Banking Crisis in Berlin: A Special Report

I would like to set up a bank account in Berlin. So this morning I popped into the Sparda Bank on Georgenstrasse, where I’ll be working, and looked around for somebody to talk to. It was an odd kind of bank. There were several ATM machines and people milling about but there was an unusual formality in the air.

A man resembling a pencil caught my eye and glided over. He had a silver pen wedged into the pocket of his shirt and there wasn’t a crease to be seen in his pin-striped suit. He exuded pleasant authority.

“Hello” he said, “how can I help you?”
“Hello! 🙂 I’m new in Berlin and I’d like to open a bank account. Are you the right person to talk to about this?”
“Potentially”, he said, “though I’ll see if one of my colleagues can help you. Please take a seat”.
“Thank you!”

I sat down opposite a round-faced man with tufts of thick blonde hair. He was reading the Spiegel. My heart did a little skip.

Posters of grinning middle-aged men in flashy cars and attractive women getting massages in exotic surroundings were pinned to a display board advertising loans. A coloured graph showing the values of shares going up and down was captioned “Values always rise after a financial crisis”.

After some time, a lady came to me. “If you’re ready, Madam, I’ll take you this way”.
My Goodness, I thought. What service. You don’t get this in the Trinity Branch of Bank of Ireland.
She led me into a little chamber, pulled out a chair for me and said, “Please take a seat”.
I shuffled in and got my feet tangled in my bag.
“Could I get you something to drink?”
Something to drink? I thought. Sweet Mother.. How long does she think I’m staying?
“No thank you”, I replied brightly, compensating for my bewilderment with excessive friendliness.
“Now”, she said, “tell me about yourself”.
“Well” I started, “I’ve just moved here from Ireland and am going to do an internship with Spiegel for three months. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay after that but I would like to have access to money from a German account if it’s possible”.

Her face changed. Suddenly she looked both panicked and apologetic.
“I’ll have to check with my colleague. Please wait”.
“Sure”, I said.

I twiddled my thumbs.

She came back.

“I’ve discussed the matter with my colleague. We feel that this might not be the right bank for you”.
“Oh really?”
“Your plans are a little vague. We require our customers to hold onto an account for a minimum of one year”.
“Ah, I understand”, I replied.
“Furthermore, when you open a bank account with us, it is mandatory to become a shareholder of the company”.

I gulped and tried to smother laughter.

Had I just attended an important business meeting with an investment banker?

Yes, I had.

There was nothing for it but to head to the Brandenburger Tor.

Next stop: Brandenburger Tor

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PS – My day was very eventful so I might blog again later if I’m not being a superhero in the hostel kitchen.