The last couple of days we’ve been getting a feel for our surroundings and doing what we can to transition from visitors to residents. The former has been fun; the latter requires some patience.
Possessing a bank account, and more importantly a debit card, is vital for transacting business in NL (and I suppose any country). We learned from our previous trips to NL that credit cards are not widely accepted. Most stores and vendors only accept debit cards with PIN numbers. When we were here on holiday in 2014, we were fortunate to have Papa Smid’s debit card to use. When I was here last September, I had to contact my credit card company to wire me money when my cash supply was depleted (poor planning on my part).
I knew from my research that we needed to have a permanent address to open an account, and in most cases, a BSN number (similar to an SSN). Diplomatic residents are not required to apply for a BSN, however. I was told by my colleagues that we just needed our passports and resident address. The problem is that not all banks are set up for accounts without BSN numbers. We discovered after waiting for someone to wait on us at ING, that they are not opening accounts for JFCBS employees. We knew that ABN AMRO accommodated NATO employees, so we headed to Sittard to visit the branch that will be closest to us. The helpful man there said we needed to go to the Heerlen branch, where there was a specialist who worked with JFCBS employees. He arranged an appointment for us the following day. Sure enough, this specialist knew exactly what to do and we were able to use our SSN as our ID number. We now have an account, but we can’t really use it until we receive our debit cards in 3-5 business days. So we wait and thankfully we have enough euros in cash to pay our rental deposit and cover expenses for now.
I was able to visit the housing office on the base Thursday (after proving my right to be there and having our car searched, lol). I thought I was picking up a rental contract, but no — they have to prepare the rental contract and because they are backed up, it will take several days. Our landlady is very understanding and agreed to give us the keys before the contract is finalized. We will meet with her on Saturday and plan to move our stuff in on Monday (the rental car has to be returned on Tues). I can’t wait to unpack all our stuff and settle in.
We looked at bikes on Thursday and found some good used ones. Great! Except they have to go in the shop for reconditioning and they’re also backed up; we might get them on Tuesday. Dang. We can rent some bikes until then and I may have to take the bus to work on Tuesday.
The jet lag has lingered more than I could tolerate this time. I think the rainy days on Monday and Tuesday delayed my circadian rhythm adjustment. I laid awake for hours each night and was slightly comatose during some part of the days. I FINALLY got a decent night of sleep Wednesday night. Whew! I’m feeling much better.
Thursday was a nice sunny day here and we spent most of it in Maastricht. We mostly just browsed around getting a feel for the place and then enjoyed a nice dinner at a restaurant on the square. We’ll have to budget for regular dining allotments at the many restaurants there! This was my third trip to Maastricht and there is so much more to explore. It’s interesting to hear so many different languages on the streets — English, French, Italian, German, Limburgse and more that I can’t identify!
Friday was an unplanned day with no errands per se. We decided to rent bikes and ride to Hoensbroek Castle to do a tour. We experienced the rolling hills of Limburg and the limits of our current physical condition! Ugh. The castle is amazing. The foundation dates back to 1250 and turret dates to the 14th century. The current exhibit within some of the rooms features D’Artagne — the real musketeer under Louis XIV. I love having this access to HISTORY! We ran into a guide who shared a few short stories with us, including a story about the archives. Very cool!