkeitsbescheinigung and stuff … Getting it accepted in Germany too months. Getting German authorities to accept my new name? 13 months. So I sympathise ….

    Reply

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