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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: Kwill on January 10, 2016, 08:26:13 PM

Title: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 10, 2016, 08:26:13 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.

What are your recommendations for . . .

banking

cell phone service (I have an Android smartphone that should be able to take a SIM card, but what companies are good?)

groceries

other shopping (clothes, shoes, bicycle, etc.)

transportation

housing

anything else?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 11, 2016, 03:58:22 AM
Housing should be top of your list - your costs there will absolutely dominate everything else, but of course your location makes a big difference to that. Transportation costs also depends a lot on where you live and where you work.

Taking a local example for me, if you live in Cambridge & work in Cambridge, you can cycle (everyone does) and don't need a car to get anywhere. If you live in Cambridge & work in London, you need to get a train season ticket (few £k per year). If you live in a village too far from Cambridge to cycle, with no public transport, you need a car.

Groceries/shopping generally more expensive than the US. Aldi/Lidl cheap, Waitrose expensive (but they sell nice stuff!)

Bank accounts are typically free here (only charges I pay are for foreign currency transactions) but you can shop around for visa cards with cashback, accounts which pay bonuses on things etc. Expect hassle in opening an account - you typically need to prove who you are (passport) but also where you live (hard to get utility bills until you have a fixed address). Hopefully your employer can help with this.

Where are you moving to? Where will you be working?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: former player on January 11, 2016, 05:15:04 AM
I agree with ceratonia that in the South-East of England housing is the biggest issue and the biggest expense.

Which? does product reviews and advice.  For instance, they've got comparisons of bank accounts here (http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/).  They have a two months for £1 introductory offer, which if you started now would give you a bit of advance information plus a few weeks of working things through once you are here.

If you are working in London a pay as you go Oyster card is the way to go for public transport, unless your season ticket is part of that system.  Check up on the zones to get what works for your particular geographic situation.

There are London mmm meetups, although I've not managed to attend.

Welcome to the UK: I hope you have a great time here.

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 12, 2016, 12:20:32 PM
Thank you for these helpful responses and for the welcome. I'll be in Cambridge. I just arranged this morning to take a "study room" (which sounds like a dorm room) in one of the colleges for the first several months. So that gives me some time to learn the area, and I will have an address from the day I arrive.

I will check out Which. That sounds very helpful. An Oyster card would probably be useful, even if I don't need to be in London on a regular basis.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 12, 2016, 01:09:45 PM
Thank you for these helpful responses and for the welcome. I'll be in Cambridge. I just arranged this morning to take a "study room" (which sounds like a dorm room) in one of the colleges for the first several months. So that gives me some time to learn the area, and I will have an address from the day I arrive.

I will check out Which. That sounds very helpful. An Oyster card would probably be useful, even if I don't need to be in London on a regular basis.

I work in Cambridge and have lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so let me know if you have any questions. If you're in a college room, you'll want to look into getting a bike when you arrive - this is not a car-friendly city. It's an expensive place to live by UK standards, but (because it's a student town) also a lot of opportunities to live frugally and a lot of cultural & historic stuff that you just can't do elsewhere.

Oyster card pretty much pays for itself in a single visit to London.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 14, 2016, 01:41:19 PM
I work in Cambridge and have lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so let me know if you have any questions. If you're in a college room, you'll want to look into getting a bike when you arrive - this is not a car-friendly city. ...

Thank you. I'm sure I'll have questions. I'll look into the bike once I'm settled. I think I'll be able to just walk the first few weeks anyway.

So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 14, 2016, 03:59:42 PM

Thank you. I'm sure I'll have questions. I'll look into the bike once I'm settled. I think I'll be able to just walk the first few weeks anyway.

So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/

Walking is definitely also a good way to get around; much of the city centre is closed to traffic and nowhere is that far.

I am the wrong person to answer your other questions. No smartphone for me and I very rarely use my pay-as-you-go phone. Whether your existing phone works really depends on what protocol and frequencies it supports. There is free public wifi provided by the university all over the centre of town, if that's useful. My kids seem to mostly get sims online - they arrive in the post next day, rather than going to collect.

I still have the bank account I opened when I started at university and have never shopped around for a better option, not much to choose between them as far as I can see. All of the banks in that Which report have branches locally, so I would probably go with TSB as suggested. The banking setup is different to the US (or at least how US banking used to be) in that we have a smaller number of very large banks who operate across the whole country; many services are shared between them so that you can use your card to get money out of other banks' ATMs, almost everything can be done online and there is rarely a need to visit the bank itself (I haven't been inside one for many years.) There is a local building society (the Cambridge Building Society) which is maybe closer to a savings & loans or credit union, which is owned by its members, but there's no real advantage to doing that.

The difficulty of opening an account is not that you're a student or a wage-earner, but that in an attempt to clamp down on money laundering, you have to prove who you are and where you live. Who you are is easy - you can use your passport for that. Proving where you live generally requires showing bills for water, gas, electricity, or bank statements, or tax bills or similar - and that's hard to do when you've just entered the country. Any bank in Cambridge should be used to dealing with this - they may need an official letter from the college to confirm your address, for example. Cambridge has a very cosmopolitan (and transient) population, large proportion of people are from elsewhere in Europe, plus plenty of north americans, australians etc. so a lot of services are geared to coping with your situation.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 28, 2016, 07:08:31 PM
So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/
Whether your existing phone works really depends on what protocol and frequencies it supports. There is free public wifi provided by the university all over the centre of town, if that's useful. My kids seem to mostly get sims online - they arrive in the post next day, rather than going to collect.

I still have the bank account I opened when I started at university and have never shopped around for a better option, not much to choose between them as far as I can see. All of the banks in that Which report have branches locally, so I would probably go with TSB as suggested. The banking setup is different to the US (or at least how US banking used to be) in that we have a smaller number of very large banks who operate across the whole country; many services are shared between them so that you can use your card to get money out of other banks' ATMs, almost everything can be done online and there is rarely a need to visit the bank itself (I haven't been inside one for many years.) There is a local building society (the Cambridge Building Society) which is maybe closer to a savings & loans or credit union, which is owned by its members, but there's no real advantage to doing that.

The difficulty of opening an account is not that you're a student or a wage-earner, but that in an attempt to clamp down on money laundering, you have to prove who you are and where you live. Who you are is easy - you can use your passport for that. Proving where you live generally requires showing bills for water, gas, electricity, or bank statements, or tax bills or similar - and that's hard to do when you've just entered the country. Any bank in Cambridge should be used to dealing with this - they may need an official letter from the college to confirm your address, for example. Cambridge has a very cosmopolitan (and transient) population, large proportion of people are from elsewhere in Europe, plus plenty of north americans, australians etc. so a lot of services are geared to coping with your situation.

Ceratonia, belated thanks for this information. You're right about the banking. I just arrived yesterday and ran into this trouble of giving the right documents. I think what I will do is wait until after I start working on Monday and either have more documents or can ask for a letter. Metro Bank is open until 8 pm on weekdays and much of the day on Saturday and Sunday, and they can print out a debit card and generate a PIN on the spot as soon as an account is open, no appointment needed and no fees. Metro Bank might not be the best choice in the long term, but for now, it seems like the easiest option.

