Not so compatible Europe

Although the EU guarantees the right to work in other member countries, there are still quite a few things need sorting out before life in the EU is as straight-forward for its citizens as life for Americans is when they move from one state to another. Here some examples from our experience over the last weeks:

  • We have opened a bank account in Spain, at one of the major banks. When we got back here, I tried to log on to their internet banking. When you first log on, you have to provide a phone number which the bank sends text messages to when you want to transfer money to another account (I haven’t used it yet, I think they will send an text message containing a one-time password to approve the transaction).

    The field will only take a Spanish phone number – land line or mobile – but not a number abroad (German mobile numbers are longer than Spanish ones and the field truncates the German number if you try to enter it). Hmm..

  • When I take early retirement, my salary continues to be paid until I am old enough to claim a state pension. During that time, I have to submit a tax card which filled out by my employer annually. Tax cards are only issued by the local government to a person having an address in their geographic area. There is no central office that issues them to people not living in the country.Which means we have to be registered at an address in Germany, a “second place of residence”, to receive the tax card by post at that address each year.

    According to our tax advisor, this situation will continue even when I reach retirement age.To get my state pension, I have to have a correspondence address registered in Germany for the bureaucrats to send their correspondence to. And I have to be able to receive post there.


    Just imagine if other EU countries have a similar rule – you’d need to maintain pro-forma addresses all over the place, if you had worked in several countries and wanted to claim a pension from each country!
  • It’s about time major corporations and government departments got their act together handling international differences in address formats.

    The British postal address format requires the information in the order:

    • name
    • house number, street
    • town
    • postcode (which must be on a line of its own).
    • country

    Try to print a parcel label using the German post office’s on-line international label printing service (it prints a pre-printed franked label for the parcel). Although any decent address book program can format foreign addresses more or less correctly, the German postal service insists on printing address fields in the order:

    • name
    • street and house number (in that order)
    • postcode and town
    • country

    A British address printed in the German order of fields and lines looks distinctly weird to British eyes. Actually, international address formatting is probably complicated enough to devote a PhD study to. If you want a good summary of the different (conflicting) national requirements on addressing international post, the best reference I know is Frank’s Compulsive Guide to Postal Addresses.

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