Currency is something you don’t think about until you’re in a different country and need it to survive. And in Spain, along with the other 19 countries in the European Union, the currency is the Euro (€).1 As of today, it is $1.09 for €1, making it the perfect time to be in Europe! To contrast, in March 2014, it was $1.39 for a Euro.2
I brought over a sum of USD when I moved here. I was hoping to exchange my USD for Euros at a decent rate, but all the foreign exchange shops were wanting to charge rates around $1.30 per Euro. No way – I would wait until I opened a bank account, because banks offer far better rates. And this week, I opened an account at a bank called Sabadell! It’s great – no account fees or charges for my account. Opening my account, though, really hit me that there are two types of communication: leisure, and functional.
Leisure communication is the way we talk with friends and family. How are you? What’s new in your life? It’s the enjoyable kind of talking. There’s no task or end goal. The great thing is, you don’t have to be perfect with this kind of talking. Saying the wrong words in this context is okay, because perfection isn’t the point at all. In Spain, if I am talking to someone leisurely, and I don’t understand them, I can just laugh, say “no lo entiendo” and then they laugh and go to the next topic. It’s relaxing. But opposite of leisurely communication is functional communication.
You’re trying to accomplish something with functional communication. Such as buying a new phone plan, paying your rent, or like today, opening a bank account. Here, the accuracy of words matters far more than with leisurely talk. Two weeks ago, I gave my information to an English-speaking employee at Sabadell, and they mailed me a debit card. The lady called me to come by and sign my contract to make my account official. I went there today, but she was not working. I was bummed. The options were: Take a 35-minute Metro trip to this bank to sign the contract another day, or just try to communicate with the Spanish-speaking employee to get this sorted out. I gave the latter a shot.
With Google Translate, I typed, “I have not signed my contract yet, but I have a debit card. Can I start using it?” It translated into Spanish, and I showed it to her. The easy way out? Maybe, but it’s just what you need to do sometimes. Instead of just a yes or no, she actually searched for my contract and gave me all the papers to sign. She activated my debit card and gave me my pin number. Progress! The last step was to deposit my USD. I had to ask something like “Puedo deposito dolares de Estados Unidos” (Can I deposit money from the U.S.?) Awful Spanish, but that’s okay. She said yes, or “vale,” which everyone in Spain says. She deposited it and gave me my proof of deposit.
And just like that, I did it! I opened my bank account, signed my contract, and made my first deposit! Like I’ve said before, it’s the small wins that matter. They boost you. They push you to continue getting out of your comfort area and delve into a new culture.