Spanish Bureaucracy – A Pain in the Arse

Queues, queues, forms, applications, frustrations, and after all that, probably more queues.

This is what awaits anyone who wishes to emigrate to Spain for any longer than a few months. Be it obtaining your NIE, your abono (public transport card), or opening a bank account, it is highly likely that you will run into a brick wall of Spanish bureaucracy. Mounds and mounds of paperwork to be filled in, photocopies to be made solely by you (despite the presence of a photocopier directly next to your denier), as well as the constant and monotonous job of waiting in line for a minimum of one hour to even be seen by anyone.

Whereas in Ireland and the UK the process of obtaining such necessities comes with a mild annoyance, these things in Spain are more on the scale of infuriation. Waiting in line for an hour to be told in less than three minutes that you do not have the correct documentation with you is the norm. I have been used to doing such things in one certain way, and yet in this “modern” country, there are so many different ways of going about such things. For example, I had been told of at least ten different avenues of how to apply for the abono before stumbling upon one that was convenient.

It depends on the most part, from my limited experience, more or less entirely on the particular drone to which you are assigned.

You may be lucky to come across one employee in the Comisaria, or whatever bank you have chosen, that appreciates the situation you are involved in, and the process can become nothing more than a “print and stamp” scenario. After a couple of trips to the former, it was becoming a pointless exercise to get my NIE, but in ten minutes with a helpful man of a similar age to myself, it was done and dusted.

But the event that contains more likelihood is one where you face an unapologetically stony creature that has a fetish for official documents, and ten photocopies thereof. They take a break from their day of drinking coffee and chatting with their fellow employees to work for twenty minutes at a time, one reason perhaps for explaining the continuous creation of queues. And when you eventually sit down to discuss what the issue is, they have noticed that you have forgotten to cross one of your T’s and dot one of your I’s. Denied, come back next week.

So obviously the above example is a touch exaggerative, but from my own experience and from listening to others with the same gripes, there are ridiculous cases of people taking weeks and months to gain a document or open an account, which could easily be done in a day or two in most forward thinking countries. I feel especially sorry for those coming from outside the EU, as I imagine these scenarios could be a hell of a lot worse.

For a country that is famous for, and is a world leader in so many different arenas (sports, cuisine etc.), it’s a shame that something so pedantic has become (or always has been?) such a pain in the arse.

Here’s a short film that accurately sums up a typical Spanish social security office…




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