My US cell phone doesn't have a SIM card slot, so that plan did not go as smoothly as I'd hoped. It uses the wrong type of network. I'm trying to decide whether to buy a smartphone or go with something simpler for the time being. I can only do pay-as-you-go plans until I have a bank account, but now that I also need to buy a phone, it complicates matters that I can't get a bank account yet. In the short term, I've added $10 to my Skype account. I can use my US Republic Wireless phone on Wi-Fi for sending and receiving calls to the US and Canada, and I can use Skype over Wi-Fi to make calls to UK and other numbers. I could get a UK number for Skype, but it seems unnecessary if I'm planning to get a local cell phone within a week.

I'm looking forward to forgetting about the phone and the bank account for a few days and just being a tourist until Sunday. A tourist with jet lag. I wonder if there's anywhere to safely go and get a meal at 2 am . . .
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Ukwhat? on January 28, 2016, 11:56:18 PM
For smart phones / sim only and also other items like Internet and online shopping etc check these few websites out if you haven't already.

Www.hotsimonlydeals.com for good comparison of cheapest sim only deals.
Www.hotukdeals.com for user submitted deals found at different places, everything from cars to food. Phones are popular on here.
Www.quidco.co.uk for cashback on purchases, can be over £100 back on phones etc.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 29, 2016, 01:28:24 AM
I wonder if there's anywhere to safely go and get a meal at 2 am . . .

Welcome to the UK :-)

AFAIK, the only place that might be serving meals at 2am would be The Regal (Wetherspoons pub) which has a certain reputation - cheap but not very good food and cheap beer attracts a certain crowd. You might also find one or two places selling takeaway pizza and/or chips (fries to you) or kebabs to drunks on their way home in that general area - market square/regent street.  Cambridge is generally pretty safe, but most people out at that time of night midweek will have been drinking. Big supermarkets are all open 24hrs except Sunday, but maybe not that convenient to get to in the night-time without a car.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on January 29, 2016, 02:24:20 AM
Welcome to the UK.

If you want a basic smartphone Amazon has the Vodaphone Smart First for £19, on pay as you go. You can buy 'bundles' starting from £10/month that give you a monthly allowance of calls, text and data, or buy a sim-only contract when you have your bank account sorted out. Better, second hand phones will be available if you look, and payg sims start from 1p. Ask people in your college which networks have service where you are (or where you will live), you can also check out the virtual networks (Talktalk, Tesco, etc) that piggyback on the main networks, as they can be cheaper.

Metrobank is pretty good for service and opening hours, but other banks have better credit interest rates if you are interested and want to play games. You can get up to 6%, on a limited balance. Moneysavingexpert.com is a good place to look.

For groceries, the Cambridge centre mini markets have higher prices on some items than a bigger version of the same store brand (Tesco, Sainsburys). Online shopping means you get the cheaper prices and they deliver to the door (possibly the college front door rather than a room door). Are you in a catered college and do you have access to a proper kitchen?

For the bike - there are normally signs up around town for second hand bike sales - I aimed to spend more on the lock than the bike when I was a student.

How long are you here for?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 29, 2016, 04:39:52 AM
Ukwhat?, thank you for the links. It's helpful to see all the plans on one site. Yesterday I stopped in at Carphone Warehouse and looked a little bit online there and at Three, but it seems like all the phone companies make it hard to figure out exactly how much you would be paying.

Ceretonia, thank you for the late-night info. I ended up just eating a snack bag of peanuts I'd brought in my carry-on, but I had a nice walk for 15 or 20 minutes. I asked the Porter here where it might be safe to go at 3 am, and he suggested staying away from the city centre because of the people leaving pubs, as you said.

Playing with Fire UK, thank you for these tips. I picked up some basics at Sainsburys this morning, but I'll have to figure out where the larger markets are. I have a decent kitchen to use, but as yet, I don't have much to cook in.

By the time I figured out that I ought to bring kitchenware, I'd already packed most of it in boxes I won't see again for a couple months. So, I have 1 cereal bowl, 1 frying pan, 1 mug, 1 table spoon, 1 tiny yogurt spoon, 1 pair of chopsticks, spatulas, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and 1 microwavable Tupperware lunch dish. I think I'll be making eggs and stir fry for awhile until I get more dishes. Are there thrift stores or similar places to find very basic household goods? I don't want to get much since I have a lot of stuff being shipped, but a saucepan, flatware, and a plate would be very nice to have.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 29, 2016, 04:53:46 AM
How long are you here for?

I'm on a 5-year visa. If the job is a good fit, I could be here much longer. It's a strange feeling to suddenly be in the position of the immigrant. I read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, etc., and I've watched Dr. Who and Downton Abbey. But I'm not the sort of Anglophile American who dreamed of coming here. I'm sure I'll get used to things, but at the moment I'm still staring quizzically at the coins whenever I buy something. The twenty pence coin keeps throwing me since it's the same size as a nickel (5 cents) but is more like a quarter (25) except that there aren't any quarters. Then the five pence coin is the same size as a dime (10). The penny is familiar, but the two pence coin seems strange. It all seems simple enough written out like that, but it's confusing when it comes time to pay. When I'm in a store in the US or Canada, my hands just know which coins I need to pay whatever amount.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on January 29, 2016, 05:04:39 AM
If you PM me your address I'll send over some kitchen stuff I don't use any more.

The big Tesco at Milton (beyond the science park) will sell kitchen bits. I don't recall seeing kitchenware in charity shops, but haven't been looking. Aldi will sometimes have picnic plates and saucepans in but the homeware stock changes over pretty rapidly, it is closer to Sainsburys than the big Tesco (North of Castle St off Histon rd).

Suggestion: watch the opening scenes of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader after you've been in Cambridge for a while and can figure out where it was filmed. Also the Theory of Everything and Chariots of Fire.

Our money is crazy, but how crazy is it that all your bank notes are the same size and colour?!?!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Doubleh on January 29, 2016, 05:41:41 AM
Welcome to the UK, and in particular Cambridge which is one of my favourite parts of the country.

If you're still awake and hungry tonight I'd not pay too much heed to the Porter's warnings - yes you may see some high jinx and rowdiness in town but honestly I've never felt as safe walking around after dark anywhere as I did in Cambridge. Gardi's (formally The Gardenia Restaurant) on Rose Crescent, just off the town square is a late night institution and should be open at 2, go for the Greek burger. The Van of Life and Van of Death, on opposite sides of the market square are also good late night options in spite of the names.

Metro Bank seems a good option if they are able to help you, they are new but consistently get good reviews for customer service. The other bank that is consistently rated top for customer service is First Direct. It has no branches but a good website and excellent call centres - calls are answered within 2 rings by a native English speaker who nearly always fixes the problem there and then. Plus you get paid £100 for opening an account. Doesn't matter that you don't have a branch as you can use any cash machine in the country for free.

If you are still running into address problems the other alternative is an offshore account. When my Mrs came here from USA she was set up with an offshore account at Natwest by her settlement agency, no UK address needed. Any of the big banks ie HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds should be able to do the same but you may need to contact their offshore call centre rather than go into a local branch.

Phone wise you'll probably need PAYG as you won't be able to pass the credit check for a contract; no matter PAYG tend to be the cheapest options anyway. Good options are 3 and GiffGaff, I'd suggest 3 as you can also use minutes in about 20 countries including USA, France for no extra cost so good if you're travelling while you're here. A burner phone should set you back about £20 or you may be able to find one in a charity shop or scrounge from someone in college.

