Thursday, January 17, 2013

Take a deep breath


Sometimes living in the Dominican Republic is incredibly frustrating, but at the same time you have to laugh – or you would cry. Yesterday was one of those days.

I need to transfer some money from England to my account here at Banco Popular. It should be simple, so I go into the Banco Popular here and tell them I will be transferring money from England. They check my account and tell me the account is held at the branch where I used to live, so I need to tell that branch. I say well please transfer my account to this branch. Apparently they couldn't do that, I had to telephone my old branch myself, which I did. Unfortunately the only way you can transfer your account to another branch is to physically go to your old branch, at the other end of the country, and tell them personally. It cannot be done by phone, fax or email.  As I needed the money quickly, fair enough I say, I will just go and open an account in another bank here. This didn't seem to bother them at all.


So off I trot over the road to Banreservas which is the main bank owned by the State and walk up to Customer Services and say I want to open an account.
 “No problem,” says the nice lady, and we start filling in the forms. That is when the problems start.
 “Do you want an account in dollars or pesos?” she asks.
 “Dollars,” I say.
 “Fine,” she says, and I just thought I had better ask what seems like a stupid question.
 “Can I take the dollars out of the account?”
“No,” she says. “You can have an account in dollars but at the moment we are not letting people take money out of them, well maybe a little but not very much.”
 “Let me get this right,” I said. “I can transfer money from England into a dollar account here, but once it is here I can’t take it out?”
 “Correct,” she replied with a smile.
 “Well, I don’t think I want a dollar account then,” I say, as it seem a little pointless to have money in a bank which you are not allowed to touch. So I decided to open an account in Dominican Pesos, where you are allowed to take the money out.


Off we start with the forms. She asked for my ID card called a cedula, and for my passport. Technical hitch number two. The names are different. My cedula has my maiden name and my passport my married name. She decided that I couldn't open an account with my cedula, I would have to use my passport.
 “Is that a problem?” I asked.
 “Not at all,” she says. An hour passes and eventually all the paperwork is done and I am passed over to another person to upload the information onto the computer system. Lady number two looked at my passport which says on the front, ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’, and inside it says I am a British citizen.


This was just far too much for her. Understandably I suppose, she couldn't get her head around people from the United Kingdom being British citizens, had never heard of the United Kingdom nor Great Britain and what was worse couldn't find either country, United Kingdom nor Great Britain, in her list of countries on the computer. I suggested looking for England, but she insisted on going through the whole list. By this time I was sitting next to her behind the desk as we slowly went through the list.
 "Hooray," I have found it she said."
"Barbados says United Kingdom next to it in brackets. You must be from Barbados."
 I assured her I wasn't. Portugal maybe, she said, Peru, British Virgin isles. It took at least 15 minutes and eventually she discovered England, which, she said she had also never heard of and had major doubts that the United Kingdom and England were one and the same place, and I was a British citizen according to my passport so probably came from neither of them.
The interview continued. "What is your  occupation?"
“Writer,” I said. No occupation of writer listed in the computer.
 “Could you be something else?” she enquired.
“What would you like me to be?” I asked politely.
 “How about an architect?” she said. I suggested a plumber and she said I couldn't be that as I was a woman. In the end we settled on journalist.
Finally all the data was in the computer and I received my little book with my opening balance of 500 pesos in it.


“Where is my card so I can get money out of the ATM?” I asked.
“You can’t take money out of this account yet,” she said.
 “Err why not?” I asked. “I will be transferring money from England and will need to get the money out of the account as soon as it arrives here.”
 “Well you can’t,” she announced. “The account is frozen, because you used your passport to open it. Your passport needs to be verified”.
 “How long will that take?”
“Around a month”.







Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

33 comments:

  1. Wow. I would agree this is terribly frustrating. But it seems sad that what I would expect to be a well-educated women (assuming that banks hire college graduates)does not know that England is part of the United Kingdom or that you are referred to as British. This blog entry speaks volumes about the state of education and the banking system in the DR.

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    1. Most Dominicans are appalling at geography, although in some ways understandable as most cannot leave the country, unless they get a visa which is very hard to do. Geography is not a key part of the school curriculum.

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    2. very nice article and quality, I am personally Obat Pembesar Penis very pleased to meet with you for this blog
      thank you for share very amazing article once

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  2. Hilarious!!! Had same problem when I opened my account with Popular with my passport!!! Recently, I transferred money from Canada to my mother-in-law and she was given a hard time to receive the money! They claimed I had not provided a missing number although I entered all the required info for the transfer, they said my bank needed to contact them. I called my bank, they said bullshit and told me to tell them that all info provided was complete and to stop giving my mother-in-law a hard time! She went back insisted and they finally gave her the money!!! Arrgggggh!

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    1. The banks also love to hold onto the money as long as they can, so it is usual to be told the money isn't there and it really is.

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  3. The only bank I found even moderately logical in terms of opening an account was BHD! The rest, well, I asked about the procedure for opening an account and decided against the idea!

