15 Dec Buropazzia
Whilst in Genoa on my year abroad, I had a brief introduction to the irritating fact of life that is Italian bureaucracy, but recent events have alerted me to how truly unbearable it can be.
One of many fundamental problems with Italy is that nothing can be done without filling in a bazillion forms in triplicate and visiting several government offices, usually located in very inconvenient locations which could only be harder to reach if the building was surrounded by a crocodile-infested moat.
The people who work at these offices realize, more often than not, that the job they do is entirely unnecessary, and therefore often have the worst attitude imaginable, making the whole experience even more unpleasant than it would already have been.
Let’s take the other day as an example. If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know that The Greek’s car is in a pretty dire state, and you won’t be surprised to learn that in the last week or so he has been seeking a replacement.
A new(er) Fiat Punto finally found, it was time to change the name on the ownership documents. As far as I know, the way this is done in the UK is by sending off a couple of forms to the DVLA – quite a painless procedure, I think you’ll all agree.
We, though, are in Italy, where the postal system plays no important part in society, partly because nothing you post ever seems to arrive where it’s supposed to and partly because sending a document would be far too simple and you would, presumably, not feel satisfied that the procedure had been enough of a challenge.
So off we went to some ridiculous office situated in some ridiculous outskirt of Turin.
The current owner of the car had already helpfully filled in most of the paperwork and delivered it to the office, so all that remained for The Greek to do was to prove his identity and provide a few signatures. Easy, right?
Of course not.
When asked for his documentation, he pulled out his Greek (that is, European) driving license, Greek identity card, Italian codice fiscale (a National Insurance number, more or less), and Italian documentation for his current car.
The documents were met with a disapproving glare from the lady behind the desk (incidentally wearing the most hideous tweed-meets-denim jacket I’ve ever laid eyes upon) who asked him for his Italian identity card, which he does not have. She started to insist that she couldn’t even dream of transferring ownership of the car to him without an Italian document. Quite rightly, he pointed out that just a year ago he managed to do this procedure with his current car using just the documents he had given her.
She called a stern looking man to the reception area who snatched the driving license and stared at it disgustedly for quite some time before muttering, “well how am I supposed to read this?”, despite all of the necessary information being written in Latin characters too.
Mr. Stern was having none of this, and he too started prattling on about how the whole process was ‘impossible’ without an Italian identity card. He started quizzing the Greek about whether or not he is a resident in Turin (he is) and if so why oh why does he not have an identity card? In case you’re wondering, it’s because he doesn’t need one, ever, and this was the first time that anybody’s even mentioned it in the eight years he’s been here, during which he’s managed to go to university, get jobs, cars, flats, the whole shebang.
In the end, we were forced to drive home, pick up a passport and a couple of pieces of paper from past bureaucratic endeavours so that the lady in the horrible jacket could send photocopies of absolutely everything to head office, despite the original documents having all the necessary information on them anyway.
And there I was, sure that the whole point of the European Union was to make sure that it wasn’t this difficult for someone from one European country to do simple things in another.
The best part of it all though was hearing the ugly-jacket lady go on and on about all the unnecessary bureaucracy, begging the question – if everyone has such a problem with it, why does nobody do anything to make it better? And if nobody is going to do anything to reduce the quantity of ridiculous paperwork, why not just create thousands more totally superfluous roles in the thousands of totally superfluous government offices all around the place and at least help the job market?
I am baffled.
The other worst things about Italian bureaucracy are the country’s ridiculous contract laws, which (very long story very short) mean that a lot of well-qualified people end up getting crappy contracts instead of the sought after indeterminato (permanent) ones that we are used to getting in the UK, simply because businesses like the idea of being able to get rid of employees as and when they please, and don’t particularly want the responsibility of hanging on to anyone long-term.
Because of this, there are all kinds of different contracts available, from contratto a progetto to contratto a tempo determinato to collaborazione occasionale and all sorts of other ones, which effectively cover all manner of sins and allow businesses to get whatever they want out of their employees who, in current times, are made to feel lucky that they have any kind of job at all, even if it’s in no way a stable one.
Recent changes in the law trying to encourage companies to take people on with indeterminato contracts seems to be doing the exact opposite, so the other contracts have become even worse, and still nobody’s getting indeterminato. At least, that’s what I’ve understood.
With the basic facts in mind, you’ll understand why the other day was so frustrating for me.
I went for an interview at a language school for a job as an English teacher. Being the first opportunity I’ve had in my many months of searching that I’ve been able to have an interview in my own language for a job that I am at least semi-qualified to do, I was nervous but quite excited. It was all going rather well, the school itself seemed nice, the lady interviewing me was super friendly, I answered all the questions and I was feeling comfortable and quietly confident. Then the interviewer presented me with an example copy of the contract, which stated that I’d earn €12 per hour lesson for a maximum of… €2000 per year. Right. She told me that it used to be €5000 per year, until recently the rules were changed. As a result, the school ends up having to employ a vast number of teachers to cover all the lessons, and it’s presumably incredibly inconvenient for all involved, except those who have a Partita IVA which allows you to work freelance, and therefore without salary limits, but which requires quite a lot of money, an accountant, and all the rest of it, so doesn’t really make sense for someone not earning much to start with.
Basically, what this all means to me is that if I’m going to take this job (which I do want to do), I’m going to have to spend some time finding a clever way around the problem, or finding another job to do alongside this one so that I can actually pay my rent.
All in all, very frustrating, but at least there have been some steps in the right direction, as I have employment in the pipeline and a means of transportation that doesn’t need pushing to start.
The next challenge: Christmas shopping.