Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘bureaucracy’ Category

Rom-Anglican

Posted by Andy Hockley on 29 December, 2005

More inter-linguistic cross-cultural bureaucratic fun.

On Tuesday I went to Udvarhely to pick Erika and Paula up and bring them home. Before they could be released from the hospital though, I had to complete a bunch of paperwork, and take it to the city hall to get a birth certificate. I was ushered into an office where myself and a nurse proceeded to complete these forms. This was interesting as it was a conversation that happened in my limited Hungarian and her limited English in order to complete a form in Romanian.

Many of the lines were easy to fill in – the names etc were all printed on the wedding certificate and our ID cards. For that it was just a question of her copying stuff down correctly. Others involved a little bit of dialogue – her asking me what Erika’s job is and her level of education and so on. This I could cope with though, and was feeling quite chuffed with my comprehension and responses, when suddenly she asked me something about Erika which question I had absolutely no understanding of. She tried repeating it a couple of times but it wasn’t helping, so I asked to see the form – often I can understand Romanian better than Hungarian from speaking other latin languages. Aha, it said “Religia”. This I could have a stab at and we continued. Then she had to do the same thing for me, and once again we hit the “Religia” question. Rather than go into detail about my own particular brand of agnosticism, I took the lazy way out and went for “Anglican”. Fine. She understood what that was…but then, she realised she had no idea how to write Anglican in Romanian. (It’s not terribly surprising, while I’m sure she was pretty fluent in the language, it’s unlikely that she would ever have had to use the word Anglican in any way ever in her life before that moment). Eventually, she made the guess that I would have, and wrote Anglican as phonetically as possible as if it were said by a Romanian (which may actually be “Anglican”)

So, once I got the papers out, I was free to go to the City Hall and get the birth certificate. This proved to be surprisingly easy and there is no funny story to tell about the experience. I have to go back and get it next week though, since they had a bit of a backlog, what with it having been a holiday period and there being a number of births to go into the register.

Eventually though, my girls were free to go, and were released from the delicious cuisine of Udvarhely Hospital. (Most of my trips over involved a shopping list of goods to supplement the culinary offerings). And now they’re home safely and our entire existence has been thrown upside down. In a good way though.

Posted in bureaucracy, paula | 2 Comments »

Wed Tape

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 November, 2005

So, I’ve teased you (the reader) for a while with references to TB and chest X-rays, and I feel it is now time to come clean. It is, as you may have guessed, yet another example of my continuing adventures in Romanian bureaucracy (and British in this case).

Going back to the beginning, much of this started when I checked out the regulations regarding registering our upcoming daughter as a British citizen. It was then that I learned that under British law, a baby which is “illegitimate” is not entitled to be a British citizen, regardless of whether its father is British. Now, obviously my first reaction to this piece of news was to launch into a tirade of abuse at my own country’s government for being so bloody Victorian. I mean “illegitimate”? Come on. That word in the sense of the meaning “born out of wedlock” became obsolete years ago, surely. Do people really still refer to babies born to parents who are not legally wed as illegitimate in the real world? Why not just call them bastards and be done with it?

Anyway, once I got over my twenty first century rage at my nineteenth century government, we started thinking about what we needed to do to enshrine in law the various rights responsibilities and support for our family. One day in the not too distant future these rights and responsibilities will not need to be linked to a marriage certificate, but for now, at least in Romania, and seemingly in quaint old-fashioned Britain, they are. And so, we decided to go ahead and sign the necessary documents that give you the requisite legal status, or, as it’s often referred to, get married.

And so, obviously, we one again set out on an extended stroll through the dark forest that is the Romanian bureaucracy. In fact, initially, all seemed remarkably easy. We went to the city hall and they told us we needed was our birth certificates, proof that neither of us were already married to someone else, and a medical certificate. Three things. That was all. It seemed too good to be true. And, it was.

The birth certificate was relatively easy. It had to be translated into Romanian and the translation notarised, which as ever with notarising cost an inordinate amount of money, but generally speaking it was easy.

