The Adventures of An Estonian In Scotland

Posted: 13. aug. 2011 in Life
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I’ve been back from Scotland for almost a week now but I haven’t had the time to respond to emails, Youtube comments or just any other such thing. I was exhausted when I got back and mentally I arrived back in Estonia only today which is Saturday. This time being in Scotland wasn’t all fun and games so to say, it was tiring and emotionally hard for me. You can read about my previous trip to Scotland here. So here’s what happened to me in Scotland in the shortest possible version I can write.

Firstly, this time we chose to fly with Ryanair. And I have to admit I had my doubts because I hadn’t flied with cheap airlines before. I’ve always used some other companies but this time I chose Ryanair because it was the only way I could get a direct flight to Edinburgh. And I must say it wasn’t a bad experience at all. We had booked priority boarding which meant we could choose better seats and sit all together. The service was good and we got there on time. The only thing that was a bit weird was that all of us had a headache because of the flying. And not just only flying there but also during flying back to home also. I don’t know what caused it but it was the only negative thing.

When we arrived in Edinburgh we had to take a bus to the city center and then go to the train station to catch a train to Dundee. That all went really smoothly and after 1,5h we arrived in Dundee. For the first couple of days we had booked a hotel to live in because my brother first had to get the keys to his apartment and we had to tidy the apartment and then we could “move in” there. So the hotel we had booked was called Craigtay Hotel and it was located quite far from the city center and the train station. We took a taxi. And I’m glad we did that because the taxi driver was so friendly, welcomed us to Dundee and later when we had a problem with the hotel he came to the rescue. So a big thank you to the Dundee taxi driver who drove the three of us to Cragtay Hotel. When we finally reached the hotel we bumped into our first problem. We had notified the hotel that we will be arriving quite late but when we rang the doorbell nobody answered. Then we rang again and again and then knocked on the door and nothing. Nobody answered. The friendly taxi driver saw it and as I said, came to the rescue. He knew the phone number of the hotel and just called the staff there and notified them that they actually have visitors outside their hotel who would like to get in. Then finally the hotel door opened and we got in.

Getting into this hotel was the first problem but I must admit that the hotel itself was a problem in general. It was one of the worst hotels I’ve been in. It’s location was pretty far from the city center, at a first glance one wouldn’t see that building as a hotel, then there wasn’t an elevator there, only stairs. Then the key of our room was bent and the door didn’t open correctly, the floors were squeaky – every time you walked around the room it made the squeaky sound. The bathroom of the hotel was horrible. And then the breakfast serving. The following morning we had a meeting with the real estate agent through whom we rented my brother’s apartment but the service in the hotel was just so slow that I thought we have to skip breakfast in order not to be late for the meeting. And there weren’t many people there in hotel (the hotel had only like 16 or 17 rooms) and every morning when we were having breakfast there were maybe 2 or 3 people with us there. The food itself was good. But when we thought that the man serving us breakfast that morning was slow we were so wrong. The two following mornings we were serviced by two different women working there and the women were even slower that the man, I thought we would never get our breakfast. And then when we were checking out from the hotel the same woman who was serving us breakfast was in the reception desk and when we gave her the key she started asking money from us. I was surprised and asked for what it was. She said it was the hotel bill. I was stunned because our travel agent had booked the hotel and we had already paid for the hotel so  now it seemed we have to pay for the second time. Luckily some older woman came and explained to the younger woman that the bill has been paid and said to us that everything is ok. I was just speechless. In retrospect I can say that this hotel was exactly like the British comedy “Fawlty Towers” only without Mr.Fawlty. But everything else in the hotel was similar to that TV-show.

But I have to bring out that the letting agency (real estate agency) through which we got the apartment was really professional. My brother rented or as the British say let the apartment through Hamish Robbie Lettings and we got the keys from Mr. Hamish Robbie himself. He was really friendly and a true professional. So this was definitely a positive experience. The apartment at first surprised me a bit because it needed more cleaning and tidying up than I had imagined but after all the cleaning had been done I could say that it’s a nice place located in a nice surrounding. But all the cleaning we did, my God, I think I’ve never done so much cleaning on one day. We started from the kitchen (windows, floors, walls and all other stuff) and ended in the corridor of the whole house. I was drop-dead tired when we finally finished. But the end result wasn’t bad at all 😉

