Here we are the foreigners (stranieri), the Americans (Americani), and immigrants (immigranti). It is not too strange since it is tourist season (although few of the tourists are American) but VERY strange that we are new residents (nuovo residenti). There are few English speakers here.
On our first Monday in town Larry was anxious to start taking care of business and felt the most important thing was to get a bank account. Even though we had decided before we arrived not to do anything without a referral, we were too anxious to get going to wait to contact the one person we knew in town. Larry had decided to try BNL (Banca Nationale Lavaro) because they were large and should be able to handle accounts for non-residents easily. Plus Larry read they were smart enough to see the financial crisis coming and bailed out of their risky investments early. And they just happened to be a block away.
So we dress to impress (bella figura), bring our large folder of paperwork declaring we are worthy and off we go. A few banks in San Diego have those security entrance/exits where you must enter a through one door and wait for the second door to open before you can enter or leave the bank. Here all banks have a similar security system except they are a cylinder large enough for only one person. Somehow Larry just glides through them but I am usually left trapped inside with a woman’s voice telling me in Italian that she hates me and won’t let me into the bank. I discovered later that I was taking it way too personal and she really just hated my new purse (jealous, I’m sure). Her jealousy must know no bounds because there is a bank of lockers next to the door where you can lock up your offensive items and take the key into the bank. Of course now everything you need to do business in the bank is outside in the locker. Nice system.
Once inside we get in line at the teller window, knowing that he/she will not be able to help us with a new account but hopeful will direct us to the right person. Unlike the banks in the U.S., here all other bank personnel are in offices with opaque glass walls, so you cannot make eye contact with anyone but the tellers. Finally we reach the window and are told that the department we want is down the hall. We go there and take our place in two of the chairs and wait for someone to come out and help us. Over the next 30 minutes we watch several clients leave and several arrive and go into the various offices. We assume they had appointments and, of course, we didn’t. However, several times the bank personnel come and go and never look at us. We are entertained during this time observing the “fashion” of the bank personnel (see fashion post) which was totally contrary to our expectation. So being the keen observers we are, after the sixth person gets help ahead of us, we figure out that it will be a cold day in hell when someone comes out and says “may I help you.” Apparently you wait for the previous client to exit and just jump into someone’s office and tell them what you want.
Once we relayed that we were becoming new residents and wanted to open an account, we quickly went from totally invisible to sitting in the Bank Director’s office on the top floor along with the two people that we talked to in the bank downstairs. Now they were all smiles and friendly and asking if we had children, grandchildren, etc. Over the next 30 minutes it took what little English they could come up with between them and Larry’s little Italian to get things off the ground. What was so funny is they were absolutely fascinated with us and kept asking us why?
Q: Why move from California to Italy? A: Because we love Italy.
Q: Why Ascoli Piceno? A: Because it is beautiful and you don’t have a McDonald’s. (They did not know what McDonald’s was – our point exactly.) A: 2nd try – Because you have no tour buses.
Q: Why our bank? A: Because you are a large global bank with an excellent reputation.
We left feeling pretty good about our progress and were told they would check with headquarters in Rome and we should return tomorrow (domani) afternoon with yet additional paperwork. You see our time had run out as the bank is open from 9 AM to 1 PM and 2:30 to 4:00 PM only five days per week. Larry and I agreed that today is probably the last time we will be invisible in that bank.
Encouraged, we then head for the telecom office to get our phones and internet working. The phones seem to be no problem but we must return, domani, to get our internet box. Progress all the way around and a seemingly productive day to be celebrated with a leisurely lunch and a bottle of vino.
I love hearing about the banks over there…I’m going to suggest a 9-1, 2:30-4 schedule…I’m sure it will help with staffing…
Great to hear from you – we miss you and all the gang. Yeah, go ahead and try the new hours idea. It is so weird here, everyone just works with it. August is vacation month so the other day we went to the bank in the afternoon and they are closing at 1:00 and not reopening until the next morning!
OMG, how funny (from this end). I’ve been thru that routine just trying to cash a check (travelers or personal). Especially in San Miguel de Allende, Mex, and European cities. The one-person door which buzzes so loud you jump 10 feet.. Then sitting in the chair waiting patiently to be called in and never are…. Can’t wait til the next installment!!!!!
Ciao & amouri,
So glad you can relate with your own experiences and it makes you laugh.
Your posts are delightful. They are humorous, informative, and relate the feeling of the place beautifully. You might consider writing for the NY Times? I look forward to each post. They make me feel like I’m there.
So glad you are enjoying them and many thanks for the very generous compliment. Who knew once my little brain was free of other burdens that I could actually write something my friends and family would want to read? Don’t feel like you’re here, come here!