Are you able to tell us which college you're at or what you're going (roughly) there? There's a few alum on here and it's great to hear the stash is spreading!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Friar on January 29, 2016, 06:31:30 AM
calls are answered within 2 rings by a native English northern speaker

FTFY. ;)

I can highly recommend First Direct. I've been banking with them for years and never had a problem.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 29, 2016, 07:59:05 AM
For cheap kitchenware, I might suggest walking across Christ's Pieces and checking out the shops outside of the Grafton Centre, on Burleigh Street & Fitzroy Street - perhaps Argos, Poundland, Primark. Not sure whether it would be any less than supermarket prices though. Possibly worth going to TK Maxx on Market Passage. I rarely go to the shops :-)

In most places, Wilko is good for cheapo kitchenware, but the nearest one is in Ely (worth a visit on the train, but not worth going just to shop there.)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: spuggy on January 29, 2016, 08:02:33 AM
Welcome to the UK :)

Just to add, if you're looking for considered advice on the best deals, as well as Which, the Money Saving Expert website is a pretty good bet. Some banks offer current accounts with savings accounts attached to them, and those accounts are usually at a good interest rate for the UK. Lots of people go with a Santander123 account, but I can't vouch for that because I'm still stuck with my (perfectly functional, but making me no money) basic current account.
I hope you enjoy Cambridge.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 29, 2016, 08:06:53 AM
The big Tesco at Milton (beyond the science park) will sell kitchen bits.

That's a small one :-) There are much bigger Tesco stores on Newmarket Road (by The Wrestlers) and on the Cherry Hinton bypass and both are easy to get to on the bus.

We should perhaps also collectively assure Kwill that the weather isn't generally as bad as it is today.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 29, 2016, 01:13:30 PM
Thank you all for these suggestions! There's such a wealth of knowledge coming out here.

I got a cell phone today at EE. They had a free one available for PAYG starting at £1 pound per 7 days for 25 minutes of talk and 50 texts. I let myself be upsold to a £5 phone by Nokia, but it seemed a good starter option. My plan is to mostly use the UK phone for emergencies, UK texts, and incoming UK calls and then rely on my US smartphone for email and Internet and US/Canada calls over Wi-Fi. I was told I could bring the phone number over to a different phone and plan or a different carrier later, so I'll just see how it goes.

Playing with fire UK, I sent you a message. Thank you for the offer!

The weather yesterday was lovely, and today wasn't bad. I was living in New England, where at this time of the year, your face might hurt from being outside in the cold and wind. I was delighted to see daffodils and trees and bushes all in bloom. It's like going straight from Christmas to May.

With the banking, it seems like all the banks are advertising to have people with established accounts elsewhere switch. So the trick may be just to get established and then worry about getting interest or the best deal later. I'll look up First Direct.

I'll have to explore more of the shops tomorrow. Today I ended up having lunch and then coffee with my local faith community, which was a nice chance to meet people. Otherwise, I've just been walking in a pretty small area and looking at the shops inside the Grand Arcade. That was pretty helpful for cell phones since so many companies are there, but it doesn't seem the best place for cheap basic necessities.

I've got some food now in case I wake up hungry in the middle of the night, but it's good to hear that the city is pretty safe. :-)

Doubleh, I'll be working in one of the libraries. I'm not a member of a college here, just renting a room in one through June.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on January 29, 2016, 02:01:04 PM
looking at the shops inside the Grand Arcade.
Be sure to look at the floor while you're in there! There's lots of carved stone animals round the city - lions, unicorns, seahorses, dolphins, a sloth, a mammoth and all manner of other things (not forgetting the grasshopper clock), but the polished stone in the grand arcade is full of fossils.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: comp@26 on January 29, 2016, 02:29:53 PM
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Doubleh on January 29, 2016, 03:50:13 PM
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts

Sorry to be a downer but while this is normally great advice for in the uk, it doesn't work for us citizens. Assuming you're a us citizen or tax payer most places in the uk won't allow you to open an investment account due to fatca (us rules on reporting foreign holdings) any index funds you buy over here will be subject to form filling and punitive tax under the usa's pfic regime - and after all that you'll still have to pay tax on your isa.

Instead stick with a pension if your employer offers you one, that will be exempt from any tax in USA, and outside that keep up with your usa based ira or taxable brokerage.

Sounds like you're settling in nicely - if you're enjoying the weather now you'll love spring!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 29, 2016, 11:58:16 PM
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts

Sorry to be a downer but while this is normally great advice for in the uk, it doesn't work for us citizens. Assuming you're a us citizen or tax payer most places in the uk won't allow you to open an investment account due to fatca (us rules on reporting foreign holdings) any index funds you buy over here will be subject to form filling and punitive tax under the usa's pfic regime - and after all that you'll still have to pay tax on your isa.

Instead stick with a pension if your employer offers you one, that will be exempt from any tax in USA, and outside that keep up with your usa based ira or taxable brokerage.

Sounds like you're settling in nicely - if you're enjoying the weather now you'll love spring!

Oh! Good to know. I rolled over my 403b from the former employer to a Vanguard IRA before coming, but I hadn't started thinking about what options I might or might not have here. The employer offers pension options, but I don't know all the details yet.

As a US citizen, I think I can't contribute to an IRA with money earned abroad and subject to the foreign earned income exclusion. As far as I could understand so far, I think I'll need to pay whatever taxes I'm subject to in the UK and then I can either exclude the income from US taxes by filing an extra form or report the UK taxes back to the US to get credit for already having paid however much. There is a limit to how much one can exclude, but it's high enough not to be a concern for me.

I've revised my estimate of the weather equivalent to April rather than May, but it's good to hear your actual spring is even nicer.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Doubleh on January 30, 2016, 01:30:18 AM
Your understanding about taxes and iras sounds about right. If you Google about pros & cons of using the foreign exclusion vs foreign tax credits there's benefits to each, if you want to pm me I can send you a paper on this from my wife's expat tax advisor. But in very simple terms if you pay as much or more taxes in the uk as the amount you would pay in the USA then you have the option to  use credits for the uk tax paid to cover your us tax liability. Because you didn't exclude your income you're still eligible to contribute to an ira. But there's other things to consider so definitely do your own research or talk to an advisor.

Uk pensions work like a 401k in that you get tax relief on your payments and pay tax when you withdraw funds from the pension. Recent changes to the rules have made pensions much more flexible so you no longer have to buy an annuity. Do be aware that unlike a 401k there is pretty much no way I've found of accessing the funds in your pension early (current minimum is 55 but likely to increase towards 60 before you get there) without punitive tax penalties - like 50% tax. All that said the benefits are well worth it and you should get at least the maximum your employer will match. Additionally academic institutions are among the few employers still offering final salary or defined benefit pensions to some employees. Not sure whether your library does but if it does sieze it with both hands.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 05, 2016, 05:03:26 PM
First week done! I've been in the UK 8 days now. I've started some potential friendships, met dozens of people, attended talks and a formal dinner, mostly enjoyed the first week of the job, got a mobile phone and a bank account, called to start the process for a National Insurance number, went swing dancing, and climbed dozens of flights of stairs.

I'm giving up on coins smaller than a pound now that I realize I can just throw all my change into the self checkout at Sainsbury and not have to awkwardly puzzle it out in front of a cashier. I've had some culture shock but about different things than I might have expected. I haven't got around to being a tourist yet -- other than looking around at the buildings and scenery as I walk -- but tomorrow I am going into London for a walking tour. Which I guess will be just walking and looking around at buildings except with a guide.

