Friday, November 27, 2009

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

To me, Thanksgiving signals the arrival of the proper holiday season (regardless of what retailers in September or October would lead us to believe...), and even though I haven't always made a big meal-production out of it while living in the US-my ex-flatmate, Sarah & I decided to continue with the tradition we started last year and co-host a potluck at my flat this year.
We had 17 people lined up to come over, and I'm sure it would have been a blast-great food, flowing wine, fabulous people-American, Brit, and a few other nationalities I believe.

[Cue sound of the record needle scraping across the record]

That is until Simon came down with Swine Flu last weekend. I'm certainly not going to be one to put my friends in harm's way by still having them come to my virus-infected flat, so Sarah & I quickly tried to come up with a Plan B. Long story short, we ended up having drinks and dinner out (no turkey. no pumpkin pie.) at a local restaurant. And though the food was great, the drinks were flowing, and the people were fabulous, it really wasn't the same.

Especially now that I'm not living in the US, there's something about this day of the year in which I was *really, really* looking forward to a Thanksgiving, potluck meal. Poor me. This is all about me. Never mind the boyfriend who's already been out of work sick for a week. :)

So, I think I will have to rectify the situation this weekend: perhaps a small roasted turkey breast, pumpkin pie, stuffing, and a veg or two. No big production, no 17 people over or wine flowing by the gallon..but I do feel the need to make this meal. I guess there's a part of me that simply missed what the day's events would have meant-and, I don't just mean the caloric intake!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

And, just when I think I've gotten the hang of living in the UK, I get this email from our MD today at work:

"Good Morning all,

Today is Armistice Day. We have a number of external meetings, deliveries etc which happen around the building so as usual we haven’t asked for a standstill at 11am.

However, I do want people to feel comfortable to stop and reflect for two minutes at 11am if they wish to do so and would ask anyone playing music, using printers etc to stop or switch off for this period."

I think it's pretty cool that in this day & age, it's apparently still commonplace for people to pause for a few minutes to reflect. I can't imagine any email like this going out to people at a US company encouraging a 2-minute pause at work!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to London? Part 2

Well, as expected, after my first Moving to London post, I've had a few other things come to mind that I thought might be worth mentioning. I tried to wait until I had several more things to mention, so there wasn't a constant stream of blog posts entitled, 'oh. one more thing.' :). In no particular order of importance..
1. If you have the luxury/flexibility/budget-and assuming you won't drive, pick a place to live that doesn't force you to rely on *only* one tube line. Especially the Jubilee. With increasing frequency as I've lived here the past (almost) two years, parts of a tube line-or in some cases an entire line will be shut for part if not all of the weekend. Yes, there may be bus-replacement service, but seriously...what would normally be a 15 minute trip for you may be a 45 minute-plus trip. You won't want to deal with this on such an ongoing basis. I have a friend who signed an 18 month lease in Canary Wharf a few months ago. The Jubilee line is the only lie that serves that part of town. He's effectively without tube transport at all on the weekends. Every weekend. For 18 months. Avoid at all costs...
2. Say goodbye to your American clothes dryer and hello to your new best friend-a clothes rack. Most London flats don't have the space here as in the US. I realize that's stating the obvious that most people know already. But, what most people don't know (I didn't until I moved here...) was that that in the never-ending pursuit of space-saving appliances in Britain, the invention of the combo washer/dryer simply means that your clothes will never, ever get dried in the machine. Not unless you wish to dry a load of clothes for well over three hours. Which, let's face it: who has the time-or budget to run such an appliance? Instead, you'll end up buying one of those multi-tiered clothes racks, just like you used to have in college. Joy.
3. With that being said, what not having a proper dryer also means is that your jeans will never fit you tightly again (god, how I miss the miracle-jeans-shrinking my American dryer provided).
4. will become crucial to you knowing what tube lines are open at any given time during the week and on the weekend. You will save yourself endless amounts of frustration if you sign up to receive the weekly email that provides details on all the weekend line closures.
5. Customer service. I know this is one of the things I've talked about several times in this blog-especially early on, but I'm just going to come out and say it: The customer service is so bad-and there is so much to take care of when you first arrive-that the first three months you're in the UK, you will simply be perpetually pissed off. When I first moved here, I reached the point after having so many bad experiences, that I *started off* my calls to customer service already in a bad mood-and I'm definitely of the 'catch more flies with honey' belief. It simply couldn't be helped. Perpetually pissed off...
6. Timeout website. For me, it's an infinite source of information when trying to find a new place to eat, new pub to try, movie information...basically, all things entertainment. There are a ton of websites that go into more detail on individual topics, but for one-stop-shopping, Timeout is a great source of info.
7. I am soooo not a tax advisor, but I implore you: talk to a tax professional about something called the 'DDR.' It's a special (and somewhat unknown-though, I certainly don't understand why...) deduction that expatriates who *intend* to live in the UK for under two years-and who have been moved here by their employer-are allowed to take. The DDR effectively allows you to deduct all of your basic living expenses (rent, most utilities, council tax, food...), transportation to work costs, and transportation 'back home' costs. This is NOT an inconsequential deduction-most of your out of pocket expenses in the UK are for these very items. This can mean the difference between kissing 42% of your paycheck goodbye or keeping most of it. If there is one thing you do before moving to the UK, seek tax advice from someone who specializes in US Expatriate tax returns, and talk to them about this. DO IT.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Anthropologie Opens in London!

