Staying put.

In the words of the Prophet, “It is finished.”

Everything they've done since August has led up to this.

Everything they’ve done since August has led up to this.

(PLEASE NOTE: I’m using the picture to make my point, not for any religious purposes.)

After giving this some thought recently, and after reviewing the requirements for a work visa application, I’ve decided to stop looking for employment opportunities in the United Kingdom.

The visa application website requires potential applicants to qualify for a certain amount of points before moving forward. I hadn’t looked at it since 2010, so I didn’t remember what the requirements were. I took the preliminary test to see if I could go ahead with the application, and I met each requirement… except the sponsorship part. Therefore, I couldn’t go ahead with the application.

I don’t think it’s too difficult to get sponsorship in my profession from employers over there. What is difficult, however, is finding a reputable recruiter/recruiting agency to find a decent employer willing to offer sponsorship. Unfortunately, my experiences over the past few months led me to believe that most recruiters/recruiting agencies over there are shady. They’ve shat on me from the start, making shoddy promises and displaying a major lack of professionalism. Here are 2 examples of their “professionalism”:

Hi (Spinster),

I am looking to see if i can find a worksponser for you in London, will keep you posted ASAP

Regards

Recruiter Name

(P.S. I copied/pasted the e-mail exactly how the recruiter sent it to me.)

(P.P.S. The e-mail subject was “.” Yes… a period – that thing with which we end sentences.

)

Another one never spelled my government name correctly and used smiley faces in e-mail correspondence. (And no, it wasn’t a woman.)

I got so fed up with recruiting agencies over there, I decided to change the settings on 1 employment website such that recruiters can no longer contact me. I also changed the settings on another employment website such that neither my former employer nor another shady employer – which flaked out on me 3 times – can ever contact me again. If I work over there again, it’ll be on my terms and to hell with recruiters/recruiting agencies overall.

I’m also still experiencing the negative effects of what the former employer did to me. Now don’t get me wrong… overall, my time living in the United Kingdom was alright, but the last few months of my time there – along with my current challenges – left a really bad taste in my mouth. I try not to let those months color my whole view of the country, but I admit that it’s very difficult.

Will I live/work there – or any other country outside of the United States – ever again? I don’t know. After this experience, I don’t think I want to expatriate again. (I’ll always love travelling, though – that’ll never change.) But I’m not 100% certain about this, so who knows what the future holds. I’ve applied & looked for jobs all over so I’ll go wherever the money is. And if that means leaving the country again to get back on my feet, then so be it… even if – since I know that expatriation isn’t all cupcakes & roses – I go kicking & screaming for 1-3 years. However, I’d prefer getting my life back on track here, not in another country.

When I returned to the States, the ticket was round-trip because it was cheaper than a one-way ticket, and I scheduled to return sometime in Spring 2014. I plan on changing the ticket date to later this year. (Hopefully my life will be drastically different by then.) If I still feel a certain way about the country (and it is possible that I may feel the same way in the future), I’ll cancel the ticket altogether. But I think it’d be good to see a few of my old colleagues and a couple of friends, so I’ll likely just change the date instead of cancelling altogether.

There’s a lot more, but I’m going to end here. I don’t want to pass on my doom & gloom to anyone reading this, and many things are better left unsaid (until later?). It ain’t over until the fat lady sings. I’m fat, but I’m not singing… yet.

(WARNING: the following song has curses and derogatory words)

I will not lose…

Related posts:
Home (bitter)sweet home.
http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/home-bittersweet-home/

Hard knock life. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hard-knock-life/

This sounds familiar. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/this-sounds-familiar/

Reset my life. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/reset-my-life/

Jobseeker(s). http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/jobseekers/

Some things change… http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/some-things-change/

Limbo. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/limbo/

Limbo.

It has been a while since my last update. Here’s why…

A good friend & donor to my fundraising campaign suggested that I take a break from anything & everything having to do with looking for employment during the holidays. She knows how much stress I’ve endured since August because of this situation. I listened to her and it did me a world of good. After the holidays, I re-started looking & applying anywhere for almost anything.

Looking & applying haven’t been fruitful overall because the economy here still sucks. From August 2013 until the end of 2013, I got calls for only 3 job interviews (1 part-time position, 2 full-time positions) out of countless jobs for which I applied. (Still haven’t heard anything from either of the three.) However, last week must have been a lucky week because I interviewed for 3 different positions (1 part-time, 2 full-time) in 3 days back-to-back; one of them called me for a 2nd interview, which I also attended last week. Hopefully something will come through. If not, I’ll keep looking & applying anyway, just like I’ve done since this situation began in August. I’ve looked and applied in different states & countries, for different opportunities and on different levels (over-qualified, under-qualified, and everything in between).

