Banal realities of bill paying
Posted by bettinabennett2014
I’m on break this week, but there’s still not much we can do. We do have a friend coming over for dinner tomorrow, and on Thursday we are going on a two-day road trip, which includes a cabin with a fireplace. So, we will do something, but this is my 5th vacation in a row where I did not set foot in an airport. This has not been my reality since I moved overseas seven years ago. One of the biggest perks of living abroad is all the travel we get to do, but, well, you know Covid messed that up.
With no flights, no bars, no restaurants to explore, I’m left doing the same as everyone else: cooking, cleaning, watching TV, paying bills. Today, I finally checked my mailbox and discovered I was two months late on my electric bill. I got the email on it too, but, um, didn’t pay attention. You see I paid a bill in January, so surely it was a mistake.
Paying bills here just isn’t as simple as you’d think. Sure, if I could ever figure out how to set up my online accounts with cable and electricity it might be easier, but I have to use google translate because I can’t seem to find the English versions. My normal routine is I just do a wire transfer from my local bank account (which requires I use a card reader to get codes and whatnot) and I wire money to my utility companies. Easy peasy (well sort of).
In America, when I pay a bill it will automatically subtract my oldest debt up to my newest. Not the case here. I did pay something in January, but that was apparently my December bill. For whatever reason, I skipped November and January. Soo, now I don’t get threatened with a “we’re going to cut you off” letter. Instead, it’s a “we’re going to put a prepaid meter on your ass” letter, which is actually kind of cool that they don’t cut off your electricity, but I soo don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to work that thing too. Long story is I got it taken care of. I managed to find my way to an English-speaking rep who told me how to prevent the meter from making its way into my home.
But, something that would take less than 5 minutes to sort through at home, took me much longer than I care to admit, and it included having to use a card reader, Google translate and several letters in Dutch and French to sort through — oh and an email to company with my proof of pay pdf. BUT, bill is paid and meter won’t be installed.
In the UAE we didn’t have mail, everything happened via text. Seriously we did not have any mail boxes. There were regional post offices, but I only used mine once — to mail a ballot. Because there are more expats than locals living there, finding an English rep was never a problem. LOL, but trust me there were other issues to be had. Inshallah is in itself a lovely phrase, but when you’re on the wrong end of local timing and the lord’s will, it sometimes feels like an illegal middle finger.
So paying bills or taking care of your adopted-country responsibilities is not a perk of expat life. Each country has its own way of doing things, and what may be logical to us is most definitely not the same in other areas of the world. Bureaucracy is a bitch no matter where you are, but being the idiot who can’t speak the language adds a whole other level. So, please remember that when you’re dealing with a foreigner who is taking too much time with a rep trying to figure out what in the hell to do, they’re clueless for a reason. They are, however, trying to fulfill their responsibilities.
And that’s my exciting vacation tale for you. You see if I was off traveling and whatnot, I’d still have this issue (and, well, I’d have gotten a stupid meter installed because I would have missed the letter), BUT it wouldn’t annoy me as much because I’d be distracted by the next beach, hotel, excursion I had planned.
Come on Covid — you’ve gotta retreat and cut us some slack. For the first time in my life, I find myself missing the way I did the bullshit stuff back home. When I do move back, the utility reps will be so excited to have me on the phone because I will tell them how much I love them.
Hope you’re all safe and healthy. Here’s to whenever we can do real vacationy things again!