Another one bites the dust

Yeah… this definitely happens in some form or another if you’re an expatriate. Nothing much to add, as the original post says it all; check it out and feel free to comment.

Here There Everywhere

London, love live it and leave it.   Another expat has come and gone as is typical for the city.  I will have been living here for five years come September and I’ve had no less than seven friends leave the big smoke for greener pastures.

We Wanted To Be The Sky - London Pleasure Garden

Older readers of the blog will know that it took me ages to really like London.  Actually It is safe to say I hated London initially and then slowly over time things changed.  I did fall in intense like with the city at one point but I have to say I’ve never fully loved it.  I wanted to Love London like SJP loves New York, or at least as much as many others seem to, but alas it isn’t meant to be and I’m okay with that.

Why did I come here?  I’ve been asked that countless times by Brits over the years seemingly…

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Day (171) – A Gentleman

Maybe “society making people accountable for their actions is dead.” What do you think? Is chivalry dead in your part of the world? If so, on what do you blame its death? If chivalry isn’t dead in your part of the world, where the hell do you live so that I can move there?

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I’ve discussed something along these lines in my post 10 Things I Hate About You because one of my pet peeves about this country (or, at least, where I reside in this country) is the rudeness of the people. What I didn’t add to that post (but should have as a bonus) is the lack of chivalry. Most people think of Britons as proper, polite, & posh, but that hasn’t always been my experience. I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve offered my seat to an elderly person on public transportation while no man blinked an eye, or the times that I’ve helped an elderly person carry something while no man blinked an eye, or the times that a pregnant woman needed help or a seat and no man blinked an eye. I’ve seen women help way more often than men.

But maybe this blogger is on to something. Maybe “society making people accountable for their actions is dead.” What do you think? Is chivalry dead in your part of the world? If so, on what do you blame its death? If chivalry isn’t dead in your part of the world, where the hell do you live so that I can move there? 😐

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?

Just another day on the IRT.

(This post title is from a movie that I’ve heard of but never saw before, Just Another Girl On The IRT.)

Growing up in New York City, I’m quite familiar with traveling on an intricate public transportation system. Its rapid transit system is one of the oldest & the largest in the world, carrying millions of passengers daily. And a few of those passengers are quite colorful. For instance, a pole dancer graced riders with a performance (YouTube video) earlier this year. There are also musicians playing everything from African drums to mariachi instruments to steel pan drums and everything in between. There are dancers doing everything from break-dancing to acrobatics, self-proclaimed prophets & preachers proclaiming that the end is quite near, and even sub-human pieces of shit jerking off in front of and/or on people people who masturbate and/or expose themselves to innocent passengers.

In less-developed nations, some people ride with live animals on certain modes of transportation. Transportation in these countries is already tricky because of overcrowding with people sometimes sitting on top of each other, so if you add a few chickens to the mix, public transportation is one hell of a ride in these countries too.

Coming from a major city, and having been to a few different countries ranging from extremely wealthy with efficient modes of transportation to less-developed with a van that comes on time if you’re lucky, I’ve seen & experienced a range of interesting rides. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see some ridiculous shit interesting stuff on public transportation over here. Here are a few examples:

– A man got on the bus with his pit-bull. It wasn’t a service dog; it was just a man with no disabilities bringing his pet pit-bull on the bus with no objections from the bus driver. He was nonchalant about it and (thankfully) had it on a leash, but I wasn’t too happy about them sitting across from me. It was a crowded bus so I couldn’t move elsewhere. 😐

– A man got on the bus and began drinking alcohol & smoking marijuana; a few passengers moved away, including me, and I reported him to the bus driver and he got off 2 stops later. That’s right – I snitch.

– One man in a nearby neighborhood is notorious for getting on a certain bus or buses drunk, first thing in the morning, during daily rush hour. Luckily, I’ve only been graced with his presence once. He likes talking about Babylon & Jamaica, and he loves cursing in front of young children on the way to school.

Babylon drunk.
This 'diamond in the drunk' said that he'd fight everyone in Babylon... during morning rush hour no less.

– Yet another man got on the bus with his young daughter… and drank a big can of beer.

Drinking beer on the bus with his kid: totally appropriate.

