Glasgow sunset

Life lessons for 'immigrants' in Glasgow

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Opening a bank account in the UK proved difficult for Jennifer, after escaping from 'Toronto the Good' to Glasgow in 2006. She offers the newcomer some survival tips.

I'm pretty sure I saw my first junkie on Tuesday. I’ve seen my fair share of sketchy Neds since landing in this fine country three weeks ago, but had not seen anything that can compare to what I saw the other day.

I was standing in line at the Maryhill Post Office (which, in and of itself, is not the nicest area of the West End) in order to purchase Scottish Power cards.

For all you non-UK folk, some flats are equipped with a ‘pay as you go’ electricity plan. Rather than a monthly bill that comes through your mail slot, you buy GBP 5 cards and insert them into the electric meter and are immediately credited. It's bizarre and anal and has thusly made me even more anal. I have become hyper-aware as to how much energy I am using and how to conserve more. Thank you, Thatcherism!

Prepayment electricity meter
The prepayment meter: encouraging energy conservation and anality

Nonetheless, I was standing in line to get some GBP 5 cards for the meter, when I heard a screeching behind me. I could barely make out what the words were meant to form but it sounded like, "Muuuuuuuuuum!" I turned around (as did the entire line-up) and was confronted with a horrific sight that I will not forget anytime soon. A boy who was probably about 15, but looked more like 50, was standing and holding his track pants up with his hands. Normally track pants have an elastic waist which expands around human girth in order to stay in place.

However, this young chap was so thin – sickly thin – that he was having to hold up the elastic waist with his hands. His face looked like Skeletor on a good day. His bulging yellow eyes were met with oozing open sores on his face. And that's putting it lightly.

Granted, I did live in Parkdale, Toronto for the last four years and did see my fair share of literal crack whores and people tweaked out on meth. I was even so lucky as to see an actual drug deal before my eyes. However, I have never seen an actual heroin junkie – especially one so young. It was extremely shocking and sad.

In other news, I have moved into my own flat and I love it. It's strange to actually have my own place in Glasgow, and to adjust to the strange ways of life here. I have yet to open an actual bank account yet – and I have tried unsuccessfully about four times now – as I do not have ‘official’ mail yet. Basically, I am waiting for Scottish Power to send me something that I can take down to the bank authorities.

It was a breeze coming into the country but they'll be damned if they actually let me open a bank account here!

Since I do not have a bank account, I have been unable to get broadband internet as the phone companies want direct debit. Why do they want direct debit, you ask? Well, because I am an immigrant and therefore have no credit.

If I have learned anything since my status as ‘immigrant’ it's these life lessons:
  1. Lie: it's easier to say you moved here for a fiancée than admit that you moved here because you like the country. People don't question you when you say you moved here for a man.
  2. Walk as if no one is looking: Glaswegians DO NOT know how to walk in busy streets. In Toronto, people imitate traffic and walk on the right hand side. You would assume that Scottish people would imitate traffic and walk on the left hand side. Not so. People imitate the theory of chaos.
  3. Catch 22: You want to open a bank account? Sign up with Scottish Power/NTL. You want to sign up with Scottish Power/NTL? Get a bank account first.
  4. 2+2=7: Two drinks always lead to seven. Never have more than one!
  5. WTF?!: When you don't understand what someone just said to you, just smile and nod.



Jennifer is a Canadian living amongst the puckered pale flesh and scorching ginger hair of Glaswegians. After a mid-twenties life crisis and yearning to escape puritan ‘Toronto the Good’, she moved to Glasgow in March 2006. Follow her at


Photo credit: Glasgow sunset by Bob the courier (

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