And then another problem came when we went to the bank to set put an account for my brother. I think I’ve never been so pissed about a bank before than I was there. The bank was called Royal Bank Of Scotland. And before I explain what the problem was I must explain how it is in Estonia to get a bank account. In Estonia when you want to open a debit card bank account you go to the bank, take a number, talk to a customer service person and get everything set up. And then the customer service person tells you than within 5 days you can come to bank again to collect your card and you automatically have internet banking. Easy to do. But in Scotland with the Royal Bank of Scotland….. It was just plain bureaucracy. When you went into the bank first you had to stop at the reception desk and had to explain what you want to do there in the bank. Then we were directed to a customer servant and he looked through our tenancy papers and said it wasn’t enough that we had to get some paper from the university to confirm that my brother is a student there and to confirm his Dundee address. He then booked us an appointment with an adviser.  We got the letter from the university and then had the meeting with the adviser. She looked through the papers again, my brother filled out some form and and she went to copy the papers. When she came back she said that my brother can’t open an account because he can’t prove that he lives in his current Dundee address. For evidence we had the tenancy agreement/contract, the first rent paid by cheque  and the university letter confirming him living on his current address. But no, it didn’t suit the Royal Bank Of Scotland. We left there feeling quite hopeless. I was actually pissed off. What the fuck? The bank account was so important to us because all the other contracts (internet, phone etc) depended on my brother having a Scottish bank account. The following morning I marched into the bank and informed some guy in the reception desk that the adviser had made a mistake and the mistake needs to be corrected. The man looked surprised and went looking for the adviser to whom we had a meeting with the previous day. The man then returned with an excuse from the adviser and said that he would deal with us instead. I guess the woman who had advised us the day before got scared of me. Yeah, I’m definitely a person to be afraid of 😉 Anyways, we started to explain everything from the beginning to the man and it turned out that he understood things better since he was himself actually an adviser specially for students who come and want to open an account there. He looked through the papers and said that the tenancy agreement verifies that my brother lives on his current address and everything should be fine. But advised us to go back to the university and let them re-do the letter that confirms that my brother has been accepted because letter started with “To whom it may concern….” but they needed it to be directed to them “To Royal Bank Of Scotland”. Ridiculous but we still did it. And then the man-adviser said that the account would be active in 24h and my brother would receive the debit card via regular mail within 3-5 days. We were happy that finally things were done with the bank. We left Scotland but my brother still hadn’t received his card. It arrived to him finally this week (exactly 5 days later) and at first it wasn’t the card, it was the codes card which one needs to log into their account. The real card arrived a day later. And the internet banking didn’t come right away, like after the account was active. My brother had to register himself online to start the internet banking. And this week when he wanted to do just that it was revealed that he needs some kind of activation code which is coming in another regular mail. So it seems that he still can’t use the bank account correctly and for example can’t transfer money from his Estonian account to his Scottish account which was the primary goal of opening the account in the Scottish bank.  I myself have an account in Estonia in a Swedish bank and as I explained the opening of an account in that bank is very easy. And that bank I’m in, the Scandinavian bank, is one of the safest banks in Europe (excluding Swiss banks). And I’m about 95% sure it’s more safe than the Royal Bank Of Scotland so all the hassle and the bureaucracy  was pointless and just a waste of time. In a long time I haven’t been so pissed about something than I was about this bank. What made me angry was the fact that everything could have been made easier and faster and in the end we had all the right documents with us – the advisers just couldn’t read them right. It was just sick. I really felt that we were being treated as second class citizens and that is something I absolutely cannot tolerate. I guess that’s why I, who normally am the quite one and say to others to calm down, was so “fired up” that I just marched in and demanded my rights. I guess it was rude but I couldn’t see another way. So yeah, my personal experience with the Royal Bank Of Scotland was extremely bad and I really felt like the bank treated us like we were second class citizens. It’s funny – usually banks compete with each other over clients because they want the money coming into their bank but it seems that the Royal Bank of Scotland doesn’t want money 😉

After the “battle” in the bank I was emotionally so drained. I drank a double espresso and I still felt tired. Then there were some minor other problems but they are not worth mentioning here. Then a fun fact when we were buying house hold things – in Scotland it’s forbidden for someone under 21 years of age to buy sharp knives. And when we took a taxi from the apartment to get to the train station the taxi company asked when our train is leaving and where are we going (with the train). I was like wtf? Why is this even important to them?

In the end my brother settled in the apartment nicely and we got some things done but all the things I was hoping to be done during the week I was there couldn’t be made because of the bank. This made the leaving even harder for me. I went along to help him settle and help with all the contracts and documents and almost all of the contracts he has to do by himself because I had to be back in Estonia. As I said I left with a very heavy heart. But it seems that my brother is coping really well and at the moment things are starting to resolve. But since the week in Scotland was exhausting physically and emotionally for me I felt like an even bigger burden had been put on me. Maybe I feel better when I visit my brother again in the beginning of September. And maybe then the “burden” will disappear.

End note: I want to emphasize that the people in Dundee in general were friendly and not everything was bad and negative. And the city itself is still beautiful and worth a visit 😉

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