|The cold weather's here alright, but this is just silly... |
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As an Ancient Expat, I deal with a number of financial institutions. Some look after my company's money, some my own money. Some act in a number of ways to impair my access to my money (not that I'm giving HSBC a long, hard stare at this point, you understand) while others are entrusted with our plans for jam tomorrow.
The times they have been a-changin' for some time now. I remember walking into the Bank of Ireland in Thurles waving a wad of UAE Dirhams and asking the teller if I could please change them into Irish Punts.
'Of course,' came the answer. 'What are they?'
'They're UAE Dirhams.'
'Is that right? Is that what they look like? Well, I never!'
And they were then duly changed at the prevailing rate.
I swear it's true. Nowadays they'd have to take all my biometrics, my DNA and a snapshot of my current mind-state before they'd even talk to me.
Try telling a British financial institution - one that's happy enough to take money from overseas but clearly make no concessions to an environment that's different to the UK - that you only have a PO Box number. That even though they put up street signs on your sand road a few years ago, nobody uses them. Particularly since a lorry knocked down the sign on the corner a couple of years back and nobody's replaced it.
We need two utility bills, they trill, addressed to your home address. Except they aren't, here. They're all addressed to our PO Box. All our statements and other financial institution correspondence comes to our PO Box. Nobody uses our physical address, nobody. If you HAVE to find us, for instance to deliver Lebanese food, you get talked in from the Sheraton Sharjah.
Since my first visit to the wonders of the Gulf in 1986, I have found my way to innumerable meetings 'Past the second water tank after the Herfy on Sitteen Street, turn left and we're below the ALICO sign' although I must pause to point out that all directions given to locations in Abu Dhabi are followed by 'it's really easy', words which strike a chill of fear into my heart because they invariably mean 'You're going to die trying to find us.'
The British Embassy doesn't certify documents anymore. The Irish Office in Dubai will, for Dhs60, certify a copy of a passport but really wants an Irish connection and isn't too happy about doing my Brit passport. Getting two hours away from work to trot off getting documents legally translated and certified is, oddly enough, not very easy. I'm actually busy. And that certification of identity doesn't help with the old physical address thing, either.
It's been plaguing me. Everything I try isn't quite good enough. The electricity bill gives my area as a different area to the other document. Try as I might, I can't get 'em to understand that Muntaza and Rifa'a are the same thing. They might even be Fisht or Heera, depending on your mood and desire for geographical granularity. Any physical address given simply doesn't matter anyway. There is no standard, there is no infrastructure that relies on or requires physical addressing. And when a utility goes askew, we have to go to their office and bring the chap back to our house because they'd never find it otherwise. Oh, unless they want to cut off the supply when they suddenly and miraculously know precisely where we are. Quick aside - the other week SEWA cut us off for non-payment when we'd paid. 'Why didn't you knock first?' we asked, getting the immortal response, 'Because people hit us.'
We have an Etisalat location ID, but as far as I can tell even Etisalat doesn't use that. The wee plaque affixed to our villa displaying it is actually most used by local gas companies and AC repair men to wedge their stickers and business cards. Even the tenancy contract (legally translated and certified, natch) is no good as it only refers to me because it's in my name rather than joint names because we're in the UAE and that's just how it is here, right?
In impotent fury, I point out our money was good enough to take in the first place. They opened the account. Why now, with each new shift in pottiness, am I faced with fresh swathes of idiocy dressed up as 'compliance'?
'Yes, yes. We understand. Nevertheless, we need two immutable and incorrigible proofs of your residence address signed in wet ink by a bearded ocelot. And then stamped, signed, sealed, translated, attested, fumigated and duly immolated.'