Well, I have to say, I didn’t see this one coming.
I had blithely thought that having spent 20 years overseas, running my own business, earning a good income, buying and selling a number of houses, driving cars, taking out insurances, owning multiple bank accounts & investments and generally being pretty grown-up that it would be easy to set myself up back in England.
Sadly, that has proved not to be the case.
My first inkling that this might be a little less straightforward than I thought came when I tried to get a new UK mobile phone.
Despite that fact that I could have paid out a 24 month contract there and then by slamming down a wedge of cash on the counter (although that might have been seen as a little gauche in rural Sussex), I started to get a bit uneasy when my ‘application’ was sent off for credit checking.
I was a good deal more uneasy when the decision came back some 60 seconds later as a big fat “No – try again in 6-12 months”….Oh, and please accept a black mark on your credit rating too sir. Have a nice day!
Buying a second hand car seemed quite simple (cash always talks loudly in the motor trade, I find) but when it comes to insuring the damn thing, a similar story. “If you don’t have a UK driving history, we can’t insure you”. Doesn’t 20 years driving history in Sydney count?…“Sorry, we can’t accept that”
Credit cards, ditto…but here is the ironic thing. You don’t qualify for a credit card until you have built up a credit history. And how do you do that? Well, by spending money on your credit card of course. Hmmm – spot the flaw in that argument.
Confirming National Insurance number? ….. “Can you confirm your last address?” “I don’t know, it was 20 years ago”… “well in that case we can’t help you”.
Obtaining new photo driving licence? “We need proof of new address – a credit card statement will be fine” …..Aaarrgh!
I was starting to feel like a character in some kind of surreal play, flailing around in a nightmare of bureaucracy, unable to find the way out and destined to spend the rest of my life as some kind of non-person.
Oh, you poor thing, you’re probably thinking (if you’re not chuckling away quietly to yourself by now).
Well, if you were concerned, you’ll be pleased to hear that the worm has now turned.
Following an injection of rat-like cunning, I am now driving around in my newly insured car, speaking on my new iPhone 4s (not at the same time of course) and swaggering into shops before slapping my new Mastercard down on the counter whenever I can.
The moral of the story? Well, if you are planning on returning to the UK, I suggest you think about establishing your credit history a bit further in advance than I did (i.e. before you land at Heathrow).
Failing that, maybe reconcile yourself to living in a tent for the first couple of years.