Heaven and hell: about banks in Taiwan and Spain

Headquarters of the Banco de España, the Spanish national central bank in Madrid

To deal with banks in Spain mostly makes me feel like being in a novel by famous Bohemian writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924), as the “service” they provide can only be considered bizarre. You give them your money and they still treat you like an unwanted guest or worse, a beggar.

As a German currently living in Spain, I had to wait for six weeks to get my old Foreigner’s Identification Number (Número de identificación de extranjeros, NIE) confirmed by the police before even thinking about how to handle my finances. But that’s a different story and not the point.

Where should I start? Well, I more or less had to get a recommendation from friends who own a relatively big company to be treated with less contempt than the average customer at the bank where I finally opened an account.

This happened after meeting a few rather unpleasant employees at other financial institutions in my neighborhood, including a young lady playing with her mobile phone while there were ten people waiting in a queue.

Ironically, I ended up where I had one of my worst experiences. Shortly after my provisional return to Valencia in February 2018, I tried to settle a bill in cash at the counter.

I had the amount in my hands, exactly counted, when the nasty guy at the counter told me harshly that on Fridays he wouldn’t deal with it at all: I needed to come back on a Tuesday or Thursday in the morning.

But I was even more amazed to hear that during the next two weeks it would also be impossible to get things done due to two longer festivities in a role, the big local Fallas celebrations and Holy (Easter) Week.

I told him that at the date he mentioned I would be back in Asia, though he couldn’t care less. Outraged, I grabbed my euros and left. At the end, I had to ask my tenant to go back during the “right time”…

In Taiwan you can pay most bills at a 7-11 or any other of the almost 10,000 convenience stores located all over the island and it usually takes less than a minute. I slowly realized how spoiled I was!

Back in town in April, I brought some Taiwanese cookies to those taking care (or at least pretending to do so) of my modest wealth in a vain attempt to gain their favor.

It somehow seemed to work for a while, as it does so well in Taiwan, until all the unsatisfied, grumpy, middle-aged women which are so typical for the service sector here refused to even try my delicious homemade meatballs and my “personal advisor” took home about 25 of them to share with his wife.

He’s a nice guy and always friendly, but how did he show his gratitude? As I nowadays really try to use Internet banking as much as possible, I hardly see him anymore. Nevertheless, when after months I had to talk to him in person in mid-February, he got a calendar for me out of his drawer.

Of course I wasn’t so naive to believe that he would bother to send it to me, especially as I live very close by. No, he even didn’t call me to pick it up. It was pure coincidence that I got the gift. Such a rude behavior would be totally unacceptable in Taiwan, but in Spain anything goes.

I kept the one account that I opened in Taiwan two decades ago. I can call the friends working there and they will try everything to help me, even by video conference. What a difference!

To be able to prove the clean origin of the amount that I transferred from another bank in Formosa to a country with an almighty, much-dreaded tax agency like Spain, I went back there as a former client and they issued the needed document in about 15 minutes free of charge.

Every time that I pass one of the four banks on my street and see another fast-changing advertising campaign trying to lure fools, the same idea comes to my mind: why on earth don’t they invest the sums they spent on fancy-looking posters and catchy phrases on actually providing some kind of “service” that deserves its name?

I never noticed them in Taipei and I certainly won’t miss them when I’m back in the only city that I ever felt truly at home. I’m looking forward to being welcome again when I walk into a bank!


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