It's funny, because I spent a couple of days this week thinking, "How odd, I'm not feeling any of the culture shock or isolation that I felt in China." I know part of that's because I'm sharing space with people who have a lot of the same experiences I have, because I'm surrounded by people who speak English, that I'm a lot busier and a lot better prepared than I was when I went to China.
But, yesterday, I got broadsided by the culture shock. It was one of those things where all of a sudden the only solution is to just pack it all in, go home, admit that you can't handle living overseas and spend the rest of your life living in an apartment alone until you die a bitter old maid.
(Yes, I considered this as a viable alternative to continuing to live in Scotland.)
It comes down to the whole issue of trying to build something akin to a life here.
I tried yesterday to get a doctor's appointment. I'm not deathly ill or anything like that, I just wanted to get something looked at. No big deal, right? In Canada, this involves either going to any of a number of walk-in clinics, or calling up your doctor's office and making an appointment.
This is not what happened.
I was given a doctor's address by the hostel, and went there in the early afternoon. I was still pretty tired, being that I work nights, but I figured it wouldn't be too bad. I could go in and either get in quickly, or get an appointment, or something.
What happened was, after finding the street (streets do not work the same in the UK as they do in Canada, but more on that some other day), I walked into the doctor's office, spent three minutes being told that I couldn't get an appointment there, they'd send me someplace "closer", and left again. The receptionist gave me a phone number of a place that wouldn't take me, and they gave me the phone number of another place that wouldn't take me, who gave me the phone number of a place that will see me a week from Thursday.
This isn't really a big deal, I know, and I just filed it away for future reference. No fast doctor's appointments, no big deal. But it sorta soured my mood, which made the rest of the day a huge trial that I didn't want to go through.
Which made the issues with the various banks that much more difficult to deal with.
My employer (Kenny, which I mention because he shares a first name with my brother, and I want to make it clear if I start ranting about Kenny, that it's not my brother) wrote me a letter with my address, the address of the hotel, and my rate of pay on it. He assured me this will help me to get a bank account. I took this letter to three different banks.
The first one told me it isn't good enough, that I need a council tax bill or an electricity bill or something that indicates that I'm a resident of this country. I guess working here and having a PO Box rented for a year and all of that doesn't count.
The second one would be more than happy to set me up an account. All I need to do is fill in a bunch of forms, mail them to the head office, and I should have one in two to six weeks.
The third only makes appointments to make new accounts every other Tuesday between 9 and 11 (okay, I exaggerate, it's every day from 9 - 11), and wouldn't accept a letter from my employer as proof of residence.
And at that point I marched back into the hostel, threw my files against the wall, and started raging at the injustice of it all.
I started ranting at the sweet girl from Finland, Saara, who just let me freak out for a while, assuring me that I wasn't over-reacting (I was) and that everything would be okay, that yes, this is strange, and that it's not like this where she comes from, and everything will be okay. She was very supportive, but we also exchanged stories about the number of hoops a "foriegner has to jump through to get a flat or a bank account. She told me about an agency who basically refused to help her in any way, even though she would have given them money to help her find a flat. It's all crazy.
She was very nice, and I calmed down pretty quickly, but the sense of frustration stuck with me all day. It feels very much like Scotland doesn't want people here. I have heard of that from time to time in the paper, but it's the first time in an English speaking country I've felt like an outsider, like someone who can't get in. It's a very strange feeling, and I haven't quite figured out how to deal with it.
But, I have the next two days off, and I think I'll buy deep fat fried Mars Bars, and try not to start yelling at random Scots about how much their country makes me want to tear out my hair and go home as a bald, bitter woman.