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Aberdeen now and then.

Experience of a family returning to Aberdeen 13 years later.

As with most of you, we have all been exposed to the moving around. The whole "going to new places and having to start all over again" has happened to us a number of times. When faced with getting to “know the ropes” of a place, what makes a city different, or indeed alike to other places you have already lived?

What happens then when you find yourself moving back to a city, be it in your home country, or somewhere else you have already lived before? There is a sense of comfort from the fact that you have already completed the steep side of the learning curve and should be able to fit back in where you had left off.

This time round, and by choice, we have moved back to Aberdeen, Scotland.  A place we truly called home for 5 years before…  All the kids were born here, and although my husband and I are not native Aberdonians, it was one of those places we felt we belonged.

Moving to Aberdeen was a conscious decision, we knew the town, “we knew the country” and we were going to slot right back in, albeit in a slightly different location than before.

What a surprise!  It had been 13 years since we left and a lot had happened “in the world”. 

When we moved here first time we had to go through the hoops of obtaining a visa for myself (my husband, being a dual national did not need any of this) and yet, it all ran so smoothly.  During the early 90s for a Brazilian native travelling to the UK, required no visa in the Passport, one would receive permission to enter and stay for the time allowed by the emigration officer at the airport. In my case after a few minutes explaining to the officer who we were and what was the intended nature of the trip, I was given an “Indefinite Leave to Enter”, a very small triangular rubber stamp on my passport. It is exactly what it said. I was allowed to stay, Leave and Enter the country for an indefinite period of time and as such it worked, even after renewing my passport all that was required was to present the old passport with the original stamp and no questions asked!

Back then, we soon found out that to establish all the things one depended on to create a life, i.e., set up a bank account, get your utilities connected, register with a doctor (NHS) etc. all one needed was a phone and some grasp of English…  All one had to do was go to the address on the form, introduce yourself, fill in a very small and simple form and that was all there was to it. The paperwork was easy, one could even say, a pleasant experience!  The clerks were very friendly and efficient, the forms were straightforward and we loved the principle of ‘trust’ that was inherent to the whole process. Opening a bank account here – and for the first time too! -  was one of the easiest tasks we have ever done anywhere we lived.

13 years, a few conflicts, wars and one globalization later and what was once the public service model of the universe, was no longer there. One is now a number in a process, filling out endless forms that ask for the same information in triplicate, communicating through automatic phone answering systems or intolerant web sites that only recognizes native or local codes, addresses and phone numbers. Be prepared: you are now an “Alien”! In our case we were the Aliens that had already experienced a close encounter of the third kind and now had to get in line (queue) and do it all over again with only a few exceptions.

Although having been supplied a company paid relocation service, I was required to return to Brazil and apply for a Visa. This was despite of the fact that we had gone through an elaborate and tedious process of recounting our experience and travel details with copies of passports, visas, birth certificates, marriage certificate, driving licenses, etc.. etc.. All of which had been supplied to the relocation company which informed us that on arrival we should produce the old Passport with the ILE and we were good to go.

Arriving in Aberdeen, on a Sunday morning, and irrespective of the fact that I am married to a British Citizen, mother of three British Citizens - Aberdonians, for that matter - and holder of a previous “ILE”, I was held back in Immigration for over one hour, running the risk of being sent back. I was given a visa to remain in the country for two months. However the Immigration officer was very nice about the ordeal, almost apologetic, but in no position that only allowed him to follow and enforce the laws.

The visa application process was also very elaborate, requiring us to provide original copies of several documents and proof of cohabitation for the previous four years as a family and, where required, translation to English by a certified translator and notarised. All this and not to forget, having your fingerprints digitally recorded at the consulate.

All is well that ends well. I’m now a proud owner of a very nice, full page with colour photo “Indefinite Leave to Enter” Visa for the UK. Somehow I have a soft spot for the old stained, triangular rubber stamp. I think I should, and even may frame it one of these days, along with my Ladyship certificate, but this is another story altogether!

Lesson learnt, laws and their enforcement change. Trusting a highly paid, nicely advertised relocation service is no guarantee of compliance, so it is up to you to verify and make sure you are compliant.

Red tape aside, Scotland has, in our opinion, one on the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.

Yes the weather is lousy. It does rain. The days in winter are very short, one drives in the dark most of the time. It can cold but not to the extreme (this winter is an exception or so we are told). Aberdeen is still the Granite City. Sticky Toffee Pudding is still my favourite Dessert and Nessy is still a shy Lady living in the Loch, and I hope she is doing well… And if you happen to come across a Public Servant he/she will be still as nice, efficient, and will be there to help you with no matter what you need, often with a smile. I believe they should be listed in the UN as endangered species.

Where I’m from we say that if advice is any good it would be sold not given. But for what it is worth: Do your homework, research as much as possible where you are going and what is expected from you. I’m sure there will be variations with different nationalities, but I’m not in a position to comment on this one.

Get ready by making copies of important documents, scanning them, and making copies of your electronic files. Do not trust the relocation people, no matter how much they are being paid or how professional their website looks.

If possible visit the location before you move to get an idea of the available accommodation, services and costs.

Most importantly, never lose your temper with official personnel; they are following a process not providing you a service.

In the end, what we realised is that the foundation of all those systems still exists and it is still sound, however, it is hidden beneath several layers of checks and balances, including security checks that inhibit the personal contact and possibility of on-the-spot decision making; often times leading to unnecessary frustration and waste of time…but then again, we would never know all this had we not left the nest and accepted the challenge! 

Bon Voyage!