Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

The longer I’m here the more I get used to the strangeness of things. Then something happens to remind me that I’m in a foreign country and I have to go “Huh?” Here are just a few that have come up lately.

  1. Different standards re what counts as private information: listen to any news broadcast and you’ll hear it; when talking about the criminal of the day, the reporter will come right out and give the poor schmuck’s full address. No glossing around with just the name of the town or the general neighbourhood. Nuh uh. House number and everything. I’m not sure if it’s about shaming him in front of the whole country or what. I guess nobody’s afraid of being sued over here.
  2. At the last minute I found out that my Certificate of Registration from the Gardai was about to expire. What does this mean? I have to go stand in another queue, show the same papers I showed a year ago, and pay another €100. Why can’t they issue this thing for the full period I’m allowed to be here on my work permit instead of shaking me down for cash every year?
  3. It took me awhile to figure out, but there’s no such thing as prepaid credit cards in Ireland (I wanted one because I’m tired of having to use my US credit card when shopping online). Why not? Because the government tacks on a €40 tax per year for each card! This means no combo debit and Visa/MC cards either. Aaargh!!
  4. Another financial thing that gets my goat is the weird rules about savings accounts over here. No such thing as an account that you can sock money away in whenever the urge strikes. You have to set up a regular/monthly account debit and even then most of them have strict rules about how often and how much you can withdraw, and with how much notice. I’m not sure if this helps make the Irish better or worse savers than the U.S.
  5. One thing I do like about the financial/banking system here vs. the U.S. is how easily you can electronically transfer money to accounts not your own. All you need to do to send money to somebody (e.g., pay rent) is to have their branch’s Sort Code and the account number and you’re good to go. No charge either!
  6. Another cool thing? VAT included in all prices. This means no frantic calculating and guesstimating in your head about the total price of an item or how much your whole shopping cart is going to be. What you see is what you get.

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