It’s been a hectic weekend of checking off the to-do list. My expat friends R & P — who’ve been here a couple of years now — cautioned that as a new expat, I’ll have to adjust my time frame expectations for running errands on the weekends. And they were right! Even C (my driver) was amazed at how long things took.
It took over an hour and a half at the bank to open an account — with my FRRO registration (!), passport, work visa, photos, etc — and exchange currency. I suspect perhaps the bank teller with whom I was working had never opened an account for an expat before, because my passport and visas really confused him. It was his undue concentration on the Kenya and Cambodia visas that give him away — I had to explain to him that those visas were irrelevant and I redirected his focus back to my current India visa. Unfortunately, they couldn’t put my Dollars into my new account. I’m not entirely sure of the reason but it seems due to the fact that a new account isn’t really official for 3 business days and they didn’t want to exchange the amount I sought to deposit until after the 3 day waiting period. (I think, it was a challenge to get a straight answer.) I was perplexed by the notion that there was a bank out there who DIDN’T want to take my money.
It took about an hour to get SIM card/to open a cell account in my own name. Again, with my FRRO registration, passport, work visa, photos, LOCAL REFERENCE (thanks, C!), etc. Moreover as a foreigner, I’m not allowed to get a prepaid SIM, I have to sign up for the monthly plan. I can’t decide if this is for “security” reasons or revenue ones… Perhaps the later dressed up as the former? (Oh, and by way of explanation, you get the phone and the SIM card/cell service plan at different places. I already have a phone in which I am currently using a prepaid card C let me borrow.) However, it takes up to 3 days to activate the SIM, so I’ll be dependent on the borrowed SIM a little longer.
The other fun thing that no one cautioned me about: the address verification. For both the bank account and the cell account/SIM, the companies send people to the homes of new customers to verify that they really live at the address they say they do. I gather this applies to everyone, locals, expats etc. I cannot explain why, but it was just creepy to have the bank teller in my apartment 5 hours after opening the account. Ditto the cell service people, who showed up the next day. I know there is a different expectation of privacy here, but I couldn’t help but think someone with ulterior motives could be casing the joint… Plus, they call you before they show up, so if someone isn’t legitimately at the address they claim, the advance phone call gives that duplicitous person time to get to the sham address for a successful verification visit. Thus, it seems to me a big personal security risk for little-to-no value add from an institutional security prospective. But, I want a bank account and I want a cell phone, so I played the game.
Also, I picked out curtains. The process is that one picks their fabric; then the curtain “tailor” comes to the apartment/house to measure; and finally he sews them. Whole process should take about 4 days, +/-. The apartment will feel “done” once those are up.
My air crates reportedly arrived at the airport Friday, but they have to clear customs. Fingers crossed, I might get the last of my goods by mid-week.