Getting a Schengen Visa is not a walk in the park. It involves serious strategic planning for those not coming from US, UK, Canada, NZ/Aus, especially if you don’t have a residence permit in Indonesia (but working) — meaning you can’t have a bank account.
Now Schengen requirements state that I have to have proof of financial capability to show that you can support yourself while in the EU (for Spain you would need €64, 53/day times the total duration of the stay times the total of the applicants. The total is €580, 77 per person for the duration of less than 9 days [data from Spanish embassy]; for Portugal it’s €40.00 per day plus €75.00 per entry into the country [data from Portuguese embassy]). Bank statements must show the name and address of owner(s). Electronic printouts are accepted; proof of regular income, e.g. pay slips of the last three months;. ! That means payslips (check), bank transaction slips (no banking activity here, so nope), OR bank certificates (nope). I’m screwed, but not royally. I have an active bank account in the Philippines so hey, I’ll wire my money there! Ha, but I can’t have a bank certificate because the bank needs my “personal appearance” in order to do it and also logistically, I can’t withdraw my money because my debit card is expired.
What do I do? Go bank to where the banks are: Philippines. I’ll do that next week, hoooray! Progress for my Schengen Visa!
I had 40 million Rupiahs this morning. I don’t want to [physically] carry it to me to the because: a) it’s too risky (what if my bag got lost, what if someone picked my pocket, what if what if what if!), b) it’s too bulky c) I don’t know if Philippine Foreign Exchange Counters would have a favorable exchange rate for the Rupiah; I know we had a hard time exchanging the currency in Thailand. And I’m sure black markets who have a really good rate for these kinds of transactions, won’t have the Rupiah exchange readily available.
I was also thinking of just bringing cash to Sokarno Hatta International Airport and have the Currency Exchange Counter there exchange my bills, but I doubt if they will welcome my Rp 40M transaction. Maybe they will, I don’t know, but I don’t want to risk it because I only have 4 days in the Philippines and I don’t want to waste any time on doubts, second thoughts. and Rupiah-Dollar-Peso hunting in case the airport guy tells me I can only exchange Rp 10M for the day. I want to arrive with all my papers ready to sign and cards waiting to be picked up (heads up to UnionBank for excellent customer service, I have been transacting business with my banker globally via iMessage, I highly recommend it).
So what I thought was to wire money to my account. I went to the bank here, BCA, which was conveniently located in front of my grocery shopping mecca. I messaged my banker in the Philippines. She said she was in a meeting and will get back to me later. So I messaged my mother (second time today, the first time was I told her I was resting because I was having a weird, flu-like attack and she told me to go out and finish this bank business “it would do you well not to think you’re ill”, she said) telling her that I need to know the details of her bank account so that she can be my dummy in this whole affair.
Now I’d like to think I know banking, money and how the commerce works. I have been signing checks, checking SWIFT codes, wiring money and negotiating (impossible rates lol) with banks and tellers for my parents ever since they decided I can do so, and that was when I was 16. So ten years experience with tough Philippine banking under my belt gives me confidence to saunter and make my chaching speeches in banks (given they speak English).
So mother. Dummy. Clearing time for international wiring for the Philippines takes 2-4 days because it’s a “slow country” (Thailand isn’t a slow country so it’s instant, that’s why I love it there) by international banking classification. I timed it, today is actually an opportune time for me to transact the wire, as it can be received on Friday and they can wire it to my name via Western Union on Monday morning when I arrive Manila. I can then withdraw the money from Western Union from China Bank (next door to UnionBank in The Fort), and deposit it to my account; have my banker furnish me my bank certificate, boom. Part one of banking journey done!
My mother denied my request. She told me not to use her account because “it’s from Bank of the Philippine Islands”, meaning it would take 1 week for the bank to clear it because they don’t have any international partners except Wells Fargo, so it would use at least 3 banks to process the wire, meaning it will cost time and money. What a crappy diplomatic system this bank has. So I told my mother “screw it, I’ll Western Union this to myself!” and she replied, “Isn’t that money laundering?!”
Fucking hell, who launders Rp 40M?! Really??
But of course, respect for my mama wins, and she makes sense, I don’t wanna get jailed for money laundering too, over Rp 40M, just play it safe, I told myself.
She suggested to wire it to her, I’m like okay cool, but I have to pay Rp 750,000 so I have to readjust my budget. Wait. So while recomputing my budget (I tend to be very organized with the ins and outs of my money and be pretty strict about it), she messaged, “can’t you just bring in cash? I’m sure the customs won’t look at you, you don’t have $10,000 anyway” and $10, 000 is the maximum hand carry-able cash you can have to enter (I think) ANY country. And I told her my worries about the Rupiah – Peso conversion hunt which I don’t really have time to be concerned about.
Then chaching moment! I thought of a solution that was GLARING. SIMPLE. SMART. EFFICIENT.
It reminded me of A’s story about how the Native Americans didn’t see the ships of Europeans getting near the shore because they are not expecting to see it there.
Me: “Ma, I’ll just buy US dollars.”
Ma: “Yeah, you better, it’s easier hahahahaha”
Me: “Puta! It’s that simple, I feel so stupid”
Ma: “Money matters and banking do that”
In the end, that’s what I did. And I earned! Instead of RP 12,930 that xe.com reported as the rate, I got Rp 13, 230 for $1 rate. Not that it greatly matters but I know that a cent counts in these kinds of transactions. They ended up rounding my Rupiahs to $3,000 and returning an excess of Rp 630, 000. I will encash that in the airport currency exchange kiosk when I get there. So I signed a ton of paperwork speaking sadikit of Bahasa Inggris, waited for at least thirty minutes and then boom. Got what I wanted. Happy days! Man I never felt so accomplished haha! It’s the little things.
Next step, Philippines.