Returning overseas… I’m ambivalent. While I’ve fundraised the money needed for a new work visa (by the way, still accepting extra donations to help me get back on track), I vacillate daily between returning to England for 1-2 years and saying to myself “WTF is the point?” The country, and everything that happened to me, left a horrible taste in my mouth. I also feel somewhat defeated. I don’t know… my life (and my Self) is still in a very grey space and it’ll take me a very long time to get clarity. I still receive inquiries from England recruiters, which is alright, but I’m unclear about the visa process (haven’t applied since 2010) and may need sponsorship first before applying. So that’s another dilemma to handle, as I’m not sure what’ll happen with job opportunities here (or anywhere else, for that matter).

This is the short version of the story called my life. I’m still in limbo until further notice.

Related posts:
Home (bitter)sweet home.
http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/home-bittersweet-home/
Hard knock life. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hard-knock-life/
This sounds familiar. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/this-sounds-familiar/
Reset my life. http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/reset-my-life/
Jobseeker(s). http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/jobseekers/
Some things change… http://spinsterscompass.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/some-things-change/

10 Beautifully Simple Things You Forget To Do In Your City

Spinster:

It usually amazes me when someone from here tells me that I’ve visited places here that they’ve never visited before… and they’ve lived here all or most of their lives (!!!). Here’s a short & simple guide for those of you who don’t explore your own hometowns. You may think your hometown is boring or worthless or useless, but maybe if you take on these simple suggestions, you’ll re-discover your city in a new light.

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. See the classics, the trademarks, the shining emblems of what makes your city yours.

Don’t be afraid to be a tourist now and again. It’s funny how we get so caught up in wanting to prove that we are natives, that we belong, that many of us go our whole lives without ever seeing the statue of liberty when we live only a few minutes away.

2. If you don’t live in the crux of the city, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, pretend you do for a day, and do as the locals do.

Eat like a local. Shop like one too. Consumerism can get the best of us all, so you have to remember that there are always fantastic little spots tucked away in secret if only you take a little time to look. When I was growing up, I used to tell my parents…

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City girl.

(My From Above post inspired me to write the following post.)

I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.

So when I began receiving e-mails some years ago from different agencies & organisations, recruiting Americans to work overseas, I refused many of them. Why, you ask? Among other reasons, I just couldn’t see myself living that far away from a city centre. It was only when I was ready, and only when I received e-mails from bigger places, that I decided it was time to make my move.

So here I am, solo, almost 3 years later. Although I know people here, they either don’t like doing the things I do and/or they’re flakes. Also, although there are lots of couples here (which is a feat in itself, in my opinion), dating in this country is different from dating back home. Since moving here, no one likes me, no one approaches me, and despite my many efforts at being open to dating/relationships here, nothing ever happened. As a result, I do things solo 98% of the time.

This is where being a city girl comes in handy. There are so many things to do here, I can get on solo with no problems. For example, in the From Above post, I went to the food festival on my own. I asked a couple of people if they wanted to go, and they either never responded or they flaked out on me at the last minute… which is why I often don’t bother inviting people with me anywhere. Since my friends are back home and they’re the only ones who like at least some of the things I like, I just do things on my own over here. What better place to do that than in a big city? (And as I’ve said countless times, thank goodness for Meetup.) I know I wouldn’t do well solo if I was far outside of a big city. I probably would’ve moved back home by now, honestly, if I lived that far away.

¡Viva la revolución!

¡Viva la revolución!

So for me, living in or very close to a big city suits me best. I need access to many different venues & activities, and a big city usually has these things easily accessible to its inhabitants & visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate suburban & rural areas for escaping from the negative aspects of city life, including stupid self-entitled neighbours with loud, crying, whining ass children noise & rude people. But even in a big city, I can find (and have found) a quiet place to call home.

So expatriates, in what environment did you grow up? In what environment are you currently living, and which one do you prefer & why?

See? There's peace & quiet & greenery here too.

See? There’s peace & quiet & greenery here too.

Bittersweet Symphony.

(Thanks to today’s Daily Prompt, I decided that this new blog post title is just as good as my original blog post title.)

There has been a lot going on over the past few weeks. These are things that, overall, are out of my control. Change is rarely easy, let’s be honest. It can come suddenly, or, as would be the best scenario, one can get advance notice and prepare as much as possible under the circumstances.

In my case, the transitions I’m going through came with very little (if any) notice. As a result, these transitions take up a lot of my time and, therefore, I’ll be taking a bit of a blog break for a couple of months. When I say “break”, I don’t mean that you won’t see any posts. All it means is that I’ll be posting less than once weekly for now, as I still have many blog drafts to complete & publish (i.e. my last Portugal series post, Italy series posts on the other blog, other expat-related posts, etc.) and don’t wanna keep you (or me) waiting any longer to complete & publish them.

Please bear with me as I take myself through these transitions. I promise you – I’ll see you on the other side.

Re-blog: Cleaning Out The Clutter In Our Homes And In Our Minds.

