Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Newcomers / Nieuwkomers

Newcomers / Nieuwkomers

Past few days have been interesting, trying to arrange for housing and a bank account. I really have a better appreciation now for international students who arrive in the US who try to get all these things done.

Househunting was fairly straightforward, given the rental agency recommendation from a INSEAD colleague (that network is SO helpful), and I may have found a place. One amusing thing happened while apt hunting, where I stopped into a shop to buy a bottle of water. I went to the register, and the guy said in Dutch what I thought was "seven", and I was really confused, seven? seven Euros for a bottle of water? (mind you, I was jetlagged but awake).. and I thought, OK, I'll put out EUR7. I first started with the EUR2 coin, and was about to pull a EUR5 note, but then he just took it and gave me back EUR1.30. My rental agent laughed, and said to the shopkeeper: "nieuwkomers", which I was obviously one. Note: do people in NL say seven to mean seventy? How do you know when it's just seven or seventy? Just like how in Chinese you'd say 1 dollar, 4, meaning 1 dollar, 40 cents?

Anyhow, one task checked off the list.

However.. step 2, opening a bank account has proven to be more difficult. You'd think that a bank in NL would be more than happy to have your money, even the ones like Rabobank or ING, which were bailed out in the crisis. But no.. this turned into a really complicated case. First, every bank insisted that I needed a social security number to open, even though I had read accounts of people opening a non-resident account. I mean, I'm sure there are wealthy Russians, Indonesians, or other people coming into open accounts in the Netherlands with their overseas money. Even ABN-Amro advertises a non-resident account (but with a EUR20k minimum!) But getting a social security number is not easy - you have to prove that you have a work visa, a resident permit etc... but that not required for people who are here on short stays. Argh - seems like I just fell into a loophole in government policy. I'm sure that banks are checking social security numbers to avoid terrorist groups opening a bank account, etc, but I don't think I fit that profile. Please - take my money! You're a bank!

oh well - when frustrated, you just have to laugh. Just like a t-shirt I saw yesterday at a shop for baby clothes... the shirt said: "BABY GENIUS", and underneath it, was the text: "q t (pi)", as in the symbol for "pi". Hilarious!

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