A begginers guide to being an immigrant (pt. 2)

LondoniPhone 3One thing you want to do when moving to a completely new place is keep your old habits. The sooner you start with them the better.
They will make you feel more at home and less like a stranger. If you were jogging back at home keep jogging here. Two weeks of running around new streets and parks you’ll feel you can navigate yourself in this new environment that you slowly start claiming your own.You went to cinema every Thursday? Go to cinema every Thursday. You watched cat videos on YouTube every evening? Quit that shit it’s just time consuming and completely unproductive (as if no one knew that already).

There are a four things you need to do when moving to London.
First you ned to find a place to live. Sounds pretty easy since London is a huge bloody place and the space-renting business is blooming as a strip club on the pensions day. As it turns out the agencies and landlords are well aware of that fact and won’t really put as much effort and care into their properties as an average tenant would wish. Agencies will usually put photos of an unbelievably beautiful flat for a very reasonable price and will, when called upon, claim that the place is not available anymore – they probably didn’t have it in the first place – but wait, dear desperate person who will probably move into any kind of dump we offer, do we have something for you. And then they start offering you places no sane person would live in even they were paid for it. After contacting a few agencies you start randomly receiving messages and e-mails telling you of new properties that are even more perfect than the previous ones.
“This one doesn’t have a dining room, living room, a garden or a big kitchen – which I know you specifically asked for – but the other seven people living in there are really nice and perhaps you might consider giving try it?”
It takes time, a bit of a gamble and loads of patience. And a notion that no matter how cheap the place is you will still overpay it.

London 1

Then there is the national insurance number or NIN as they like to refer to it in short. NIN is basically a number they give you that states that you have the right to work here and get insured like the rest of twelve million inhabitants. It’s probably the easiest thing to obtain.
What one needs to do is google the term “NIN”, find the phone number and call it. An incredibly patient person will then ask you loads of questions about your arrival and your stay and how old you are and why you came here and and finally give you a date to come in person and claim your number. Which is usually within a week or two from the call.
If I haven’t felt like an immigrant by now I sure did after my insurance number visit. Sitting in a huge waiting room with Indians, Mexicans, Africans, Italians and loads of other -ans you really start understanding why they call this island the promised land. And it kind of feels good being in there with all those people. Gives you a feeling of safety with all those cultures and races, gives you an “at-least-I’m-trying” feeling and gives a bit of a nudge in the rib to the rival in you.
“How far will they come? How far will I come? Fuck me if this guy gets a job and I don’t. Look at him. I mean, he doesn’t even speak English. If his French wasn’t as strong no one would even notice him.”
And then a month later curse over karma police when the French bastard bought the new 48″ LED and you’re still sending CV’s.

After receiving your NI number you want a bank account. While this might be tricky I didn’t have any particular problems with it and got it at the first bank I walked into.
Problem with banks here – which is completely understandable – is they don’t trust everyone. Well, they don’t trust anyone to be honest, but are particularly picky when it comes to immigrants.
You don’t have a proper tenancy contract? Sorry sir, but you must understand…
No insurance number? Oh, sir, we are very sorry…
You have no regular incomes? Well, I will ask my manager, but I’m afraid…
But even here the whole thing is a bit of a gamble and also depends on whether your banker had free range or battery eggs for breakfast. While I had completely no problem opening an account, they kind of wanted to complicate with my girlfriend. We have exactly the same tenancy contract yet they weren’t really sure whether to consider hers as legitimate or not. Eventually they did but we had some pretty joyful conversation with the incredibly lovely lady (I’m pretty confident the character ‘Roz’ in Monsters Inc. was based on her).
If no one wants to open you an account the thing that opens every door is a job contract. Once you walk through the door with that Holy Grail in your hand there isn’t a counter in London that won’t give you your personal eight-digit number and a piece of plastic with a chip.

Natural Museum, London.
Natural Museum, London.

Once you’ve done everything above it’s time for the fourth and final thing – a pub crawl.
No amount of getting to know the locals and visiting every possible museum puts the C and the Y in cultural integrity as knowing your local pubs does. The dirtier the better. The more elderly people hanging – literally – in there the better the experience.
The good thing about trying new beers is that the bartenders are perfectly OK with giving you a small cup of any beer just to taste it before you order the pint. And unlike the banks they are really happy to see you. The more exotic you are the better!

To be continued…

 

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