Monday, January 30, 2006

cultural difference: part I

Here is a recent exchange with my letting agent. Would anyone in the U.S. ever expect to have a "debatable" apartment number? Would it ever cross your mind that you needed to confirm the apartment number on your lease corresponds with the number that your postal carrier calls your apartment? Remember this exchange, dear friend, if you ever happen to find yourself living abroad. Like Gavin says, it's the little things that kill.

Dear _______,

I haven't been receiving my mail, so I put my name and flat number, 2/2, which is on my lease, on the door. The postal worker left a note saying that I'm actually 2/1. So, there are two things here: 1) I think important mail has been going in the mail slot next door, and 2) my lease is technically not valid. To me, this latter is rather trivial, but the former is quite important. There's been construction going on next door, so my hope is the same people who own my flat also own it, and, I hope, [your property management company] is managing it. We need to arrange entry into that flat so I can retrieve my mail. The less-urgent but nonetheless important issue is about the shower. The new shower was installed by the workers in a very efficient and professional manner. However, it became clear that the problem doesn't lie with the shower; it lies with the electrical circuit, which is not strong enough to operate the shower at a comfortable temperature. I therefore either take an uncomfortably cool shower or I take a warm shower punctuated by trips (two within 10 minutes) to the breaker box to hop upon a chair and re-set the broken circuit. I'm not an electrician, so I don't know what needs to be done, but I hope someone can come inspectthe wiring and see if it will be possible to improve the situation. In advance, thank you for your attention to these two matters--Kind regards, DumbOkie

The reply:

The official address for your flat is 2/2 although sometimes it can be debated if your flat is on the right when looking out from the flat to thefront or looking at it from the street. Putting your name on the door shouldsolve the mail problem. Unfortunately we do not have any details of the flat next door. I have contacted [putative electrician] to get in touch with you about your shower.
F--- Putative Property Management

My response:

Thank you for the quick reply and thank you for contacting someone about the shower. I do look forward to having that matter resolved.

Regarding the matter of the mail, I do wish for a more satisfactory solution and I hope you can help me generate one. Although I have noticed workers going in and out of there, I haven't observed any activity there for the last 10 days or so. It is therefore unclear when anyone will return and how I will obtain my mail.

It may be the case that the house numbers are ambiguous, but I'm sure you can see from a tenant's point of view that the matter is not trivial and such unresolved ambiguities can be the source of substantial problems, including financial ones, for example, if bills are misdelivered and cannot be retrieved. I would think it is a fundamental of property management that the number assigned to a property corresponds to the number recorded with the Royal Mail, don't you? One usually does not expect to have to obtain verification of her own flat number upon moving into a new property. Usually, one can take it at face value that the flat number documented in a legally binding lease is accurate.

Fortunately, today I am working from home and had the opportunity to talk with the postal carrier. Unfortunately, he told me that he has put a lot of my mail into the other slot. I'm sure you agree with me that this matter is of serious concern, since the flat next door is empty, as I mentioned earlier, and therefore, I can only speculate about when and how I am going to be able to retrieve my mail.
Kind regards,

So far, I've received no reply. And I don't expect to.

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