I’ve had to be out of the Netherlands for weeks at a time this fall while we pitch for funds to angel groups across the UK. The round is finally closing successfully for a half-million dollars (very little of it aimed for my pocket, sorry), so it’s been a productive (and instructive) exercise.
As a result, mail is always piled high on my kitchen table when I return, collected by my neighbor whilst she periodically waters my olive tree. (The picture is, of course, my expat Christmas tree, standing in for my olive bush. The top is weighed over by a metal tree-topper from Aachen, sadly far beyond what the sapling can tolerate.)
Because the front entryway is under construction (there’s a Tapas restaurant going in on the ground floor), the sign advising merchants not to leave junk mail is missing. Trash-mail piles up as a result, all of which must be sorted and shaken to recover the real mail mixed in with it.
The distilled (real) mail always contains amazing volume from the Belastingdienst (the tax authorities). These come in various colors: grey for routine messages, the occasional pink, purple, or green. I used to scan the purple ones to send to my accountant, thinking the were important directives. In reality, they were simply the lesser receipts.
VGZ and Centraal Beheer have sent me my end of year insurance policy updates. Health insurance costs have gone up 10% for 2011, a full 10 euro per month for me. My neighbors are all grumbling about it; as an American, I’m gleeful.
ANWB sent a renewal notice for my roadside auto assistance. I enrolled with them three years ago, and have been trying to cancel the service ever since. Last year, I ignored the renewal notices, thinking they’d go away. They turned me over to a collection agency. This year, I was prepared to cancel the policy at the first hint of a bill. However, it turns out that they sent the annual bill after the policy renewed, so I’m again on the hook. They would, however, let me pre-cancel for 2010. Maddening: this is worse than trying to quit Amazon Prime.
Bank reform rolled through the Netherlands in November. My Fortis account changed to ABN Amro. As a result, my ‘calculator’, the personal keypad used to access online account information, was physically changed. As a security measure, they sent the new password separately, then flipped the web site while I was out of the country. No access to personal banking for any reason until I returned to collect the mail: my landlords were not amused.
ING Bank merged with Postbank to become ING: they also changed access methods, from a ‘calculator’ to a password. Unfortunately, they also mailed the change information, then flipped the web site, locking me out of my business accounts as well. The first day back in Maastricht was a scramble to regain access to on-line bill payment.
Along the way, I checked the electronic funds transfer codes (SWIFT and BIC) for the new banks. Fortis has changed completely; ING is the same but codes changed fro Postbank customers. If you do international transfers, it’s important to get updated codes from your bank or wired funds will start going astray this month.