Author Topic: UK Mustachian life basics?  (Read 18589 times)

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #50 on: March 06, 2016, 03:09:18 PM »

Thanks, Dreams & Discoveries. I had to look up cattery just now. I'm learning so many words and concepts: clotted cream, cattery, crumhorn, pritt stick, pigeonhole, plimsolls, and many others. Also the fact that pants and trousers are not synonyms in this country (fortunately I heard this early on as a cautionary tale from another American).

Have to admit I've no idea what a crumhorn is either.....

These are Americans explaining it, but I heard the word first in someone's reminiscences of her Oxford "crumsoc" days. Sounded like they had fun. The instrument itself does not sound quite as appealing to me personally, but I'm not a musician. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1VQQiGXbsw

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #51 on: March 06, 2016, 03:27:42 PM »
We don't have thrift shops in the UK, but if you type "charity shop Cambridge" into google maps you'll have loads.

Thrift shops are the same as charity shops. But maybe the word makes a difference. Today I went along Burleigh Street by the Grafton shopping centre, and I stopped into many of the charity shops there. I've never seen so many in one place. I wonder if maybe people feel better about themselves for shopping in a "charity" shop that supports the Red Cross than they would about shopping in a "thrift" shop that supports the Red Cross. The big ones in the US are run by the Salvation Army and Goodwill, but lots of little towns have thrift shops to support the local hospital or a homeless mission or whatever the cause is.

Consignment stores tend to be a little more upscale and run for profit rather than to support a charitable cause. I had one I liked back in the States that was always having sales and also had a nice selection of good quality clothing.

. . .

The update on the cheque dilemma is that the organizer said I could pay cash at the door and collect my ticket then. :-) I've troubled the bank to prioritize my chequebook request for nothing, but at least the next time someone asks me for a cheque, I will be ready, assuming it's at least a week from now.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #52 on: March 07, 2016, 12:57:55 AM »
I know they're the same really, but I doubt anything would come up if you searched for thrift shop. And OMG, I've just remembered! There's a huge Sally Army shop on Mill Road that does loads of homeware and some furniture. It's not very upmarket but it's got a lot more than most of the itty bitty ones that focus on clothes and is very cheap. And if you buy furniture they can deliver!

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #53 on: March 07, 2016, 02:11:44 AM »
...and what is the American for pigeonhole?
Mailbox. It's a mailbox because it's a box where you get your mail. It's not a place where pigeons live. Right?

I can see it both ways...


Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #54 on: March 23, 2016, 03:19:53 PM »
...and what is the American for pigeonhole?
Mailbox. It's a mailbox because it's a box where you get your mail. It's not a place where pigeons live. Right?

I can see it both ways...



Thank you for this. These pigeons are cuter than what is usually in my pigeonhole.

Kwill

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Day trips?
« Reply #55 on: March 23, 2016, 03:38:36 PM »
Do you all have any suggestions for day trips or outings to try over Easter weekend? I'm not used to the idea of everyone having a four-day weekend for Easter, and I didn't think to make plans. I'll be doing some sort of churchy activity Thursday evening, Friday, Saturday evening, and probably Sunday morning, but that's still only a total of a few hours.

I had relatives visit last week and over the weekend, so I've now done the whole tourist thing: three museums plus small exhibits elsewhere, punting, colleges, afternoon tea, walking to Grantchester, visit to Westminster Abbey, selfie-with-Big-Ben, selfie-with-Tower-Bridge, etc.

What can I do that will be low key and not too complicated but fun, frugal, maybe somewhat social but not too crowded? I haven't rented a car yet here, but that might be an option. I'm not ready for more museums yet.

Do Zipcar and car rental companies have automatics? It's been over a decade since I drove a manual, and I'm not sure I want to practice on someone else's car.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #56 on: March 23, 2016, 04:38:55 PM »
Car rental places will have automatics, but you'd usually pay more & have less choice. I'd suggest that if it's just one person then the train (or bus) is cheaper and easier.

Ely cathedral? 14 minutes on the train, at least two per hour and it's pretty impressive. Obviously Easter Sunday is the most important day of the year in terms of a church service but Saturday or Monday would be OK for a tour. The rest of the city is pleasant enough for a couple of hours if the weather's OK; the marina/river is nice and I love Peacock's tearooms there.

Bury St. Edmunds is less well connected by train, but has a cathedral/abbey, lots of georgian, medieval and even norman  architecture, just an attractive place to wander around.

Sounds like you've had enough museums, but a trip to the Imperial War museum at Duxford is another easy day trip a few miles out of town; it's basically hundreds of old planes, but an interesting clash between the US part of the museum (expensive and with some modern airforce icons like Blackbird) and the British parts (WW II aircraft & a test version of Concorde.)

You'll find there's a lot of events on in Cambridge as the weather warms up - there are fairs, music festivals and other free things most weekends in summer. I love the Botanic Garden, but if you're not a plant nerd, it's a lot better in May/June than now.

What kind of stuff would you do with a few days off at home? A lot of British people would head to the seaside for the weekend - does that appeal? Any things you need to tick off a bucket list? A castle? Famous people/places from history?

