I’ve had what some would call a frustrating day today, but I have to smile at what’s gone on and the way the system (and I use that word in the broadest sense), how the system works. Actually I still haven’t clearly worked it out. They call me CRAZY, well I’ve learnt to keep smiling and with some of the experiences I’ve gone through today may help some of you to avoid the pitfalls.
OK so here we go, I arrive in Gozo and am given the keys to my apartment. Joe my landlord has been great and is always looking for ways to improve things and help me with anything I need. I have to say, this isn’t the typical experience that people find, but he’s a bit crazy (like you know who). So I’ve absolutely no complaints on the number 1 thing you have to do when you arrive, GET SOMEWHERE TO LIVE! My village (I’m still not saying where it is) is perfect for what I need, but I think I’ve covered that in my previous posts. But the second thing I felt was important was to make sure I had access to medical care if it was needed. I arrived with my E.H.I.C (European Health Insurance Card) they’re given to you for free provided your country is a member of the EU, so if you take ill while away then you’ll be treated there, and the bill is sent to (in my case) the British N.H.S.
It’s a reciprocal arrangement for all EU countries, so whenever you go on holiday to an E.U country, and if your home country is in the EU always make sure you have your little blue card. Consequently I go to the very excellent hospital in Rabat and walk to the accounting department and hand them the S1 form I was sent from H.M.G in the UK. This is to arrange for me to qualify for Maltese health care. The “little blue card” isn’t any use once you’re a resident here, although I’m sure if you needed treatment they’d use it. So the lady in the office takes the S1 form which the UK government sent to my new address in (Ah you nearly caught me there). They do that to make sure you are a resident, if it was done any other way I guess that would open the “system” to fraud.
Now the next thing I need is to open a bank account “easy peasy in any other country”, but not here, at one stage I complained to the bank and said “perhaps I should find someone else willing to take MY money”. OK I know I don’t have a lot but that’s never stopped anyone wanting what I’ve got anyway (no names mentioned). Without access to your money you can’t buy “stuff” or pay rent, so having access to money is, I would say quite important. However you can’t open a bank account unless you’re a resident. HELLO! So wait for it, to obtain residency you have to show you are living here permanently, and show copies of bank statements. Are you still with me? I’m not sure I am.
Now I’ve been with HSBC since before they came to the UK, and they suggested I became a Premier customer years ago, I didn’t need to do anything but my “personal banker” Jill, arranged an account in the US for me, and I had very little to do to get it. I wasn’t exactly loaded but was getting money from different sources in the UK and the US. I’ve gotta say I’ve been a Premier customer for several years and it’s a great program with lots of benefits and it costs NOTHING (just click the link and see). So Michael at the bank, after a rough start (me going just a bit crazy with him-sorry Michael) gets stuck in and starts really helping to ease the process for me and removes a LOT of the unnecessary red tape. But the final thing he needed was me to prove I had been accepted as a resident. “Go to the Ministry” he says, “and get the paperwork going they will give you a temporary document which we can use to prove you are a resident”
The Citadella Rabat
So I get up very early this morning and drive into Rabat/Victoria (I prefer Rabat as that’s what the Gozitan’s call it and it was us Brits that forced them to change the name to honour Queen Victoria) and that’s just not cricket old chap. Anyway I’m there by 7-15 am they open at 8 am but it was a lovely day so I sat in the courtyard and watched the staff arriving for work. A nice young lady opened up the door smiled and said, we don’t open ‘til 8, Oh I know I’m fine here in the sunshine (yes all you people in the cold and rain, eat your heart out).
So it’s now 8 am, she says you can come in now, she promptly goes and takes a selection of forms staples them together and asks me to bring them back when they’re completed, along with all of the other things I need to prove “economic self-sufficiency” Now I’m no lawyer and I don’t agree with age or sex discrimination, in fact I fought a case in the US against one of the US’s biggest retailers for just this type of discrimination (and this will be the subject of another blog), but this young lady who was smiling throughout the whole process clearly expected me to go away and I was n’t sure what her problem was (surely not me I’m just an innocent Crazy Brit).
Now No.1 I may be wrong here, but I though one of the things about being in the EU was the ability to settle in whatever member state you wanted.
No.2 I’ve looked, but the forms I have don’t appear to be referenced, so they can’t be seen on the internet and is that kosher?.
No.3 despite my inane ability to keep smiling I was starting to lose it, but hey ho, it’s a lovely day so what.
Enjoying the sunshine not aware of the battle to come
I told her I’d like to complete them in the office, she was clearly upset and hovered over me as I started to fill out the forms. Before I could go much further she asked if I had the form given to me by the UK government the S1 form (don’t anyone forget to get that, it’s most important) well no I said, I’ve given that to the hospital and they never gave me a copy. Do you also have the last 6 months of bank statements? She said. Holly crap I’m tottering on the verge now, well it’s like this I say, my bank accounts are in the US and the UK and as yet I don’t have one here. So give me copies of those she says. (This is not going well). “I’ll tell you what” I say smiling ” I’ll go back to the hospital and ask them for a copy of the S1”, we prefer the original she replied, Oh.. OK I’ll ask for the originals, I’m sure they won’t mind giving me those now they’ve seen them. (Famous last words).
At this point I’m taking a break, I have a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes (no not for high blood pressure) but thank god for that little blue card, see you later.
