Friday, June 5, 2015

Banking, AKA Handwriting Practice

The other day, I had to go do a bank errand that I'd been postponing for quite some time. Our branch closed within a year or so of my opening an account, so I had to switch to another one, two metro stops (and a tram ride) away. Even without being a huge distance away (40 minutes), it wasn't the kind of thing where I would just happen to be in the neighborhood.

Andrei was feeling well enough to stay with David for a few hours, so I finally dragged myself over there.

The bank (in Russia, at least) makes me nervous. I suppose part of it is language and having to speak over a high counter, though at least it isn't through the glass. And not knowing the proper protocol and so on. But it's ten times easier than visiting Immigration, of course! I kept telling myself along the way and throughout the whole process, that no matter how silly I might look, they have to do their job and help me...within reason, of course! And that is true even at Immigration where the officers can be rather intimidating. They must answer your questions and give you the information you need. But the bank is a business and they are normally quite formal and polite. These were all the thoughts I was mulling over in my head.

To get the form I needed, I had to fill out a request...or rather, create one myself. I'm sure I've probably mentioned before how handwritten requests are still favored in Russia. It is considered more formal, and/or less likely to be forged, I guess. There is a specific format to be followed for different types of requests, much like addressing a letter or envelope in American culture. For this specific type, a "zayavleniye," the recipient (dative case) and person writing (genitive case) + passport info are placed in the upper righthand corner, then the word "zayavleniye" is centered, then after a few spaces comes the body of the letter, and then the date/signature have to be positioned a certain way. I think it would come much more automatically in English, but this was somehow counter-intuitive, and the teller was dictating to me and I was sounding it out to spell correctly, and she was composing as she went along, too. But they were quite nice about it and there was no line, so it wasn't too stressful.

The next day I went back to get the forms I had ordered, and waited while they were processing my documents. I heard them discussing what to do in the case of a U.S. citizen, but I liked that they didn't complain about my being an exceptional case. They simply asked me to have a seat while checking with their superiors. And again there was no line, which was nice...though I wonder what that says about the economy.

They suggested starting over with a new balance in a round number, so I was sent to the cashier to get my ten bucks (plus) in change. It came out partly in dollars and partly in rubles. That made me smile. It was such a jolt to see a crisp, new ten dollar bill. When did I last use dollars? I guess it was almost 10 months ago now?

Long time no see, Mr. Hamilton!

One of the hardest parts, though, was signing my name! Don't laugh, but I've just never really gotten the hang of a personal "signature." I don't understand how you are supposed to have all the letters in there, yet with embellishments too, and so that it fits on the line. I usually start out neatly and then get all muddled up and end with a squiggle. When the teller gave me two copies of a certain print-out to sign, I signed the first one okay in English (to match my passport), but on the second one I got my languages mixed up and started making a "y" instead of a "u." Story of my life these days!


  1. One of my big adventures in Moscow was going to the bank. And, it was really urgent, too! We were out of money. I can't even imagine how it was that I was supposed to get money, but someone I had some idea that my Credit Union in Lansing could wire them money. I did get the money but was terrified, as you can imagine. The hardest part, however, was that I had to have a "Sberbank" and of course, when I wasn't looking for one that's all I could find, but now I needed one there was none to be found. I scandalized Ilya by being a true American and boldly approaching a policeman to ask for directions. From the shock on the policeman's face, I could tell that he wasn't accustomed to direction-giving being part of his role, either. But, he pointed us in the right direction, finally. One thing I remember about that experience was that the bank was empty - and what a relief that was! I could make myself ridiculous in more-or-less obscurity.

    Regarding a signature, I vaguely remember practicing! And, I ended up using just an A and Kitching. In my case the Russian and English are not that different....but there's other words where I get that "y" and "u" mixed up. Fortunately not when it matters.

  2. I don't know if you remember, but I had trouble finding a bank in Moscow, too. Interesting. I recall their residential areas being REALLY residential. Despite the Congolese Embassy being tucked away there, it seemed like there weren't as many stores and banks on every corner like in St. Petersburg. More trees though, perhaps. Incidentally, my debit card was hacked a few months after that transaction.

  3. It was when I was getting a Congolese visa, I'll have to look for the post.

  4. Also, I'm still not quite accustomed to the fact that things look DIFFERENT in Russia. Though, I do recall that Sberbank had a distinctive internationally recognized sign....still the inside of the bank was very low-key...and it was so much smaller than I would have envisioned -


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