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April 14, 2006

More form filling - opening a Greek bank account

Bank Choosing a bank in Greece with no real idea of the differences between them was a bit like a lucky dip. In the end we picked the Piraeus bank for a few reasons - there is a branch and ATM just where our bus leaves from and arrives in town, they offered free cash cards (which not all Greek banks do), they have internet banking available in English, and they have a large modern branch. And it was yellow. Not terribly good reasons, but then again we nearly picked the bank called Geniki just because it sounds like one of our friend's names said with a comedy Australian accent.

When we went into the branch we didn't quite know where to go, so went for the old British stand-by - we joined a queue to see the cashiers, and waited our turn to basically say "We are in the wrong queue, where should we go?".

We were directed to some desks at the back where we went through the lengthy process of getting the account set up. All the guides we had read about Greece said that as a nation they were quite keen on form-filling and stamping things. Well, it was a bit like trying to open a bank account with the Vogons. We didn't only have to sign the form once, we each had to individually sign every page of two separate copies of an eight page terms & conditions document. I get little comfort from scribbling multiple times on some legally binding agreement in a language I cannot read or understand.

Once that was done the only evidence we had that the account was open was a handwritten piece of paper with a number on it. We went to the cashier's desk and paid in our initial €100. Claire asked if we got cash cards. "You have to ask the lady at the back" he said.

So we went back to our lady, and then went through a second lengthy process of applying for cash cards. We were given our PIN numbers, and have to collect the cards themselves at the branch next week. In fairness to the woman, she did most of the form filling in for us which saved an awful lot of time. She then asked if we wanted internet banking, which was an extra €5. I don't know how much we'll use it, but we said yes anyway. Cue another round of form filling, this time which had to be stamped by a different seemingly random guy in the bank. And then we were done, still with very little paperwork to actually show we had done anything.

I can't particularly say I am looking forward to the conversation with my bank in the UK saying "Hello, I'd like to transfer nearly all of our life's savings to, erm, this scrap of paper in Greece please, thanks".

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I really know what you mean.I m Greek but I have lived in the UK for about 10 years, only to return back to my own country where no bank would open an account with me as I do not have a bill under my name as yet. I was told I could only get my ID and Passport and that I would be able to open a simple current account so that I can get paid by my new employer. I was trying to figure out where to query about opening a bank account - as most employees where busy on the phone or drinking frappe- when my eye caught a lady sitting in her desk. I kindly told her that I would like to open a bank account and provided her with my ID and Passport. She told me that I would be unable to do so as I do not have a proof of address. I told her I just moved to Greece a month ago and I am in the process of arranging everything and that I could provide her my contract of employment as proof of address(at least for the time being). She was extremely unfriendly and she refused, then pretended she was busy so that I would leave. I wasted 1 hour out of my work time for doing absolutely nothing! Its been only a month Im back in Greece and I m already thinking of leaving. I do love the sun and all and I am greek after all, but the chaos in everything is driving me already crazy :(

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