Moving to America – people great, bureaucracy less so…
October 14, 2010
Apologies that there have been few blog posts lately. Summer has been very busy as I have just moved to the New York area with my family. Whilst we had to do a lot of preparation with going to the US embassy etc for visas, the move finally became "real" for me when all of the furniture in our house was removed for shipping to the US, and we ended up effectively camping in our own home for a few weeks. The day of the flight over seemed like the start of a holiday, except it became a peculiar one in that we weren't coming back any day soon.
I am pleased to report that all has gone well and that people here have been very welcoming. Kids settled into school fine and are already developing strange mid-Atlantic accents. I am enjoying walking down the street and saying "hello" to people without fear that they will avert their eyes and simply look down at the floor – one of the worst parts of stereotypical English behaviour in London.
There are many things that the Americans do wonderfully well: seriously huge lorries that actually look like my old Tonka toys; double/triple/quadruple garages; bathrooms; walk-in wardrobes; metros that announce "Stand away from the closing doors" in a voice that is both pleasant and excited at this fact – much in contrast to the depressing "Mind the gap, mind the gap" of the London Underground.
Putting aside all these positives (the people being the biggest positive), there are some things that are puzzlingly not done well at all. On using my American bank account I wanted to set up a regular monthly payment to my landlord. After initially being told that this could not be done, I then get directed to part of the bank web site where I am told to enter my landlord's name and address, but nothing more. Puzzled I ask whether they also need his bank account details, but apparently not, because each month on the day I have chosen they will physically print off a cheque for the amount I have specified and physically mail it to him! So much for the land of technology and financial innovation?…
Anyway, on to the pinnacle of bureacracy here in the United States, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). DMV sounds like a disease and indeed I believe that all who work there are obviously ill in some way. Buying a car in the US is complicated process if you are not a US citizen and do not yet have a Social Security Number (SSN). I spent around 18 hours of my life queuing trying to get license plates for my car at the DMV, being told to move from one queue to another with no rhyme nor reason, and often to be told after queuing for a few hours that I was in the wrong queue. These people make US Immigration at JFK look positively helpful and friendly. The one consolation? They treat their fellow Americans just as badly as they treat foreigners, so once I was through the first few hours there were plenty of people wanting to talk about how bad it was.
Anyway, back to the real (currently surreal?) world of financial markets and financial markets IT. I hope you had a good summer, mine has been an interesting one and I look forward to the next couple of years in the United States of America.