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #57 on: March 23, 2016, 04:43:42 PM »
Maybe also worth pointing out that supermarkets & large shops are not allowed to open on Easter Sunday and many other places that normally open on a Sunday will also be closed.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #58 on: March 23, 2016, 05:31:57 PM »
Maybe also worth pointing out that supermarkets & large shops are not allowed to open on Easter Sunday and many other places that normally open on a Sunday will also be closed.

Wow, yes, that is helpful to know. In the US, we have really complicated rules about when and where alcohol can be sold, so I was a little surprised to see wine sold on Sundays in the supermarkets here. But I hadn't thought of laws restricting supermarkets opening at all. I should stock up on groceries soon.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #59 on: March 23, 2016, 05:42:31 PM »
...
What kind of stuff would you do with a few days off at home? A lot of British people would head to the seaside for the weekend - does that appeal? Any things you need to tick off a bucket list? A castle? Famous people/places from history?

Thank you for all the suggestions. I'm not sure what I'd do at home exactly. Usually for Easter Sunday I'd be heading to my cousins' house for a big meal, and I'd be spending time with friends on the Saturday. Other times I'd drive to a dance or two and maybe stay after church for coffee or brunch if nothing else were happening. With that and laundry and trying to get some research / writing in plus maybe cooking a big meal to have leftovers for the week, the few days would be used up pretty easily. I don't have space for planned leftovers here, and I had my family time this past weekend instead. But there's laundry and writing to do. Maybe I should just take it easy and do some bike outings.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #60 on: March 24, 2016, 01:35:00 AM »
In typical UK bank holiday fashion, the weather looks to be a washout.

I'd make the most of the only dry day Friday, and either do a long walk into the country, or a cycle to a nice little village. Make a day of it, take sandwiches and appreciate the beauty of nature. I'm sure you'll be able to find local ramblers/hiking groups if you fancy the social aspect.

The rainy days sound perfect to catch up on work/chores/relax - perhaps a good book or movies.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #61 on: March 27, 2016, 07:25:23 AM »
The weather has been surprisingly nice after all the talk of rain and wind. The Easter service was super early this morning, so by the time it started raining I was back in bed for a nap. Now the weather's gotten better again before I'm ready to go back outside. Yay!

It's been a good break so far. I did the laundry and hoovered* my room, cycled to Coton and saw pheasants on the way, sang with the church choir, attended salsa lessons, napped, did some freewriting, and went out for coffee with a new friend. I was all mopey yesterday morning thinking all my friends and family were far away, but within a half hour of thinking that I ended up being invited to two conflicting Easter parties. I had to choose one, but I let the other person know how much it had cheered me up. Other social events are on the horizon, too. So a very cheerful weekend in the end.

If I may inquire of you UK experts, where do you suggest finding reasonably priced blue jeans that are OK? The jeans at John Lewis and other places in the Grand Arcade were expensive enough that I'd expect them to be imbued with pixie dust, and jeans at charity shops seemed a little sad and/or already worn out. How is Primark for jeans? Any other suggestions? Also will shops be open on Easter Monday? My jeans have developed holes, which I studiously ignored as long as I could. But now both pairs have holes. I'm not wearing them to work or anything, but it would be nice if they were somewhat presentable.

* Look! I used a new word. :-)

Squirrel away

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #62 on: March 27, 2016, 07:55:17 AM »


It's been a good break so far. I did the laundry and hoovered* my room, cycled to Coton and saw pheasants on the way, sang with the church choir, attended salsa lessons, napped, did some freewriting, and went out for coffee with a new friend. I was all mopey yesterday morning thinking all my friends and family were far away, but within a half hour of thinking that I ended up being invited to two conflicting Easter parties. I had to choose one, but I let the other person know how much it had cheered me up. Other social events are on the horizon, too. So a very cheerful weekend in the end.


It sounds like you had fun. Have you thought about looking at the meet up groups to see if there are people you could meet up with? I have known some US people who have come over here for work or study and have met people in that way.:)
http://www.meetup.com/cities/gb/c3/cambridge/

I'm not really a jeans type of woman, but Primark is meant to be very good value. It's very dull and middle aged of me, but I have to admit I usually buy any new clothes from Marks & Spencer online.:D

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #63 on: March 27, 2016, 08:31:53 AM »
... Have you thought about looking at the meet up groups to see if there are people you could meet up with? I have known some US people who have come over here for work or study and have met people in that way.:)
http://www.meetup.com/cities/gb/c3/cambridge/

I'm not really a jeans type of woman, but Primark is meant to be very good value. It's very dull and middle aged of me, but I have to admit I usually buy any new clothes from Marks & Spencer online.:D

I'll have to check out the meet-up groups again. The one Cambridge-area one I signed up on only seems to have events that I'd need a car to attend. But maybe there are others that would be a better fit.

The clothing sizing is different here than in the US, so I'll need to try things on. There are plenty of stores in town. I guess it will just take a little more time since the brands and sizes are different.

former player

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #64 on: March 27, 2016, 08:37:41 AM »
If I may inquire of you UK experts, where do you suggest finding reasonably priced blue jeans that are OK? The jeans at John Lewis and other places in the Grand Arcade were expensive enough that I'd expect them to be imbued with pixie dust, and jeans at charity shops seemed a little sad and/or already worn out. How is Primark for jeans? Any other suggestions? Also will shops be open on Easter Monday?

