a wandering woman writes

Friday, June 23, 2006

Oh dear

During a conference call with a design firm in Florida yesterday, I was suddenly reminded of how isolated the US, even small US companies, can be. Where Spain is exactly, how one dials all those numbers, what time of day it might be in Spain....all raging mysteries in Florida yesterday.

Made me think of this, which I'd meant to post a while back:

When I faxed a wire request to a broker in the US during my money-moving, form-filing residency process, I was surprised to receive a live call from the brokerage just a few minutes later. The woman on the other end of the line told me she needed to ask me a few questions, this being an international transaction. I agreed and we started in. Once we had settled that the currency I wanted was euros, E-U-R-O, not euro-dollars, and that yes, in fact, it was the official currency of I don't know how many countries, including Spain, she got a little personal.

"I have to tell you I was thrilled to be able to call you myself", she told me.

"I couldn't help but notice that you and I were born in the same year, and you live in Spain and I've always wanted to visit Spain. And then I saw the address of your bank: on Calle Zamora. My last name is Zamora!"

"Well, that sounds like a good Spanish name", I countered.

"Really?" she asked me. "I've always been told our family came from Mexico."

I'd stop there, but I can't because when I heard her heartfelt confusion, I tried to help.

"Well the family might have moved to the US from Mexico, Anna, but the name came from Spain."

"Really? Do you think so? Because I've always heard we're Mexican."

I gave up and thanked her for the wire transfer.

Oh dear. Do we really not teach even Mexican Americans the history of that continent we're sitting on?



  • Oh, well, I remember myself in Helena, Montana, asking the Avis rent-a-car chap about the possibility of catching a train to Chicago.

    He looked up on me, all puzzled, with the healthy look of those Brokeback Mountain film caracters:

    - We don't have trains up here, that is that take people.

    The Mexican woman of your bank just made the same mistake: thinking everything works the same way everyware.

    (Moreless it does, but that is not my point - today).

    By Anonymous Alex, at 12:55 PM  

  • Such a good point. Once in Santa Fe, I went to the bank to purchase an international wire transfer in sterling to go to London. The woman at the bank didn't even know what the currency was and questioned me over and over. As Santa Fe has a rather cosmopolitan group of people living there and lots of world travelers coming through, I was floored by her response. What would have taken three minutes in Europe took an hour-and-a-half!

    By Blogger paris parfait, at 4:47 PM  

  • Unfortunately, the very badly thought out "No Child Left Behind" legislation is making a bad situation even worse.

    Some places in the USA are very sadly backwards... with very little hope of the light reaching into those dark corners. How do you think we got the current government we have today?

    By Anonymous Adrift At Sea, at 6:10 PM  

  • She does realize that the speak...Spanish...in Mexico, right?
    She must think that is the funniest coincidence...

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 11:38 PM  

  • Poor Mexican lady. Do you have any explanation for the euro-dollar thing? I have heard it from many Americans, and had great difficulty persuading them it didn't exist. I wondered whether it came from newsreaders talking about the "euro-dollar exchange rate" (in which case, I wish they would say "dollar-euro"). I started jokingly referring to "your American pound notes" but they just thought I was crazy.. I also once had a strange conversation with an American who was counting out his Belgian francs, when we still had them, and wanted to know what a 100 franc note was called. I explained that a franc was the largest unit of currency, and was divided into 100 centimes, but owing to inflation we only had 50 centime coins as a franc was now such a small amount (40 to the euro). He explained that in America, cents were coins, and 100 made a dollar, and that was a banknote; and 100 francs was a note so it must have a name. I asked him what he would call a 100-dollar note, he said 100 dollars, of course. Well, said I, 100 francs is called 100 francs. He clearly thought I was not taking his question seriously (I should have made up a name!) - probably he is still confused, what with our €1 and €2 coins!

    By Blogger qaminante, at 1:26 AM  

  • LOL, Alex (and what are you doing seeing Montana when I haven't? :)) your Brokeback Man made me think of a legendary New England line, when you stop and ask some old Yankee farmer for directions: "Nope, you can't get there from here."

    Yep paris, but this woman, (and she was lovely, really, apart from her limited exposure to the outside world), works for what has to be the largest online broker in the States. An emormous investment firm. Really surprised me. She may have remembered that Spanish is spoken in Mexico, Laura, but somehow seemed not to ask herself how that lovely coincidence came about, as you say.

    Oh god, Dan, lol, please don't ask me how we got that government; it scares me and makes me worry I have some strange patriotic obligation to go back and do something....Is Congress going to undo Every Child Left Behind, I hope? I read some states are suing over it, even "red" states.

    Oh, dear (again), qaminante. LOL, if simultaneously dying of embarassment for my countrymen. The euro-dollar is some sort of investment doohinkey--it may a ratio you can play like futures, I've lost it, but it is used in financial circles to describe something, I've been told, although not a money in your pocket currency. SO she might have seen it on some list she pulled up somewhere in the brokerage firms system..but I want the kind of euros that make noise in your pocket. Funny, too I find that most Americans who visit me love the 1 and 2 euro coins, as I do. So much easier than 1 bills and a leap to 5.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:40 AM  

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