Spinster:

I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme. I have an injury which has kept me from doing lots of things (including extensive blogging – about 20 drafts still waiting for me) and as a result, my house isn’t in the best shape. Well, last night I finally folded all the clean laundry that’d been sitting on one of my couches for months, and I felt accomplished. Now I just have to put them away, which will be easy, and iron a few items.

It’s also very important to declutter one’s heart & mind; carrying around so much emotional & mental clutter (outside of genuine mental health challenges) is harmful to one’s overall health. As an expatriate, this can mean the difference between some resilience by adjusting to one’s new country and returning to one’s home country. Just take a look at the tags on this post to see what I mean, then read the original post.

Originally posted on Simply danLrene:

I have always read that when your surroundings are cluttered, it makes it harder to relax and thus makes your pain worse. This had a lot to do with son and I getting rid of so much stuff and going for simplicity in our home. When something does not have a place and I do not mean on top of the pile in the corner, but an actual place for it, then it is time to get rid of something. We make a policy if we find something at a yard sale or in a store, then we will get rid of something to get it.  It truly does make it easier to have serenity in your life when your home is not cluttered. Guess that is why we do the spring cleaning each year…..to clean out the clutter.

What about the clutter in our minds?  Have you ever thought…

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Customer service.

One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.

Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.

I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)

Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.

Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said

Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.

So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said

Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.

I said

Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.

There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.

I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)

It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.

I said

Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.

He tried again and said

It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.

I repeated myself again and added

It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.

(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store's] end and not the bank’s end.)

He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).

By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:

I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.

He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.

I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.

Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. :-|

So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)

I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.

Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. :-|

Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.

Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

I’m heading home for a little more than a fortnight and will be on a plane by the time you get this. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled to keep you reading whilst I’m away, so please stay tuned.

This time will be a little different, though. This will be my 2nd Xmas at my 1st home while working in my 2nd home. Many of my insights are the same, but there are some that are definitely different. I don’t know how these new insights will affect my time back home, but I’m anticipating the outcomes once I return to my 2nd home. Here are a few of my new insights:

- My friendship group has gotten smaller. It comes with the territory of being an expatriate. Rather than mourning the losses, I’m gonna try appreciating the ones who are still around.

- My definition of friendship has changed. It’s hard to explain and, therefore, I’ll test things out while I’m home.

- My definition of family has changed. A wise friend told her husband that “there is a difference between family and relatives”. That’s one of the best insights I’ve had this year and goes with my edited version – “blood is not (always) thicker than water”. Contrary to popular belief, one can choose one’s family, and that’s powerful.

I almost stayed here for Xmas for financial reasons. But I decided to break away from the usual Spinster and take care of my Self first. I can’t control everything, so I’m allowing the universe to take its course for once. I wanted to go home, so I made choices to make it happen, and I think that that’s what the universe wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing my loved ones & getting some rest/recovering from jet-lag because things are hectic at work & I haven’t had a proper vacation since June. With so much vacation time in Europe, that’s a long time to go without self-care and time off. Perfect timing from the universe.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t). To those of you traveling, I wish you a safe journey to your destination(s) and a wonderful time when you get there. Be mindful/careful and have fun. Relax, take a chill pill… whatever you do, just enjoy.

Aside

Alone (but not lonely?)

‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life.
Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die.
I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down.
You know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet, yeah…..
Well I’ve never prayed, but tonight I’m on my knees yeah.
I need to hear some sounds that recognize the pain in me, yeah.
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind. I feel free now.
But the airwaves are clean and there’s nobody singing to me now.

The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

Speaking for myself, being solo (along with introversion) allows freedom like none other. No worrying about dependent children and/or partner, very little (if any) concern about my actions affecting family or friends during my travels, doing things on my time, etc. There are drawbacks from time to time, though. Here are a few that relate to my experience; everyone is different, of course.

- There are moments during my travels that are great to experience solo. However, there are some moments that are even better shared with another person (friend, family member, romantic partner).

- Sometimes it’s hard to put myself out there to meet people. It’s a double-edged sword: enjoying solo freedom while wishing to meet like-minded others.

- If I need a shoulder to cry on, there’s none available.

- If I need someone to talk to, no one is available. People have their own lives and, while living their own lives, forget about whoever isn’t in their immediate circle. (People also include friends & family.)

- If I buy groceries (or any heavy items for that matter), there’s no one to help.

- If I hurt myself, there’s no one around to check on me; I’d have to call a doctor or ambulance on my own. If I died any time soon it’d probably take time to find out because I’m solo and, because of issues that I’d rather not get into here, don’t have any true next of kin.

- Sometimes it’s possible to be in the midst of a crowd and still feel alone.

This list isn’t exhaustive. Are there other expatriates who experience these things (or anything else that I didn’t list)? How do you deal (if at all)? If you don’t experience these things, what are your secrets?

And all the wonders made for the earth
And all the hearts in all creation
Somehow I always end up alone
Always end up alone.

The Bee Gees – Alone