The first few weeks living in this country have been less than ideal. It's surprising that an Australian can feel so unwelcome and out of place in a nation that shares the same language, heritage and 'policy bitch' status with the US... nevertheless, I find myself feeling more foreign and unable to understand the strange local customs here than when I watched people drinking wine with snake penises in it in Vietnam.
Vincent Vega be damned! The little differences I can handle. In fact, I think mayonnaise on chips is fantastic (but serving carbs cooked in fat with a dollop of more fat for extra flavour does seem a bit excessive, and maybe, just maybe, has something to do with the UK's 'obesity pandemic'). My problem is with the great big stinking differences. And I don't mean the weather (although that is incredibly shit too).
The greatest shock so far has been the ubiquitous incompetence encountered while trying to find work: recruiters who promise you half a dozen interviews then stop talking to you; recruiters who do talk to you, but send you to an interview without forwarding you the position description; companies who interview you in January, promise to get back to you in a few weeks, but still can't give you an answer in March; HR departments who take a week to send an email; another company who actually want to offer you a job, but forgot to do so because someone went on holiday... the good news is that I have a job offer and start in a few days. But I still haven't seen a copy of the employment contract.
Given that any employer will end up having to give me money, I can understand their reluctance and inertia. But when it comes to me paying people money, I'd have thought that they'd be a bit more pro-active. My flat hunting experiences demonstrated that British incompetence isn't subject to economic theory - it's bred in, or in-bred if you prefer. So far, the letting agency we're going to be renting through has managed to mismanage just about everything, from messing up the reference checks to bungling the moving-in date... the good news is it seems like everything's sorted out now. But we still don't move in for over a week.
Everything should be fine soon, in a matter of days I'll be employed and in a place of my own.... famous last words? I'm not holding my breath.
On top of the job- and house-hunting shenanigans, London lowlights have included, but are not limited to:
- spending my first day praying to the porcelain with food poisoning received on the Thai airways flight here;
- returning from a weekend in Leeds, only to be told 5 minutes before my train left that the service was cancelled, then spending the day in 'amazing race' mode to get back to London for a job interview;
- another job interview where I was literally told to go read a textbook (this is a LITERAL 'literally' Joe, I know how you feel about the word's misuse), and, to my disbelief, was then invited back for a second interview that was even worse.
It hasn't been a terribly auspicious start. About as auspicious as inspecting the entrails of a bird, then realising as you study the liver that the bird is a turkey from a Bernard Mathews farm in Hungary (sorry guys, a little Latin studies/British bird 'flu joke there). I guess the good side of all this is that I must be getting over my culture shock - I'm already fitting in as a whingeing pom.
One of the few moments of mirth provided by this bleak tumour of a city was the sight of a morbidly obese man in Tesco. This chap was seriously diabetic, in an electric scooter, with scabs covering his legs up to his knees, and a naso tube to assist his breathing. (No Leon, that's not the funny part). He was wearing a simple black XXXXXXL t-shirt with the slogan "I beat anorexia!"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and was almost tempted to ask to have my photo taken with him. I think that man has a message for everyone living under London's leaden sky... stop stuffing yourself with chips and mayonnaise!