Thank you to all of your for your advice. Special thanks to Playing with Fire UK for lending me kitchen things. It's very nice to be eating off a plate with a fork and knife again.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 20, 2016, 04:20:05 PM
Three weeks in now. I've found the public library, more or less figured out the currency, and sorted out some of the basic questions of where and what to eat and do, etc.

I finally bought a bicycle today, so now I can explore a bit more. I got a used bike for £75 that came with lights and mudguards and a bell and relatively new tires. I know very little about bikes, but it seems like it should be alright for awhile. I got a big heavy chain lock for £30, which will hopefully last a long time.

I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting. It comes and goes. But things are good. I think it will help having the bicycle; I'd been missing my car.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: worms on February 21, 2016, 02:08:09 AM
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 21, 2016, 02:14:48 AM
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)

If you say so. I'm learning all sorts of new words and trying to relearn punctuation, etc. Thank goodness for country-specific spellcheckers. At work, Word corrects my Americanisms. I guess I should fix the browser on my personal laptop to look for British English.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: worms on February 21, 2016, 03:10:38 AM
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)

If you say so. I'm learning all sorts of new words and trying to relearn punctuation, etc. Thank goodness for country-specific spellcheckers. At work, Word corrects my Americanisms. I guess I should fix the browser on my personal laptop to look for British English.
Best of luck with that!  I'm afraid most of us in UK have a constant struggle trying to stop software converting everything across to American!  Could be worse, though, Word refuses to accept my everyday Scottish words and phrases!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 21, 2016, 03:07:46 PM
New question . . . Housing. What do I do about finding long-term accommodations? I love living in a college room so far. I can walk to work door-to-door in 10 minutes or less. But the room is only mine until the end of June, and I have household goods arriving from the States in two weeks. I can put the stuff in storage for a few months, but at some point, I'm probably going to get sick of living in a student room and want my own space and my own stuff.

What are the options? I haven't seen any ads for unfurnished rooms, which I would find preferable to furnished rooms, if I were to try a room in a shared house. I'd like to rent or buy a studio or one-bedroom flat, but the prices around here are too high.

What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: NewbieFrugalUK on February 21, 2016, 03:21:04 PM
Hello! Glad you are settling in ok! Try Gumtree for shared houses/flats. If you can avoid dealing with an estate agent you will save a lot of money as they fleece tenants with all sorts of fees. Good luck!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: former player on February 21, 2016, 03:50:12 PM
What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.
Shared ownership is all above board (it's usually under the auspices of either the local council or a housing association) but you need to be totally on top of the conditions: do you qualify for it, what sort of scheme is it (there are various) and are you prepared to hold it long term -  you probably won't be able to sub-let and finding someone to sell on to may not be easy although the housing association may buy back from you.

In a heated housing market like Cambridge, try word of mouth - put the word out to colleagues, put a wanted ad up on any work or college noticeboards, if you hear about anyone moving on ask about their housing in Cambridge.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on February 22, 2016, 04:55:35 AM
What are the options? I haven't seen any ads for unfurnished rooms, which I would find preferable to furnished rooms, if I were to try a room in a shared house. I'd like to rent or buy a studio or one-bedroom flat, but the prices around here are too high.

What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.

If you rent a house, it is often unfurnished (because mostly done by families, who have their own stuff and also because landlords have responsibilities to get safety certificates for furnishings, applicances etc.) If you take a room in a shared house, that will usually be furnished because it wouldn't be practical for each person to bring their own oven, fridge etc.

Shared ownership is all above board, but is really intended as a way for long-term residents who can't afford to buy a home to buy somewhere. You typically pay rent on the %age of the house that you don't own and have some limitations when it comes to making alterations, repairs, selling the house etc. You may struggle to get a mortgage for a while, in any case.

You'll find prices are significantly less outside of Cambridge (although these days, you may need to be a few miles away to notice much difference.) St. Neots & Haverhill are much, much cheaper, but little public transport. Places like Ely (train) or St. Ives (guided busway) are cheaper and have better public transport links. Commuting by car can be fairly bad - my 9 mile journey to work (on the edge of town, so I don't come into the city centre at al) can take anywhere from 15-60 minutes by car in the morning. Basically there are 250 000+ people working in Cambridge and ~100 000 residents, with a road system that mostly pre-dates cars, so everything is a compromise.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 22, 2016, 03:29:06 PM
Sigh. I don't want to live where I have to commute. Not when I don't have any family or friends around here. I have acquaintances now through work and church and dancing, but what would I do further out of the city?

Tonight I had an interview for an unfurnished room in a co-op that's cheap and close to everything. The people seemed friendly, and the rules and overall situation seem reasonable. I'll have to wait and see about that. I also responded to an ad for a new shared ownership flat that is being built. It looks like I'll be able to talk to their representative this week and possibly see the show flat this weekend, so even if that doesn't work out, at least I'll have a better idea about it. I still have four months to find a place.

In a city like this in the States, there would be fewer shared rooms offered by landlords and more unfurnished flats being split up by flatmates who chose each other and looked for a place together. An unfurnished flat typically already has a refrigerator and oven in the States. Tenants just bring the furniture and small appliances (microwave, toaster, etc). To me it seems nicer to have the tenants choosing their own flatmates, though the downside of that is that if one person becomes delinquent on the rent, the other flatmates are responsible because they are all on the lease together. And if one person leave early, the flatmates have to find a replacement, cover the difference in rent, or make the person who left keep paying.

I got rid of my dining room table and kitchen table and armchair and so forth, but I kept my bedroom furniture and also my pots and pans and dishes. I figured if I got my own apartment I would buy more furniture, but I didn't quite realize how much too much stuff I was still bringing.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on February 22, 2016, 04:08:23 PM
To me it seems nicer to have the tenants choosing their own flatmates, though the downside of that is that if one person becomes delinquent on the rent, the other flatmates are responsible because they are all on the lease together. And if one person leave early, the flatmates have to find a replacement, cover the difference in rent, or make the person who left keep paying.

That is the most common setup for twenty-somethings sharing a house here, too. Maybe thirty-somethings also, these days. I guess you need to be at the point where you have friends that you want to house-hunt with.

Cambridge housing market is unusual in several ways; it has a relatively transient population, with relatively few locals. The housing in many of the most attractive areas is mostly owned by the university, who often let it at way below market rents. There are large numbers of young workers from other EU states, particularly from southern and eastern Europe - you won't find many British people serving you in pubs, restaurants or shops, for example. There's also a high number of millionaires.

Apart from gumtree, estate agents, word of mouth etc. (all good options) you could also try the university accommodation service http://www.accommodation.cam.ac.uk/findahome/  (if you work for the uni that is.) They won't talk to landlords or make any arrangements for you, but are very good with advice and putting you in touch with people.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Bracken_Joy on February 22, 2016, 04:56:10 PM
Following! I don't live in the UK and don't intend to, but reading the little details of resettling are really interesting. Hope you don't mind a bit of good natured lurking, Kwill! And congrats on the big move!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: rozsi on February 22, 2016, 05:35:49 PM
I spent a wonderful year as a broke grad student in Cambridge in 2010-11. If you're a food lover, I highly recommend checking out the veg at the General Market (326 Market Hill Cambridge CB2 UK) in the center of town on Market Square (Mon-Sat 10am-4pm). It at least used to be pretty cheap and also a fun experience/exploration opportunity.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on February 24, 2016, 12:18:39 PM
Hi Bracken_Joy. I guess this is sort of turning into a journal . . . this resettling is still an adventure after nearly a month here.

