Occasionally the differences between life here and back in the US escape me and help me waste all kinds of time. Yesterday for example, I spent my morning renewing my vehicle registration...or trying to.
The local government recently created a new vehicle registration regulation which requires that people produce proof that they don't have a debt with the electric company. Having learned that, I walked down to my local electric company office. I got a recent statement of account and then waited in line to have my account validated. The man was helpful and friendly, filling out the required forms before the all-important stamping which would tell the vehicle registration folks that I was debt free.
Then I walked back home and later took our vehicle down to the inspection station. As in most of Europe and the US, vehicle are subjected to an annual inspection. Good enough. They guys did the inspection as I waited patiently out front.
About twenty minutes later the service man came in with a quizzical look on his face. "Ah, you have another month to go on your registration....you can't renew your registration yet," he said, pointing at my vehicle registration document.
"What do you mean?" I said, peering at the date, which clearly said 9/10/2007. I had carefully read the registration and insurance documents. They expired on Sept 10th....or did they?
"It's not due until October...nearly a month away," he explained patiently.
Oh crud, I said to myself. Of course, the European date system goes Day/Month/Year, not Month/Day/Year. I had, in fact, come a month early, misreading the date in US format, not European format. So I sheepishly left, thanking them for their help. They graciously invited me back next month and didn't charge me for their time.