Ciao, well that didn’t take long and how well it went. The service the doctor gave me here was in a different league to what you’d get in the UK or in the US. I have to say I wasn’t surprised as Malta ranks 5th in the World Health Organisation table of Countries. But consider this, I called in at the pharmacy Ta’Pinu and the pharmacist Marica rang the doctor for me and arranged the appointment at the pharmacy with just 2 hours’ notice. Now that is unheard of anywhere in the world and just goes to show how importantly the Maltese regard their health care. And the doctor (I’m not sure I can tell you her name –ethics?) knew what she was talking about, and appeared far more knowledgeable than the average doc. The U.K and U.S by the way are way down the league table in ranking. Anyway, surprisingly my blood pressure was normal and the issue I have (numbness in the hand) is due to me leaning on my arm while I’m writing these blogs (crap I’m doing it now). So I can now issue a health warning not just for reading but for writing these darn things.
Back to those famous last words
“I’ll go back to the hospital and ask them for a copy”, we prefer the original, Oh OK I’ll ask for the originals I’m sure they won’t mind giving me those now they’ve seen them”.
I drive to the hospital, the hospital here is excellent and the staff are very attentive, however when I popped my head into the administration office things went downhill quickly, but its not the ladies fault so I keep smiling. My S1 form had been sent off to Malta and they don’t keep any copies so I’ll have to wait for about a week for it to make its way to me. But what happens if it gets lost in their “system” well I have absolutely no idea! So after trying very hard to persuade the lady to help me out and even my erratic behaviour and sob story didn’t work, I thanked her for her help (do that whatever the case) and I then made my way back to the Ministry. Maybe they would take pity on me. No chance.
Oh!”Dearie me” I said smiling like a Cheshire cat. Thank you for your help I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But if you see me begging on the street corner because I’ve no money remember me, I said to her. Dead silence, no response apart from that “sweet” smile again. Well at least this helps me demonstrate to you how important it is to keep as many documents as possible and bring them with you. Now I thought I was being clever when I set out for Gozo I scanned everything into my external Seagate hard drive and guess what, it stopped working! After long periods of live online chat this was the final message
“Dear John: Thank you for contacting Seagate Support. Based on your replay, you have a defective. Unfortunately, the drive is out of warranty and cannot be replaced. If you are interested in recovering the data via Seagate, please contact our fee based Data Recovery Services by visiting the link below:http://www.seagate.com/services-software/data-recovery-services/consumers/in-lab-data-recovery/ Alternatively, you could remove the drive from the external enclosure and connect it into a compatible third party enclosure. However, note that if you are not very careful, you may damage the platters, thereby making it difficult for even data recovery experts to recover the files. For additional assistance, feel free to contact us at:http://www.seagate.com/gb/en/about/contact-us/technical-support/ Regards, Leslie Seagate Support ref: _00D00hhzl._5003Aeau8r: ref”
I’m dumbfounded! I need to go and lay down in a dark room, close my eyes and just relax, I should really go to the Lotus-Tal-Qalb to chill out, but I’m there tomorrow for another massage, I need to de-stress and Nico is just the person to help, besides now I have a physical issue with my hand so I convince myself I can afford it .
Now you would think at this stage nothing else could happen to frustrate me aha. I didn’t mention that just before I came to Gozo I bought a new cell phone, I sat on it and the screen cracked. I ordered a new screen from eBay, not a lot of money but expensive for carriage, and I have to wait awhile for delivery. But I’ve been ordering a lot online recently, to get things I couldn’t find on Gozo, a landline phone for example. So I mentioned this to someone and they suggested I went to Sound and Vision. Sound and Vision continued the trend for the way Gozo retailers display themselves (very low key). I go inside it looked quite small on the outside, but when you go inside you find the place is massive, it’s like walking into my Tardis, small on the outside, but big and well stocked on the inside. I explain my predicament to Jason the owner and he’s happy to wait for the screen I bought on eBay to be delivered and see if he can fit it for me. Big relief thank you, so what’s frustrating about that. Sound and Vision have a large display of phones and they’re the same as the one I bought on eBay. They’re cheaper and I can have one right now. Crap I’m throwing good money away here, so I buy a cheap non-electrical phone so when I have a power cut (with my luck it will happen) I can still use the phone. Everything you need right here on Gozo, it’s just that you have to search to find it. I think I’ll have to give up blogging and maybe offer my marketing services to the local retailers (there was a time I was OK at that).
So remember, Gozo residency can take some time to process (no longer than other countries though) it’s something of a mine field getting through the process. Don’t lose your temper with anyone, they’re just telling you what they’ve been told (it’s just a pity that they’re all told different things). But this is part of the charm of Gozo, at least you interact with humans instead of talking to a machine. So if you haven’t yet moved here, and are thinking about it, COME, its wonderful, but prepare as much as you can, and bring all the relevant documents. Forget the clothes and all the other crap I brought, and remember when out shopping that the shop on the inside is way different than the look of it on the outside. But isn’t that nice (not seeing all those advertising banners) and what have you, it all looks so “un-commercialized” just like going back in time.
I’m in that Tardis again.
addiju sakemm il-ħin li jmiss (goodbye until the next time)
John Paul Chalkley aka The Crazy Brit