- Having to fill out the applications for debit cards multiple times and having them rejected because they did not like the way we wrote our names in Japanese characters.
- Using a translator for direct meetings and over the phone with bank personnel for the first few months until they decided that this was not acceptable. From now on, they said, all discussions with bank personnel must be in Japanese (no French, English or any other language) and for most things we could no longer use a translator. Since my spouse and I have been here for less than a year our Japanese simply is not good enough to have direct discussions with their staff about financial matters.
And the last struck fear in the heart of my French spouse. What he heard was: If we choose, we can confiscate your money. You, sir, can leave, but we decide if your money can follow you back to your home country or not. That was it and enough to send us off a day later to a more international bank (American) where he opened what he had at MUFG: a simple checking account. The new bank's policy in international transfers? No problem whatsoever for the modest amounts we require.
And so ends our experience with banking locally here in Japan. And on a very sour note. Given the very different policies between the local Japanese bank and the international one, the only conclusion we can come to is that the Japanese bank simply doesn't want to deal with foreigners and they will be delighted to see us go.
All this reminded me that I have some equally perturbing issues on the other side of the world with our French bank. In their case it's not discrimination on the basis of national origin or immigration status, it's pure sexism on the part of our customer representative: a Frenchwoman, a decade or so younger than me. In spite of numerous emails, phone calls, face to face meetings and a complaint to her manager, this woman persists with a "the man must be in charge" mentality.
All correspondence about our accounts is sent exclusively to my spouse. Even when my spouse sends her email and puts me on copy, she refuses to hit "reply to all" so I can have a copy of her reply. Everything she does demonstrates that the only person who counts here (and the only person she informs or takes directions from) is the man of the house. And she simply ignores all requests to change this. Pretty amazing, isn't it? That in 21st century France this kind of 1950's mentality still exists.
That this is a woman treating another woman with open contempt with her employer allowing that behavior to continue just goes to show that feminism is still necessary because even where laws mandate equality, mentalities are still a few steps behind.
As for the Japanese bank, that experience was a disappointment. We had certainly heard quite a lot from other expatriates/migrants that national origin discrimination was alive and well here. But part of encountering a new country and culture is listening to the stories of the more experienced residents, and then setting those tales aside and coming to your own conclusions based on actual experience. We set out on our latest migration journey months ago prepared for them to be proved wrong.
And what a shame it is that they turned out to be right.