A 21st century girl in a 19th century world

This week I had some frustrating adventures when I had to:

  • Visit the bank in person to deposit money
  • Stand in a 10-deep queue at the post office to mail 2 letters
  • Log the need for my radiators to stop leaking on a piece of paper in a 3-ring binder two blocks from where I live
  • Obtain a pin-pad for my computer to be able to make online payments

Instead of:

  • Depositing a check at the ATM
  • Using a vending machine to buy stamps
  • Filling in a web-form or sending a text to request maintenance
  • Using PayPal to authorize web-transactions of all magnitudes

For anyone considering a move to the UK from the US let me just say, yes you may have more vacation time, but you’ll need it after spending so much time doing things that would have taken no time at all in the US. Although I admit my local drugstore and grocery store have both added self-checkout, merely 4 years after they became standard in the states.


18 responses to “A 21st century girl in a 19th century world

  1. argh! That sounds like a nightmare…. I swear I’ve had similar days here though, where I’ve been totally convinced that the US is backward compared to the UK. But the USPS is a marvel – I love those stamp machines… And I’ve also become a paypal user… Sadly, though, I still have to write checks/cheques to pay my rent – which I used to do by ‘direct debit’ in the UK. I’ve written more checks in 3 years here than in 15 in the UK…

  2. You are not alone! Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) in Spain is like this as well. It’s worse actually. Things must be done by hand/in person/face to face. There is a real people culture here which is nice but at the same time it means that everything takes a lot of time and carries 50.000 required steps to achieve. Going to the check-up, for example, may at times require making and appointment to make and appointment!

  3. I cant fill in a maintainance request on-line, but on the other hand I’m sure it wouldnt take me my 2 weeks extra holiday to walk two blocks to fill it in personally. The other things (Paypal, stamp vending machines and ATM cheque deposit facilities) are freely available in my part of London. Perhaps NFRH’s chip on the shoulder is getting so big she just cant see them!

  4. LB, that is one where I agree, I never have to write checks (regardless of how it’s spelled) here for regular bills but when I tried to do a direct payment for the people who did my taxes Barclay’s wouldn’t let me. Their “security” for online banking is hilarious, like something out of a movie: secret numbers, secret words, it takes ages to log in. And as noted, they want to send me one of those pin pads like you use with your card to make payments in stores.

    Rimfire, I never said I lived in London.

  5. > Rimfire, I never said I lived in London.

    I can’t see that he suggested that you did.

    If I am correct about where you actually do live, I’d be mightily surprised if your city, ancient though it is, does not have all the modern amenities that London does. Have you tried exploring a bit? šŸ˜‰

  6. The most interesting thing about your post( to me) was that over the years I’ve seen many British and European expats move to North Africa, and compared them with the American expats. It seems the British and Europeans have a MUCH easier time adjusting to living in the Third World than Americans do, as the American standard of living in terms of COMFORT and EASE of doing things is SO much higher…

    Expat 21

  7. You can buy stamps in supermarkets and newsagents. The day they decided to let places other than post offices sell stamps, I swear you could hear “hallelujah” ringing through the British Isles. No-one likes standing in line for hours to buy stamps. (Before that day, incidentally, there WERE stamp machines.)

  8. Thinking about Iota’s point, I wondered if you knew that for many banks including Barclays and Lloyds you can use the post office as a branch to pay money into your account etc. I know for Lloyds that I can use an ATM attached to the Bank to make deposits, but I am not sure about Barclays.

    Expat21 makes an interesting point about the ability of expats of different origins to adapt. I think there might be something in that but I don’t think it has anything to do with standard of living, Kids in European countries are just so used to visiting other countries from such an early age that they soon learn that different countries organise themselves in different ways. My daughter, who went to school in the UK, went on her first school trip abroad when she was 9. Add to this all the holidays abroad and the fact they seem to learn much more about other countries than kids in the US do, I just think they develop the ability to adapt more readily. I think the smallest countries like Belgium and Holland are the most flexible. That’s my pet theory anyway…….

    ps surely a true 21st Century girl isn’t still going to the grocery store šŸ˜‰

  9. I do think expat21 has hit on something interesting and I am cogitating on this for a further post. But in the meantime, Peter Bond, yes I do go to the store in person–thing one, it’s across the street from me and I have a dorm-sized fridge, so the weekly delivery idea is out, but thing two, I am a passionate cook and cannot get into the idea of someone else picking my produce!

  10. pps They still sell Sudafed here – you need to go to a pharmacy and ask at the desk. I think will will only sell a couple of days supply though.

  11. Peter, I did, and it was not “real” Sudafed–not pseudoephedrine–which they said I could not get. It was some other decongestant packaged as Sudafed but for some reason the only thing that has ever worked for me is the real stuff!

  12. Sorry to clutter your blog but I know how horrible sinus troubles can be. It is specifically Sudafed Decongestant that contains pseudoephedrine as the active ingredient. http://emc.medicines.org.uk/medicine/20609/SPC/Non-Drowsy+Sudafed+Decongestant+Tablets/

    Hope it clears

  13. Peter, no worries, I’m glad to see it’s available here but now am perplexed why the pharmacist wouldn’t give it to me. In the states you sometimes have to sign a book so they know you’re not hoarding it for meth production, do you know where I can find the relevant legislation here? I so miss the days when you could buy the stuff on the shelf at Target…

  14. With Nationwide[1], not only can I pay cheques in by post (in a prepaid envelope), but unlike everyone else, they don’t charge me for transactions in Europe – and only charge 1% (instead of the 2.75%) in the rest of the world.

    [1] Nationwide is a building society, not a bank – so run for the benefit of its members. Far too left wing for American’s I’m sure.

  15. Chris, I think you’ll find Americans have embraced this concept, we just call them “credit unions” instead of “building societies”

  16. I couldn’t agree more with this post. What I find so amazing is that people here do all of these things (taking more time) AND they do them before 5:30pm when all the stores close for the day! I wonder how on earth do dual working couples get anything done during the week unless one of them is able to constantly leave early to do errands before 5:30pm? I had a similar conversation with a Brit the other day, saying that with my husband’s work hours, he rarely gets home before 8pm and so he could never do errands during the week. The response was “that’s very American of him to work that much.” I guess there is some truth to that!

  17. > What I find so amazing is that people here do all of these things (taking more time) AND they do them before 5:30pm when all the stores close for the day!

    It’s called “efficient Time Management”! (But in fact not *all* stores close at 5.30 pm.)

  18. http://www.mhra.gov.uk are the people that regulate these things. I have no idea why you couldn’t get it.

    Sorry to be so late in replying – hope it has cleared now.

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