Spanish bureaucracy, part 2

2008/03/01 § 5 Comments

Here we go again… this time trying to get health care.

Though I have been here for a while and I have a residence and a social security number and I pay tax and I have a fixed job I have no right for healthcare. Officially that is. Of course I might get treatment (the so called “second way”; more about that later) but I do not have the necessary document to show that I am entitled.

But, since there is no automatism for these things in Spain it seems I have to go to a healthcare office and get a paper to show that I am entitled to get healthcare. In principle. In order to get that I have to have a paper with my social security number and time and patience.

After an hour or so I get to the desk. Turns out the paper they gave me at the entrance was the wrong one and they need entirely different info from me. But once the lady behind the counter has ripped the paper that took me hours to fill in (trying to translate the Spanish form with a “lilliput” dictionary takes time). She gives me a paper and luckz for me, a girl being served at another counter speaks some English. She explains that I need to got to another place (close to where I live) and show this paper in order to get a card that allows me to get treatment.

When I inquire where that place is, they write down another address in the same street and send me there (why not call them for me? I don’t know…). So, I wait there for 30 min. and then get the info where my personal place for healthcare is. So I go there, wait an hour or so and then again struggle in order to convince them that I should get this strange card and treatment. But they convince me that I am wrong and that I am supposed to have another paper first. This paper shows that I really live where I claim to live and I get it at the city council, which naturally is again somewhere totally different in town.

What was funny was that the lady (who was very kind I must note) called someone who speaks english. But instead of handing me the phone she wrote down on a paper what the other person said, hung up and then showed me the paper. Have you ever seen the way a Spaniard writes English if he or she does not actually speak English? It looks entertaining I can tell you… anyhow…

I went to the council place and waited 2 hours. When it was my turn of course I could not explain what I wanted but the lady seemed to guess what my aim was. But to my terror she told me that the contract, signed by the guy who rents the place, the other person who lives there with me and me is not sufficient to proofe that I live there. She would need the signature of the other person living there and a copy of her passport. Copy of passport is a big thing in Spain. As big as stamps and especially stamps with signature!

So, 3 days, more than 3 hours waiting time. Some 2 hours running and driving around, but no card yet.

In the end I went to my doctor (who speaks English which almost made me propose to him. Strange how you get when you are desperate!) and got treatment and drugs. I asked him how come that I get all that with my Swedish card, because usually they ask for papers (in the bureaucratic germany for example). But he explained that he was not in the mood to fill in papers. We would do it the “2nd way”. “The second way?”, I wondered. “Yes”, he explained, “there is the bureaucratic official way, which is the primary way to do things. But you should always ask for the second way. That is the unbureaucratic way. And if you are lucky and the other person has a good day, then you just forget about cards and papers and get what you need. Always at least try way number two”, he suggested.

Now I really wanted to marry him…

I still have no card- but now I know about the “alternative” way at least…


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§ 5 Responses to Spanish bureaucracy, part 2

  • snusket says:

    Comment: I have read your blog and I would like to post a comment, but it is not possible, so I send it this way… It is for your latest posts:

    Let’s begin with your mistakes about Spanish Health System. Well, first of all, you say that you “have no right for healthcare. Officially that is”. This is not true at all, my friend. Spanish health care is universal. Everybody in Spanish national territory has the right to healthcare. No matter your nationality, if you pay taxes or not, if you are EU citizen or not
    One of the main problems of Health System in Spain is the so-called “health tourism”. Due to its universality, there is a huge amount of retired foreigners (mainly American, English and German) that come to our country where the do not pay the operations they need. Who pays? Yes, we pay. Spanish citizens through their taxes. ¿Fair, not fair? You decide. This problem is also the cause which makes necessary for people like you to get and fill in several papers in order to justify where you live and things like that. By the way, ¿do you know the European Health Insurance Card? Quite a useful thing for avoiding these situation… the only problem is that the perfect-functioning German is one of the few EU countries where it is not avaliable… By the way do you know that many of the information you need for those procedures are available on-line in English? Damn! Maybe you should be more competently informed when you travel to a foreign country… )