Dear Anthropologie,

After months and months of waiting, you've finally arrived in London! I signed up and received your email telling me you had finally opened: a glorious day. I received your next email a few days later saying that 5000 people showed up on opening day! Could 5000 people be wrong? Certainly not! To avoid the mob, I went at noon this past Sunday-right when your doors opened. I wanted you all to myself-or at least myself and slightly *less* than 5000 people. I waited in anticipation for a full week to see you in all of your glory-all three floors of beautiful clothes and housewares and your amazing, inspiring store design. Wow.

And, you did not disappoint! Glorious clothes-all in *American Sizes*-and sized even larger (I think, or was I just giddy with excitement?...) than what I find in Anthropologie in the US! Ah, this could be trouble...

Until I got home, and hopped on your website to look at a few other things and discovered this:

So, tell me this, Anthropologie: Why do you want me to pay £88 for the same sweater I can by in the US for $88?!?!?

Are you f-ing kidding me?

Anthropologie, you were thiiiis close to making me simply sign away a quarter of my paycheck every month. Now, due to your amazingly appaling pricing strategy, not only will I not be spending my paycheck at your London store, I'm going to tell everyone I know about this.

Anthrpologie, it's over between us. You've disappointed me in a way that is simply beneath you.

As eloquently as I can possibly think to say,

Bite Me.

Catching Up!

It's been a whirlwind week of All-Things-American!
NFL UK came to Wembley on Sunday (Sunday, Sunday...) Oct, 25. New England Patriots versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley. I was fortunate to go with a pack of friends-and one of the girls (Melissa) in the group kindly offered her place for a tummy-filling brunch feast before we went to Wembley. Long day, though...Simon & I were at Melissa's at 10.30a, and we finally got home at 8.30p. Whew!
But, it was a great day: great brunch, *amazing* weather all day long, great pre-funk 'tailgate' in the Wembley carpark, great seats, good group of folks to go with. All in all...a perfect way to spend a Sunday!

And, then this past Saturday was the most hallowed of American Holidays: Halloween! Perhaps my favorite holiday of the year-and certainly the only day of the year in which I actually like children. :) Another American friend, Carrie had a fabulous H'weenie party-complete with keg o' beer (a huge rarity here in Britan. um, the country that drinks a lot of beer...go figure), and Hidden Valley Ranch dip. hee. A lovely taste of Americana. It was Simon's first Halloween party-he went dressed as a Ghostbuster. I went dressed as an '80s Girl'-which, I guess isn't much of a stretch given the fashion trends that are currently prevailing here in the UK. But, I'm pleased I finally got to bust out some of my costume jewellery that hasn't been worn since literally, the 80s! :)