Next up was the hard part. Proving that I wasn’t married. Now, as you know, proving something doesn’t exist is much harder than proving something does exist. For Erika it was relatively easy, since she’s lived all her life in Romania, and she could at least produce a divorce certificate. For me, things were slightly more complex. I had visions of having to get sworn statements from everywhere I’ve ever lived saying that I hadn’t got hitched while in their jurisdiction. Getting one from the Federated States of Micronesia would have been particularly tricky, especially since marriage there was more or less merely a transaction involving the exchange of pigs, without any great legal mumbo jumbo. But it turned out all I needed to do was swear in front of the British consul in Bucharest. Sounded like exactly my kind of deal. Sadly, it wasn’t as fun as it sounds. (How cool would it have been to have to have found a way to be captured on film getting in his way and saying “bollocks”?) I travelled, then to Bucharest on the morning minibus (my first, and I hope last, experience of using this particular leg-compressing mode of transportation), showed up at the embassy, and filled in various pieces of paper protesting my singleness (or bachelorhood – once again I was taken aback by the archaic language promoted by the British Government and its representatives overseas. At one point I had to fill in a table with my and Erika’s information, one column of which was marital status. There I am looking for the “unmarried” option, or at a pinch “single”. But no. Here in the world of official documentation we are still using such words as “bachelor” and “spinster”). I then had to wait for the vice consul to show up and read in front of her a document which said that I was not married and over 18 and so on. Then we both signed it and she put this big official stamp on it and I was charged 4.5 million Lei, which seemed a bit steep. The remainder of this process involved them pinning the notice of my intention to marry outside the front gate of the embassy for 21 days in some kind of mediaeval style proclamation so that any of my other wives who happened to pass the building and glance at the noticeboard could then put a stop to my polygamy. Since I haven’t heard from them, I assume this didn’t happen.

At least once I got the train home, and therefore completed a 14 hour day for the sake of half an hour of quality time in an embassy waiting room, I felt it was all taken care of. So now all that was left was the medical certificate. I assumed that this would be a fairly simple procedure. This, however, is where the red tape really began to kick in. A visit to the relevant doctor was all that it took to shatter my illusions. On her door was the list of five items we would need to bring in order for her to sign off on our permission to marry. That’s five more pieces of paper each of us needed to get in order to get through this final hoop. I can’t even remember what half of them were now, but they were all ridiculous. I mean the proof that I wasn’t married already, I could at least see the point of, but why on earth would I need a chest X-Ray? Are people with TB prevented from marrying in Romania? Isn’t that a tad discriminatory? Is there a support group for tuberculosic singles? Can I even say “tuberculosic”?

Well, it was proved through the magic of radiography that I don’t have TB (Erika avoided that one on account of X-Rays being contraindicated during pregnancy – so women with TB can get round the state restrictions by getting pregnant before applying for the clearance), and by blood test that I don’t have syphilis or some other things (not HIV/AIDS apparently – not sure if that’s because the bureaucracy hasn’t yet caught up with the existence of such diseases or because HIV is not seen as a barrier to marriage in the same way that, say, TB is).

To cut a long story short, or slightly less long I suppose since I’ve already gone on a bit, we finally got the medical certificates, combined them with the other documentation and presented them at the City Hall. Once Erika’s clearance had come through (i.e. after no-one had commented on her name being similarly pinned on the wall of the city hall) we were free to go. And so we did. Though there was one final scare, five minutes before the wedding, when the woman filling in the forms suddenly hit a wall regarding the difference between my citizenship and nationality. Now, to me, there is no difference between the two. I have a UK passport and UK nationality. But here, it’s a huge deal. 90% of this town list their citizenship as Romanian but their nationality as Hungarian. So my attitude that they were the same baffled her. Eventually she offered up “English” as nationality, which I accepted in order to placate her.