Drinking alcohol on public transportation has been banned in a few places in England, but clearly some people don’t care.

– A man was being verbally aggressive on a bus one weekend as I was heading to my friends’ house. The bus driver refused to move from the bus stop until or unless the man got off of the bus, which is understandable because there are plenty of signs that explicitly state that any form of abuse against public transportation workers is not tolerated. I got annoyed along with a few other people, told the man I had somewhere to be at a certain time, and to either pay the fare & leave the driver alone or get off of the bus because he was inconveniencing everyone. After extra uproar from other passengers, he finally got off. (Jerk.)

– The singing bus driver during morning rush hour. He was hysterical. He sang old-time gospel songs with an operatic voice. I was on his bus twice. At the end of the route, the passengers gave him a round of applause. I laughed my ass off. (I don’t even speak in the morning, so he had to be hilarious for me to laugh that early.)

– The children. Ahhhh yes, the wonderful cherubs. The screaming babies & crying toddlers in their gargantuan carriages [better known as pram(s)], and temper-tantrum-throwing children are an absolute delight during morning & evening rush hour.

Twirling kid.
This cherub twirled around the pole on a crowded bus while whining loudly. His mother sat next to me, oh joy.
Another darling little cherub, standing on the seat with Mother Dear's permission (sitting next to her).
Temper tantrum.
This cherub threw himself on the floor, and Mother Dear had to drag him off of the bus.

– A former expatriate & friend of mine, who was studying here but has now repatriated, got into a physical fight with a drunk woman on the bus. The drunken dame heard her accent, asked her where she was from and upon hearing the answer, began name calling & cursing. In spite of this, my friend was calm and tried staying away from Dame Drunk-A-Lot. Dame Drunk-A-Lot kept it up, along with purposely stepping on her foot 3 times… and after the 3rd time, my friend slapped her in the face.

What are your colorful stories in your part of the world? If you’re an expatriate, what are some differences that you’ve noticed between public transportation in your home country and your current country? Do you have public transportation stories and if so, are they more colorful in your home country or your current country, or are the stories just as colorful in different countries?

Life savers.
Life savers.

10 Things I Hate About You.

I’ll begin with a list of 10 things that I hate about this country. I’d rather start with the bad so as not to give anyone any illusions about being an expatriate.

