I’m not sure whether you are familiar with the BBC comedy series ‘Little Britain,’ but if our experience in the UK is anything to go by, you may at times feel as though you’ve stepped into one of the show’s popular skits. A recent episode at our local Thrifty Car and Van Rental office reignited our frustrations with British bureaucracy and general lack of customer service so much that I though I'd share it with you here.
When we first arrived in the UK, we were completely shocked by the lack of customer service and general ‘friendliness’ in stores, cafes and restaurants - it seems to be the norm here rather than the exception. Expats from countries like Australia and America who are not only used to happy, smiling, sales staff, but those who will go out of their way to help are in for a nasty surprise. Here, receiving a simple greeting, a smile or even eye contact from a grumpy sales clerk is almost worth celebrating - and that's just at the grocery store. Heaven help you if you actually need any assistance.
To avoid nasty glares at the grocery store remember that you’ll be expected to pack your bags yourself. Fail to do this in a timely manner and vacate the checkout before the next customer is ready to pack their bags at your peril.
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing assistance, whether it be from your local bank, your network provider or a sales clerk in a department store my advice is to never take "computer says no" for an answer. Once you have a better grasp of the English language you'll realise that "computer says no" actually translates to one of the following; "I can't be bothered helping you," "I have zero problem solving skills," or "I really don't care." Don't take it personally - persistence is the key. I know at times it may seem as if you have no other option than to give up, but if your request is reasonable, stand your ground and if all else fails, ask to see the supervisor.
When preparing for battle be sure to arm yourself with as many tools as possible. Depending on the circumstances, documents such as your passport, identity card and drivers license or those that provide proof of your address can be incredibly helpful.
Grumble aside, there are of course exceptions to every rule and if you're fortunate enough to be served by a particularly helpful or friendly sales clerk, please go out of your way to thank them - they are very rare indeed!'
When you first arrive in Oxford and are faced with the challenging tasks of opening a new bank account, applying for a credit card and organising a contract for your mobile phone, getting the help you need can feel like an uphill battle. The Oxford Fresher's 'Arrival Survival Guide,' contains everything you'll need to hit the ground running. I truly hope it helps you avoid the endless hurdles and frustrations I faced when I first arrived!