Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Taxman Cometh

Well, the info I've been holding my breath for basically since I decided to go to London has finally arrived: How much tax do I owe the HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs)-the equivalent of the US IRS.

Keeping in mind that I only had 1 month of income before the end of the 'tax year'-yes, the UK's tax year (for whatever stupid reason. sorry. there was judgement in that statement) is April 1-March tax liability?


Yep. £9.50. That wasn't a typo. Now, admittedly, for the one month, I am considered in the lower income tax bracket, and I had extra deductions I likely won't always have-but, this does also make me believe my post-tax income is going to be much better than I thought. The one downside? Unlike the US where you can adjust your withholding throughout the year, you can't in the UK. 'They' calculate your withholding based on your income and without regard to your deductions. How clever. 'They' get to keep hold of my money for a full year before I get it back. So, though it means my monthly 'income' won't change during the year per se, I am led to believe I will get a huge, fat refund come this time next year.

A big, fat whew after this.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's Complicated

First off...I am a slacker. It's been two weeks since I last blogged. Yes, I've been busy-flight to LA. Wedding. Flight to Seattle. Simon arriving, another wedding in a few days...but, that's still no excuse. I'm a bad, bad blogger. And, I promise once I get back to the UK & can upload photos, I'll fully catch up on what's been going on.
Especially when, there's actually something to blog about-I've just been too busy to do so!

I think I may have mentioned that Simon is in the Financial Services industry. In London. He's in IT, but nonetheless, he's only ever worked for Financial Services companies. A year ago, this point wouldn't have been worth mentioning. Given what is going on in the US/UK/world... economy/financial sector however, it bears mention. I don't think he would seriously mention it, but while Simon is here in Seattle with me, I think he is a little nervous about what awaits him when he returns to London next week.

So, he kinda dropped a bomb on me last week right before he came over: "Do you know how I could find out more info about the UW MBA program? I'm thinking about going to check them out while I'm in Seattle. I need a Plan B." Now, Simon contemplating an MBA program isn't anything new to me-but UW as one of those schools certainly is new. I'm trying not to get too excited at what this means *exactly*, but it's hard not to. Unless something massive changes in London in the next 8-10 months (read: I get a new job making £100k a year in London...), I don't think I'll stay there in perpetuity. If Simon & I are still together, well, things are clearly complicated. Do I stay in London? Do I stay in London with Amazon? A different company altogether? Do I come back to the US? When? With Simon? Do we break up? on and on and on. It makes my head hurt. As I've said numerous times this week, 'It's Complicated.' But, Simon deciding to get an MBA at UW (say..oh, starting in 2010), suddenly uncomplicates a *lot* of things. At least in the short/mid-ish term. I don't think I want to live in London long-term. I don't know if Simon would want to NOT live in London long-term. So, the question of where we do live (if there is a long-term we) is complicated.

I'm a huge fan of keeping it simple. So, the fact that there doesn't really seem to be an obvious, easy answer here is difficult. Yes, we've only been dating 6 months. But, I'm not 22. Neither is he. Not that everything needs to be figured out by next week, but things are going to need to be figured at some point-and preferrably, not 6 months from now. oy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Norway. Hm.

As I alluded to earlier in my post about Crazy Travel several weeks ago, Simon & I went to Norway this past weekend. The airport we flew in to was about 120km outside of Oslo, so instead of going thru the effort to go to Oslo (we flew in Sat morning & flew out Sunday nite. a 2.5 hour bus ride to Oslo just didn't make sense), we opted to stay in the tiny, quiet town of Sandefjord where we flew in to.
If you're looking for a quiet, low key, relaxing weekend, Sandefjord is your place. If you're a city-boy like Simon, well...that's a different story. On foot, we actually managed to see the entire town (or what was worth seeing) is less than 5 hours-and that included going to the Whaling Museum and wandering in shops. Wow. Which, it's a good thing it only takes 5 hours-the town closed down at 5p on Saturday, and from what we could tell on Sunday, didn't open back up either! :)
And, let's talk about cost. I knew the Scandinavian countries were 'expensive.' But, I thought that after London, I'd be prepared. Wrong. Two beers in the pub (the *one* thing that was open Saturday nite past 6p...) cost $26. Yep. $26. That's not a typo. Thank goodness the hotel provided free breakfast and dinner-eating there was the only way we could afford the beer! :)

Super nice, friendly people. A huge thumbs up there. The scenery is pretty (not stunning-which that could just be a function of where we were at..), but it reminded me so much of being in Alaska-both the landscape and the buildings-function over form-that I didn't feel like I was actually seeing or experiencing anything new. Odd.

I doubt I'll ever go back to Norway-unless I'm suddenly inspired to join the jet-set winter ski group. But, at the very least, I guess I can now say, 'been there, done that.' Not exactly the reaction I like to have after travelling somewhere new, but it's the truth. Hm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On the Outside Looking In

It seems that over the past few weeks, the talk has turned to US politics; whether I'm talking with US friends in Seattle or here in London, Brits, Germans, name it. Obama versus McCain seems to be one of the more popular conversational topics.

For some of my non-Amercian friends here, I'm beginning to feel like the US Spokesperson for International Politics. Which is an unusual position to be in-though, admittedly, I could probably do a better job than Bush! :)

It goes without saying (or maybe not...), that most folks I've met over here are very, very pro-Obama-and even the media has picked up more favorable stories on him than on McCain. Actually, I can't say I even recall a favorable story on McCain. In fact, the story I read this morning on Palin's daughter referred to her boyfriend as a 'redneck' in the title of the article. hah!

But, I can't help but wonder if I'm missing out on the reality of what's going on with the elections by not being in the US: is Obama just as widely and favorably received in the US as he is abroad? Does McCain's choice for running mate seem as odd in the US as it does outside? I hope I'm not living in some pro-Democrat abroad bubble that is just going to get shockingly burst come November.

Though I can say for certainty that the one thing I don't miss about being in the US right now are all of the ridiculous TV commercials!