If you’ve read the title of today’s post, you probably think I’ve lost it. The good news is that it’s entirely, 100% not-serious. I loathe banking. I am completely financially retarded, too – I don’t really understand how money works, I’m terrible at not spending it, and I sorta just hope it does things I need it too by itself, like paying my rent.
This means that things like, say, setting up a bank account don’t really come naturally to me. I want the money to go into a bank account and for the bank and/or my parents to make all the hard stuff happen for me. Purchasing things, for example, I have no trouble with. On the other hand, if the contract is more than just a quick transaction, I’m in trouble. Particularly if it’s more than, “If I give you coins will you give me this” “Yes” “Thank you”.
However, this last week I’ve found myself in the situation where I’ve had to deal with more than that – not only have I had to set up a mobile phone contract in my own name, which means I actually have to manage my money more than usual, but I’ve also had to set up a bank account (because despite telling me to fill in a form with my bank details while I was in England, apparently they can’t use an English account. Spanish organisation, everyone!). God help me.
So first of all I had to choose a bank. This was, actually, remarkably straightforward. I’ve seen a few different banks around the city, but I decided to go with Santander in the end because 1) I’m already familiar with the bank, the logo, its existence, etc., 2) there’s one on campus, and 3) if it’s rich enough to buy up several banks in England on the bring of collapse, it’s gotta be pretty financially sturdy. Having made that choice, I had to go and talk to the Nice Lady in order to actually get the account set up. This was a prospect that, frankly, terrified me.
Friday morning, then, I rocked up at the bank and queued, like a nice British girl, for a couple of minutes. The Nice Lady behind the desk let me into the
cupboard branch and I walked in feeling very awkward. The conversation that followed went something like this: “Habla inglés?” “Si, un poco.” “I want to set up a bank account.” Yeah, I know I’m supposed to be speaking as much Spanish as possible, but I’m not signing any major contracts without discussing them properly in a language that I absolutely know I know.
So I discussed the whole thing with the Nice (very pregnant) Lady, who informed me I’d have to take out insurance with them for the first year as part of the package (so now, if I die, I get money! Every cloud has a silver lining…), and that they’d need to take a whole bunch of details from me, including my name, my address, my email address, my phone number, a photocopy of my passport, my mother’s maiden name, the name of my pet hamster, my birthstone, my favourite cereal brand, the species of tree nearest to my bedroom window and the future name of my firstborn so that, in the event of an overdraft, they can repossess said firstborn.
Having given the Nice Lady all of my information, I was told I’d have to come back on Monday to do the paperwork because they needed time to send my passport and the long list of details that were attached to the Madrid head office (and that, despite my passport being a perfectly valid form of ID in every country in the world, they were reluctant to set up an account using one instead of my special Spanish “I am a foreigner” card. No, I don’t know why either). I went away feeling very proud of myself for having done something so terrifying and Grown Up in a foreign country without my parents’ help.
My return on Monday, however, fulfilled every stereotype about the Spanish I’ve ever had, except for the flamenco dancing. I showed up outside the branch and, an another impressive display of Britishness, I queued. I queued for about 10 minutes. I got to the front of the queue, where the Nice Lady, once again, let me in. I entered, feeling invincible. This time, I was prepared to do Grown Up Things. I was prepared to discuss money in a semi-comfortable mix of mostly English and perhaps a little bit of Spanish only when necessary. I was going to pwn this shit. And then the Nice Lady told me that the paperwork wasn’t ready yet, and I’d have to wait half an hour.
Classic Spain. More than a little miffed, I agreed to come back in half an hour and, to kill the time, decided to wander down and browse the university book-and-stationery shop. Ten minutes later, I was bored. The English and Castilian sections were limited, and I still had another twenty minutes to fill. Thank god for “Where’s My Water?” I played on my phone and, when the time came, returned to the branch to queue. Again. I managed, in this time, to half-muster the feelings of invincibility from before, but I was hungry and needed a cup of tea. The Nice Lady let me in so that, this time, her compatriot could sort me out. The Nice Guy Compatriot poked his head round from his partition and told me I’d have to wait another forty minutes. What.
So, by this point, I’ve already been shown how crap bureaucracy is, how inefficient the Spanish are and how little there is to recommend about banks, but now I’m just irate. “Where’s My Water?” has to the rescue again, but that unmade cup of tea is still calling my name and there aren’t, as far as I’m aware, any cheap drinkeries in the vicinity. By the end of the day, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be downing vodka by the bottle. Forty minutes later, I grumpily trudged up to queue, again, for ten minutes.
The Nice Lady once again let me into the office and, this time, I slumped into one of the chairs in the Nice Guy’s half of the cupboard. After about ten minutes of sitting in awkward silence as he tried to work his way around some technical difficulty or other (which required help from the Nice Lady), the phone rang, and I waited another 20 minutes whilst something or other was discussed. I don’t know what it was, because by this point, I’d zoned out and was trying my hardest not to club either of the Nice People to death with the phone receiver.
Finally, after hours of waiting, we got down to business with the paperwork, which mostly involved me nodding and signing things. I probably ought to have been more inquisitive about the contracts I was signing, but by this point, I was so fed up that I was mostly relying on EU law to make sure the contracts were fair and transparent. After I’d finally signed my life away, the Nice Guy informed me of what small bits remained of setting up the account, and I was free to go.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so wound up in my life. Banking in every country is different, though banking within the EU is bound by EU law, and so is relatively safe, but there’s definitely a law missing about being nice to your customer. I mean, the Nice People were never unpleasant, and I’m sure they were bound by company policy to deal with bits in a particular order, but all in all, the experience was just crap. Nothing went wrong at all, but if I never had to see a bank again it would be too soon.
I hate being an adult.