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    1. Maybe I will try them as well! A lot depends on the person you talk to in the bank. I went back to Banco Popular and ended up talking to another Customer Services Person who was very helpful.

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  4. "Around a month" and that will be a Dominican month ie. 3 of them LOL.

    btw don't try to deposit $US two dollar bills - BanReservas won't accept them unless you have a bundle of 100 WTF?

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    1. That's a new one LOL. When Chivirico tries to pay money in, they give us special paper and we have to count out the coins into batches of 20 I think and wrap them in the paper - which we aren't very good at. We then hand them to the cashier, who takes them straight out of the paper and counts them again!

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  5. Maybe it's a Spanish thing, Lindsay. When we lived in Spain many years ago, every wire-transfer from London failed to arrive within a fortnight. Gosh, I'm very sorry for you! Back to the old Travellers' Cheques, eh?

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    1. I wish Gordon. I don't think they even accept them in many places in this country any more.

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  6. This so made me smile! I can imagine you sitting there seething.
    However I think in the UK you can only up a bank account if you have a utility bill. So if you dn't have a bill forget it. I wonder why this is?

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    1. I have had the same issue with people in UK wanting utility bills from here to prove my address. The only one I have is for my phone and my address on it is
      The gringa with blonde hair
      House with big dogs

      No help whatsoever!

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  7. You had me laughing out loud!! How frustrating, to have an account where you can't draw money from, and now they need to verify your passport! But the cedula does not have a photo I presume, isn't the passport a bit safer with a photo?
    So you can even get to choose another profession if they don't find yours, how funny is that?

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    1. The cedula does have a photo, it just lasts for ages - I think 7 years so is still in maiden name, which they couldn't get their head around at all. I think I just need to become a Dominican citizen and get a new cedula in my married name. That will also be an interesting exercise. I wish now I had been something more exciting than a journalist. I will be an airline pilot next time I think.

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  8. GOD! This is horrible. I'm not sure if that happened to me if I would be crying or screaming. I opened an account once there, but in pesos and couldn't get a card for it until a week or two later. Total bullshit. Also, when I first got there, I had Canadian travellers cheques and most places apparently only took American ones. Thankfully, I think it was Ban Reservas or BHD that ended up taking them or else I wouldn't have had money. Totally ridiculous.

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    1. Rules are rules Tonya. Problem is we never know what the rules are!

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  9. that is hilarious (for us reading it) LOL!!! bet it's frustrating for you thought! we sometimes have similar experiences when we travel to Croatia, but not such extreme examples!

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    1. Thanks for reading and will check out your blog.

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  10. ohhh!! this is hilarious! i just discovered your blog a little time ago and loved it! especially chivirico! hope you post more entries on him! he just looks lovely and sweet!

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    1. Glad you enjoy the blog and more to come on Chivirico soon.

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  11. After visiting the Dominican for 8 days, I learned that they don't get excited over anything. Patience is a must!!!!!!

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  12. A story after my own heart! Nr.1 requirement for living in a third-world/developing/poor country (I lost track of what is PR these days) is to have a sense of humor, or you perish.

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    1. Definitely right Miss Footloose. Enjoy reading your blog btw.

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  13. I just read that, and I can tell you I kind of went through the same situation. I am a Dominican citizen but I was raised in NY, and I been here for about 4 months. Back in the US if you wish to open a bank account all you need is some identification and your SSN... and that's it. Well, as I had a cedula, I tried to open a bank account, and the first thing they asked me was what was the "purpose". It seems I coudln't just open a bank account just because I wanted to, either I needed to have a significant amount of money to do it or I needed to have a job letter stating I was going to need it for direct deposit. I don't know what type of BS that is. Oh yeah, and they don't do personal checkbooks, supposedly that is only for "business people" who write "important checks"... that's too "elite" for me I guess... when I had like 5 check books in the US.

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    1. Horrid it happened to you too, but makes me feel better that it isn't just us foreigners it happens to!

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  14. Loved your above story! I am now married to a Dominican guy and although we live in Spain, we have very much a dominican time household! Being English and you tell me we are eating in ´media horita mi amor´ it took me along time to get into the habit of buying yoghurts to snack on during my remaining 3 hour wait! I lived in Puerto Plata un 2004 and love the way they are - I remember when i bought a hotdog in the airport whilst waiting for guests to arrived ( i was a rep) finding mould in my bread put me off a little, when i went back to point this out to the girl expeting her to change it , she simply dipped her long (fake) nails into the bread and ripped out the mould! ha! if this had´ve been in the UK i would have flipped but when she said - ´toma mi amor´ with the sweetest, most genuine smile on her face, it was impossible to be mad and i ended up thanking her :D I miss my Dom rep days! anyway , though I would share that, reminiscing out loud :)

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    1. Love your stories! Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Lots of good information in your posting, I would like to tweet your blog post so I can visit again in the near future.

    Dominican Republic Transfers

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