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If you check(ed) out my last written post, you’ll see that I reached 1 year since my move here.  Looking back at the past year is amazing because it went by so fast.  I’m taking a little time to think about my overall experience here, then put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  Please bear with me, as it may take at least 2 posts for me to get through this.  I’ll begin with a list of 10 things that I hate about this country.  I’d rather start with the bad so as not to give anyone any illusions about being an expatriate.  I’ve always said from the start that I’d share the full experience, not just the roses & daisies.
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Rude people. 
After my confrontation on the road a few weeks ago, I’m more firm in the belief that this country has some of the rudest people on the planet.  It’s funny because many people back home see this country as prim & proper, uppity & snobbish.  I can say with certainty that that’s not the case.  There are people here who have no scruples, no sense of respect or decency, and they come in all colors & shades & races & ethnicities.  People here will rush past you, bump you & damn near push you to the ground without uttering one “Sorry” or “Excuse me”.  The men have no sense of chivalry – no holding doors, no giving up seats on public transportation, no helping those who are less able (elderly, pregnant, etc.) – and it’s a wonder that women flock to them so much.  What kills me the most about these rude people is their sense of entitlement.  But that’s another rant for another day.
Banking.
I was supposed to open an account with one particular bank before moving.  Because I was so busy with the move, I couldn’t do that until I got here.  (My American colleagues processed their paperwork before moving and they still had problems with the length of time it took to open their accounts.)  This particular bank gave me so much trouble that not only couldn’t I withdraw money when necessary, I had to put my money into someone else’s account until I got my own.  It’s a real pain in the ass to bother someone to withdraw another’s money from one’s own bank account almost every day, especially since the first few weeks had lots of unexpected expenses come up out of nowhere.  I opened an account with a different bank instead; that was also a pain in the ass, but not as bad as the original bank.  Bank processing also takes too long; an account debit can take anywhere from 5-7 business days to clear, possibly longer, and even cash can take a while to clear (unless one goes to the bank face-to-face).  This can make bill paying a real pain in the ass.  This isn’t something I’ll ever get used to.
Taxes
Seriously?  Almost 25% taxes out of people’s paychecks, sometimes more?  Come on now.  (There’s a plus side to this, which I’ll discuss in my next post.)
Driving
Driving on the wrong….. oh sorry, left side of the road is a bit annoying and, at first, nerve-wracking.  One of my American colleagues let me drive her car once.  It was the perfect driving lesson because it was after-work rush hour & getting to her house is like driving through a maze.  But I was so nervous that not only was I gripping the steering wheel, I also don’t remember breathing until we reached her house & got a headache.  Having such narrow roads doesn’t help either because they make me feel claustrophobic.  When it comes to driving, I prefer home, where everything is bigger.
Police
After my confrontation on the road a few weeks ago, I’m more firm in the belief that the police in this country = toy cops.  Rather than rehash my story, I’ll briefly mention a couple of incidents that happened to my colleagues:
– 1 colleague got punched in the face for no reason by a drunkard in broad daylight.  What’d the police do?  Give him a self-defense packet that, aside from a noise-making device, had nothing in it that could help with self-defense.  The man was never caught despite having CCTV almost everywhere country-wide.
– 1 colleague, while waiting for a night bus, saw a man expose himself; there were others at the bus stop (including a child).  I think the man used some racial slurs along with whatever else he said while exposing himself.  The colleague called the police, but nothing happened.
Most of the police force don’t use guns.  I don’t like that.  Which brings me to the next thing…..
Criminal justice system
While the U.S. criminal justice system is by no means perfect, I appreciate it more since moving here.  I prefer law enforcement officers with guns, I prefer stiff penalties for harsh crimes, and I prefer the death penalty for those who truly deserve it.  Here, if a person commits a crime and goes to jail/prison, that person is eligible for parole at or before half of the time finishes.  That’s right… only 1/2.  It’s bad enough that court-imposed time isn’t much anyway, but to only serve 1/2 or less is, in my opinion, a slap in the face for victims & their families.  Here’s a mild example; the harsher examples are. in my opinion, too outrageous to share here.  Only a convicted murderer can get a mandatory life sentence.  And there’s no death penalty.  For more information, HM Prison Service.
Red tape
 Everything here is covered in red tape, better known as bureaucracy.  This form must be filled out & signed, but first you need to fill out & sign that form so that you can fill out & sign the 1st form.  But wait, you have to sign Master Form 1.23456789 & Master Form Part A-2.34567890 to sign those other forms!  Then, when all the forms are signed, it takes damn near forever to get your product or service or etc.  As an example, my laptop crashed 1 month after I bought it.  I brought it back to the store since it was under 1 year warranty, and it took 1 month for it to be fixed & returned.
Social services
Since I work in social services and don’t want to jeopardize my job, I won’t elaborate much on this point.  All I’ll say is that the social service system in this country need to be overhauled & modernized.  In addition, social work here focuses on child protection… but not much else.  This contrasts with the United States, where social work classes/study courses & potential career paths are varied (here’s 1 example).
Benefits
This is what’s called welfare back home, and I’ll use both interchangeably here.  While it’s nice to live in a country that is somewhat socialist (a plus side that I’ll discuss in my next post), the grass isn’t much greener on the other side.  There are some on welfare/benefits who misuse the system with no penalties or fear of punishment, and in my opinion (and the opinions of my diverse colleagues), the United Kingdom government has enabled a sense of self-entitlement & laziness in these people.  {Please note that unlike home, where people of color are (often mistakenly) seen as the culprits in misusing benefits, the culprits here come in all colors & shades & races & ethnicities.  I can’t find a statistics breakdown for this country; I could be searching incorrectly.}  It annoys me even further because I pay heavy taxes here, yet I can’t access any recourse to public funds.  In other words, if I’m injured and can’t work for a period of time, I can’t access unemployment insurance or other benefits since I’m not a United Kingdom citizen even though I pay heavy taxes.  But without using any names, I know someone who is an able-bodied United Kingdom citizen, just had a 2nd child, and refuses to work because benefits take care of everything.  (There are also many European Union citizens who come here & access United Kingdom benefits.)  So basically, I bust my ass working to barely make ends meet, yet my taxes are paying for this person to sit around for most of the day.