My next adventure in red tape is likely to be getting the birth certificate sorted out. That sounds like one I’ll have to do fairly solo. I presume anyway – it certainly sounds like the kind of thing that fathers ought to take care of.

Posted in bureaucracy | 1 Comment »

Wed Tape

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 November, 2005

So, I’ve teased you (the reader) for a while with references to TB and chest X-rays, and I feel it is now time to come clean. It is, as you may have guessed, yet another example of my continuing adventures in Romanian bureaucracy (and British in this case).

Going back to the beginning, much of this started when I checked out the regulations regarding registering our upcoming daughter as a British citizen. It was then that I learned that under British law, a baby which is “illegitimate” is not entitled to be a British citizen, regardless of whether its father is British. Now, obviously my first reaction to this piece of news was to launch into a tirade of abuse at my own country’s government for being so bloody Victorian. I mean “illegitimate”? Come on. That word in the sense of the meaning “born out of wedlock” became obsolete years ago, surely. Do people really still refer to babies born to parents who are not legally wed as illegitimate in the real world? Why not just call them bastards and be done with it?

Anyway, once I got over my twenty first century rage at my nineteenth century government, we started thinking about what we needed to do to enshrine in law the various rights responsibilities and support for our family. One day in the not too distant future these rights and responsibilities will not need to be linked to a marriage certificate, but for now, at least in Romania, and seemingly in quaint old-fashioned Britain, they are. And so, we decided to go ahead and sign the necessary documents that give you the requisite legal status, or, as it’s often referred to, get married.

And so, obviously, we one again set out on an extended stroll through the dark forest that is the Romanian bureaucracy. In fact, initially, all seemed remarkably easy. We went to the city hall and they told us we needed was our birth certificates, proof that neither of us were already married to someone else, and a medical certificate. Three things. That was all. It seemed too good to be true. And, it was.

The birth certificate was relatively easy. It had to be translated into Romanian and the translation notarised, which as ever with notarising cost an inordinate amount of money, but generally speaking it was easy.

Next up was the hard part. Proving that I wasn’t married. Now, as you know, proving something doesn’t exist is much harder than proving something does exist. For Erika it was relatively easy, since she’s lived all her life in Romania, and she could at least produce a divorce certificate. For me, things were slightly more complex. I had visions of having to get sworn statements from everywhere I’ve ever lived saying that I hadn’t got hitched while in their jurisdiction. Getting one from the Federated States of Micronesia would have been particularly tricky, especially since marriage there was more or less merely a transaction involving the exchange of pigs, without any great legal mumbo jumbo. But it turned out all I needed to do was swear in front of the British consul in Bucharest. Sounded like exactly my kind of deal. Sadly, it wasn’t as fun as it sounds. (How cool would it have been to have to have found a way to be captured on film getting in his way and saying “bollocks”?) I travelled, then to Bucharest on the morning minibus (my first, and I hope last, experience of using this particular leg-compressing mode of transportation), showed up at the embassy, and filled in various pieces of paper protesting my singleness (or bachelorhood – once again I was taken aback by the archaic language promoted by the British Government and its representatives overseas. At one point I had to fill in a table with my and Erika’s information, one column of which was marital status. There I am looking for the “unmarried” option, or at a pinch “single”. But no. Here in the world of official documentation we are still using such words as “bachelor” and “spinster”). I then had to wait for the vice consul to show up and read in front of her a document which said that I was not married and over 18 and so on. Then we both signed it and she put this big official stamp on it and I was charged 4.5 million Lei, which seemed a bit steep. The remainder of this process involved them pinning the notice of my intention to marry outside the front gate of the embassy for 21 days in some kind of mediaeval style proclamation so that any of my other wives who happened to pass the building and glance at the noticeboard could then put a stop to my polygamy. Since I haven’t heard from them, I assume this didn’t happen.

