Today I went to an office, grabbed a number from a morose official and sat in an uncomfortable chair waiting for my turn. After a surprisingly short wait, my number was called and I found myself opposite a clerk, whose accent revealed that he was also a relative newcomer. After spending 10 minutes looking over my documents I was told that despite the fact that I hadn't waiting long enough since my arrival, they would probably send me the important number, without which I can't sort out a phone line and driving license "within 2 months".
I know you're thinking Misrad Hapnim but you're wrong - I'm in the US remember - that's the social security office in Rockville - but it just goes to show that we don't do things too differently (although an Oleh will usually walk out on the same day with a Teudat Zehut).
Last week I walked into the Verizon store to see about getting a mobile phone - how difficult could that be? Plenty of tourists buy them in Israel without a problem so why should here be any different? After a chat with the salesman during which I persuaded him that I didn't need a phone that gave me directions, played music, played games and made the tea, we finally found what I wanted in a corner of the store, hiding amongst the motorola sliders and flippers which our American cousins seems to love; a simple, beautiful Nokia. The price was reasonable and we went back to the counter to arrange the deal - and then came a catch (not THE catch - I hadn't been expecting one - a catch) - my lack of a social security number (2 months - see above if you skipped) and credit rating (another new concept) meant that I had to leave a deposit of $400 per phone. Ouch!!
I've concluded so far that the immigrant experience is never 100% straightforward, generally expensive and somewhat frustrating and needs to be approached with a full wallet and a sense of humour. I came to a similar conclusion when I made Aliyah in '96 and have been dispensing the same advice to Olim for a long time - so far everything is going great - I've got a bank account sorted which I opened with a Jordanian teller and we have an apartment with no furniture which I'll be moving into on Thursday.