Being foreign · Eating · Enjoying DC

What I’ve learned: Day One

– Having an international bank account specifically designed for people who travel a lot and are liable to move abroad is no guarantee against them blocking your debit card when you, say, move abroad.

– Starbucks cards need to be pre-registered before they can be used. This might be the case in the UK too, for all I know – I left before they were introduced, and of course it will be a number of years before they reach Belgium. But I carried my Costa card around with me for a good few years before I got round to registering it, and it still worked just as it would have otherwise. All that’s really changed now I’ve registered it is that I get annoying spam. Anyway, that all sounds very negative, which it isn’t supposed to be, because I very much enjoyed my first American latte and scone. (Their scones are different to ours, or at least a different shape. They’re a similar texture, and very yummy.)

– Opening a bank account is not as scary as you might think. The guy who talked me through it was super friendly and professional, and got me set up with online banking and a temporary debit card right then and there. Again, it’s been a long time since I opened an account in the UK, so it’s possible this would have happened there, too. Possible, but unlikely. I was really impressed with the efficiency. One of the reasons, by the way, that I went with Bank of America is they have this funky scheme called Keep the Change. Basically, whenever you pay for anything by debit card, it’s automatically rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the change is transferred to your savings account. So you save without really noticing. Cool, hey?

– There is a flavour of Ben and Jerry’s called cake batter. Yum. Can’t wait to try that one.

Now that’s what I call a supermarket.
– T mobile don’t give you a 202 number when you sign up for pay as you go. In the US, even mobiles – sorry, cell phones – have area codes, and 202 is the DC one. There is no way, after dreaming for all those years of living here, that I would accept a mobile number without a DC area code. Anyway, it turns out that if you call the customer services and ask for 202 – perhaps omitting “I want to pretend I’m Donna Moss” from your reasoning – they send you a new number. They say they’ll text it to you within 24 hours, but I got mine within a couple. So tomorrow I should probably go back to the guy in the shop and apologise for being less than enthusiastic about my new SIM card.

– My American expat friends are always going on about how much they miss Target, and now I understand why. And, get this – in the DC store, there’s a special escalator just for trolleys. Not for you and your trolley – but just for your trolley. Odd, but efficient somehow. There’s also a Starbucks and a Pizza Hut, and the Pizza Hut does popcorn and churros. Oh, the excitement.

– More exciting still, for someone who misses speaking Spanish, is the fact that almost every shop seems to have Hispanic staff. It would, I think, be possible to live my life in Spanish around this area. I might feel a bit of a numpty doing that, but then again, it might be fun.

– It’s true what people say about Adams Morgan being the centre of the food world in DC. On just one street – five minutes’ walk from my house – there’s Mexican, American, Ethiopian, and Indian, to name just a few.

So, there we go. At this stage in my blogging “career” I imagine that most of you reading are people who know me personally and are probably wondering “how I’m really doing”. The answer is, up and down. One minute, I’m like “oooh, this is so cool” or “customer service is just amazing here” and the next I’m musing about how dreadful the customer service is or how inefficient something else is. I also haven’t been to Capitol Hill yet so it feels a little like I’m living in Generic East Coast America rather than the city I fell in love with three years ago. I haven’t seen a copy of Politico or overheard a conversation about legislation. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow, which will have some structure in the shape of a “thing at uni” between 2 and 5, and then dinner with a London friend – it will be nice to see her and to speak to someone with whom I share more than a day’s history.

So far, though, I’m surviving, and hardly every having to repeat myself so that people will understand me and my strange accent. And there are so many flavours of Ben and Jerry’s left to try!

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