At least once I got the train home, and therefore completed a 14 hour day for the sake of half an hour of quality time in an embassy waiting room, I felt it was all taken care of. So now all that was left was the medical certificate. I assumed that this would be a fairly simple procedure. This, however, is where the red tape really began to kick in. A visit to the relevant doctor was all that it took to shatter my illusions. On her door was the list of five items we would need to bring in order for her to sign off on our permission to marry. That’s five more pieces of paper each of us needed to get in order to get through this final hoop. I can’t even remember what half of them were now, but they were all ridiculous. I mean the proof that I wasn’t married already, I could at least see the point of, but why on earth would I need a chest X-Ray? Are people with TB prevented from marrying in Romania? Isn’t that a tad discriminatory? Is there a support group for tuberculosic singles? Can I even say “tuberculosic”?

Well, it was proved through the magic of radiography that I don’t have TB (Erika avoided that one on account of X-Rays being contraindicated during pregnancy – so women with TB can get round the state restrictions by getting pregnant before applying for the clearance), and by blood test that I don’t have syphilis or some other things (not HIV/AIDS apparently – not sure if that’s because the bureaucracy hasn’t yet caught up with the existence of such diseases or because HIV is not seen as a barrier to marriage in the same way that, say, TB is).

To cut a long story short, or slightly less long I suppose since I’ve already gone on a bit, we finally got the medical certificates, combined them with the other documentation and presented them at the City Hall. Once Erika’s clearance had come through (i.e. after no-one had commented on her name being similarly pinned on the wall of the city hall) we were free to go. And so we did. Though there was one final scare, five minutes before the wedding, when the woman filling in the forms suddenly hit a wall regarding the difference between my citizenship and nationality. Now, to me, there is no difference between the two. I have a UK passport and UK nationality. But here, it’s a huge deal. 90% of this town list their citizenship as Romanian but their nationality as Hungarian. So my attitude that they were the same baffled her. Eventually she offered up “English” as nationality, which I accepted in order to placate her.

My next adventure in red tape is likely to be getting the birth certificate sorted out. That sounds like one I’ll have to do fairly solo. I presume anyway – it certainly sounds like the kind of thing that fathers ought to take care of.

Posted in bureaucracy | 1 Comment »

Romanian in schools

Posted by Andy Hockley on 18 October, 2005

Last weekend at a party, my host’s son, a 10 year old who has just come back to Romania after living in Budapest for a few years, performed his recently learned party piece. That is, he recited a long and complex Octavian Goga poem in the original Romanian. Romanians present (both Hungarian Romanians and Romanian Romanians) were very impressed by his ability.

Not very interesting, you might be thinking, until you realise that the reciter doesn’t actually speak Romanian (or at least speaks very little). His first language is Hungarian, he spent the early part of his school years in Hungary itself, and he is now back here and in the Romanian school system. So, basically he is reciting this poem without understanding it, more or less at all. In fact, so difficult was the poem that many of the adults didn’t know some of the words.

But this, it seems, is how Romanian is taught in school. Kids can go to school in their native language, so, for example, most children here go to Hungarian medium schools. But the curriculum is a national one and therefore Romanian (as a subject) is taught as if it were a first language for all. And so, you end up with impressive but flawed scenes such as the one described above. Now, I have my doubts whether kids whose first language is Romanian are getting much benefit from being able to recite by heart Octavian Goga poems, but for non-native speakers of the language it seems the pointlessness is magnified tenfold. There is no provision within the curriculum or within the testing structure for people learning Romanian as a second language. They are Romanians ipso facto they speak Romanian, seems to be the thinking. And so, every year, a large number of kids whose first language isn’t Romanian fail and are made to resit their exams or stay back a year – merely because there is no official provision for their situation. It doesn’t seem that difficult to create a curriculum for Romanian as a Second Language students. It would also make them much more willing to learn the language if it were properly taught. It’s no wonder that when they are older and can speak Romanian well, they’d rather not because their school experience of it was so grim.