Rozsi, I'll have to spend more time in the Market Square and look at the vegetables. I've walked around the area, but I've not actually bought anything there.

I haven't really bought anything much anywhere beyond what seemed necessary and/or unavoidable -- except I've spent some money going to dances and joining people for food or coffee. I should get some of my relocation expenses reimbursed soon and also get paid for the first time. Will try not to go crazy and buy all the fanciest vegetables and souvenirs at that point.

Ceratonia, I may have found my current room via the University Accommodation Service. Trying not to overshare on social media but it's probably a lost cause at this point. But anyway, what I had in mind in terms of type of place, location, and budget seems somewhat unrealistic now, even with access to the nice Accommodation Service website. There's a waiting list for the university-owned flats, but it's not at all clear how long the wait could be.

Things are good, though. Seems like the best thing to do is just be patient, enjoy this season of living simply in the middle of a vibrant community, and keep my eyes open for the right place at the right time.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on March 04, 2016, 01:17:15 PM
Today I rode my bicycle to the bank during lunch and requested a chequebook. This is free but available only by request now because everyone is supposed to be electronic these days.

I am trying to buy a ticket to a locally-organized lindy hop dance in a nearby town, and the organizer asked me to mail a cheque for it. This was last night, and only then did I realize that I still had no way to write cheques in this country. When I opened my current account -- which was not at Metro in the end -- I was told it was like a checking account in the US. But I didn't think to ask for a checkbook/chequebook, figuring that it was either part of the deal or else not needed in this country. Now it seems that it will take five business days to get a chequebook, even with my request flagged as a priority, and the dance is next Saturday. I'm considering asking an acquaintance to take cash and let me use a cheque for this, but this seems awkward even if I ask the people I will be riding along with. How awkward would it be to ask that of people I know through work in this culture? What are my other options? A money order? Where does one get money orders? I need to write back to the organizer and say something, but it's an odd problem.

But things are good. After all, there is a vintage lindy hop dance to attend. Tonight I'm on my way to another free ballroom dance session, and there's tea and goodies at church tomorrow and Sunday.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on March 04, 2016, 01:37:57 PM
I'm considering asking an acquaintance to take cash and let me use a cheque for this, but this seems awkward even if I ask the people I will be riding along with. How awkward would it be to ask that of people I know through work in this culture? What are my other options? A money order? Where does one get money orders? I need to write back to the organizer and say something, but it's an odd problem.

I'd expect most people (knowing that you've not been in the country long and don't have a chequebook) would be happy to write a cheque for you if you gave them the cash, although equally most people don't carry chequebooks with them these days. Not like it costs them anything, or has any risk.

Equally, surprised the lindy-hop organiser won't let you just pay cash on the door if you've been in touch to ask for a ticket (bit of a pain having to take a load of cheques to the bank rather than just using electronic transfer.)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on March 04, 2016, 04:12:19 PM
I haven't asked yet about paying cash at the door. I guess that is the next, most obvious question, or I can maybe ask someone at church tomorrow about giving cash for a check at some point in the near future. Tickets are only available in advance, apparently.

The organizer forgot to attach the flyer as a PDF in his first email and then said something about having had "a senior moment" when he did attach it. Maybe it is easier for him to take checks to the bank and mail out tickets on paper than to set up a website to take electronic payments or something like that. Some cultural differences could be generational rather than national.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on March 05, 2016, 04:15:11 AM
I'm a bit late to the party but welcome to Cambridge! Enjoy!

Cheque are still the main way in which student societies and events operate, unfortunately, although most will take cash. I haven't written a cheque since I graduated, but I went through two chequebooks at university!

+1 to the vegetables at the market. Good prices, good selection.

+1 to the central library in the shopping centre.

If you want to get out more, have a walk down Mill Road. Odd shops, interesting restaurants...

We don't have thrift shops in the UK, but if you type "charity shop Cambridge" into google maps you'll have loads.

Cambridge at night is busy but generally not dangerous if it's just students. They're young and dumb but not violent. However, Saturday night (and sort of Friday night) as known as "townie night", and I did see some punch ups then. It's no more dangerous than any city, though, so just be sensible. If you're a woman, though, we were CONSTANTLY warned about rapes, so do take the free rape alarm from the JCR and don't do anything stupid. Taxis are cheap because the distances are so short.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: melanie2008 on March 05, 2016, 08:29:23 AM
Are you using GiffGaff for your mobile plan? It is super cheap and great!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on March 06, 2016, 02:22:15 AM
Welcome to the UK Kwill -glad you are enjoying it.

That's so old school with the cheque book, the only times I use mine are with really small businesses - namely my cleaner and the cattery.

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on March 06, 2016, 06:36:53 AM
Welcome to the UK Kwill -glad you are enjoying it.

That's so old school with the cheque book, the only times I use mine are with really small businesses - namely my cleaner and the cattery.

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).
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on March 06, 2016, 07:00:41 AM
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

I think most people would know that Americans use pants differently to us (or at least, the word "pants".) Also suspect your average Briton wouldn't have a clue what a crumhorn was.

As for clotted cream, yum, one of my favourite things. When marathon training in the past, I've run from Cambridge to Wicken Fen, had a cream tea (clotted cream + scone + a cup of tea) at the National TRust cafe there and then run 10 miles home. Possibly not the best re-fueling method.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on March 06, 2016, 08:13:21 AM

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.....
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: worms on March 06, 2016, 10:39:49 AM
...and what is the American for pigeonhole?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on March 06, 2016, 03:03:58 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?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries 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...

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5c/TooManyPigeons.jpg/220px-TooManyPigeons.jpg)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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...

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5c/TooManyPigeons.jpg/220px-TooManyPigeons.jpg)

Thank you for this. These pigeons are cuter than what is usually in my pigeonhole.
Title: Day trips?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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. :-)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Squirrel away 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
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: former player 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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).
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: melanie2008 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: tailor?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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...
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Campanula 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: worms 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!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Campanula on April 23, 2016, 11:43:28 AM
I had no idea, but I love that!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Alchemilla 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?!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: worms 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!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK 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 (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?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: gldms 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK 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/ (https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2015/06/17/us-vs-uk-who-grades-students/).
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: gldms 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/ (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%.

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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/ (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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK 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 (http://www.taxguideforstudents.org.uk/types-of-student/international-students/residence-and-domicile/how-are-foreign-income-and-gains-taxed)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK 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.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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!
Title: update
Post by: Kwill 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/
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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. :-)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a 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.)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream 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?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill 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.

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 10, 2017, 12:32:25 AM
I'm curious - what are the differences? And why is the US inefficient?

In the US, it varies considerably state by state. In general, there is nothing like the land registry and transferring property title often involves significant amounts of paperwork (and fees...)

In most states, you need a realtor to act on your behalf when buying a house, and you sign a contract with them (and I know of people who actually interviewed agents before selecting one.) Sellers pay their realtor typically something like 6% (it's more like 1-2% here) and that fee will get split with the buyer's realtor. Until Zillow came along, there was no really easy way of browsing available properties.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 12, 2017, 04:03:36 AM
I'm curious - what are the differences? And why is the US inefficient?

