How To Pay Bills Abroad



1. Receive mystery bill in Spain for huge amount.

2. Translate bill from Catalan into Spanish, then English, so it is now a Chinese whisper of the original.

3. Note that translator app is imperfect as it gives me a choice of address; ‘Attic’, ‘Basement’, ‘Canyon’, ‘Netherlands’.

4. Try to pay online. Fail because I do not live in a canyon in the Netherlands.

5. Take bill to ancient, empty, mysteriously vast post office with greek columns and echoing marble floors. It feels municipal. These people are bound to be able to help.

6. Take a number. My number is 17. They are currently on 15. No problem.

7. Wait for two hours. They still haven’t called 16. An old lady seems to be having a fit, but it just turns out to be standard Spanish conversation in a post office.

8. Post office gentleman is very nice and only speaks Catalan. He explains in a verbose manner peppered with hand gestures that I am in the wrong building and need to go to a bank.

9. Go to bank. It is now shut for lunch.

10. Return later to find bank open, but am told it’s not the right branch. Have I tried the internet bankings?

11. Go to right branch. It is now shut for Easter.

12. Take bill to bank when it reopens the following week.

13. Bill is now one day out of date and needs to be reissued. This can be done at the Town Hall.

14. Perhaps it can be done at the Town Hall. I don’t know because Town Hall is shut.

13. Am told to get bill reissued via Tourist Information office, and then take to bank. ‘Don’t you have the internet bankings?’ asks nice lady. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but I don’t live in a canyon in the Netherlands.’ She gives me funny look.

14. Wait while huge tourist complains about having wallet stolen to harassed information girl.

15. Girl reads all pages of bill in great detail, then shakes head and suggests I take it to Post Office.

16. Decide to go home and let the Spanish debt-collectors come and find me. Think of buying a gun in case there’s a stand-off.

6 comments on “How To Pay Bills Abroad”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    17. Notice Terry Gilliam is darting into doorways and you are now in the found footage follow up to Brazil?

  2. Ness says:

    17a. Watch out for letter changing diptera.

  3. Ness says:

    18. Write the next bestselling self help book, describing the obstacles you had to overcome and your life changing ‘journey’. Market to people stuck in similar queues in Italy, France, Belgium. Get sponsorship from the Flemish Tourist Bureau. Become so fabulously wealthy that you are too rich to have to pay bills, as people just give you things for being you.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    18. (alt) Take bills, a loud hailer, and a gun to rooftop. Fire off two shots to get attention. Use loud hailer to inform world that these firms are harassing you with insanity. Promise not to kill anyone if they will each send a representative to your address (not a canyon in the Netherlands), queue politely and present their request for payment in received Spanish.

  5. Juan says:

    And worst thing is, it wasn’t as bad as it sometimes get…

    In Spain, bureaucracy was invented to keep people occupied (alas, except the ones that are paid to do it), so citizens would stop doing things such as complaining (once I wanted to put a claim against the owners of the apartment I was renting some years ago because they did illegal things and, after many months going back and forth, I was forced to leave that; meanwhile, those ones still make thousands of profit per month and skip taxes and inspections, probably thanks to having some friend in the system).

    So, on the outside it’s like one of 12 tasks of Asterix, while on the inside you feel like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Just heard a radio program about renter and landlord problems. Apparently it is a snap for anyone to avoid rent, bother the neighbours, and damage the owners’ property once you are in. The trick is to find a place to rent. By the time the landlord has filled in paperwork, arranged for a hearing, and called the police a couple of times the building could be a total ruin. I’ll bet renters have just as many horror stories about trying to get repairs done.

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