Posted in bureaucracy, language | 8 Comments »

Romanian in schools

Posted by Andy Hockley on 18 October, 2005

Last weekend at a party, my host’s son, a 10 year old who has just come back to Romania after living in Budapest for a few years, performed his recently learned party piece. That is, he recited a long and complex Octavian Goga poem in the original Romanian. Romanians present (both Hungarian Romanians and Romanian Romanians) were very impressed by his ability.

Not very interesting, you might be thinking, until you realise that the reciter doesn’t actually speak Romanian (or at least speaks very little). His first language is Hungarian, he spent the early part of his school years in Hungary itself, and he is now back here and in the Romanian school system. So, basically he is reciting this poem without understanding it, more or less at all. In fact, so difficult was the poem that many of the adults didn’t know some of the words.

But this, it seems, is how Romanian is taught in school. Kids can go to school in their native language, so, for example, most children here go to Hungarian medium schools. But the curriculum is a national one and therefore Romanian (as a subject) is taught as if it were a first language for all. And so, you end up with impressive but flawed scenes such as the one described above. Now, I have my doubts whether kids whose first language is Romanian are getting much benefit from being able to recite by heart Octavian Goga poems, but for non-native speakers of the language it seems the pointlessness is magnified tenfold. There is no provision within the curriculum or within the testing structure for people learning Romanian as a second language. They are Romanians ipso facto they speak Romanian, seems to be the thinking. And so, every year, a large number of kids whose first language isn’t Romanian fail and are made to resit their exams or stay back a year – merely because there is no official provision for their situation. It doesn’t seem that difficult to create a curriculum for Romanian as a Second Language students. It would also make them much more willing to learn the language if it were properly taught. It’s no wonder that when they are older and can speak Romanian well, they’d rather not because their school experience of it was so grim.

Posted in bureaucracy, language | 8 Comments »

New chain, new dog?

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 October, 2005

You may remember some time ago the bureaucratic struggles I had attaining my highly prized “Legitimaţie de Şedere” (try clicking December 2004 in that little list to the right and scrolling down). You may then imagine my lack of elation on being told that the crappy little book thing I had been issued with was being phased out and replaced with a jazzy new card.

Initially we were told that this change would happen sometime early in the year, but it kept getting put back, until finally in August the police rang and said we’d have to get it by the end of the month. Come the end of August and we call and see if it’s really necessary to do it then since it’s a holiday month and hard to organise oneselves and also we were thinking of moving and would we need a new card if we did etc etc. The police replied that in fact nobody on their list (of foreigners resident in Miercurea Ciuc) had actually bothered to do it yet, so maybe we could do it in September.

So, come the end of September, we remembered this, and had by now decided we wouldn’t be moving this year, so called to find out what we needed to do. Just show up with the old one, my passport, a receipt for a further 4 million Lei (about €120, the bloody chancers), and they would do the rest. They even allowed me to come at 8am even though the official office hours didn’t start to 9, since I was teaching that week and couldn’t possibly come at the official time. In addition to this new spirit of helpfulness, they have moved the office for dealing with foreigners round the other side of the police station and done radical things like put a coffee machine in the waiting area. The first time we saw this shockingly civilised arrangement Erika taught me the Hungarian expression which translates as “New chain, same dog”, but it seems maybe that not only has the chain been changed but also that a newer friendlier dog has been purchased too.

So, I showed up on the appointed day at 8am, and handed over my receipt, my little green book, my passport. In return they handed me two pieces of paper to fill out – some kind of application form with personal details, and another form which I had to sign to say that it was OK for them to send my personal information to Germany. So, this was possibly the reason for at least part of this insanely high 4 million Lei fee. Despite requiring this new card and despite requiring it for every foreigner in the country, the government hadn’t actually got around to buying a machine to make them. So everyone’s details are sent to Germany, where they make the cards and send them back. You’d think they could invest in their own machine. I have no idea how many foreigners there are residing in Romania but I’m going to hazard a guess at upwards of 200,000, which number, I’d say, would justify the expense involved in getting a machine. Somewhere in Germany there’s a businessman rubbing his hands in glee as he looks at this guaranteed source of income.

