'Back in Maastricht since the weekend and busy gong through weeks of unread mail and unaddressed to-do lists. I‘m navigating the town on crutches which adds to the time to accomplish almost anything. I think that if I can’t get twice the upper body strength, I‘m just going to have to accept that things will take twice as long.
The good consequence of having to slow down and restrict my scope is that I’m finding the time for reading, practicing Dutch, and organizing the business that was hard to find before. I’m learning how to find the bus-stop and get on the right bus for Vrijthof Square. I might go to a movie at the Minerva Bioscoop around the corner.
Also good, my first walk-in appointment with my local Dutch physician today. There were about eight people in the waiting room at 9 am, and they moved through quickly: I think I was done by 10. Everything is still looking good, and I had a nice conversation with the other folks waiting.
The only issue was in trying to get a handicapped parking card for the windshield. Europeans don’t give temporary cards: only the permanently disabled are eligible, effective for a minimum period of six months or a maximum period of five years.
I also read the latest Economist’s comparison of US and European health care while I waited. The commentary is interesting: the contrast quality, coverage, and cost and the conclusions are close to my own experiences. Quality is excellent, with a slight tendency towards less diagnostic tests and preventative care here. Coverage doesn’t seem to be an issue, and, even without local insurance, the cost of my office visit today was 24 euro, approximately the cost of my US co-pay. The political sentiment in the US seems to be drifting towards adopting elements of the Swiss / Dutch systems, although the article notes that the Netherlands has seen rapid consolidation of insurers and hospitals that is driving up costs faster than the decentralized Swiss model.
The negative aspects of the day were, as always, the banks.
ING, which had promised to have business accounts set up in ten business days, is stalled at twenty. Normally, they say, it takes two days, but the forced merger with Postbank is messing up the computers. In my case, the branch made an error in the paperwork that has forced the whole application to have to be resubmitted. The fact that it is their error is not causing any remorse: they advise me to sit home and wait to hear from the central office next week.
A looming problem is my need to open a US account for my Dutch business. Stateside clients would prefer to deal with dollars and local banks, and I’m trying to set up a business to business conduit, but it’s proving to be tricky. I‘ll post the solution when I find it.
I’m still amazed that international bankers and traders were able to somehow play fast and loose with currencies, contracts, and derivatives across national boundaries. In the wake of 9/11, a lot of direct transatlantic access was severed and transactions were forced into narrow, monitored transfer pipes. They are very difficult and expensive for me to operate: how did the hedge funds do it?