There is something pleasant about being a state bank customer

In her article on Nov. 11 in AlterNet, an online newspaper, Ellen Brown has an article, “Want to have a happy Planet?  Just ask Costa Ricans about their banks,” In it she extensively quotes Scott Bidstrup, an expat who has lived in Costa Rica for some years.

According to Bidstrup, the national banks, like Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional, et al, are part of the reason Costa Ricans are a happy people.  Bidstrup explains that instead of seeking to enrich their shareholders or top employees, national banks use their profits to benefit the country and its people.  During the years Costa Rica was in charge of its own financial destiny, this worked very well.  Schools and hospitals were built. People worked and could borrow money (not cheaply, but then the profits were going back to them), and Costa Rica was the most successful of the Central American countries, maybe of all Latin America.

The world changed and financial hard times came to Costa Rica and the all powerful World Monetary Fund stepped in with its help along with some Draconian measures it demanded.  And here we are today struggling along with the rest of the global communities.

This is a superficial précis of what Scott Bidstrup was saying, but I agree, the national banks are nice to have.  I remember when I first moved to Costa Rica and opened a bank account. I chose Banco Anglo, a bank across the street from the National Theatre, because it was convenient to where I lived and in the heart of the city.

It was a piece of cake to establish an account, and I really liked “my” bank and the people therein.  That is until a couple of the managers were found to be using the profits for their own ends, and abruptly the bank closed.  Well, not quite the next day.  Long lines of people who had money in the bank waited in fear to clear out their accounts.  I had been told (as had they) that my deposits were safe because, just as in the United States, it was insured and backed up by the government.  So I relaxed and let things develop.

Within a week I was informed that my account had been transferred to the Banco de Costa Rica with all of the same privileges I had had at the Banco Anglo.

Over the years a number of independent, private and foreign owned banks have emerged here.  A number have closed without much fanfare.  I am told that some investors have lost money in the process, and depending upon the bank and the raconteur, it is either harder and more complicated or easier to transfer money from their home country to here using private banks.  Meanwhile, I am very happy with the Banco de Costa Rica, partly because there are so many branches and the people at the branch in my neighborhood recognize me.  However, I still cannot deposit a perfectly good check, which I do every month, into my account if the jefe is not there to okay it for the cashier.

When this happens, I try not to lose my composure and temper.  That, I suppose is another reason why Costa Ricans are such happy people.  They manage one way or another not to have a hissy fit to express their sense of injustice or indignation every time they feel like they are not getting proper service when they expect it. Thus, the air is not shattered with bad vibes.

In fact, I have learned over the years that it is much more effective to ask for help rather than to demand service. Being a woman, I have found that a few tears don’t hurt.

Years ago I learned somewhere that men tend to shout or hit something when they are angry, whereas when they are angry, women cry.  I think it must be a survival mechanism.  We will not discuss passive aggressive behavior, which is probably more of a female and Tico trait.  But as I have said before, I can handle passive aggressive better than aggressive aggressive.  I must be going native.

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