Anyway, I signed the form, and they took me next door to have my picture taken. And that was that. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. On my way home I called Erika to inform her of this fact and her first words were “What went wrong? What else do they need?” being completely incapable of imagining that the process could actually have been over in less than an hour and in only one visit. So, in a few short weeks (in theory) I should have my new fancy laminated card residence permit, which presumably is so ultra modern that it can’t even be produced east of the Rhine – I have no idea what features it could possibly have that make it so hi-tech, but there you are (they didn’t take my fingerprints or a swab of DNA from under my foreskin or anything like that, so it’s not one of these biometric things that the US is pushing for in everyone’s passports). Perhaps some foreigner in another part of Romania who already has one can let me know what exactly it is I have to look forward to.

Posted in bureaucracy | Leave a Comment »

New chain, new dog?

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 October, 2005

You may remember some time ago the bureaucratic struggles I had attaining my highly prized “Legitimaţie de Şedere” (try clicking December 2004 in that little list to the right and scrolling down). You may then imagine my lack of elation on being told that the crappy little book thing I had been issued with was being phased out and replaced with a jazzy new card.

Initially we were told that this change would happen sometime early in the year, but it kept getting put back, until finally in August the police rang and said we’d have to get it by the end of the month. Come the end of August and we call and see if it’s really necessary to do it then since it’s a holiday month and hard to organise oneselves and also we were thinking of moving and would we need a new card if we did etc etc. The police replied that in fact nobody on their list (of foreigners resident in Miercurea Ciuc) had actually bothered to do it yet, so maybe we could do it in September.

So, come the end of September, we remembered this, and had by now decided we wouldn’t be moving this year, so called to find out what we needed to do. Just show up with the old one, my passport, a receipt for a further 4 million Lei (about €120, the bloody chancers), and they would do the rest. They even allowed me to come at 8am even though the official office hours didn’t start to 9, since I was teaching that week and couldn’t possibly come at the official time. In addition to this new spirit of helpfulness, they have moved the office for dealing with foreigners round the other side of the police station and done radical things like put a coffee machine in the waiting area. The first time we saw this shockingly civilised arrangement Erika taught me the Hungarian expression which translates as “New chain, same dog”, but it seems maybe that not only has the chain been changed but also that a newer friendlier dog has been purchased too.

So, I showed up on the appointed day at 8am, and handed over my receipt, my little green book, my passport. In return they handed me two pieces of paper to fill out – some kind of application form with personal details, and another form which I had to sign to say that it was OK for them to send my personal information to Germany. So, this was possibly the reason for at least part of this insanely high 4 million Lei fee. Despite requiring this new card and despite requiring it for every foreigner in the country, the government hadn’t actually got around to buying a machine to make them. So everyone’s details are sent to Germany, where they make the cards and send them back. You’d think they could invest in their own machine. I have no idea how many foreigners there are residing in Romania but I’m going to hazard a guess at upwards of 200,000, which number, I’d say, would justify the expense involved in getting a machine. Somewhere in Germany there’s a businessman rubbing his hands in glee as he looks at this guaranteed source of income.

Anyway, I signed the form, and they took me next door to have my picture taken. And that was that. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. On my way home I called Erika to inform her of this fact and her first words were “What went wrong? What else do they need?” being completely incapable of imagining that the process could actually have been over in less than an hour and in only one visit. So, in a few short weeks (in theory) I should have my new fancy laminated card residence permit, which presumably is so ultra modern that it can’t even be produced east of the Rhine – I have no idea what features it could possibly have that make it so hi-tech, but there you are (they didn’t take my fingerprints or a swab of DNA from under my foreskin or anything like that, so it’s not one of these biometric things that the US is pushing for in everyone’s passports). Perhaps some foreigner in another part of Romania who already has one can let me know what exactly it is I have to look forward to.

