On Nov. 23, 2005 I moved to The Hague from Washington, DC. This is my new Dutch life.


Driver's License Wanted

Many thanks to El Cap-E-Tan for reminding me that I love to drive. Like I really love it. I'll happily drive most of the way on long road trips. I also really, really, abnormally loved my VW GTI. Its lime green stylings packed a big punch in an unassuming, little package. Dieter, my GTI, and I were like this, man. Like this. These new GTI ads rule - Holding it down on the German engineering tip, ya'll.

Sadly, I traded Dieter in for a more economical (and larger) Subaru Forester. Poor Deiter was getting wrecked by dog hair and camping gear. Haruki-san could take the beating and did. It was impractical to bring Haruki-san over to the lowlands, so we left him in America to find another outdoorsy couple who'd love and cherish him. Sayonara, Haruki-san. Sayonara, mobility.

The saga of our Dutch integration continues. The latest chapter is entitled: How to Get a Dutch Driver's License, or I Wait, I Wait, I Wait, I Wait.

We'd like to join this car co-op thing. By signing up to GreenWheels you can use of any number of cars parked around town. It's perfect for the occasional trip to areas not accessible via public transport like... the pet hotel out near Gouda, or the upper middle-class neighborhood of Wassenaar where I think I have the best chance of picking up a yoga gig. GreenWheels would prefer their clients have Dutch driver's licenses.

Like many aspects of our Dutch integration nightmare, on paper it's supposed to be pretty easy for expats of a certain variety to just switch their driver's license to a Dutch one. This time the hook revolves around the so-called "30 percent ruling" -- a tax break that expats receive as part of a tax equalization scheme.

Like most steps of this process, B-'s application for the 30 percent ruling hasn't come through yet. We're expecting about another month for that, and another month to process the paperwork for our driver's licenses including medical questionnaires. If we answer yes to any of the questions, the process is delayed further as we must add medical exams to the to-do list. B- wears glasses, so he answered "yes" to one of the questions. We haven't heard back from them yet.

Now, none of this happens at an office. It's all processed through the mail. Man, this is why Americans will only ever be just so liberal. It makes no sense to pay more taxes to your government when they're completely inefficient about handling the money. I'm all for social services, but if getting a driver's license is such a pain, can you imagine filing a medical claim?

It could get a lot worse for me as we have mixed information about the situation of trailing spouses and partners. I could face a written and driving test! I'm 16 all over again. Thankfully they occasionally offer the written exam in English. I don't know why they can't just have two forms, but for some reason I'll have to wait to take it with a group of other English speakers. I'm not sure how to take the driving test without a car.

Say what you will about the DMV back home. At least you leave the building with your license in hand.

This is all very annoying, but here's where I start to get mad. EU citizens don't have to switch their license. I have no problem with that. What's got me a bit riled up is that a handful of non-EU European countries and others such as Taiwan, Singapore, Israel and Japan all get to follow the trade-in scheme. Not the US, not Canada, not Australia. The expectation is that citizens of these countries will generally qualify for the 30 percent ruling. But my ability to take advantage of B-'s 30 percent is in question.

I'd like to know why Japanese get to trade in their licenses when they don't even drive on the same side of the road. What is it about Taiwan that makes them such better drivers? Now Singapore, I totally get because they're strict about everything. And what, pray tell, does your tax bracket have to do with your ability to drive??

I have only one office to blame - the US embassy. Isn't it their job to negotiate these kinds of deals? Seems that the Japanese, Taiwanese and Israelis are on top of things. What up, Roland E. Arnall? I know you just started last week, but c'mon get to work. Ok, I'll cut you a little slack, but what was the last guy doing?? I have to write a letter.

Good Dutch Things: Cheap and lovely flowers - sold everywhere. Nearly every shopping block has a florist where you can buy excellent bouquets for a mere fraction of the cost in the US.



Anonymous redsnapper said...

I heard this once from a family member of a former U.S. ambassador:

When the ambassador from Country X asks for recognition of, say, pet passports, usually the response is, "sure, give us reciprocal privileges and a year and we'll get it done."

But when the ambassador from the US asks for recognition of pet passports, the response is "sure, give up nuclear weapons, waive interest on our debts, PAY your own debts, join the ICMJ, and conform to the Kyoto protocol, and we'll see."

So the ambassador from the US soon learns to quit asking for little crap.

You might have good luck with the FNG, though :-)

5:59 PM GMT+1

Blogger El Cap-e-tan said...

Haha. Driving tests all over again. Our high school had [probably still has] this one secret room with a black window so you could not see what was on the other side. I always wondered until I found out my sophomore year that it was the room with car simulators. And they'd show a film strip from c. 1974 showing us how to operate turns, signals, etc. I wouldn't mind going back to that!

1:28 AM GMT+1

Anonymous Lizzie said...

hi, i feel your pain! i just moved here about in march to be with my husband who is dutch. i'm just starting to get into the drivers license thing. i've heard it could cost as much as $2000??? gah. i've read about this 30 percent thing, not sure if i qualify for that or how that works. getting the permit to stay in the country was easy. i guess that's why there's so many bicyclists here, heh.

2:12 PM GMT+2


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