After years of wanting to move to a different country, but not being sure where I'd move to, I had set my mind on England. I'd only spent a little amount of time there, a bit over a week in total, but somehow things just felt right while I was there. So I decided to go and move.
I wasn't completely alone in this. I had friends over in England who were helping me with everything. Having no bank account over in the UK, and being stuck with a bank that didn't want to do international transfers, one of my closer friends helped me pay for my NI number ahead of time. Compared to some of the horror stories I have come across regarding that, it was really was easy to do.
By the time I moved and arrived at my new address (something that same friend helped me with as well) the letter for my NI appointment appointment was already waiting for me. A short time later I had my meeting, got my NI number, and started searching for work.
Getting a job was harder than I imagined. The jobs I had seen while browsing online back in the Netherlands, but lacked the foresight to apply for ahead of time, were gone. The only companies that didn't slow down in their advertisements were the direct marketing ones. I also didn't know how to put together an English CV. Funny enough, they're actually structured and styled differently than I was used to.
Another thing that worked differently was setting up a bank account. In my experience you walked into the nearest branch with your ID card and walked out with a bank account. Not so in England. Next to a valid ID, they also required a proof of address. Tax papers, bank papers, utility bill, that sort of thing. I didn't have anything that they would accept as a proof of residence, and none of the banks I went to were willing to overlook it. No matter how many branches I went to with every piece of paper mailed to me, not one would let me pass.
Living with roommates, I didn't have anything on my name. They already handled all the bills in the house. I had a tenancy agreement and a letter about my NI number, but that wasn't good enough. Looking online, I found articles and forum threads from other people who had moved to the UK and had the same problems opening a bank account. Most of them had the same two solutions.
You could get a roommate to change their name on a utility bill to yours. When the next bill comes in the mail, your name will be on it. The other option would be opening an online only bank account. That way I'd still be able to receive much needed money.
I tried opening an online bank account. Things seemed to go alright, I got past the initial sign up and received an email telling me I would get the login information for my account by post a couple of weeks later. A letter did arrive, and it didn't include the login information about my new bank account. Instead, it told me that a credit check revealed I had no credit history in the country, which is just as bad as having bad credit. They refused my application.
After a while I managed to convince one of my roommates to put my name on a utility bill. I would finally be able to get a bank account now, right? No. He put my name on something we don't get anything in the mail from and then changed his name back without saying anything later. Another dead end.
While all this was going on, I managed to secure a job at a direct marketing company. A company that had me paying for my own travel costs, which was somewhere between 5-10 pounds a day. We rarely went to the same cities, and there wasn't a consistency in form of travel. One day we'd take a train, the next a bus, the next a car. You couldn't plan ahead and pay for a weekly ticket for somewhere, because you'd run the risk of never having to use it after the first day. In the short time I worked there, I burned through all the money I had left on travel expenses. To make matters worse, they never paid me. After a month of working there, I quit. I had no money left at this point.
In the end I had to contact a family member to help me fly back to my own country.
The experience has taught me that you should never assume anything works the same way in a different country. Just because it works one way in one area does not mean it will work the same way everywhere else. If I had known earlier, I would have made sure to get a bank account before moving, sparing me a lot of stress.
Having people around you who know and understand how things work and can explain how everything works is a big plus too. Find someone who understands how differently things work in foreign countries, they'll explain things in perfect detail. Most of the people I knew had the same assumption that things work the same everywhere. Only a few people could think outside of the box and go through every detail, even the ones that sounded too obvious to mention by everyone else. They were the most use to me.
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