It’s been a frustrating day to say the least.
I had planned to do some course prep today, but that went out of the window completely. Before I did anything else, I told myself, I’d better check that everything was in order for my NIE appointment tomorrow. The NIE is your Número de Identificación de Extranjero, your ID number as a foreigner in Spain. You need it to do anything from opening a bank account to getting a job, buying a car or a house or starting a business, so it’s pretty important.
Well, it’s a good job I did decide to check that everything was in order because when I looked, I remembered that I needed to pay the fee of 9€ 64 before I went for my appointment. Best do that today, I thought. But then I realised that I’d printed the forms back to back which meant that the ‘ejemplar para la Administración’ (the office copy) and the ‘ejemplar para el interesado’ (my copy) were on the same sheet of paper. Uh-oh.
‘Never mind,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just pop along to the library and print them out again.’ And so off I trotted. Only when I got there, the man behind the counter looked most surprised at my request to print some documents. Clearly libraries in Spain are different from libraries in the UK. And why not?
‘OK,’ I said, undaunted. ‘Could you tell me where I might be able to print them, please?’
‘In a locutorio,’ he said. ‘If you look on the avenues around here you should find one.’
And indeed I did. I found several, but they were all closed.
‘OK,’ I said to myself. ‘Well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to get myself a cheap printer in any case.’
And so off I trotted to Carrefour, where I bought myself a printer. Job done. I got it home, installed it and printed out the forms. All good.
By now, it was 2.10pm, and when I looked online to check Santander’s opening hours, they shut at 2.30pm. I’d thought I would go to Santander rather than any other bank for a couple of reasons: 1) I know where there’s one near me and 2) it’s my bank in the UK.
‘No problem,’ I told myself. ‘Plenty of time if I go now.’ I flung a few bits in my bag and set off.
Only when I got there, I couldn’t figure out how to get in. (I now realise it was probably just a case of pressing the button and waiting to be let in.) But there was a Caixa Bank opposite so I thought I’d go there. Only it was shut. No problem! I knew where there was a Bankia, and a quick search on Google told me it was open until 6pm. Maybe they’d help me.
‘No,’ the man behind the counter told me, looking serious. ‘You can only pay that here if you have an account with us. Otherwise you’ll have to use the cash machine.’
Oh, ok. That didn’t sound so bad. So off I went to the cash machine.
Ten frustrating minutes later, I asked a random stranger for help because I couldn’t work out what on earth I was supposed to put in the NIF field. (I realised it should have been my NIE if I had one, but I don’t yet. That was the whole point!)
‘It’s ok,’ she said, ‘you just put your passport number in there.’
That’s when I realised that in my haste to get to Santander before it shut, I’d left my passport at the flat. So, off I trotted to collect it.
Suffice to say that the machine didn’t like my passport number either. At this point I gave up on Bankia and wandered round looking for another bank that was open, without success. At 4pm I arrived back at the flat and shoved some bread and cheese in my face before heading out into town. Surely there had to be a bank there that could help me!
Suffice it to say that no, there wasn’t. ING let me in and allowed me to wait for 15 tantalising minutes before deciding that no, I couldn’t pay it there either as I didn’t have an account. At least they told me to come back tomorrow before 10am to pay it. Oh, and to go to a different bank, as they don’t have a cashier.
At this point, I basically gave up and came back to the flat. I just hope I can indeed find a bank that will help me in the morning, as it’s my last chance before my appointment. I can’t afford to spend the whole day on it again.
I would say that at least I’ve got my first run-in with Spanish bureaucracy under my belt, but actually it’s not my first. I’ve been having vivid flashbacks of chasing the priest in Ribadeo around the place trying to get him to sign our credenciales for the Camino de Santiago after the issuing office that was supposedly in the bookshop there turned out to be non-existent. We got that sorted in the end. Let’s just hope I can get this sorted in time, too.
Welcome to Spain.