T K Maxx in Market Street should have cheap jeans.  English clothing size is 4 numbers higher - a US 10 is a UK 14, and so on.

Congrats on the assimilation of English vocab.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #65 on: March 27, 2016, 08:47:25 AM »
English clothing size is 4 numbers higher - a US 10 is a UK 14, and so on.

Good to know. That should speed things up a little over my trial-and-error approach.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #66 on: March 27, 2016, 10:46:15 AM »
If I may inquire of you UK experts, where do you suggest finding reasonably priced blue jeans that are OK? The jeans at John Lewis and other places in the Grand Arcade were expensive enough that I'd expect them to be imbued with pixie dust, and jeans at charity shops seemed a little sad and/or already worn out. How is Primark for jeans? Any other suggestions? Also will shops be open on Easter Monday?

Shops will all be open on Monday (and very busy, I imagine.) Primark is very cheap and reasonable quality (if you don't care too much about the conditions where the clothes are being made?) If you head over to Primark, you might as well wander around inside the Grafton Centre, too - there are plenty of women's clothes shops in there and it tends to be more of the big chains than the shops in Grand Arcade.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #67 on: March 27, 2016, 01:49:25 PM »
If you're looking for jeans, Primark do not really sell what I would call actual jeans. They're more akin to jeggings, even when they pretend they aren't. They really are cheap quality at cheap prices. I would recommend either M&S (look for the really boring-looking things that are in the middle of their price range, they are still good quality - they do go in for some cheapo overpriced fashion stuff these days as well unfortunately) or Uniqlo (nice, plain, decently constructed but I don't think they have a shop in Cambridge so you'd have to order).

melaniesuzanne

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #68 on: March 27, 2016, 02:04:42 PM »
English clothing size is 4 numbers higher - a US 10 is a UK 14, and so on.

Good to know. That should speed things up a little over my trial-and-error approach.

Sometimes it is only 2 higher. I was there for 2.5 years and was a 12 and I am a US 10.
GiffGaff is great for cheap mobile.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #69 on: March 28, 2016, 04:25:20 AM »
Thank you all for the advice. Today I'll try to buy jeans & reload my pre-paid cell phone.

I think my phone service is about as cheap as it can be. I've spent £15 on phone service with EE so far: £5 for the phone and £10 for 9 weeks of talk (25 minutes per week) and text (50 per week). It's supposed to be £1 per week, but I only have 35p left on the phone after paying for this coming week. I'm not sure if maybe there's a tax? This amount of talk and text is plenty for me right now because I use Skype or my US wifi-based smartphone for my international calls, and most of my UK calls have been work-related things. I think I've made about 1 cell phone call and exchanged less than 10 texts so far, but it's been very necessary to have a cell phone number to fill in on forms and give out just in case. Already I am regretting a little bit that I got an old-style cell phone because texting is so much harder than with a smartphone.

I'll check out spareroom.co.uk. After 2 months in a dorm, I would dearly love to have my own kitchen and bathroom again, even if they are tiny, but I've had good experiences with shared apartments in the past.

Kwill

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tailor?
« Reply #70 on: April 21, 2016, 04:48:52 PM »
So 3 weeks later . . . It looks like I'll be able to take an apartment from 1 July, so that's good. It'll be about a mile farther from work and from the city centre, so I'll be biking more.

Can you suggest an inexpensive but reliable place for alterations? I've biked just enough here to realize I have a wardrobe issue. I still haven't found jeans that fit properly, and the jeans I have are pretty worn out. One of my dresses got caught in the back wheel of my bike and needs to be shortened an inch or so to deal with the resulting damage. One skirt has a grease stain from the bike, and another skirt kept riding up when I rode the bike. Apart from the jeans I didn't pack any trousers. The trouble with trousers and jeans (by the way, do jeans count as trousers here?) is that they always need to be hemmed and to have the waist taken in, and my sewing is pretty much limited to replacing buttons and mending small holes.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #71 on: April 22, 2016, 01:38:33 AM »
I think there used to be a stall in the market? No idea if they're any good!

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #72 on: April 22, 2016, 01:06:10 PM »
Really? A tailor with a stall in an open air marketplace? It really is a medieval town. Does the tailor wear a belt that says "Seven at one blow"?

Anyway, I will look around.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #73 on: April 22, 2016, 02:26:55 PM »
Pretty sure there is a stall on the market, as said, but you could also check out Oz, at Hope street yard, just over the railway bridge on Mill Road. Not the kind of thing I've ever needed myself, so not a personal recommendation, but clothes alterations and repairs is what they do...

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #74 on: April 22, 2016, 02:50:24 PM »
Ah, but only if it's actually a box :) Everywhere I've had a pigeonhole, it was an open slot, though admittedly lacking in pigeons :)

When I was an intern in the US years ago, I had to write up Employee of the Month reports. I'm afraid I got much private amusement writing about the chap who always wore his trademark suspenders.

worms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #75 on: April 23, 2016, 11:37:19 AM »
Ah, but only if it's actually a box :) Everywhere I've had a pigeonhole, it was an open slot, though admittedly lacking in pigeons.

