Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Idiot Tax

The Scientist and I sometimes joke about something we call "The Idiot Tax." We have paid the idiot tax more times than I can count here in Germany and maybe by writing this post, I can help poor unfortunate expats like yourself (or those planning on being expats) avoid this.

The idiot tax happens when you pay extra for something that you don't need to pay extra for. Of course this can happen in your own country but but I can assure you that is was less often. Since I don't have the luck to have married a German, we bungle through this society together with only colleagues and friends to ask.

Let me give you some examples. I am sure I can come up with many more but in preservation of my fragile ego, I will give you a few that either I or other expat friends have paid for.

For example, what does this clean?

Did you guess laundry detergent whitener? This is actually a curtain cleaner and not meant to be put on clothes at all. This is what happens when you forget your German-English dictionary at home when you go shopping. An expat friend of mine bought this and asked me later if I needed any curtain cleaner as she couldn't use it. Neither of us have white curtains. :)

The idiot tax can come in all forms. Recently, our washing machine broke. We have a guarantee on it but some little munchkin must have put some change (a pfennig actually!) in his pants that I didn't catch.

There were all sorts of broken parts that we had to pay for. After I paid the repairmen 55 Euros, I just realized that I have no idea if I was being scammed or not. I must admit I don't know anything about fixing washing machines much less in German.

In my home country, I would at least know how to read the very technical washing machine manual or look at the Internet for our washing machine model or even call a technical friend to look at it or even find a cheap store where they might sell parts. I know where the boundaries are when repairmen completely miss appointments!

Here, I just acted as though I would normally act. I did call the shop and ask them pointedly why no one showed up but I didn't get a good answer. I even got to use a good "Das ist Quatsch!" (That is a crock!)

Was that acceptable? I don't know but I know I probably could have saved myself a good 55 euros!

I could go on and will probably post more Idiot Tax stories but just know, if you intend oin moving to a foreign country, make sure you save enough for the Idiot Tax!

Have you paid the idiot tax?


Amber Liddle said...

Hmm, curtain cleaner? Are the curtains made from a fabric unlike clothing?

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

Can I plead the fifth? Cause I could clothe a third world country with my idiot tax purchases.

Yelli said...

@Amber- we wondered about that too but evidently curtain cleaner is not washed out of curtains like washing machine liquid. (at least that is what my German friends said in horror when I suggested we could still use it)

@ Andrea - I haven't even touched the surface here... (wink)

Tammy B said...

OMG! I totally bought that curtain cleaner my first year here!! I thought it was bleach, of course.

Lilacspecs said...

55 € to fix the washer? Lucky! I live in Belgium and our dryer broke last summer. It took 3 weeks just to get the repairman out and over 200€ to repair it. And when the guy pulled the washer out to fix it he broke the pipe that the water drains out of. We flooded the kitchen before realizing we'd have to put the broken pipe into the toilet to drain while we did the wash till my fiancè's dad had the time to fix the pipe.

Lilacspecs said...

Our washer broke, not the dryer.