Life seems easy in the UK. Things happen with the snap of a finger and the click of a button.
My first stroke of this ‘easy’ life was experienced when I arrived at the airport.
When I arrived at the Heathrow airport, I needed to get a bus to Cardiff for onward travel to the University of South Wales, Treforest, and so I went about some part of this big airport looking for a ticket office. I found none. Then I enquired from an airport staff where I could get a bus ticket to Cardiff, and I was directed to a corner to get my ticket. I dragged my luggage along to this corner, and lo and behold, there were just screens and keypads like an atm machine, no humans. I read the instructions on the wall, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of them. There was a ‘help’ telephone hanging on the side wall but there was a long queue there. Not sure of what to do next, I decided to wait a few minutes to observe others buying their ticket using the machine. In a few minutes, I understood the process and I was able to get my ticket to Cardiff. Initially, it was difficult to get a ticket, but after I got the ticket, I thought of how easy the process was.
That was the beginning of my discovery of a land that is ‘easy, ‘instant’, ‘no humans required’ and ‘do it yourself-DIY’. Back home in Ghana, when I want to travel by bus on a long distance journey, I go to the counter at the bus station, pay and get my ticket. Other times, I have to just walk to the bus station, board the bus and then pay for my ticket, all on bus.
My second experience was when I visited the local bank. I was expecting a crowd in the bank, but on the contrary, there was not a single customer there. It was just a bank teller behind the counter. This confirmed my initial discovery that this country encourages ‘DIY’. When I had a banking problem, I was advised to use the self-service machine or use the online service.
Life is easy here because of the technology and instant products. I can have my clothes washed and dried within an hour. Ready-to-eat meals are available in the shops. At the stores and supermarkets I am expected to use the self-service checkout machine. Even if an attendant assists me to check out my groceries, I have to pack them by myself. At the fuel station, I observe that car owners fill their own fuel tank. I am not familiar with all these situations.
Life at the University of South Wales is no different. My university is well resourced. Majority of my lectures are recorded and available online on the virtual learning system and it is not mandatory to be at every lecture (but I prefer to be at all lectures); my assignments and required books are online. At the library, all I need to borrow books is my school ID card, and I can pick as many books as I can. Here again, I was expecting a librarian to issue my books, but no, I was directed to yet another machine, the book-lending machine. When I need a cup of hot chocolate, I just go to the vending machine, slot in a few coins and I have my beverage.
Life is easy in the UK, and I have more time to do other things but the easy life makes my life sedentary – very sedentary. I could sit at my hostel the whole week and not move out, but I wouldn’t miss anything or lack anything, because all I had to do was make a phone call or click a button and what I wanted was delivered to my doorstep. I could access anything and everything with my internet-connected mobile phone/laptop device. Everything is online!
Life is, also, easy on the other side. Back home, there are shop attendants who will check out my groceries and also pack them. At the bank, I can talk to someone about my banking issues and get a quick response, although I dread the long queues. When I need advice, there are people to talk to. At the fuel station, an attendant fills my fuel tank and I don’t have to get my hands dirty. Back home, there are humans everywhere to respond to my needs and thoughts giving me a ‘Human interaction’, something I miss about home.
But Yes! Life is easy on both sides.
About the Author
Joanne Kakra Mbroh is a TGSS Scholar from Ghana. She is currently studying MSc Safety, Health and Environmental Management at University of South Wales.