Monday, November 10, 2008

The British Raj...In England.


So I'm learning about the bureaucracy that permeates almost every aspect of life in London, and I'm sure the UK as a whole, but I do not want to pass that judgement across the board as I'm only staying in London (although my experiences are speaking to the UK tax system, the UK banking system, the UK housing options, including duty due to the Councils, etc, etc). Taxes, taxes, taxes everywhere! This is perhaps a good reason that we revolted and became independent.

First of all, almost everything requires an agent, which at first doesn't sound bad, especially when you're moving from abroad, you are new to the system, and your company is footing the bill. What you'll soon learn is that these agents have a different response level and response time than what you'd find in the States. I'm not criticizing. Generally speaking, the Brits get a ridiculous amount of "bank holidays", "holiday (vacation)", and the working hours are more reasonable than in the US. It just takes some getting used. The grass is always greener I guess.

Another interesting observation is the amount of "snail mail", forms, references, phone calls, and ink signatures required to get anything done in this country! Now perhaps this is because I'm a child of the information age, but we're talking about London here! This is perhaps the most dominant financial capital in the world, and by many good arguments, a cultural and historic centre of the world, and it takes one week for your debit card to be activated, one week for your potential landlord to have his "agent" conduct background checks (another favourite English pastime), and multiple phone calls and reminders to get your "current account cheques" sent to your flat. Margarat Thatcher could build perhaps the most over the top corporate and commercial monstrosity out of former shipping docks, but securing a flat and opening a bank account conjures up the same emotions as standing in line at a train station in Rajasthan, hoping to get onto 2nd class AC.

In the end, I'm sure it will all work out and I do have a tendency to be fatalistic, but the experiences have been shocking.

On another note, and to the credit of my new office, I am amazed at the amount of efficiency and communication that goes on there. I've had my second Monday meeting (something we never did in my last office) and it's very insightful to know what sorts of opportunies are going on in the other practices. I've alread identified a couple of things on my own. It's amazing what can happen when people actually talk to one another.

To end on an optimistic note, I want to list the things that are more efficient here than back home:

The Tube beats BART
I can pay rent via direct debit (once it gets set-up!!!)
The grocery stores have great "singles" food (as I anxiously await my wife's arrival)
You don't have to tip the bartender...That never gets old.

Keenan

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