Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Levels of satisfaction

Some time ago I read an article which maintained that Spain is the Eurozone country which uses most €500 notes. It’s something to do with their portability. When we first came to live here for an extended period the estate agent we dealt with regularly carried huge amounts of cash in her handbag, one of the copious kind of course and firmly clasped and carried across her body to prevent bag-snatching. However, she could not have carried so much had she not carried much of it in €500 notes. 

They’re also useful, so I understand, for money laundering. I once saw an elegantly dressed but quite ancient lady in a supermarket in Sanxenxo hand over a €500 note to pay for goods to the value of less than €10. Maybe she was the head of a Galician mafia gang or at the very least the aged grandmother of the head of such a gang. All credit to the cashier, she did not bat an eyelid but merely called her supervisor to provide her with more change. 

Well, this morning I felt rather like the wife of Walter White in the TV series “Breaking Bad” organising ways to launder his drug-generated income. Why was this? It was hitting the wall of bureaucracy when I tried to open a bank account. 

To open an account in an English bank you take along proof of identity and some utility bills to prove that you live at the address you give them. At least it was so the last time I saw anyone doing it. 

 I knew that I would need my NIE – Número de Identificación de Extranjero – and I had along my passport as well. I even took along the contract for our flat just in case I needed to demonstrate where I live. But then I was asked for a “certificado de ingresos” – a proof of income (?). So I explained that I wanted to put in a sum of money and that we would be transferring a greater amount when Phil gets paid for his translation work. Failing that we would arrange to transfer some from our account in England. Ah, but they need a “certifcado de ingresos” so that they can show where the money comes from. 

This is where I began to feel like a money launderer. So we went through the whole thing about not having a source of income in Spain but a pension in England. OK, so show them a pension certificate so that they know where the money comes from!!! 

And then there’s the question of taxes. If I’m not paying taxes in Spain I am not fully resident. Well, yes, that’s true. So now it seems I need a “Certificado Consular” in order to open a bank account, presumably proving that I am not some kind of criminal. 

Of course, you have to remember that this is a country where corruption in high places is rife. So I expect it’s normal to check up on the little people. Corruption has to start somewhere after all. And it’s easier to badger the little people than the big ones. 

All of these negotiations with the bank were dealt with in a bad-cop/good-cop manner with two bank employees. The first person I spoke to was blunt and gruff in her manner and simply made it clear I was getting nowhere. It has been suggested to me that maybe she was Basque!! Her politer, more softly spoken colleague entered the conversation after dealing with another customer and did that thing they do of asking your name so that they can be more intimate in their conversation with you. But she still gave the same message. I was not opening a bank account without a pile of documentation. And finally she asked if she could photocopy my NIE. Why? Because they need to document all proceedings. Even inconclusive ones like mine? My paranoia is beginning to run wild! 

Oh, and she then told me that a bank account here would cost me around €60 a year in bank charges. Unless, that is, I put in €12,000 in cash or €5000 in bank shares!!! 

 The irony of it is that we had a bank account which we closed a year after returning to England precisely because they were leaching away our money in bank charges. 

And the only reason I want a bank account is so that we can get a contract with an internet provider, paying monthly by standing order, instead of using the mobile internet dongle we have at present. 

Life is complicated at times. And all of this went on before nine o’clock in the morning. 

After that the day got better. Especially when we went out later to meet our friend Colin for lunch at El Puerto restaurant where we ate a range of tasty fishy dishes. Here they are.


  1. Where's the salad that we all enjoyed so much?

  2. You could try https://www.openbank.es/es_ES/hacerte-cliente.
    Although part of the evil Santander organisation, they don't charge and in six years have only unexpectedly/unjustifiably blocked my account once!

  3. Colin, the salad is on your photo in your camera. I thought you should have it as you enjoy it so much.