Posted in bureaucracy | Leave a Comment »

A Wunch of Bankers

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

The bank we have been using (until now) has just started charging us to use their services. I hate banks, they act like you need to be beholden to them and that they are doing you this massive favour. Any other business treated its customers that way banks treat theirs and they’d quickly go out of business. If shops made you beg for the privilege of buying something or decided that they were going to charge people a fee for squeezing the tomatoes, no-one would go. There’s a reason why bankers rhymes with wankers.

Anyway, to get back to the point, they (and I think I can reveal the fact that it is BCR, pronounced Bay Chay Ray, and short for Banca Comerciala Romana) have created a raft of fees for various transactions. The most fascinating of these is the commission charted for withdrawing money. Everytime you withdraw money from them, the bank now pockets 0.05% of whatever it is you’re taking out. This really isn’t a vast amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. But there is a weird catch. They ask you if you want notes only or would be prepared to take some of the money in coins. If you take some of it in coins it remains at 0.05%. If you insist on only notes, and I swear I am not making this up, they charge 0.08%. It sounds like the kind of policy instituted one night by a couple of high ranking accountants who were high and started trying to outdo themselves. “Hey man, what do you think? We ask customers to pay extra unless they agree to walk away with 1 kilo of coins?” “Oh, like, that is so cool, dude. Let’s put it in the new policies”

We’ve moved to a new bank as of today.

Posted in bureaucracy, romania | 2 Comments »

A Wunch of Bankers

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 August, 2005

The bank we have been using (until now) has just started charging us to use their services. I hate banks, they act like you need to be beholden to them and that they are doing you this massive favour. Any other business treated its customers that way banks treat theirs and they’d quickly go out of business. If shops made you beg for the privilege of buying something or decided that they were going to charge people a fee for squeezing the tomatoes, no-one would go. There’s a reason why bankers rhymes with wankers.

Anyway, to get back to the point, they (and I think I can reveal the fact that it is BCR, pronounced Bay Chay Ray, and short for Banca Comerciala Romana) have created a raft of fees for various transactions. The most fascinating of these is the commission charted for withdrawing money. Everytime you withdraw money from them, the bank now pockets 0.05% of whatever it is you’re taking out. This really isn’t a vast amount of money, but it’s the principle of the thing. But there is a weird catch. They ask you if you want notes only or would be prepared to take some of the money in coins. If you take some of it in coins it remains at 0.05%. If you insist on only notes, and I swear I am not making this up, they charge 0.08%. It sounds like the kind of policy instituted one night by a couple of high ranking accountants who were high and started trying to outdo themselves. “Hey man, what do you think? We ask customers to pay extra unless they agree to walk away with 1 kilo of coins?” “Oh, like, that is so cool, dude. Let’s put it in the new policies”

We’ve moved to a new bank as of today.

Posted in bureaucracy, romania | 2 Comments »

New Lei

Posted by Andy Hockley on 30 June, 2005

Tomorrow, July 1st, ushers in a new era for Romania. The Leu (which apparently is the singular name of the currency here, not a word I normally have occasion to use as there are roughly 35,000 of them to one Euro. The much more commonly needed word -the plural- is Lei) is being thrown out in favour of a brave new currency – New Lei. These will be the same as old Lei but divided by 10,000. So, while a beer now costs something like 30,000 Lei in the future (tomorrow) it will cost 3.

It’s probably a good idea, but I can’t help feeling they chose the date poorly. On paper “July 1st” has a nice ring to it, it’s exactly half way through the year, it sounds like a good day to change currency. But it’s a Friday, and there are many things to be done in the introduction of this new money, and thus everything is shut. The banks have been closed since yesterday. The post office is closed (irritatingly as I apparently have a package to collect). If they had changed over on the 3rd (Sunday) one wonders if it may have been a little less disruptive.

[A bit later: The shops are closed too. I’ve just been out to buy myself a snack. Not today. Bloody new lei. I already hate it]

Posted in bureaucracy, romania | Leave a Comment »