After seven weeks in Sweden, Madina Balgabek from Kazakhstan finally received a Swedish bank account. Her experience with Swedish banks has been frustrating and her image of Sweden has changed completely.
On August 11th, Madina Balgabek from Almaty in Kazakhstan, arrived for an exchange term in Lund. Already the day after her arrival, she decided to open a bank account.
“I had heard from other people that it would be a little bit problematic to get an account, so I wanted to organize it before the start of the term. And I needed it to receive my scholarship money.”
It turned out to be easier said than done.
“I found out that, without a personal number, you have the same rights as a cat,” she says.
Madina Balgabek started by visiting four banks in Malmö. She received a ‘no’ at Handelsbanken and Nordea offered her only an account without a card. At Danske Bank, she was told that she needed to provide a cardholder statement from her Kazakh bank.
“It would have taken me months to get the paper from Kazakhstan and it would have cost me a lot of money,” Madina Balgabek says.
It was at SEB where she heard the reassuring words “no problem, we can fix it”.
“I asked whether I also needed to provide my residence permit, but I was told that this wasn’t needed,” she recounts.
About a week later she can eventually sign all the papers needed. But 20 days later, she got an email saying that she couldn’t get a bank account at SEB.
“They said that my application was turned down as I hadn’t provided my residence permit. Which was exactly what I asked earlier,” says Madina Balgabek.
She continued her quest for an account in Lund. Again, she received different information from SEB .
“First they told me that I couldn’t get an account at all as I stay here shorter than six months, but when I told them that I needed it for my scholarship money, they changed their mind.”
But when they heard that Madina is from Kazakhstan, she is told that she’d have to wait another four weeks.
Finally Madina Balgabek found the solution at Danske Bank in Lund, but not before fixing some more documents.
“They wanted me to provide an official document stating that I was registered in Kazakhstan. But the government only writes documents in Russian and Kazakh, so with the help of my mother I fixed a translation.”
On September 19th, Madina Balgabek received her account at Danske Bank, ten days later her card arrived and on October 1st, she got her code. Until that moment, she had arranged with Erasmus Mundus to pay her scholarship in checks. As a result, she often had a lot of cash with her, which she considered impractical. Most of all, however, she is disappointed in Sweden.
“I came here with the idea that Sweden is a developed, high-service country, but in many countries banks are much more willing to provide internationals with an account. ”
Madina Balgabek is, however, thankful for the help that she got from the University. When her coordinator heard about the problems, she went along to the banks.
“At SEB they were more helpful when she was standing next to me. That is what makes me upset, that you need to bring a Swedish person along. I have found out that Sweden is not Utopia.”