Today is Sunday the 8th day of September 2013. I'm trying to remind myself that dates are written differently here in the UK and I have to literally say it out loud or write it down. It has already confused a few documents and required scribbling out and writing initials. Although both countries are similar their differences, I am discovering are vast. Especially when you move to a small village from a large metro city in the States.
Here is the beginning so far of Andrew and my journey from Chicago to Kingsbarns. From a population of approximately 3.5 million in the city center and about 10 million in the Chicago area to a village of about 300 and a country, Scotland, with about 10 million in total population. It is beautiful here and the ocean, which is about a 10 minute walk from our home, is calming and brings a wet cool breeze every morning.
I am currently sitting in Bibi's Cafe on North Street in St. Andrews. One of my new favorite spots and a place that allows me to tap into their wifi. Thank you Bibis Cafe!
This particular location serves a great little breakfast, sandwiches, soups, teas, coffee, biscuits, and all sorts of sweet little treats. On South Street they have Bibi's Bakery which sells a collection of beautifully assorted cupcakes, cakes, and fresh made breads. Those of you who know me best know that I discovered this little gem even before Andrew and I moved. I love cupcakes, yeah party for one!!!
We have been in Scotland for about two weeks and I have definitely learned some priceless lessons which will be invaluable for others who decided to take this very odd leap of faith too...
The first week we stayed with dear friends in Edinburgh. We got over our jet leg planned out what we thought we needed and purchased some essentials like bedding and toilet paper. Thank you Costco and Ikea for being the best shopping spots for these items. Unfortunately, both of these stores are located in Edinburgh which is about an hour and half to an hour and 45 minutes away from St. Andrews.
Huge lessons so far:
1. You have to book an appointment at a bank in order to open an account and get the process started. This sounds easy enough, but appointments are difficult to get especially in the beginning of school years. It took us an entire week to be able to book an appointment. Book an appointment right away!
2. It takes 7-10 business days to get your bank cards. You can't do anything with out your bank cards... Trust me this was a bit difficult and really frustrating. Although, ours came in 5 days (thank goodness)
3. Still on the bank issues, wiring money from the States was an awful and incredibly confusing, frustrating, and irritating process. Perhaps its because we bank with Chase, who for the most part we have been very happy with, but getting our money has been a nightmare and you can't do anything I mean anything without money. Thankfully Andrew and I had made friends with our bank manager at our branch in Chicago, Brian, who is absolutely amazing, but had we not had that friendship and his help we probably would still be waiting for our money to transfer. So lesson is carry travelers checks with you (insure them) and have them put into your travel currency so for us we would need them in pounds. At least that is what we are finding. Chase has given us a much better exchange rate than the Bank of Scotland. Perhaps that is because the pound is valued higher than the dollar so I would do some research. But bottom line is carry cash with you (or travelers checks) because wiring money is a nightmare.
4. Cars and Car insurances: So we were told that we would probably need and want a car. After being in Kingsbarns for a week everyones advice is correct and a car is needed. The bus runs about every hour but is actually quite expensive and its much easier to drive the 6 miles into town. Cars here are quite small, but that is a really really really good thing. Large cars do not fit and are scary to drive and drive by on the roads. However, we needed a car that fit golf clubs and luggage so it had to have a decent boot (trunk). Yeah, we found one and within our very very limited budget. Great, purchasing car check, but oh what about insurance. Well this shouldn't be a problem we just need to call a few places get some quotes and move on right?!?
5. Car insurance: So apparently unlike the States, car insurance is almost purchased on a yearly basis. So as your policy comes up you search for the next insurance company because they give you a great introductory year, but than raise your premiums. Yikes, okay no biggie. I was told to go on confused.com to find insurance quotes... So I did that lets just say that don't like to insure USA drivers. Again, its a nightmare and it costs an arm and a leg. Crazy absolutely crazy. I finally found an insurance company called AVIVA, but I can't seem to figure out how to pay them. Their quote was a bit more reasonable and I was told that they insure US drivers. Thank goodness... I just need to pay... I will up date later...
6. We purchased our car in Edinburgh which had far more to choose from. If you are looking for a manual car the options are almost limitless and you won't need to spend all that much on a car. However, Andrew and I, well mainly me, want or need an automatic car. That was far more difficult to find and the options are quite limited. Plus you will pay a bit more. However, by looking for a car in a bigger location we had a better opportunity to find what we needed. So, assuming I get the car insurance squared away, we are going to be picking up our car on Thursday or Friday of this week.
7. Internet, phone, cable: So these take a bit longer to install than the States, but I think that is more because we are living in a very small country village. However, we found out that we can't get cable because it doesn't reach our little village. This devastated Andrew for a bit until the BT guy insured him that he could get sports channels via our broadband... Phew... Oh and we were limited to only one option BT and not Sky, which is satellite, because we live in a historical home built a long time ago and they can't drill satellite dishes into them... So we get the free, yes free, BT channels which are a bit strange but work and Andrew will be able to get his sports on-line. Sadly we don't get Downton Abby with our free BT, but I was told I could also get this via on-line. Here is to crossing our fingers again.
8. A little village really is a little village. We have B&B owned and run by Jim and Jayne, absolutely wonderful people and cute little B&B. We have a pub and hotel owned and run by Gary and Jackie, incredible food, clean hotel, and great company. We have a post office and very very small convienent store run by Len and a church, a Church of Scotland church, we haven't met the pastor yet. Everyone knows everyone and everyone is some how connected. It is a very strange world for Andrew and I, but we are really enjoying getting to know everyone. Oh and our little cottage is in a row with what the town calls the "Old Spinsters" and yes, the description is true...
Andrew had enjoyed every bit of the golfing greens that he can. He hasn't played yet in St. Andrews, but did play a round in Edinburgh. He can't wait to start playing here. The courses are absolutely beautiful and there really is so much history and pageantry surrounding each course. He is starting his orientation and is very excited about school starting.
I am enjoying settling in. Trying to get our little home set up and stocking it with all the items we need. I am also enjoying discovering the little shops and restaurants around St. Andrews. Its not a big town, but its friendly, quaint and everything I hoped an old Scottish town would feel like. Plus it has the buzz of students and learning which is utterly inspiring.
Yesterday evening, Andrew and I went for a walk to the sea and it was invigorating. The air was cool, wet, and salty. We passed homes that have been there for centuries and it felt like we were in a movie. I think we will enjoy this walk in the evenings... I think we will enjoy living here :)
A perfectly tarnished child of God