Monday, November 8, 2010

Jasie's Guide to Navigating Bureaucracy in the UK

Dear Reader,
I was going to impart my wisdom on how to do Banking in the UK, but I realized that these steps will work for basically anything you need to do in order to survive as a student. Receiving loans, applying for privileges to read at the library (yes you have to apply for that), registering for classes, enrolling (which I think is different from registering), opening bank accounts, closing bank accounts, doing any kind of banking at all, etc, etc. I hope if you find yourself trying to live in London these tips may come in handy:

  1. Banks and other institutions open at an obscenely late time in the day, so don't attempt any type of bureaucratic adventuring before work or an early class. Wait for a day off, go ahead and sleep in, grab your umbrella and head out (it's always raining on days you need to get forms signed).
  2. Queue up! Queuing (or standing in a line) and drinking are the national past-times here, and so it is expected that you quietly take your place in the queue and not bother the 5 nice people who are working hard or chatting at their open stations. They're not open, please join the queue.
  3. Make an appointment to come back later. Of course, after the queue you're not likely to actually talk to anyone who can help you, but you might talk to someone who can write your name down so that you can come back later and join the lunchtime queue.
  4. You'll never have the right documents, so bring everything. Load up that satchel with every proof you have of your existence. Did the bank send you a letter to your house and so will obviously not demand that you bring a some proof of residence (like a letter from a bank to your house)? No chance! Make sure you bring an additional 5 letters, plus your passport, plus the proof of your address at home, plus your passport, plus your birth certificate, and driving license (fun fact! they don't call it a drivers license here and will likely correct you if you do).
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4, ad infinitum. Like I said in the last step, you're not likely to have the right documents on the first try, or even the second or third. But keep trying! That's how the British developed their plucky spirits and won two world wars.


  1. Sounds like doing any paperwork in the military. Oh the fun! It makes me want to stick a pencil in my eye just thinking about it.

  2. Who wants pluck? I got some of it in Maryland, where I waited 3 hours at the motor vehicle department. Thank heavens I was able to register Amanda's car by mail! I'll do whatever it takes to never set foot in any government offices in Maryland again! I'm glad I'm not in the UK for that reason!