In Scotland the pigeonhole is called a dookit, derived from doocot which is from dove cot. But a dookit can be both a pigeonhole for mail or any corner/cupboard/small office, whereas a doocot remains the one where pigeons live.  If Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language, it is nothing in comparison to England and Scotland!

Campanula

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #76 on: April 23, 2016, 11:43:28 AM »
I had no idea, but I love that!

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #77 on: July 28, 2016, 12:16:20 PM »
Six months today since I arrived. I woke up super happy today because I managed to plug in my radio alarm clock last night and had music for my alarm instead of the mobile phone. Finally. This week I also set up my desktop computer and got my flat a little better organized. I've got too many books for my few bookshelves, so I've lined them up on all the other flat surfaces and used stacks of books as bookends.

I've tried to give myself a break from frugality the past few months, so I haven't been around the forum so much. But anyway. In the six months, I've gotten settled into work, found my way around town, travelled a little bit, gotten library cards, found a flat and a bicycle and a local mobile phone, opened a bank account, passed my first credit check (Internet), and got reimbursed for most of my relocation costs. I've learned some new words and gotten better at picking up what people are saying. I've unpacked all but one box now, a box with old letters and photos that I'm saving as a treat for a day when my apartment is tidy and my to-do list is short.

I also registered to pay council tax, which was a big and unexpected cost. In the US, landlords pay a tax which is passed on to tenants in their rent. So the rental cost already includes all the tax and the water bill. I think someone tried to tell me about council tax months ago, but it went over my head at the time. So it came as a bit of a shock when the building manager explained how much that would be when I was picking up my keys and doing the final paperwork the day I moved in.

Alchemilla

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #78 on: July 30, 2016, 01:08:17 AM »
So pleased you are settling in. Cambridge is beautiful. Have you been punting yet?

I find ebay good for quality makes of jeans on the cheap. Try gumtree/preloved for a dressmaker/alterations.

Lidl/Aldi for groceries.

Have you noticed "fanny" has a rather different meaning in England?!
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worms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #79 on: July 30, 2016, 01:44:32 AM »
I also registered to pay council tax, which was a big and unexpected cost.

Ouch! That must have hurt, as it must be adding at least £150 a month to your costs! 

Glad to hear that you are getting settled, though.  How's the exchange rate affecting you?  If you are paid in £ but transferring savings to US in $, then it must be hurting.  If you are paid in $, then you are laughing!

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #80 on: July 30, 2016, 03:30:40 AM »
So pleased you are settling in. Cambridge is beautiful. Have you been punting yet?

I find ebay good for quality makes of jeans on the cheap. Try gumtree/preloved for a dressmaker/alterations.

Lidl/Aldi for groceries.

Have you noticed "fanny" has a rather different meaning in England?!

Thank you. I took a nice punting tour back in March when my mother and sister visited. The three of us did a lot of the Cambridge sightseeing and went to London for a weekend of sightseeing. One of the days, we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the morning and then went across the street for afternoon tea at Browns. I was glad to do things like that while everything was still pretty new.

I ended up finding two pairs of jeans I liked at BHS on clearance for £10 each, and I found some ballerina flats there the same day. I was just thinking I should try going there again when I saw that the entire chain was closing. Oops. So I still need suggestions of stores to try.

Aldi is a good suggestion. It's neither particularly close to me nor on the way to anywhere else I typically go, but for a big shopping trip, it would make sense. The thing is I need a bike basket or panniers or something. Another thing on the still-too-long to-do list. So far I've been going to Sainsbury's in the city centre, almost as far but easier to combine with other trips.

Back in the late '90s when fanny packs (butt packs?) were still a thing, this word difference came up when I was overseas in an international community. So that one I had heard, though it hasn't come up on this trip.

The pants vs. trousers thing was the surprise this time. Last night I skyped with my little godson and his family, and I told them that here the words were different so that if he talked about wearing pants to school they might think he was just wearing his underwear. The kids thought that was hilarious.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #81 on: July 30, 2016, 03:48:42 AM »
I also registered to pay council tax, which was a big and unexpected cost.

Ouch! That must have hurt, as it must be adding at least £150 a month to your costs! 

Glad to hear that you are getting settled, though.  How's the exchange rate affecting you?  If you are paid in £ but transferring savings to US in $, then it must be hurting.  If you are paid in $, then you are laughing!

Yeah, it ended up being about £115 a month after a single occupancy discount, but when you're trying to be careful about a budget, that's pretty significant.

Paid in £, sadly.

I just transferred a little savings to the US with Transferwise for the first time--happy to share referral offer for free first transfer, incidentally. Just let me know and I can forward the email. Cheaper than sending money with the bank, so it would've been nice to know about in January.

