Saturday, 13 August 2011

Reverse culture shock in England

I had heard about reverse culture shock but I didn’t think too much about it as we landed at Manchester Airport in May. I was anticipating a new challenge to start our lives in my home country. I wasn’t overly sad to leave Japan or overly happy that I was back on British soil. Of course it was super to see my family again and sit on the sofa in my old home, drinking tea and watching TV with my parents.

Soon after arriving we started to make our imprints in the British system. We tried to open a bank account for my husband. It seemed to take forever. We also applied for Child Benefit and Child Tax credits as well as my husband’s National Insurance number. Suddenly there was form filling, telephone calls and visits to tax offices and job centres. As recent news reports confirm, the slow and inefficient service provided by the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) was a real rude-awakening for us.When asked to do duplicate paperwork, send off passports that were then untraceable for two weeks, followed by being put on hold on 0845 numbers with very high rates, our tempers were frayed to say the least.

I felt a lot of anger dealing with all this. Already my husband is pretty negative about the UK work-ethic.This was not what I had promised my family when we planned to move to the UK. I imagined a better family life, with more leisure time spent enjoying lovely summer evenings. A bit too idyllic a dream on hindsight, as neither of us can enjoy much leisure time in the evening looking after two little kids! British friends advised us to wait and be patient, things will get done, people are busy. And slowly things are moving for us. Our passports have been returned, Child Benefit has been approved and deposited in our bank, my husband has his National Insurance number. The slowness of bureaucracy is something we have to deal with.

It’s still early days and I’m sure more hurdles as well as idyllic summer nights(!) will be waiting for us down the road. It’s a challenge, and that’s part of what I came home for. Seeing my parents play with their grandchildren makes me smile and realize yes this is the main reason why I am back home.

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