Banking Adventures

Because of the lack of internet this was originally written on Tuesday, September 28th, and posted October 11th.

After such a crazy day cleaning we slept okay but we’re still not adjusted to the time zone (which isn’t like us). We’ve made a lot of mistakes by staying up late, going out to a bar until 3 am, and taking a nap on the first day. So we’re hurting pretty bad. It’s killing us a little to wake up at 3:30 am and just stay awake until 6 then catnap until 9 when the alarm goes off. It’s making us pretty loopy and cranky.

We cleaned a little more but the cold-hard reality is that we needed a bank account. Chipping newspaper off the back of the fridge sounded more fun than banking. But we needed this for Rosa, and we couldn’t get internet without it. So we got brave (didn’t take any shots of booze like we might have in Korea) and headed down to the nearest bank.

To the teller we said “we would like to open a non-residents account” in Spanish. He looked at us blankly then started shouting (we initially thought at us). A woman in a room behind him answered a few seconds later.
She came out all smiles, “I speak Spanish slower” she said slowly in Spanish. “I can also speak a little English,” she said in Spanish.
She ushered us to her office.
“Now what did you want?” the guy we had asked for an account hadn’t understood us at all and basically just said “help! I don’t know what they want!”

We explained we wanted either a student account or an “expansion” account. Students get fat and wonderful discounts on everything in Europe. But you stop being a student at 26 even if you have a student visa (us). Banks can charge €30 to €70 a month if you don’t deposit up to 700 Euros in the account each month. A bank transfer doesn’t count, it has to be an actual cash or check deposit. Students don’t pay this fee because they’re poor. We’re poor, too but we’re old (apparently).
Fortunately there is this expansion account (probably as a result of their economy crashing and them also having millennials who can’t do anything). They “expanded” the student account for 26-30 year-olds. So we’re in the clear. We can have a “free” account where we won’t be fined €30 each month for being poor.

She asked us about our nationality and age and then made a print out in English about the expansion account. Perfect. No fees and they give you a 1% discount on your direct-debt bills. We gave her our passports and kept our fingers crossed.

Spanish bureaucracy works like this: you can go in and ask for something and be told no. You can ask an employee to the left of that person and they might say yes. Or you go in a different day and ask the first person again and they suddenly say yes. You’re at the mercy of their attitude, burn out and probably blood sugar levels at the time. If they’re in the mood you’re gonna have a good time. If they aren’t then you’ll need to go somewhere else or come back tomorrow. There are only 4 banks in our area so we had a small margin of error/bureaucracy.

The biggest problem everyone runs into is the Spanish Visa. It has our National Identity Number (think a Spanish Social Security Number). Unfortunately they really like this number to be on a special card. Even though it’s the same exact number and the same exact information they can deny the number in the passport in favor of the card. I can almost guarantee we won’t be getting this card until December (we haven’t even applied yet, we have to go to a bigger city 45 minutes away just to apply). So it was fingers crossed she would be nice about the passport version of the number.

She was. She had to make phone calls to two different people in Madrid/the head offices to get permission but she persevered. Turns out neither her nor the male teller had ever opened a bank account for an American. So it was difficult for everyone. Does the passport number or the Spanish number go on this line? She would type one, hit next and be rejected, then she would try the opposite one and it would work. When she did Chris’s it would be backwards (even the computers like to be inconsistent). It wouldn’t take our Spanish address at all so we had to use the Colorado address. Except it had no place for the city name or zip code so we just live on San Juan Drive *generally* in Colorado.

We were chipping along at the forms for the better part of an hour when the nice woman stood up abruptly and told us she had a meeting. Right now. So we had to leave. “My colleague will help you finish up. It’s really quite easy.”
“I will?” he asked as we all appeared in front of him.
He took our passports again and photocopied them. Again.
He got to work frowning, typing, deleting, and then frowning again. As he did this (and as the only employee in the bank) a crowd started forming. Other people needed to get banking done. 15 painful minutes and a crowd of 7 people waiting to bank later, he gave up.
“I don’t know what it wants” he told us gesturing at the computer.
“Her. When her come back?” we pointed at her dark office.
“I don’t know. Try tomorrow.”

So we went home to keep cleaning and organizing and hopefully, finally, unpacking.
We went to the store and three different chinos a few more times. Since the pillows we had settled with are no better than a free airplane pillow (if you’ve used one, you know) we bought two more. Now our bed looks luxurious and hotel-y with 4 whole pillows on it.

The next day we walked by the bank. It was packed, so we went out for breakfast. We got 6 churros and a cup of coffee. Turns out churros don’t come with anything unless you ask. Not even sugar. They’re just fried rods of dough. I think we were expected to dip them in the coffee but we didn’t want that. The churros we had had, and you might have had in the USA, are usually covered in cinnamon and sugar. Not here. The nice waiter asked if we wanted sugar and we said “uh yeah” but he never came back. We sat looking at our fried rods and felt a little sad. We couldn’t bank. We couldn’t churro. But no, dammit, we flagged him down and ordered a chocolate. So we did it the real Spanish way and dipped them in pure chocolate. Our large breakfast was only $5.

We got brave again and marched into the bank. They recognized us and immediately started asking for a “TIN”
“Como se dice ‘TIN’? Necesitas un TIN”
We gave her our passport numbers.
“No, TIN”
We gave her our Spanish social security numbers.
“No. No. Un TIN.” She googled it and flipped the computer screen around for us.
Tax Identity Number.
For real? We wrote our American social security numbers down. Sure enough it worked. No one had ever said anything about needing this. But it worked and we have a bank account! We did it all by ourselves. In Germany and Korea we had had some help but this one we did alone.

We’ll go pick our cards up in a week. For now there is no money in it and we can’t get money into it without the internet. And we can’t just take money out of the ATM then put it in the account because we have no money in our home account. It’s “waiting to clear” for 4 days. So, like many times before, we have $40 to our names and just have to wing it for who knows how long. We’ve been in this situation far more than we would like to admit.

Since this post had no pictures I’ll just add my 5-second project that I’m very pleased with.

Take 3 plates and 2 candlesticks (and some glue)

Voila! A place for all my hair accessories and jewelry.

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