In the US, it varies considerably state by state. In general, there is nothing like the land registry and transferring property title often involves significant amounts of paperwork (and fees...)

In most states, you need a realtor to act on your behalf when buying a house, and you sign a contract with them (and I know of people who actually interviewed agents before selecting one.) Sellers pay their realtor typically something like 6% (it's more like 1-2% here) and that fee will get split with the buyer's realtor. Until Zillow came along, there was no really easy way of browsing available properties.

What do you do in the UK? Do you not need a realtor? I contacted a couple companies about properties that were listed on RightMove. One person called me and said that the property online was already gone but that he could tell me about places before they went online. He tried to talk up a place that was a mile or two further away and 10% more expensive, and he also wanted me to make an appointment immediately with his preferred mortgage provider. I was really taken aback and tried to get off the phone as soon as I could. I told him I would think about it if he emailed me details, but he hasn't. The next person who responded to my question about a different property contacted me about via email but seemed apathetic about giving details or showing the property. She told me about a different property that was almost twice as expensive. I guess it is just not very exciting if someone wants to see the cheapest available flats.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 12, 2017, 06:53:31 AM
Have you not looked here? https://www.accommodation.cam.ac.uk/
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 12, 2017, 09:42:48 AM
Have you not looked here? https://www.accommodation.cam.ac.uk/

Thank you, yes. That's how I have my current place, but I'm limited in how long I can stay. It's designed for people who are new to the area. I would like to buy a home at this point, rather than continuing to rent, and if I do so while I'm still fairly new, the university has a scheme to make easier. Even with that, it'll be tricky for me to find the right place since I'm a first time buyer in a very high cost of living area, and I want to stay close to things if I can.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 12, 2017, 12:50:09 PM
Sorry, didn't clock you were buying! Duh!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 13, 2017, 08:08:26 AM

What do you do in the UK? Do you not need a realtor? I contacted a couple companies about properties that were listed on RightMove. One person called me and said that the property online was already gone but that he could tell me about places before they went online. He tried to talk up a place that was a mile or two further away and 10% more expensive, and he also wanted me to make an appointment immediately with his preferred mortgage provider. I was really taken aback and tried to get off the phone as soon as I could. I told him I would think about it if he emailed me details, but he hasn't. The next person who responded to my question about a different property contacted me about via email but seemed apathetic about giving details or showing the property. She told me about a different property that was almost twice as expensive. I guess it is just not very exciting if someone wants to see the cheapest available flats.

Estate agents act on behalf of the seller (in theory, anyway) and get a commission (typically 1-2%) when the house is sold. They are generally viewed as being somewhat less trustworthy than second hand car salespeople or tabloid journalists. They can also make money by commissions from introducing you to mortgage companies. When you come to actually make a purchase, you'll also need a solicitor or conveyancer (lawyer who acts on your behalf to do the legal aspects of the sale) and usually a surveyor or valuer (who checks the property out for you, but also verifies to the mortgage company that the house is worth roughly what you are paying for it.) Some estate agents will partner up with those other professionals, either to make a bit more money, or to smoothe the buying process for you.

Central Cambridge is a fairly "hot" market where properties tend to move pretty quickly. The agents are only interested in people who are actually going to buy - they don't get paid to show "tyre kickers" round a property. If you phone up and say "I'm looking to buy a place in 2018", don't expect to get shown much. In some cases, they will want to see proof of who you are, and possibly also that you have the means to buy before showing you round (this tends to be more common for expensive places though.)

Apart from Rightmove and Zoopla (which are almost a duopoly now), onthemarket.com is used by some estate agents, it's worth checking all of them.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 13, 2017, 10:42:10 AM

Estate agents act on behalf of the seller (in theory, anyway) and get a commission (typically 1-2%) when the house is sold. They are generally viewed as being somewhat less trustworthy than second hand car salespeople or tabloid journalists. They can also make money by commissions from introducing you to mortgage companies. When you come to actually make a purchase, you'll also need a solicitor or conveyancer (lawyer who acts on your behalf to do the legal aspects of the sale) and usually a surveyor or valuer (who checks the property out for you, but also verifies to the mortgage company that the house is worth roughly what you are paying for it.) Some estate agents will partner up with those other professionals, either to make a bit more money, or to smoothe the buying process for you.

Central Cambridge is a fairly "hot" market where properties tend to move pretty quickly. The agents are only interested in people who are actually going to buy - they don't get paid to show "tyre kickers" round a property. If you phone up and say "I'm looking to buy a place in 2018", don't expect to get shown much. In some cases, they will want to see proof of who you are, and possibly also that you have the means to buy before showing you round (this tends to be more common for expensive places though.)

Apart from Rightmove and Zoopla (which are almost a duopoly now), onthemarket.com is used by some estate agents, it's worth checking all of them.

Thank you, Cerat0n1a. This is so helpful, as always.

May I also ask about timing? It seems like it's too soon to ask to see things now, but how far in advance should I start looking if I want to move at a particular time? How far in advance would I need to put in an offer?

What if I wanted to have gone through the entire process and have finalised everything with the mortgage and evaluations and whatever lawyers need to do by mid-January such that I could actually move into a place in late January and have my current flat clean and ready for a new tenant on 1 February? Or the same with July and 1 August, etc? Is two months enough, or should I allow more like five months?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 13, 2017, 03:30:53 PM
May I also ask about timing? It seems like it's too soon to ask to see things now, but how far in advance should I start looking if I want to move at a particular time? How far in advance would I need to put in an offer?

What if I wanted to have gone through the entire process and have finalised everything with the mortgage and evaluations and whatever lawyers need to do by mid-January such that I could actually move into a place in late January and have my current flat clean and ready for a new tenant on 1 February? Or the same with July and 1 August, etc? Is two months enough, or should I allow more like five months?

Answering my own question here, it seems the collective wisdom of the Internet says 12 weeks to 6 months, with some people taking considerably more time or as little as 5 weeks. Leaseholds take more time than freeholds. Absence or presence of chains make a difference. Depends on the situation. Luck. How on top of things the solicitors and others involved are. Whether or not problems turn up in the survey of the property. Also how many properties the buyer needs to view to make a decision.

http://thepersonalagent.co.uk/how-long-does-it-take-to-buy-a-house-uk/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/consumer/23623491

I already know how much I will be able to borrow and put together for a deposit. I don't need to wait on a house sale of my own. So maybe if I get going in earnest with this after Christmas, that will give me plenty of time to sort things out before my current rental ends. If something pops up that is just perfect before that, I could move sooner and take the risk of not being able to get out of my rental.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 13, 2017, 10:56:47 PM
Also be aware that when estate agents talk about a '12 week service' or '6 week service', this doesn't mean anything. I had seemingly a super simple transaction (previous owner deceased, house empty, no mortgage, we could give notice on our rental any time), the estate agents were talking about four weeks to complete, and it went over four months. Nothing particularly went wrong, but nothing really went right. I was chasing progress regularly.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 14, 2017, 11:30:10 AM
Also be aware that when estate agents talk about a '12 week service' or '6 week service', this doesn't mean anything. I had seemingly a super simple transaction (previous owner deceased, house empty, no mortgage, we could give notice on our rental any time), the estate agents were talking about four weeks to complete, and it went over four months. Nothing particularly went wrong, but nothing really went right. I was chasing progress regularly.