    Let’s talk now about your “funny” remarks concerning difficulties of Spanish people (please, Spanish, not Spaniards) when speaking and writing English. As I can read in your blog it seems you have found language difficulties all over your stay in Spain… So, I can assume that you speak no Spanish. Hey, man nobody taught you that when you go abroad for working you really should learn the native language? Do you really expect Spanish people to talk to you in English or German? Wake up, man… First of all you should be thankful for getting a fixed job in Spain speaking no Spanish. Don’t you forget that you are an emigrant and that in some countries you have to talk native language to get a job. Then you should know that spanish people are quite open and hospitable… but just if you make an effort to be understood. If you do not, we are not so kind. Have you done it? Hummm! It seems like not. And, please, just explain me one thing. Why do you think that all those Government employees (or companies employees) should speak English? Is it necessary for their jobs? Not at all. Please remember that you are the foreigner. Please remember that is you the one that ought to learn their language. We do no like language imperialism, you know, people coming here complaining because we, in our country do not speak English. Ah, by the way, try to do that in France… That’ll be funny. You really will be in trouble.

  • davidkramer says:

    Thanks for your response!

    the european health isurance card I have of course. It by the way just substitutes the old forms like “E111” for health care: “during a temporary stay in any of the countries in the European Union”. not for me, i am not a temporary in this sense. so no, it did not help to have it. and you are wrong, the german health care system is very troubled by debth and bad organisation…

    why i think that spaniards ( should speak english? in order to show that they are thankfull that the EU helps them to build up their country. english is the natural choice for EU citizens. in my field you get a job anywhere by the way. and it is compulsory to know english well. if spain wants to attract highly qualified foreigners who help out they would better get used to the idea to learn a language decently (but in fact i know many spaniards who have understood the importance and speak english well). then they may climb from a 26th place in GDP per capita (below EU average) to a higher ranking?

    imperialism? excuse, me, but it brings the question to my mind, like spanish imperialism in south america that is the cause for spanish to be the 3 biggest language spoken? anyhow spanish is irrelevant internationally, when it comes to economy. and especially in my field where you get nowhere with spanish, or german for that matter.

    i am studying spanish anyhow, so you were wrong about that one as well, i m making an effort. and i take it with humour… I think one should see my comments as a kind suggestion for improvement, not as harsh and unjustified critizism.

    but you are right, i have some nerv to keep living in foreign coutries and giving people shit for how they run their nation….. hmmm, well… tough luck! and you are correct, France sucks too (just kiddin’ man! France is great and spain as well!!!!)

    all the best

    PS if you look at this page it seems unlikely to me that there really could be the mentioned “health care tourism” left to pay by the spanish tax payers. in fact in my experience you get no treatment without paying anywhere in spain. any link for me about that?

  • davidkramer says:

    Name: Blog reader

    Comment: Well, first of all: thanks for your link “explaining” the meaning of Spaniard. But the fact that you put that link is just another example of your insufficient integration in Spain. For many Spanish people, the word “Spaniard” has a derogative sense, so we do not like foreigners to call us “Spaniards”. By the way, I don’t know why we think that this word is pejorative (cause it really isn’t), but, in fact, we don’t like it. So, if you had talked more to your Spanish friends, you would know about this.

    I think that you have not understood well my letter. In your answer you mix economics, politics and many other things, and what I wrote had nothing to do with it. It was just about integration in a foreign country and about the efforts you need to do. And, please, let me emphasize this. The efforts YOU need to do. But I will answer some things you have written…

    You say English is the natural choice for EU citizens. Well, not at all. Natural choice for a German is German, as natural choice for an Italian is Italian and so on… This sentence is quite funny: “they are thankful that the EU helps them to build up their country”. Impressive. Build up our country? What do you mean with this? Do you mean that our country was not built before Spain got into EU? Please, tell me what you mean with this (if you wanna talk about politics, we will) and then I´ll be able to reply to your sentence. But, just remember that to be thankful for something does not justified the necessity of doing something. We are really thankful to Rome Empire, but we do not ask our workers to speak Latin, you know.

    Please, could you develop a little more the idea that your ranking in GDP per capita is dependent on the languages you citizens speak? It may be interesting and maybe you theory could help politicians from “below the average” countries to do proper their job… By the way, if you take a look to GDP PPP you’ll see that Italy (where the knowledge of English is similar to Spain) is above France, for example (according to IMF). Or, that, if we take a look to CIA ranking Equatorial Guinea and Andorra are in top ten… Please, give more significant data than GDP…

    Let’s continue. “imperialism? excuse, me, but it brings the question to my mind, like spanish imperialism in south america that is the cause for spanish to be the 3 biggest language spoken?” Excuse me??? Has this something to do what with I wrote? Nothing at all, but, I do insist, if you prefer, we may talk about politics and politic and language imperialism. Just remember Germany, 1939…

