Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Adventures in Banking

Sometimes when I am faced with a difficult task, I just put it off. I put it off and put it off – it’s not such a bad strategy, really, as sometimes the problem can go away, or be overcome by events, or solves itself. Most of the time, I reach some point where I am required, finally, to deal with the problem.

I needed money. I had money in my bank, but I didn’t know how to get it. I called the bank to ask how to get money moved from this account to that account.

“No problem, habeebti (dear one),” the customer services lady said, when I explained my problem. Not only did she solve my problem, but she gave me a grin that lasted for the rest of the day. I’ve never had a bank employee call me “dear one” before.

When I would need money, I would go in to the Women’s Bank. It was cool – only women, no important men pushing their way in front. Sometimes we would drink tea as I sat at the desk and filled out the withdrawal form. It all worked fine until they broke off a separate Islamic bank, and I was banking with the non-Islamic side, so I had to use the regular bank.

One time, when I was withdrawing funds to pay for a trip, the customer at the next customer service desk looked just like Saddam Hussein. The customer service woman at that desk was explaining to him that yes, he had checks but he could only write checks for the funds he had deposited in the bank. You could see he got the part about having checks, and writing checks, but this part about funds in the bank to cover the checks – what was that? He looked puzzled, and fierce, and angry, and he argued with the woman, and thought she was messing with him.

Now, I needed to have my name listed on an account my husband had set up for me. After months of putting off the inevitable, including trips to the bank to actually get it done, only to find that branch of the bank was closed, we finally got to the right bank, together, and the bank was opened.

We explained to the receptionist what we wanted, a joint account. He looked at my husband:

“You want her on your account?” (the tone was disbelief)

(Husband nods)

“But WHY??”

(We look at him in astonishment.)

“No. It is not possible.”

(We drop our jaws.)

Then he pats my husband on the back, laughs (he was joking) and takes us to the place where this is done.

We go through the routine again, with the teller. Again, we get astonishment.

We are sent to an office, where paperwork is prepared. In actuality, my name will not be on the account, but I will have access to the account. I don’t know why. No one could ever explain it, other than that is the way it works.

Just to be sure, once my name is – well, not on the account, but allowed to use the account – I give it a try, to make sure it works.

At first, it doesn’t, but then the customer service guy comes by and tells the teller it is OK and voila! I have money! Later in the week, I will try it at an ATM to see if this really works. I’ve gotten cynical. It’s not Kuwait; I have had trouble using ATMs in my own little home town, too. It’s like ATM voodoo.

This bank has small vases of flowers everywhere; the flowers look fresh. There is a system, with taking a number and waiting your turn, and even the very important man who tried to cut the line is told, very politely, that he must take a number. I’m impressed. The bank employees are all very polite, seem to know their jobs, and although it seems our seemingly simple – to us – request is outside their norm, they work hard to accomodate us. All in all, I would give the customer service at this bank an A.

But best of all, I secretly like it that the customer service woman on the telephone calls me “dear one.”

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships | 9 Comments

Can’t Breathe!

There is no sunrise today, only a diffuse brightening of the yellow/orange colored cloud enveloping my part of Kuwait. I don’t know if it is enveloping all of Kuwait, because I can only see my own little area. Even though I am not outside, even though I don’t have asthma, I can feel the heaviness of the air. My nose feels stuffy and I feel like I am not getting enough oxygen to my brain. If I am feeling like I need more air, I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone who has asthma.

Last night, going out for date-night dinner, I wished I had a big scarf with me to cover my mouth and eyes from the blowing grains of tiny gritty sand. We had to wash our hands and faces at the restaurant before we could eat. It was as bad when we came out.

When I think sandstorm, I think hot, and desert, and The English Patient. Not so here. It is 46°F/8°C at 7:00 in the morning. Brrrrr and Gaaaassssp!

February 1, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Weather | | 9 Comments