On the bright side, I hadn't gotten around to transferring my US savings to the UK except for the money I had to spend to get here, which was reimbursed into £. The US savings is worth more, at least for now, and the stock market is not bad. Either the £ gets better, in which case I can send more money home to invest, or the $ stays strong, in which case I'll have more available for a down-payment on a home here if I stay long-term. So I guess I wait and see and keep living within my means.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #82 on: October 30, 2016, 04:05:46 PM »
Checking in again at the nine month mark. Work has been busy, but I'm still enjoying it. The apartment is good. I've been traveling some. Since I've been in Cambridge, I've visited Grantchester, Bedford (Twinwood), London, Sheffield, Walsingham, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Dunfermline, Paris, Bucharest, Baltimore, and Washington DC. I still haven't been to Ely, but I'll get there.

The very Cambridge Mustachian dilemma of the day: buy an MA gown off eBay for £45.50 including shipping or "adopt" one that's been in a crumpled heap in the back of a closet at my church for a few years? I'd have to double-check with someone responsible there, but apparently they've already tried and failed to find the owner. The abandoned gown is wrinkled and smells a little funny, but presumably it could be cleaned. Length seems OK. What would you do? Would it matter if you were going to use it more or less frequently?

Second question. When I arrived I could only find one bank willing to make an account for me, but now I have tons of proof of my existence and address and everything else. Is it worth the trouble to switch banks for higher interest now that all my direct debit and everything else are all set up? How complicated is it?

Third question. Taxes? What should I know as an American living in the UK? I think I can figure out my US taxes, but the UK system is a mystery. I've tried going through the websites, but I can't find the kind of thorough documentation and detail that I was expecting from the IRS site.

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #83 on: October 31, 2016, 01:42:08 AM »
A lot of the UK banks are reducing their interest rates and perks at the moment, so I'm hesitant to say it is certainly worth the effort. If you pay household bills by direct debit, there are paid accounts that give you cashback on bills. Natwest is 3% on bills and costs #3 per month. Santander 123 costs #5 per month, pays 1/2/3% on various bills and pays 1.5% interest on up to #20k.

There are free accounts that pay around 4% interest on a few thousand pounds, but typically need direct debits set up. You can get these by setting up two Tesco online savings accounts and drawing money over every month.

The switching processing is pretty good. They will move over nearly all the direct debits and payments in the old account will be redirected for a while, but after 13 months (istr) it will stop.

I would ask for the gown. You can make a decision after you've tried to clean it.

You may be looking to overcomplicate the UK taxes. Most people don't need to file a self assessment, tax is paid from salary via their tax code. http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/check-tax-code  may be useful to check that your tax code is right.

Your payslips and P60 that you'll get in April will show you how much tax you've paid here. You may need to pay extra tax in the UK if you've earned more than #500 interest in the year; you may be able to pay less tax for charity contributions and payments you have made into a pension (rather than ones your employer pays direct from salary); if you wear a uniform or safety clothes (your gown may count).

Form my hazy understanding of the US system, on your tax return you enter the tax you've paid in the UK, add the unearned income within the UK (even if it is tax free here), and claim your foreign income credit to see if you have anything more to pay the US. What information are you looking for on the UK tax perspective?

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #84 on: October 31, 2016, 03:02:29 AM »
Third question. Taxes? What should I know as an American living in the UK? I think I can figure out my US taxes, but the UK system is a mystery. I've tried going through the websites, but I can't find the kind of thorough documentation and detail that I was expecting from the IRS site.

Most people in the UK don't have to think about taxes or tax returns. Income tax is deducted from your pay automagically and you get a P60 (through the post) at the end of the tax year with a summary of how much you earned and how much tax you paid. The tax year ends in April and the P60 typically arrives in May/June. You only need to talk to HMRC (Her Majesty's revenue) if you're self-employed, you need to tell them something they don't know about (e.g. overseas earnings) or if you have high earnings. You should have had a letter already telling you what your tax code is - this tells the employer how much tax free allowance you have so that they can do the calculation. It's possible that you were put on an "emergency tax code" when you started so that you possibly overpaid tax at the start, but this should rectify itself after a while, you shouldn't need to do anything to get the money back.

If you started paid work in January, it's quite likely that your earnings in the 2015-2016 tax year were sufficiently low that you didn't pay any tax for the first months (the allowance for that year was £10 600.) You should still have had a P60 for the year though.

All of the people I know who are in your situation (i.e. living in the UK but liable for US tax) reckon it's the US system that is a massive PITA.

gldms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #85 on: October 31, 2016, 03:23:19 AM »
Dear Kwill,

Glancing over your posts on this thread, it appears that you are a fellow US academic in the UK.  I think I have a few bits of advice regarding tax and pensions for you:

First, it is great that you rolled over your US pension to an IRA before your moved over here.  That means that, if you wish, you can
contribute money to your IRA from your UK income and deduct that contribution from your UK taxable income (and, of course, your US taxable income).  This is in the Tax treaty.  (You can contribute to your IRA if you don't use the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion; see below). Second, don't worry about filing UK tax returns on your UK income, as it is all taken care of automatically via PAYE.  The only exception is if you had UK income outside of your employment. Third, and this is VERY important, you must file US taxes every year just as if you lived in the USA.  You don't need to include a W-2 as you do don't have one.  Fourth, DO NOT use the foreign earned income exclusion (IRS form 2555); instead, use the foreign tax credit; this enables you to pay your US tax via credit for the money used to pay your UK tax (IRS form 1116).  Because the UK taxes are always higher than US, you'll never have to actually shell out any money to the IRS on your UK income.  Fifth: here is the big secret: When you file your 1040, declare ALL of your gross Salary and include your employer's contribution to your pension.  This way, when you finally draw your pension, it will be mostly tax-free as far as the US is concerned.  Even when you include your employer's contributions, your UK tax should still greater than your US tax.   Keep track of the excess UK tax you paid as you can bank that for 10 years and roll over to other years.  Here is one crucial exception: I'm assuming you'll be in the USS pension scheme; that tax-free lump sum you will get will not be tax free as far as the IRS is concerned unless you have accrued a cost-basis.  This is why you are better off if you include your (and your employers) pension contributions in your gross income.  (Note: you cannot use foreign tax credit carryover against tax liability on lump sum pension contributions).   Don't waste your time with a UK Stocks and Shares ISA. Seriously; you'll just get yourself in tax trouble and waste money on extortionate fees.  Just invest in stocks etc. via your US IRA.  That way, your investments will be fully tax compliant in both the US and UK.  Of course, you can also invest (very passively) via the USS AVC scheme.   It is good. You can also open a Roth IRA in the US and growth will be tax-free in US and UK.   Note , however, that your US brokerage will not let you contribute to any mutual funds while you live in the UK.  However, we are mustachians: we do not invest in mutual funds, we invest in index ETFs.   Finally, be sure to file the FinCin FBAR forms every year if your UK savings (total) exceed $10000. 

There is only one place to shop for food in the UK: Lidl.   The prices and quality for meat, fish, cheese and alcohol are best.  You will save a fortune.

Finally, if you haven't  noticed this already, the way things are done in UK academia and US academia are VERY different.  The main issues centre around teaching/grading/exams.  Make sure you find out about how it is done in your department or you will always be getting in trouble.

Good Luck!

I hope this helps.  Good Luck.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #86 on: October 31, 2016, 03:35:35 AM »
Excellent point about the UK/US differences @gldms. I am a fan of https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2015/06/17/us-vs-uk-who-grades-students/.

gldms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #87 on: October 31, 2016, 04:31:09 AM »
Excellent point about the UK/US differences @gldms. I am a fan of https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2015/06/17/us-vs-uk-who-grades-students/.

Yes, at secondary level it is certainly vastly different than, say, a US High School.  Some things are better, some things are worse.   The exam thing is horrible.   However, at University level it is also very different.  Lecturers/Professors have far less teaching autonomy.   I have to write my exams before I even teach the class and it has to be vetted by the Exam Committee (tedious nitpickers..). Then, the grades (marks) for the exams I give can be changed by the Committee if they do not like the spread of marks (grades)!  The exams are administered by the Exams office and held an auditorium or something along with exams for other courses (units).  In contrast, there was a professor at UC San Diego who had his art class final exam be done by all the students in the nude.  Now that's autonomy! (OK, maybe a bit too much autonomy..).

However, I can teach pretty much what I want, albeit not in the nude,  but I don't have much time in which to do it (15 lectures in UK to cover 32 lectures worth of material in US).  I don't have time to give quizzes and mid-term exams etc.  I cannot really assign graded homework as I don't have teaching assistants to help me grade the assignments on time.  To make things worse, the same words have different meanings in UK vs US academia:  mark (UK) = grade (USA), course (UK)=major (USA), course (USA) = unit (UK), revise (UK) = review (US), procter (UK) = invigilate (USA) (Both words sound like some kind of sexual assault..), rubric (UK) = ??(USA),  dissertation (UK) = senior thesis (USA), PhD thesis (UK) = dissertation (US), tuition (UK) = one-on-one lessons (US), fees (UK) = tuition (USA).  It goes on and on...  Many UK Universities have adopted American software (Blackboard) for delivering course material over the internet; however, the software uses American words and the result is now a confusing disaster.  Hilarious.  The grades (marks) are different too:  70% is really fantastic. 90% on a an exam/essay should be seen once a generation.  Passing is 40%,   It's stupid; if you are only measuring within a range of 40-70%, the exam cannot really be doing an effective job of assessing student's understand. Everybody gets about the same grade (mark) of about 63.5% +/- 5%.


shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #88 on: October 31, 2016, 05:17:18 AM »
Excellent point about the UK/US differences @gldms. I am a fan of https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2015/06/17/us-vs-uk-who-grades-students/.

I very much enjoyed the drawings, and thought that this summed it all up pretty well:

Quote
Brits expect standardization and nationalization. They expect their country to act as a single unit, evenhanded and fair. Their entire college application system, for example, runs through a centralized hub. You can apply to precisely six schools, including either Oxford or Cambridge, but not both. If you’re an American thinking, “How strange—that’s like if you had to pick between Harvard and Yale!” then you don’t realize the half of it. It’s more like if you could only apply to one school in the entire Ivy League.

In the UK, everyone surrenders minor personal preferences here or there for the sake of cohesion. They don’t think twice about it. It’s what “United Kingdom” means to them.

