Well, after a splendid 17 days in balmy Athens (no rain and average +20C days) I arrived back in Holland to miserable cold/sleet/snow/rain/freezing/black ice type of weather. We barely made it to the car rental agency before they closed and thankfully they were very accommodating. I wish I would have recognized this bellwether for what was about to come my way.
I received a very cryptic email from the company that is assisting with the import of our vehicle. I have come to accept that they are working with their second language and it is very common for misunderstandings. I had no idea the entangled mess I was about to enter. My plans for sweeping in and picking up my car with NL license plates and driving away on our adventure were just as frozen solid with no thaw in sight as the weather.
Firstly, the car was very much behind schedule (our schedule, not theirs apparently) but luckily there were no severe Atlantic storms the ship had to sail around and the car actually arrived 9 days earlier than expected, which put us somewhat back on schedule. Until I found out it takes at least an extra two weeks for inspection and plating, after the 2-4 days customs have their way with things. Of course, I naturally freaked out.
Using my North American established sense of entitlement, (since I’m the customer after all, who’s paying your wages), I fired off a nasty gram basically letting them know that this is unacceptable, how can it take 2 weeks to put a license plate on a vehicle, do you know how this interferes with our plans, blah blah blah. I set my self up for disappointment when I was expecting a reply something along the lines of “we’ll see what we can do” or “we’ll put a rush on it”.
All I got back was a one sentence reply, “Thankfully, this is just a misunderstanding.” Best regards, ….. What? How dare they! That didn’t even make any sense. They didn’t even address any of my concerns. Hmmph. In their eyes, I was under the misunderstanding that things can move faster than I want or expect. No need to freak out.
It takes weeks to get any administrative things done in Europe. Weeks. It takes six weeks to get registered at City Hall. (A must if you want license plates on your vehicle in Holland.) Up to six weeks for internet or phone service approval. It’s at least ten business days to have approval to open a bank account. Or two weeks to inspect and plate a vehicle. Europeans take this in stride as a fact of life. Everybody, after all, needs a job and every job is important. Every single piece of paper completed in full, stamped and signed. I can’t tell you how many forms I’ve filled out for customs, many of them asking the same questions and wanting the same photocopies. (I asked one person if they could simply ask their colleague for the copies I just sent them and she refused, stating she needed her own copies.) And don’t forget those coffee breaks, 35 hour workweek and paid days off to simply pick your nose; all factors that grind everything to a halt.
Turns out, I need a Dutch driver’s license to have a Dutch plate on my vehicle. And yah, nobody mentioned a word about that little requirement, throughout this whole process. I asked the company, experts at shipping personal items across the pond, at what point did they assume I had a Dutch driver’s license, considering I have lived in Canada all my life? Well, I am told, that is not a real problem since I can also get special permission until I get my Dutch drivers license, from the City Hall where I am registered. But I’m not registered at any City Hall and that takes six full weeks, plus the added two weeks to plate the car and we are up to eight weeks before the car is released. And we have plans; we can’t wait around Holland for eight weeks – didn’t you read the email I sent out???
“Well, now we have a problem” he calmly says. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” I’m having a nut by this point. I, think I’m calmly – as best I can without hitting anything – asking them to show me at what part of the process did they mention I needed a Dutch driver’s license? And when I sent them the 25 page package of documents, including a copy of my Alberta driver’s license, did they not notice I did not include a Dutch driver’s license nor City Hall registration, both vital pieces of the puzzle?
As my eye starts fluttering (only when I’m nervous or upset) all I can think about is how two Advil Migraine’s and a big glass of wine won’t even fix this mess. What the hell are we going to do now? Send it back? Even if we bought a car here, I would still need a Dutch driver’s license to register the vehicle.
Long story short, and without anybody loosing a finger, we will be driving around Europe for the first 3 months with Alberta license plates with a special permit. I think that is kind of cool but I know the mounds of paperwork, lineups and hoops ahead of me in the next 3 months that somewhat take the edge off that coolness factor.
We’ve decided to take our chances and get the car to Spain and see if we can register it there. From all the research I have done, it is possible without being residents of Spain, nor the need to hold a Spanish driver’s license to have a Spanish license plate on our Canadian car, built in the USA, designed by a Japanese company.
Now, if they can only stamp that one piece of paper and hand over the car by Friday so we could be on our way. That’s a whole week for them to shuffle that paper around so everybody gets their job requirements in and I promise I won’t freak out.