Hmm... maybe it's not so terribly early to start looking if I wanted to move in January or February. How much time was involved before that point looking for a place, deciding on a place, putting in an offer and having it accepted? Or are you including some of that?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on August 16, 2017, 02:08:33 PM
It's not too early to start looking, my experience is things never go smoothly.

My current house took ages, all mainly conveyancing issues; the previous owners had all sorts of secured loans, and the first stage of selling a house is filling the solicitors inquiries form, answering loads of questions on titles, charges against property etc. They answered there were no charges. My solicitor wrote to the land registry, it came back with tons of second charges. My solicitor wrote to their solicitor asking what's up. Their solicitor wrote back saying they were paid off. My solicitor asked them to prove it. The vendors then had to contact loads of finance companies to get proof they had paid them off and charge was no longer valid. This took months. My solicitor sent me all the details, hence I now know more than I wanted to about their finances, basically they were skint and continually took equity out of the house. And there was also a few building regs issues to sort out, planning permission from the 70's to get copies of, indemnity insurance needed and some never paid annual covenant to sort out.

And only after all that could we start getting dates sorted, after of course all the other people in the chain had got their similar issues sorted out.

In general, older properties = more issues to sort out, no chain = sometimes harder to get issues sorted, but they want to complete quickly and no chance of a chain falling apart etc.

As for how long to spend looking, it all depends how much you know what you want, how well you've researched the market and your personal decision making style.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 17, 2017, 01:35:11 AM
It's not too early to start looking, my experience is things never go smoothly.

My current house took ages, all mainly conveyancing issues; the previous owners had all sorts of secured loans, and the first stage of selling a house is filling the solicitors inquiries form, answering loads of questions on titles, charges against property etc. They answered there were no charges. My solicitor wrote to the land registry, it came back with tons of second charges. My solicitor wrote to their solicitor asking what's up. Their solicitor wrote back saying they were paid off. My solicitor asked them to prove it. The vendors then had to contact loads of finance companies to get proof they had paid them off and charge was no longer valid. This took months. My solicitor sent me all the details, hence I now know more than I wanted to about their finances, basically they were skint and continually took equity out of the house. And there was also a few building regs issues to sort out, planning permission from the 70's to get copies of, indemnity insurance needed and some never paid annual covenant to sort out.

And only after all that could we start getting dates sorted, after of course all the other people in the chain had got their similar issues sorted out.

In general, older properties = more issues to sort out, no chain = sometimes harder to get issues sorted, but they want to complete quickly and no chance of a chain falling apart etc.

As for how long to spend looking, it all depends how much you know what you want, how well you've researched the market and your personal decision making style.

Oh, wow. This chain situation is different than in the US. Since coming here, I've heard about it and read about it a little, but it still seems so complicated. In the US, I've heard of offers being conditional on the buyer being able to sell his or her own house, but I get the sense it is less expected. Maybe in the States people end up stuck with two mortgages for a few months or something like that; the basic issues involved must be similar. I think maybe people can get optional insurance to cover issues that would come up and invalidate the sale, like unpaid loans against the equity.

Also I learned a new word, 'skint'. That seems appropriate to learn from this forum.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 17, 2017, 01:44:16 AM
About looking at properties, knowing the area and the market, etc. Would it be OK (culturally) to ask local friends or coworkers for input on this? I don't necessarily want to go into detail on my financial situation, but I can't very well ask for help without sharing a price range or showing them ads with the prices on them. I've shared ads and so forth with my parents back in the States, but they've only had brief tourist experiences of the area.

My instinct would be to go to church friends who are locals rather than to ask my manager or the group I have coffee with at work, who are mostly more senior than I am. Does that seem about right?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 17, 2017, 06:34:24 AM
About looking at properties, knowing the area and the market, etc. Would it be OK (culturally) to ask local friends or coworkers for input on this? I don't necessarily want to go into detail on my financial situation, but I can't very well ask for help without sharing a price range or showing them ads with the prices on them. I've shared ads and so forth with my parents back in the States, but they've only had brief tourist experiences of the area.

My instinct would be to go to church friends who are locals rather than to ask my manager or the group I have coffee with at work, who are mostly more senior than I am. Does that seem about right?

I would say it's very normal to do this. And the housing market is an obsession for a large number of middle class people, particularly in the south of England, so you may find church friends are delighted to be asked, too.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on August 17, 2017, 06:40:21 AM
In my opinion it's fine to share with peers and above you in work, less appropriate with those you manage.

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on August 17, 2017, 07:26:53 AM
Also, you can have a conversation about property without sharing numbers.

"I'm looking for somewhere that's good value within half an hour's ride of the centre of town."
"Is there anywhere that's really up and coming/being redeveloped?"
"I just love historic properties, I'd hate to live in some soulless new build."
"I hate historic properties, I just want to live in a nice modern new build."
"Where do all the postgrads tend to live?"
"Where do you live? What do you think of it?"
"The local housing market seems pretty crazy. Do you rent?"
"I saw such a great house but it cost £X, which is a little out of my price range."

Plus one that people will love to be asked! I'm sure after a prompt you won't be able to stop them! I would ask my peers at work, maybe senior people if I had a good friendly relationship (which it seems like you do).
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 17, 2017, 12:41:37 PM
Thank you all. This is very helpful.

After reading your advice, I sent a note to a church friend who lives 0.3 miles from a flat I'm hoping to view next week, mentioning that I'd hopefully be looking at a place on the particular street and asking if she had any thoughts about the area. I guess I can share more depending on what she says.

At work, I've mentioned that I'm starting to think about buying a place, but I haven't gone into too much detail except with one co-worker who is at about the same level in a different department and is also looking at places now. I don't really want to spend my manager's time on this, but maybe I could talk to the people I have coffee with. My workplace has very clearly defined coffee times and coffee groups, which has been hard for me to fully grasp as an American. It's also been very useful, especially when I was brand new and full of questions. There's a lot of good people.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 21, 2017, 01:29:55 AM
After reading your advice, I sent a note to a church friend who lives 0.3 miles from a flat I'm hoping to view next week, mentioning that I'd hopefully be looking at a place on the particular street and asking if she had any thoughts about the area.

I heard back that her husband says the area is one to avoid. I don't have a good sense of what would make an area bad here, but I am willing to trust them on this. They've been here 30+ years and are generally very sensible about things. They suggested a  couple other areas to consider. The trouble is that there are not a lot of flats to choose from if I want to stay near the centre. But it got me thinking about the search a little differently, and I have now written to ask about a few places I had not considered before. So that's something.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 21, 2017, 01:57:22 AM
I heard back that her husband says the area is one to avoid. I don't have a good sense of what would make an area bad here, but I am willing to trust them on this.

LOL - you have to apply a Cambridge filter - probably some of the residents don't shop at Waitrose or something. People in Cambridge often refer to Arbury or Kings Hedges as being a bit rough; you can probably still find houses there for under half a million. The only part of Cambridge that I would consider "bad" would be Ditton Fields (one street) and the area where travellers live at the north end of Fen Road. Cambridge locals are also a bit sniffy about nearby towns like Ely & Haverhill, which have lots of new build homes and tend to attract families on more normal incomes. Both have crime levels well below national average and would be considered pleasant small towns anywhere else.