Public transportation
 I hate the Tube and avoid it as much as possible.  It’s overcrowded (especially with tourists) & filled with stifling heat.  The buses are annoying sometimes because baby carriages (known here as prams) take up space & contain crying/whining/screaming/hollering babies/infants/toddlers/children-who-are-too-big-to-be-in-carriages.  I’ve turned up my music to drown out noise on many occasions yet still hear crying/whining/screaming/hollering.  And oftentimes, the older children/teenagers & adults are even louder & more obnoxious than the babies/infants/toddlers.  And how could I forget the all-too-common smell that wafts throughout the bus & tells on the many people who haven’t used soap & water every day?  Thank goodness for different over-ground trains (like this & that & these & those) and knowing how to drive.
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There’s more but that’s it for now.  Are there any expatriates that can relate & have a top 10 hates for your current location?
Next post will focus on my top 10 favorite likes about living/working here. Stay tuned.

Another (quick) run-in.

As if what happened yesterday wasn’t enough, I had an urge to run over a little old rude ass lady after work. Check this out…..

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06.08.2011

As if what happened yesterday wasn’t enough, I had an urge to run over a little old rude ass lady after work. 😐 Check this out…..

Still shaken by yesterday, I fought against the urge to stay home again and made my way to work. Although D is the only one who knows the full story, my other co-workers M & R had an inkling about what happened. R even gave me the number to a confidential 24-hour phone/in-person counselling service, as he could tell how much yesterday affected me. M & R respected me enough to not ask me about the incident, which I appreciated because I’m not ready to discuss it any further. I cancelled all scheduled appointments because I knew my mind wasn’t in the right place to engage with people, so my day went fast and before I knew it, it was time to leave work and head to the gym.

I drove to a major intersection, which is notorious for rush hour traffic, and got caught up in the traffic. Before I knew it, the light turned red and I was blocking most of a cross-walk. I couldn’t move because

– I couldn’t reverse since there were too many cars behind me and not enough room and
– I wasn’t trying to get another ticket of any kind for blocking a major intersection

so I stayed where I was, blocking most of the cross-walk. I’d rather block some or all of a cross-walk than block an intersection and/or run a red light. I already got 1 parking ticket within hours of getting the courtesy car; I can’t afford more tickets. 😐

A few people crossed the street despite the blocked cross-walk. If they were annoyed, they didn’t show it and just hustled across the street since traffic lights switch notoriously fast here. Then one person in particular, an old lady, crossed over. But before she got to the other side of the street, she hit the car hood.

*scratch record* *REWIND*

It took me a second to realize what she did. Then it dawned on me…..

This old lady took her hand and hit the hood of the car! No the hell she didn’t!

How rude.
How rude.

If it was any other day, I may have laughed it off or sucked my teeth dismissing her as an old miserable ass bat. But after what happened yesterday, as well as having another headache, I was not in the mood for bullshit from anyone. Plus, other people saw what she did and I couldn’t let that slide. And even worse yet, what made her think she had the right to put her hands on someone else’s property like that? So I rolled the window down and said in front of the pedestrians

Hey! This is a new car, lady! No need for you to do all that, you fucking jerk!

She made believe she didn’t hear me, but I know she did. I was close & loud enough for her to hear it, and the pedestrians heard & watched me say it. The light turned green and I sped off. Being of age doesn’t give a person any & all kinds of privileges.

Rude old jackass.

Within the past 36 hours, the people in this country & those incidents left a very bad taste in my mouth, enough to wanna go home for good. I’m going out-of-town very soon, and although I didn’t know it then, I scheduled going out-of-town at the perfect time. Were it not for the upcoming trip, I’d catch a case if you know what I’m saying.
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Epilogue: The negative feelings have worn off a little. It’s gonna take a while to get the bad taste out of my mouth though. And by the way, if anyone ever says that New Yorkers are rude & nasty, I’ll argue them down and refer them to the United Kingdom. I’m just saying.

Rude old lady.  :-/
Rude old lady. :-/