    “Anyhow spanish is irrelevant internationally, when it comes to economy” Well, I’m not naïf either too patriotic, so I won’t say Spain is a big country (in economics). But, please, remember that we are considering, right now between the 10th economic forces in the world (International Monetary Fund and World Bank or just “list of world’s largest economies” in Google). Just as irrelevant…

    About health insurance: Don’t know if you have done it, but you should have read some reports of what you need before going to Spain. I do not know for Germans, but for British, complete information on the web of their embassy.
    Some links about health tourism. They are in Spanish, sorry! But the will be good for you to practice your Spanish.

    Finally: I just want to stress that the purpose of my letter was to say that, according to your posts, it seems that you complaint about the poor capacity so Spanish to solve day a day problems for Spanish non-speakers. For me the problem is mainly that: you do not speak Spanish but you want to work in Spain. Sorry, but it has no sense. If I want to work in Italy what I do first is to attend to intensive Italian classes BEFORE going to Italy.
    Anyhow, it seems that we will not agree, so I won’t write again. This topic is exhausted, I think.

    Have a good time in Spain.

  • davidkramer says:


    thanks once more for your response. a shame that you wont go on with this…anyhow, I cannot find any hint that spaniard is a derogative term, you should send me a link proving that. My spanish friend sittng next to me right now would use spanish, but does not think spanieard is derogative (

    There is no argument about the fact that I must make an effort in adapting to a new culture. however, my point is that your attitude sounds a bit chauvinistic to me. and all I am trying to say is that it would be better for spain to have highly trained individuals to come here. when will they do so?

    when spanish people are welcoming and able to use the english they should have learned in school. you dont have to, right. but i am arrogant enough to say that spain has no chance of survival in a globalising world when you insist on everyone learning spanish to work in spain. it limits you as a nation too much.look at BNP per capita and you will find a range of nations smaller than spain ahead of spain (

    it is striking that all these nations are highly internationally acting. by this i mean that if you work in sweden you might find english to be the company language. and you will certainly not need anything else than english in shop, offices or anywhere actually.swedish universities are teeming with foreigners and so are swedish academic environments. this leads to sweden being a leading research force in medical sciences. spain is far away from it, and it is not even common or popular to come to spain as a post-doc. but spain needs that exchange in order to catch up.

    in a while we will face china as a huge economic competitor. with you current attitude your nation would not have a chance of competing as little as any nation in europe would stand a chance alone for that matter. (check:

    in madrid a hughe and costly research center has been build in oder to facilitate cancer research. they spend millions of euros to attract spanish back to spain who had gone to the US and UK to become professors. why? because you need inernational experience and connections in order to build up such a facility. the same is true if not even more so for any company. surprising you doubt that point?

    in that way: yes! it is important what language people speak (or rather which second language and third language).my “imperialism” comment has nothing to do with what you said. it was an ironic teaser. but your belive that it is “language imperialism” if people come to spain and speak english was just too ridiculous- sorry! as for spain economic power. again, check per capita. (I do believe that GDP as described in the link is a substantial indicator of economic ability)

    and consider that spain is not even a member of the G( ( that is where the world is ruled… sorry to say…once more: the problem is not a lack of info. as I told you, you keep talking about tourists. I am not a tourist. as i told you I have the EU insurance card. but the problem is to get the spanish insurance card.

    this IS NOT a problem that has to do with a lack of spanish, this is a problem of spanish bureaucracy as any spanish citizen I met would tell you. in fact i usually had spanish friends with me and they were not able to help much, because the bureaucracy in spain has gone mad…they even told me that there are a lot of jokes about is… i start to wonder if you are really spanish, or why you seem to be ignoarant about these fact?

    to conclude: thanks for the advice, but i feel you did not get my point. maybe i insulted you, well, again, i am sorry this was not my intention. in fact it was just personal and subjective observation. but this observation has been confirmed by all spaniards and spanish speaking friends I have here. in fact, most could laugh pretty hard about my article without taking insult…

    by the way- i am not in spain any longer. i live in Catalonia now. here you would not get a job speaking spanish. you have to speak catalan which is a problem for the 40% spanish who live here- how is that for crazy?or are you gonna tell me the catalans got it all wrong and they too must speak spanish on- what some of them consider- not spanish soil?

    all the best to you

  • rocket french

    haha nice one mate i like this post!

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