Whole life insurance Canada explained to the Americans

USA explained

What did this author have to read for breakfast this morning in his RSS feed on a German news magazine? A US court in Pennsylvania overturned a law that would have forced citizens to present their "ID" when voting. What luck, otherwise the election offices there would have been pretty empty: In America there are no identity cards. In other Anglo-Saxon countries such as Great Britain, Canada and Australia, by the way, not either.

Like so many important things in life, you learn that through Buffy. In the episode "Tabula Rasa" Willow tries to erase some unpleasant memories related to her addiction to magic from her friends' memories. This goes wrong, of course, and everyone faints in a magic supply store. When they wake up, they don't know who they are anymore. How do you infer your identity now?

  • Giles: Driver's license.
  • Xander: Driver's license (calls himself "Alex").
  • Willow: Student ID.
  • Tara: Student ID.
  • Spike: No papers - finds the name "Randy" in his (stolen) jacket.
  • DAWN: No papers - wears a necklace with her name on it.
  • ANYA: No papers - find a leaflet that says she and Giles run the shop.
  • Buffy: No papers - names himself "Joan".

This seems unrealistic to the German viewer. Spike as a vampire and Anya as an ex-demon might be believed to have no ID, but not Giles, Xander or Buffy. After a mass nap in the Lindenstrasse the figures would simply reach into their wallets or handbags and read “Hans Beimer” or “Ludwig Dressler” from their machine-readable, nationwide uniform ID cards. The whole plot of "Tabula Rasa" only works because there are no ID cards in the USA.

Unfortunately, the synchronization here borders on the dumbing down of the people. Willow's aha exclamation "Cards - driver’s licenses!" becomes “ID cards - a driver's license works too!” which gives the impression that ID cards exist. Otherwise it was translated again without understanding: "Joan" - an allusion to Joan of Arc, so Jeanne d’Arc - remains "Joan", which nobody in Germany recognizes as the name of the French martyr.

If you know that there are no ID cards in the USA, other things also become clearer on the TV screen. In Fringe there is a parallel world in which every US citizen has to carry a "Show Me" card with personal information. What is not particularly remarkable for mainland Europeans, shows the English-speaking viewer immediately that the USA is a fascist state in the other world with massively restricted civil rights.

Conversely, this author has made the experience that most Germans cannot even imagine how a state should function without identity cards (and, by the way, also without a residents' registration office). You have to at least be able to prove your age, right? What do you do there?

You use the driver's license, which is issued by the respective state according to its own laws and regulations.

Most adults use their drivers license as their main form of identification. It's used to see Rated R movies, buy tobacco or alcohol, enter nightclubs and bars, board a plane, check into a hotel, cash a check, and verify a credit card.

You have to know that driver training in the USA does not cost a four-digit amount as it does in Germany - the range is more between 300 and 600 dollars, depending on the state and municipality. This is useful for German tourists: if you want to explain to Americans why their driver's license does not expire, you can point out the costs. When it comes to money, you can expect a lifetime of validity.

If you don't have a driver's license in the USA, you can - but don't have to! - get one in his state ID card getting exhibited. In our example state of Arizona, the Motor Vehicle Department is logically responsible for this, because it is a functional replacement for a driver's license.

(As far as this author can determine, the same principle applies in Canada -

Ontarians without a driver’s license to use as a quick and easy piece of identification can soon apply for a government-issue photo ID card.

- and Australia as well as various other Anglo-Saxon states. A few years ago, the British tried to introduce real, national identity cards, but reversed the whole thing in 2010 and deleted the associated data. The English Wikipedia provides an overview.)

If you don't have a driver's license and no ID card, you just don't have an ID. Point. Of course, that makes life a lot more difficult, because you then have to see what the other body accepts for identification. It is accordingly rare. But it works.

(For certain financial matters the Social Security Number (SSN) comes into play, which we cover in a separate entry.)

A detailed discussion about the topic quickly becomes complicated because you also have to talk about other aspects such as reporting and being carried or whether the police even have the right to just ask someone's name (permitted in some US states) let alone ask for identification. Many Germans assume that they are obliged to carry them (but this is not true) and thus shock the poor Americans even more.

They finally fall out of their socks when you explain the residents' office to them - Germans have to report to the state when they move? But only earlier in the east, right? Experience has shown that at some point the question always arises whether the Nazis found the Goldbergs and Süsskinds with the help of the residents' registration offices. Shouldn't these archives be abolished or, uh, burned down? It doesn't help that Americans only know such regulations in relation to one group of people: convicted sex criminals. From their point of view, the entire German population is treated like criminals.

In the end, only the church tax meets with more incomprehension. And there helps yourself Buffy Not.


The interested reader may wonder why we didn't cover such a fundamental difference between the US and Germany earlier in this blog. In fact, this author has had the topic on the list for a long time. However, in 2005 the US government said it would have to introduce the Real ID Act in the fight against terrorism, which forces the states to have uniform standards for driving licenses ... will, should, should, could ...

Because the bill signed by President George W. Bush was immediately criticized by civil rights activists as a perfidious attempt to introduce an identity card through the back door.

[Real ID] will create America’s first national identity card, increase the threat of identity theft, enable the routine tracking of individuals, and propel us toward a surveillance society.

The transition period has been extended again and again; several states have passed laws prohibiting implementation; the Department of Homeland Security itself shows little interest in the thing; Bills are being submitted to Congress either to revoke Real ID or to find a version that appeases critics. So far without success.

Actually, this author had wanted to wait until the law finally got the catch, but apparently the chaos could last for years. Sometime is good.

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This entry was posted on October 3, 2012 at 10:58 pm and is filed under entry.