One precious item awaiting me in the post on my return home last Friday was my new “original” birth certificate, which is a photocopy of the old one already in my possession with the addition of a stamp by Her Majesty’s Records Office authenticating it. As it was the weekend of Pentecost – what used to be called Whitsun in the UK – Monday was a holiday here, so I had to wait until Tuesday before I could set off with my batch of documents to the registry office (Zivilstandsamt) in the village of Wangs a few miles away.
I know that by car, it takes about 7 minutes from my house to Wangs. The registry office is in the town hall there, the Rathaus, right in the centre of the village.
I reported in full – maybe too full! – here in 2014 and 2015 on all I went through in trying to keep my driving licence. The upshot was, I lost the licence and have been using public transport every since I returned from looking after my mother in England. (If you are really at a loose end, just put “driving licence” into the Search box on the top right-hand corner of this page for the entire saga of how I achieved and was deprived of my licence.)
Swiss public transport is pretty good. I checked online for the bus route and was surprised to see that our two villages don’t have a direct bus connection. The first part of the trip has to be by train to the town of Sargans, then there’s a choice between two buses from the station that take a circular route through the countryside, one going clockwise and the other anticlockwise. As Wangs is about halfway around this circuit, it really doesn’t matter which direction you take.
I bought myself a day ticket, very conveniently on the Swissrail phone app, and set off on Tuesday morning at 8.15. I had to pop into the doctor’s first to leave them a couple of phials of blood before having breakfast, so I decided to combine the two outings.
The sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm, which I much appreciate after the humidity of Florida. The fifteen minutes walk to the doctor’s and the station made me feel virtuous (getting exercise), my blood sample was quickly collected, and the 8.45 train was of course on time. Six minutes later I was at Sargans station, with time to get a coffee and a croissant which I consumed at the bus stop. The bus left promptly but the coffee obviously did not reach my brain because not only did I get off a stop too soon but I also walked about a mile too far, all steeply uphill, straight past the Rathaus and Post Office, and only realised my error when I arrived at the cable car station.
Ah well, the sun was still shining and the scenery really is beautiful, so I wasn’t too annoyed at myself. After all, retracing my steps took me downhill which was no effort and I’m pretty fit at present.
The young lady in the registry office took all my documents and checked them against her list. Some consternation appeared on her face when she looked at my German passport, which expired in 2010. “You’ll have to get a new one,” she said.
I explained that this would entail an awful lot of fuss and bother as well as great expense because I would have to make an appointment at the Embassy in Bern which takes about 3 or 4 months, then go there in person for fingerprinting and photos of my irises etc. and it really wasn’t worth the hassle. “OK, then we’ll ignore it and treat you as just British,” she replied. I admit I was surprised at this rather unbureaucratic attitude, but as I said, she was young and not some miserable old dragon. (If that leads to any problems, she’s the one I’ll blame, though.)
Then she came to my divorce paper. It did say “divorce decree” on the original checklist, but that’s as long as my arm so I had concluded that the official notification sent by the court to the registry offices, embassies etc. where I and my ex-husband were registered would be sufficient. I was wrong. She wanted the original decree in full with all the gory details.
“That’s in a file buried in my basement,” I told her. Never mind, she answered: we were divorced in Switzerland so I can get a notarised copy from the court that issued it. Finally, she photocopied everything and gave me my papers back. It had taken about 20 minutes altogether. I trotted merrily across the road to the bus stop, and found I had 20 minutes to wait for the bus going clockwise (the way I had come) and 10 minutes for the anticlockwise route, so I crossed back to the stop where I should have got off in the first place. When it came, this very clean and comfortable bus actually had 3-point seatbelts like those in a car. I was impressed.
This ride took me through the second half of the circuit, so another pretty village and striking views on the way to Sargans station, and thence the train to Bad Ragaz and a short trek home. The clock was striking 11 as I turned the key in my door. Not a bad morning’s work, I thought. Distance covered: 17 km (about 10 miles). A good thing I’m retired and time is no longer money!
A quick phone call to the divorce court, and yes, they would put the document in the post right away. No, it doesn’t cost anything. It arrived this morning: bless Swiss efficiency!
I hope my young lady in Wangs is equally efficient. She didn’t appear to be burdened with a heavy workload, so fingers crossed I’ll get my “attestation of registered personal status” next week. That will complete the little pile of papers needed for me to actually start the application process with the authorities here.
Oh, and by the way – although the young lady in Wangs gave me a very complicated explanation of why my birth certificate had to be less than 6 months old, I still don’t get it.