America is different. We remain individualists, frontiersmen at heart, and we expect local control. When teachers find themselves forced to deliver scripted curricula, following every step of a prescribed course, it almost always leads to revolts. We expect to write our own tests and grade them however we like, serving our own private visions of how our subjects should be taught. We take a diversity of approaches for granted. “Of course your algebra class wasn’t precisely the same as mine; we went to different schools!”

I'm always amazed by the American idea of "extra credit". You have a test and do badly because you didn't revise for it. But if you write an extra essay, it's like the bad test never even happened... How weird is that? You can rewrite your academic history at the whims of your teacher so there are no real consequences (apart from the hassle of having to write the extra essay) of screwing up.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #89 on: October 31, 2016, 05:25:44 AM »
The very Cambridge Mustachian dilemma of the day: buy an MA gown off eBay for £45.50 including shipping or "adopt" one that's been in a crumpled heap in the back of a closet at my church for a few years? I'd have to double-check with someone responsible there, but apparently they've already tried and failed to find the owner. The abandoned gown is wrinkled and smells a little funny, but presumably it could be cleaned. Length seems OK. What would you do? Would it matter if you were going to use it more or less frequently?

Second question. When I arrived I could only find one bank willing to make an account for me, but now I have tons of proof of my existence and address and everything else. Is it worth the trouble to switch banks for higher interest now that all my direct debit and everything else are all set up? How complicated is it?

Third question. Taxes? What should I know as an American living in the UK? I think I can figure out my US taxes, but the UK system is a mystery. I've tried going through the websites, but I can't find the kind of thorough documentation and detail that I was expecting from the IRS site.

1. Adopt it. You can hand wash it or have it dry cleaned. It's cheaper AND much cooler.
2. Interest in your current account will almost always be peanuts unless you are keeping your entire stash in there, in which case you have misunderstood this website...! They recently introduced a system to make it easier to switch, though, so if you did want to then it should be too much hassle and they'll forward your direct debits and so on for a year. However, the big banks are much of a muchness so unless you're here for years I wouldn't bother.
3. It's been said by posters upthread, but most people in the UK don't file a tax return. I do as I'm self-employed, and doing it online is pretty simple. They do ask you all sorts of weird questions like if you're a farmer whose harvest last year was good but you've also bought some new farm equipment this year but you're expecting a poor harvest so you'd like to spread the interest on your payments over more than two but fewer than five future years, excluding this year but including previous years for which you have yet to declare a special interest in wheat prices... Argh! But as a rule of thumb, if you have no idea what they're talking about (and you have simple business affairs as I do - I sell my time for other people's money and buy a few bits of equipment as expenses each year) then you can safely tick "no". Then it auto-calculates how much tax you owe, you pay, and Bob's your uncle. Takes me about an hour or two once a year, most of that time spent checking that I've got all my invoices and receipts to hand. However, if you have a normal job, just check with HR that they have all the correct details for you and they'll do the rest.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #90 on: October 31, 2016, 03:22:40 PM »
Wow. You all are so helpful!

I'll try to ask someone about the gown tomorrow; nobody was around when I stopped by this evening. It had a name written in on the tag, so I should see if I can track the person down. My mother pointed out that the fabric quality of the cheapest gown I could find on eBay is probably not very good. The abandoned gown fabric seemed reasonably heavy, so it might clean up well.

I had a little bit of US income in February and March, after moving here but before the end of the tax year. That's why I thought I might need to do a UK tax return. Not large amounts but enough that I'd expect it to be taxable. A couple unemployment checks that were meant to come in December but got tied up in bureaucracy, some from my extended family's company, some interest from taxable accounts . . . I registered for the self-assessment thing and signed up with the website, but having gotten that far, I didn't quite know what to do next. Someone at work suggested I meet with a tax preparer the first year or two to make sure I know how to do everything properly. Is it worth doing that?

Gldms, thank you for the advice about IRAs and income exclusion vs tax credit. That's good to know in my first year. A week or two ago, I heard about an American considering renouncing his citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes on the UK lump sum pension payment. But if excess taxes can be avoided by just filing the right forms early on, that seems far preferable. I'd also been wondering about whether to open an ISA or keep sending money back to the States.

I'm alt-ac at this point I guess: an academic librarian with a PhD and some expectation of research / publishing / grantwriting but no teaching responsibilities beyond working with students and scholars on research methods and resources. I might end up working with individual students in some capacity or taking on some minor teaching at some point, but for now, I'm happy enough not lecturing or grading -- especially after reading those cartoons about how complicated the differences are!

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #91 on: October 31, 2016, 04:01:39 PM »
So the February and March income you became entitled to due to activities in the US but actually received when you were physically in the UK? This is income that has been taxed (or tested for tax) in the US?

Does this cover your situation:
http://www.taxguideforstudents.org.uk/types-of-student/international-students/residence-and-domicile/how-are-foreign-income-and-gains-taxed

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #92 on: October 31, 2016, 04:38:58 PM »
Thank you for this, Playing with Fire. It clarifies things a little bit, but it mostly just confirms that I probably need to do a self assessment tax return. Even though I wasn't here very long before April, it was a permanent move rather than a temporary stay as a student. I guess I will have to just see what issues come up when I try to work out the self assessment. At least the amounts are small enough for the short time period that any mistakes I make with it are likely also to be small and/or have small consequences.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #93 on: November 01, 2016, 05:11:22 AM »
If you call HMRC (call at 0745 before the lines open for the best chance of not having a long hold) and explain, they may be able to collect tax from this year's tax code.

