Moving to Holland is not easy, but it's worth the effort. This blog tells the story of shifting from American life in Pittsburgh to Expat life in the Netherlands,
and all of our European adventures that follow.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fietstrommel Trouble…

It's been a while since we've entertained you with a frustrating story of Dutch bureaucracy. This one involves trying to apply for a "fietstrommel," which are little bike sheds that they place around the city. You can get a key to one of these shelters to keep your bike more protected (from weather and theft). We decided to try to get a couple spots in the one next to our apartment. With the help of our Dutch colleagues, we navigated the website, found the necessary form & filled it out in Dutch.
Chad headed down to city hall, and after the standard hour or so wait, his number came up and he went to the desk, only to get a blank stare from the person on the other end. They said that they couldn't help him because they knew nothing about the fietstrommels. There was only one person who deals with these forms, and they were not in that day, and they did not know when they would be in next. So he asked how he was supposed to know when to come back, and they said that they did not know what to tell him. They suggested that he just mail in the form. We had not wanted to mail the form, because these things tend to go into a black hole, and you never know if they will come out. So in the end that was our only option. In the mail it went.

The crappy bikes we're trying to protect.

OK… I'll try to make this long, painful story short.

We mailed the form in September. One full month later we got a letter saying that our application had been received. That's all the letter said. It took them one month to tell us that they had received my letter. More waiting, and waiting, and received nothing further in the mail. It is hard to know who to call or what to ask in these cases, because most likely the person you talk to will have no idea what you are talking about in English. After 3 full months, though, I had reached my limit, and I asked a Dutch colleague of mine give them a call. I listened to a long and confusing conversation in Dutch, during which my colleague was put on hold twice for 5 minutes or more while they "looked into it." In the end, they had to take down his phone number and they said they'd call back because the person who knows about this wasn't there that day.

So, again we waited. A week later and still no call back, so my colleague generously agreed to call them again. This time they gave him the email address of the person who handles these bike shelters. So I emailed him, and as you may have guessed… no reply. It was the middle of December, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was out on vacation. So I waited until after the holidays and I emailed him a second time in the beginning of January. This time, miraculously, I got a response! He informed me that one of the two bike spots we had requested were available. So we could have one spot now, and then would be put on a waiting list for the other spot. He said he would inform me when the key was ready for me to pick up at city hall.
Just to break up the monotony of text, here's another pic of our bikes in the winter.

Again I was waiting… get the trend? After a couple weeks I hadn't received any additional letters in the mail, so with a couple more emails back and forth with the gentleman, he informed me that it would be done that week. It finally came, and I went to city hall, waited an hour, and thankfully there were no mix-ups or other hold ups, and I was able to get my key to the fietstrommel at last! Unfortunately, all of this did not happen soon enough to avoid some damage to my bike in the meantime. I was keeping my bike locked to a street light pole on the sidewalk, and a horrible parker (as there are so many of in Holland) drove up on the sidewalk and crushed the main gear. Luckily I found a small repair shop that was able to fix it up for only 25 Euro.

So, let's recap. This process started in September, 2008. Two trips to city hall, two phone calls, several emails, and 6 months later, I finally "succeeded" in getting the key to one of the two fietstrommel spots in February 2009. Now, THAT my friends is Dutch efficiency at it's finest!


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