Immigration is a tough business, leaving everything you know to come to a strange country where you do not have a network leaves you quite vulnerable, and one of the things you need to know is how money works. Some of the misunderstandings I have come across are:
A Russian not understanding that OD meant overdrawn and so in debt
An Italian who was confused about how the Uk uses credit cards, that you pay them off at the end of the month, if you can. Apparently, in Italy, credit cards are used to pay for goods and the money goes straight out of your account.
Selassi’s story though it happened many years ago, shows that not understanding the way money works can have severe consequences on an individual.
When I came here from my country in Africa, I expected my husband who was living here to show me how to live in the UK, it was all very strange and unfamiliar. I quickly realised that I needed to get a job as he could not support me so I did and set up a bank account for my wages to be paid in.
I became pregnant and we lived in a tall block of flats with no lift. One day, I made a big mistake, I gave my PIN number (the unique number that gives us access to our bank account) to my husband and asked him to get me some money. Due to my condition, I was unable to go out. In my country, in Africa, I had a savings account so I did not know that I should receive/see bank accounts every month.
When my baby was 2 weeks old, I tried to get money out of my account but the ATM would not give me any. I went to the bank who showed me that money had been taken out all over the city and that as my funds ran low, the bank transferred money from my savings account into my current account. I had no money, my husband was a gambler and very irresponsible. Fortunately., I had one friend who helped me out when he could. At that time, housing was not as desperately short as it is now, so the council were able to house me and my baby. It was a tough time, if I could not afford the electricity or the gas, my baby and I would be in the dark and the cold.
I would like to emphasize that this was a long time ago and I have managed to hold down a good job for the last 25 years. I have supported my family and my child is now studying in good university to enter into the profession. I am studying for a degree and I am very active in the Church which has become my extended family here. There were undoubtedly consequences for me in dealing with such an overwhelming situation, I lost my concentration for a time but it is recovering. I am sharing this story because I want others to know that its essential to understand how money works and never share your PIN number.