Stress that it is a one off, that the income was tested for tax in the US and was accrued/earned before you moved. You might need to do a self assessment this year, but once they ask you to do one the default is to do one every year. Less work than a US tax return but still worth avoiding if you can.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #94 on: November 01, 2016, 06:05:01 AM »
If you call HMRC (call at 0745 before the lines open for the best chance of not having a long hold) and explain, they may be able to collect tax from this year's tax code.

Stress that it is a one off, that the income was tested for tax in the US and was accrued/earned before you moved. You might need to do a self assessment this year, but once they ask you to do one the default is to do one every year. Less work than a US tax return but still worth avoiding if you can.

+1. I rang them about five times the first year I did my tax return and they were super duper nice about it every time!

Kwill

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update
« Reply #95 on: June 07, 2017, 01:33:07 PM »
I'll be moving from the US to England (about an hour from London by train) in a couple weeks or so to start a new job.
...

It's now been about 18 months since I started the thread. Thanks in part to all your kind responses, I got my UK taxes sorted out and my US taxes are almost ready to go for the 15 June expat deadline. I got a phone and a bank account and a flat and eventually a credit card. Work is interesting. Cambridge is lovely, and the weather is unbelievably good in comparison to Cambridge Massachusetts. People are mostly nice. It's turned out to be quite the eventful time to be new to England, what with Brexit and the political things happening and the sad recent events. It's a lot to take in sometimes.

I'd like to invite you over to a new thread and ask you to share your thoughts about Englishness. After many people recommended it, I've started reading 'Watching the English,' and now thinking over what I've observed during the past 17 months . . .  https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/reading-'watching-the-english'-and-wondering-about-class-etc/

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #96 on: August 08, 2017, 05:25:18 PM »
Today I got a decision in principle on a mortgage. This feels like a real milestone. I've been looking at flats online for a few weeks, but now maybe I will actually start talking to a real estate agent or whatever you call people who sell flats. It reminded me of this thread and all of the stuff I didn't know going into this. This is like the world's slowest moving journal.

My current lease ends 1 August 2018, so I've got plenty of time to sort everything out. The management company for my current place said that they'd let me out if another tenant was available but that I'd be responsible for the rent and council tax through the end of the lease otherwise. They suggested that January or April might be times when new tenants would want places. All of their leases end the same time of year, so for September they have more openings than new tenants. I might try for April since it would be less risky with fewer months left to the end of the lease.

Even with all the various helpful programmes and schemes and so forth for first-time homebuyers, I can only really look at tiny flats if I want to stay within an easy biking distance of my workplace and close enough to the city centre to enjoy activities there in the evenings and weekends. Still, that's all I need, and it sounds as though my monthly expenses will be much lower than now once everything is settled, which should allow me to either save more or pay off the mortgage more quickly. :-)

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #97 on: August 09, 2017, 02:28:07 AM »
now maybe I will actually start talking to a real estate agent or whatever you call people who sell flats.

I think you'll find a lot of differences between the housebuying system here and in the US (the US one seems unbelievably inefficient to me, but ours has its own set of frustrations.)

A flat in central Cambridge won't come cheap, although prices do appear to have stopped rising so quickly. Unusual to have such a long lease - most places you can get out of the lease much more quickly (OTOH, the landlord can get you out much faster.)

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #98 on: August 09, 2017, 02:40:44 PM »
now maybe I will actually start talking to a real estate agent or whatever you call people who sell flats.

I think you'll find a lot of differences between the housebuying system here and in the US (the US one seems unbelievably inefficient to me, but ours has its own set of frustrations.)

A flat in central Cambridge won't come cheap, although prices do appear to have stopped rising so quickly. Unusual to have such a long lease - most places you can get out of the lease much more quickly (OTOH, the landlord can get you out much faster.)

I'm curious - what are the differences? And why is the US inefficient?

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #99 on: August 09, 2017, 04:18:27 PM »
I think you'll find a lot of differences between the housebuying system here and in the US (the US one seems unbelievably inefficient to me, but ours has its own set of frustrations.)

A flat in central Cambridge won't come cheap, although prices do appear to have stopped rising so quickly. Unusual to have such a long lease - most places you can get out of the lease much more quickly (OTOH, the landlord can get you out much faster.)

I've actually never bought a house in the US either, only read and heard about it. So I'm doubly new to this. From what I can tell from listings online, there are very few flats that are within my Venn diagram of location and budget, but on the bright side, it shouldn't be hard to decide.

Currently I'm renting from the university, which adds a certain bureaucratic element. No matter when the lease starts, it ends 1 August or 1 September, and there's no provision for getting out early. As a practical matter though, some people will end up coming in the middle of the year and not wanting to wait until August to move in, so I should be alright if I can be a little patient about it. I don't know if it's true here, but in the States, winter is supposed to be a better market for buyers because many people are trying to avoid moving their kids in the middle of the school year.