Living in Scotland – Continued

A rainy morning on High Street

A rainy morning on High Street

In the United States we like to think we are quite advanced, technologically speaking. In some cases we are way behind. For example, on my recent trip to the grocery store, I was asked to insert my debit card into the card reader at the checkout register. When I did nothing happened. The clerk took my card to look and said, “Your card does not have a chip in it. We cannot use this.” Fortunately, we had adequate cash on hand to pay the bill.

"Can I help you?"  Not today, thank you.  Just looking.

“Can I help you?” Not today, thank you. Just looking.

As I watched another customer or two who paid with debit cards, the transaction was nearly instantaneous. No PIN entry needed. No signature verification required. Everything that was required was on that chip embedded in the card. Obviously, if someone lost a card and called it in, the network would immediately flag that card and the chip would lock the account. How cool is that? I want one of those!

The only utility we pay is for electricity. There is a USB-type key that fits into our junction box, the Scottish equivalent of an electric meter. The digital screen on the meter tells us how much money is left on the key. At any time we can remove the key and take it to any number of locations where we can add money to the account. So far, after doing a week’s worth of laundry, heating water and cooking, we have consumed £4 (about $6) worth of electricity in four days. That works out to a $40/month electric bill. Not bad. Of course, that will increase in the winter.

This bakery next door to our supermarket is worth a second photo.  Those macaroni and cheese pies define 'comfort food.'

This bakery next door to our supermarket is worth a second photo. Those macaroni and cheese pies define ‘comfort food.’

One thing I have not mentioned about our apartment here in Perth. We do not have a television. It is interesting that we were avid followers of our favorite shows during our layover in Los Angeles, and with the DVR, we were able to catch up on a few shows, my favorites being Burn Notice and Justified. And we both love watching The Big Bang Theory, which I now believe will rival M*A*S*H, The Tim Allen Show, and I Love Lucy as among the greatest sitcoms ever. However, we do not miss having a television. Occasionally, I will rent a DVD to watch on my laptop. It is just that reading is at least as satisfying as television, and we are quite content without the distraction, however alien that must seem.

Okay, I will try one of those macaroni and cheese pies.

Okay, I will try one of those macaroni and cheese pies.

One frustration we have had is accessing our bank funds. We opened an account with HSBC because it is an international bank, and there is an HSBC here in Perth. However, HSBC USA is not the same company as HSBC UK. That was also true in Panama, but we were able to take out cash above the limit on our debit card there. Not so here. However, the fault is ours. We have debit or credit cards for four different banks, but we lost our record of our PIN’s. Having those records would have saved us some hassles. Oh well.

Note: It has been our good fortune that the rain we have experienced this week held off until we had moved into our wonderful apartment.

Expat Scotland

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10 comments on “Living in Scotland – Continued

  1. sweetsound says:

    Weird, I still have to use a PIN with my UK Debit card. I feel like the chip and pin system is much slower than swiping too, as in the US. Additionally, when I opened a bank account here, it took two weeks for them approve it, another week for them to send my card and pin, and another week for the money I had deposited to clear. In no world does it take an entire month to open a bank account in the States. That was my one big frustration with moving here. I was lucky, like you, that I had funds in my American account to last until the bank here could get it sorted. PS – how was the mac n cheese pie?? I feel like I have to stay away from those heavenly looking bakeries!!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Interesting comments about opening a UK account. Thank you for sharing that. Honestly, the mac ‘n’ cheese pie was okay, but I would take a chicken pot pie over it any day. The best part was not needing a utensil to eat it, and I mostly enjoyed that it was something local that I would never find back in the states, at least nowhere I have been.

  2. reocochran says:

    I have to admit, I would be huge living next to a bakery! Especially love the sweets! I like the cream donuts or croissants with glazes drizzled over the top. I am happy with a book most of the time. May I suggest, that you two might like “White Collar” on TNT (I believe) very much like “It Takes a Thief.” The police have “sprung” an art thief out and he is very nice looking but pleasant. I think his helpers, or team are intriguing and quirky. The main characters have been in other shows but only know the clean cut police man or agent’s wife’s name. Tiffani Thiessen, from what my kids thought was a “classic” show, “Saved by the Bell.” I love “Big Bang Theory” and think it is well done. That is all the ramblings from me today, but they do apply “loosely” speaking to your t.v. habits and eating habits! Sorry about the credit card, interesting about the chip and also, not sure how I could have handled what you do!

    • Mike Lince says:

      I should not tease readers with such tempting photos, should I? We have been good for the most part, although we occasionally splurge on a baked goodie. Can you blame us? 🙂
      We did watch “White Collar” while we were in the states. I haven’t missed TV enough to look at the various shows we might be able to stream. Maybe when the weather turns colder and nights get longer we will look into video entertainment again. Right now it just feels great to have a warm, sunlit room to sit and read a bestseller.

  3. I’ve heard about chips in debit cards, and it sounds like a great idea to me. I suppose cost and the annoyance of change are what have kept us from doing this in the US. I’m sure we’ll catch up one day.

    Is the no TV thing something you and Florence choose to do whenever you’re on one of your 6-month stints, or is it just circumstances in Scotland? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if Paul and I didn’t have TV. I suppose we’d read more and play Scrabble more often. We do love watching TV, however. We usually watch an hour or so every night. The Big Bang Theory is one of our favorite shows. We tried to get tickets to see a live show once, but the tickets are almost impossible to get. You have to call immediately when they become available at midnight and then it’s like calling in to win a contest. When Paul tried it, he couldn’t get through at all.

    Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      Television is something that was always provided in Latin America. We usually watched programs on one of about four channels, so we got a lot of “Law & Order”, “CSI”, and reruns of NCIS. We did not read as much. Now we stream shows we like or check out DVD’s from the library for video entertainment, although we are reading much more now. I think we will mostly miss NFL Football. Other than that we do not miss TV that much. – Mike

  4. While brilliant, those chips drive me nuts when I’m overseas… renders my cc totally invalid. Argh! Probably saved you a few lbs though, and pounds. 😉

  5. Paul DiMilla says:

    They have the chips in Canada, too. I kept trying to swipe my credit card during our recent trip and it kept failing. After finding out that I did not have a chip, the cashier would usually take it then do something and all would be well. I guess they are used to us chip-less Americans.

    As for getting a bank account in the UK, I’ve heard it is usually difficult. I was only able to get one when I was in the UK because my boss vouched for me. I kept it for years after I moved back to the states just in case I ever found myself living in England again.

    • Mike Lince says:

      Some stores have the capability to swipe the black strip on the back of the card. When they do, whether debit card or credit card, it is always run as a credit card and requires a signature and proof of ID.
      We decided against getting an account here since we are here in Scotland only until January. It is not worth the hassle because you are right, Paul, it is difficult.

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