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You Say Potato, I Say…Zulassungsbescheinigung

We get a lot of comments from people about how lucky we are to live where we do, how exotic our lives must be, and one question we get asked all.the.time:

What’s it like living in a foreign country?? 

 Let me tell you a story…

Today, I needed to run some errands. I needed a winter coat – like, a real winter coat, not the cute little cotton thing I had last winter – and I needed to get some things checked out on the car. In case you didn’t know, it snows in Austria. I mean, the Alps? Hullooo! So, it would stand to reason that on occasion, one needs to drive on said snow (and ice) during the winter months. (It’s also totally the law that every car be fitted with winter tires from October to April).

I’d like to share with you the conversation I had with the man at the tire shop about getting an estimate on winter tires. This entire conversation happened in German, so I have provided the translated version here for your enjoyment.

Me: Hello, I would like to get an estimate on winter tires and wheels, please.

Tire Man (TM): Of course! Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: … I’m sorry, what was that?

TM: No problem. Do you have a Zulassungsbescheinigung for me?

Me: I’m very sorry, I don’t know what that is.

TM: *chuckle* Oh, right. It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: But…what is that?

TM: It’s a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: I’m sorry, I am new to Austria and I don’t know what a zu… zus…what a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is.

TM: Oh, haha, of course. It is a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *blank stare*

TM: *blank stare*

Me: …

TM: …

You Say Potato...

Eventually I did find the Zulassungsbescheinigung…at home, in a file.

Me: Could you maybe write it down for me?

TM: *reaches into a drawer and pulls out what looks like a European driver’s license*

Me: Oh!! *pulls out my European driver’s license* This??

TM: Exactly!! Oh…no. This is a driver’s license. You need a Zulassungsbescheinigung.

Me: *headdesk*

The End.

You may think I embellished this story for humor’s sake, I assure you I did not. (okay, I didn’t actually say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but whatever word protruded from my lips was just as nonsensical, I assure you.)

If fairness to Mr. Tireman, he probably felt that he was in fact giving me an accurate description of the item, because that’s how German works. All those big, long words German is so famous for? They are a bunch of smaller words jammed together so that it very accurately and in great detail describes the item, location or office/department to which it refers. Zulassungsbescheinigung probably means “little card containing all the pertinent information pertaining to your car ever in the history of man”, because that’s what it is. And, as I learned today, any time you need work or inspections done on your car, you must present this.

Later this afternoon, I went to a second tire shop for another estimate. When TM2 asked me for my Zulassungsbescheinigung, I grinned slyly to let him know I’m hip to the code and whipped out my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious before he could even finish saying the word. Booyah.

Yes, living in Vienna (or any European place) has its amazing highlights. Just the other day, I was buying paper towels and coffee in the shadow of the world-renowned Stefansdom Catherdral. I mean, wow. So many times we stop in the middle of our day and just look around and take it in because we – how do the kids say it these days? –  just can’t even. Sometimes we literally can’t even.

However, most days…this my friends – this conversation right here – is what it’s like to live in a foreign country.

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8 Responses to “You Say Potato, I Say…Zulassungsbescheinigung”

  1. Heather says:

    So, what IS this Z thing?

  2. The Bishop says:

    the Zulassungsbescheinigung is actually the official paper showing your car is allowed to be on the road/driven. In Germany they call it the Fahrzeugschein. AND, it should always be in your car. If the police pull you over, they will want to see it, too.

    What’s funny is that your driver’s license is not an official form of identification!

  3. As a kid, I lived a few years in Germany’s Rhineland, and another few years in the Netherlands. I understand completely (now!) about the awe and the just can’t even of living among so many historical buildings; then, of course, it was just the post office, but NOW, it was a beautiful building over 600 years old and how could I ever have just ignored it the way I did but I was young and foolish and didn’t realize!

    And yes, the languages. The “conversations”, in whichever language, each person trying to make the other understand what is Just. So. Clear. I knew enough German to get myself into trouble when I lived there; most of my “conversations” were point and grunt situations. In the Netherlands, I went to a local school and learned enough Dutch to get myself OUT of trouble, though there was still a lot of pointing and grunting involved.

    Your story today brought back all sorts of wonderful memories, though, of living in Europe. Thank you so much!

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