Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I am a nobody working toward a new identity

It's been exactly a week since I skipped across the ocean and planted myself in London.  It's been an interesting time, this first week.  The park roaming and shoe shopping has subsided and there's been a lot of taking care of business. Sorry to bore you with the details, I think I just need to rant a little.  And it’s good forewarning for anyone who relocates. Hope I don’t scare you away.

For starters, I had to open a bank account, which I did with HSBC thanks to a special agreement Google has in place with the bank. Without this agreement, it would have taken weeks to do what I did in two hours, which still felt like forever to me. I deposited my traveler's checks into this new account which required signing each of the 50 individual checks while standing in front of the teller.  One week later the British pound equivalent of thousands of dollars still hasn’t been deposited into my account. Guess I'll have to "pop by" tomorrow to figure out where all my money went.  Banking is so slow. It doesn't matter that I own a condo back home or am gainfully employed (thank god...have you seen the prices here!?!?),  I'm a nobody to HSBC and all other British financial institutions.  I shouldn't even consider applying for a credit card for at least 3 months, and if declined, wait an additional 6 months.  Realizing that my bank account currently reads $0 and it could be 9 months before being extended any credit, I wired myself money from my US account to my UK account. Total cost of accessing my own money: $35. Sweet. Good old Bank of America has already sent the funds, let’s see how long it takes HSBC to give them back to me.

At the moment, in England, I am a nobody working toward a new identity.  To help rectify this sad situation, today I had to apply for an EIN (Employee Identification Number) and IN (National Insurance Number), the equivalent(s) of a social security number I believe. Makes sense, but this had never crossed my mind before arriving.

Oh, I signed up for healthcare, both public and private, both of which require a form....I think. I can't remember exactly.  There have been so many forms. Apparently I need to appoint a GP (General Practitioner) and can simply call to schedule an appointment.  Appointments will be scheduled depending on the severity of the ailment.  Referrals are required for specialists but can be made by the GP over the phone. I thought no matter what your issue, you just had to show up and wait around all day long. This doesn’t seem so bad.  Honestly, the public healthcare system sounds a lot like an HMO. Also, Bupa is a term I’ve heard several times when the topic of healthcare comes up. No idea what it means.

To add to the stress, I've found myself in a new job with quite a steep learning curve. I'm trying to learn the ropes whilst (like that?) getting to know the people around me and proving that my hiring (and it’s costly relocation) wasn’t a mistake and that I may actually be able to do this job despite the fact that I speak differently, dress differently, don't understand the politics, have a different sense of humor and have never worked outside the UK (not to mention any other nearby country that I now suddenly support). I am secretly praying that, in fact, I can do this job.

But actually, all of the above is manageable. For the most part, it's just paperwork and the common insecurities of starting a new job. What’s really been troubling me is that I cannot find an apartment to save my life. There just seems to be nothing available. I'm working with a relocation agent who is doing a lot of the legwork for me, except that she isn’t coming up with much and I’m starting to freak out so I’ve gotten pretty heavily involved. Shocking, I know. She thinks a big reason there's nothing out there is that all the college students have recently come back and have taken the affordable one and two bedrooms.  We’ve been out twice already and have come up empty handed. I’m also coordinating with a potential flat mate from Chicago and so while I expected there to be a lot of coordinating going on, there are seemingly no flats to even consider. Maybe this temporary housing with its mini fridge and dishwasher the size of a laptop and washer/dryer in one that takes 4 hours to complete a full cycle and oven/microwave/grill combo deal isn’t as bad as I thought. I’m starting to look into extending the temp housing or living on the streets for a little while. It's getting desperate. Something will work out. People keep telling me that so it must be true.

2 comments:

  1. Jeez, luv, what did you do to piss off the bank? HSBC handed me a Mastercard with a 1000 pound limit the day I arrived in London, and it's a good thing they did too - I might have starved to death otherwise!

    Keep yer chin up and you'll be just fine.

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  2. Thanks, Stu. Maybe I need to bully them around. Not impressed with them so far, though the checks did finally clear today - 8 days later.

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