That said, there are certainly places which might be noisy at night, or have other problems, and if your friends live 0.3 of a mile away, I'm sure they're right.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 21, 2017, 02:32:49 AM
My workplace has very clearly defined coffee times and coffee groups, which has been hard for me to fully grasp as an American. It's also been very useful, especially when I was brand new and full of questions. There's a lot of good people.

I think this is a workplace thing rather than a UK thing. I've only been aware of scheduled coffee breaks in manufacturing or when we needed to stagger breaks to keep the phones covered, but nearly all of my workplaces it is far more flexible.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 21, 2017, 11:50:57 AM
I heard back that her husband says the area is one to avoid. I don't have a good sense of what would make an area bad here, but I am willing to trust them on this.

LOL - you have to apply a Cambridge filter - probably some of the residents don't shop at Waitrose or something. People in Cambridge often refer to Arbury or Kings Hedges as being a bit rough; you can probably still find houses there for under half a million. The only part of Cambridge that I would consider "bad" would be Ditton Fields (one street) and the area where travellers live at the north end of Fen Road. Cambridge locals are also a bit sniffy about nearby towns like Ely & Haverhill, which have lots of new build homes and tend to attract families on more normal incomes. Both have crime levels well below national average and would be considered pleasant small towns anywhere else.

That said, there are certainly places which might be noisy at night, or have other problems, and if your friends live 0.3 of a mile away, I'm sure they're right.

I'll have to ask what it was next time I see them. They are Cambridge people, but I don't think they're the kind who would look down on someone who shopped at the wrong supermarket. The ad mentions that the city council is the freeholder for that particular flat. I didn't think too much of it before, but if the council owns most of the flats on the street, maybe that is a factor in how the street seems overall. We don't have the same sort of city councils in the States.

I'm setting up appointments to view three places. One is on a street the Cambridge friends recommended. I hesitate to ask what they think of the other two streets, but I guess it's better to have more information rather than less and sooner rather than later.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 21, 2017, 11:54:49 AM
I've only been aware of scheduled coffee breaks in manufacturing or when we needed to stagger breaks to keep the phones covered, but nearly all of my workplaces it is far more flexible.

That's probably what it is. I am somewhat behind the scenes in an office, but many people are at desks that face the public and need to be manned at a certain level whenever we're open. Also many people who are behind the scenes most of the day have some responsibility for covering desks during lunch or breaks.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 21, 2017, 12:56:42 PM
The ad mentions that the city council is the freeholder for that particular flat. I didn't think too much of it before, but if the council owns most of the flats on the street, maybe that is a factor in how the street seems overall.

Local councils have an obligation to be the housing provider of last resort; in practice these days this means they provide shelter for homeless people and put families/parents with children in bed and breakfast type places. The 'social housing' aspect is now mostly taken care of by Housing Associations - charities which typically get some amount of public funding. In the past, though, local councils would own, build & maintain large stocks of housing and this would be rented out. Under the Conservative government in the 1980s, these houses were mostly sold to tenants at substantial discounts and councils were forbidden to use that money to build more homes. So the city council being a freeholder would normally mean that this is an ex-council flat and these are typically in poorer/less desirable areas. In some cases, whole streets will be former council homes now in the hands of private owners.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 21, 2017, 01:19:26 PM
In the past, though, local councils would own, build & maintain large stocks of housing and this would be rented out. Under the Conservative government in the 1980s, these houses were mostly sold to tenants at substantial discounts and councils were forbidden to use that money to build more homes. So the city council being a freeholder would normally mean that this is an ex-council flat and these are typically in poorer/less desirable areas. In some cases, whole streets will be former council homes now in the hands of private owners.

That's helpful to know. I had gathered some of that, but it's such a different type of organisation than we would call a city council in the States that it's helpful to have it explained. I have a vague sense that in the States a city council might be a room full of older citizens who meet monthly to have long arguments over possibly raising the rates of parking meters. They would be more making rules than taking any sort of substantive action or owning or building anything of their own. But maybe it's more the terms used than anything else. There are public housing projects run by cities or states, but I feel like if we said anything about things run by the city we'd just refer to them as municipal.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 21, 2017, 03:04:47 PM
There are public housing projects run by cities or states

And, to be clear, I don't think council houses (or former council properties) in Cambridge & surrounds would have the same negative connotations that a "housing project" might in the US.

If you're looking at properties at the lower end of the price bracket in central Cambridge, you may see some advertised as "shared ownership." This is where you only own a percentage of the property and the rest is owned by a housing association - and you pay rent on the part you don't own. It's a way for lower paid people to own the place they live, with the advantage of security of tenure often not available through private renting.

You may also see "key worker" only properties e.g. on the Universities newly built Eddington suburb. These are reserved for those in specific occupations and may have been originally sold at below market prices (crazy idea in my opinion, would be better to solve the problem of too high house prices by simply building more houses.)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 22, 2017, 04:51:46 PM
There are public housing projects run by cities or states

And, to be clear, I don't think council houses (or former council properties) in Cambridge & surrounds would have the same negative connotations that a "housing project" might in the US.

If you're looking at properties at the lower end of the price bracket in central Cambridge, you may see some advertised as "shared ownership." This is where you only own a percentage of the property and the rest is owned by a housing association - and you pay rent on the part you don't own. It's a way for lower paid people to own the place they live, with the advantage of security of tenure often not available through private renting.

You may also see "key worker" only properties e.g. on the Universities newly built Eddington suburb. These are reserved for those in specific occupations and may have been originally sold at below market prices (crazy idea in my opinion, would be better to solve the problem of too high house prices by simply building more houses.)

I had to look up 'Eddington' -- I've only heard it called North West Cambridge. As I understand it the key worker properties are rentals that will be subsidised on a case by case basis to keep the monthly rent within 1/3 of income. I think they're limited to a total tenancy of 3 years. The houses they'll build to sell will be at market prices and probably fairly high ones, so that gets to your point of building more houses.

At least in the States, it seems like cities don't particularly see high house prices as a problem to solve because the people who already own houses want to keep the value going higher and higher. So they want to find a way to let new people in without affecting house prices in general. The whole thing seems problematic to me, but then I don't own any property yet.

I'll be viewing three flats this week, one each lunchtime Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wish me luck!

If one of the places this week seems like a good fit for me, what would I do next? In a supermarket, if I want something, I just bring it to the till and so forth, but how does one make an offer? Can you make it conditional on some issue being fixed and an inspection / survey being OK? Does the buyer do that alone, or is this when an agent or solicitor gets involved?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 23, 2017, 12:02:23 AM
If one of the places this week seems like a good fit for me, what would I do next? In a supermarket, if I want something, I just bring it to the till and so forth, but how does one make an offer? Can you make it conditional on some issue being fixed and an inspection / survey being OK? Does the buyer do that alone, or is this when an agent or solicitor gets involved?

You go home, think about it, then talk to the estate agent and make an offer. The estate agent will relay that offer to the buyer (and may advise that it is too low, or hint that there has already been a higher offer, or that he or she doesn't think the buyer will accept it, or whatever.) There is no contract formed until the solicitor and survey etc. have completed the work and you actually sign something, both you or the seller can pull out of the deal right up the point where contracts are signed and exchanged by the two sets of solicitors. So there is no real need to specify any conditions, although equally, it doesn't do any harm.

If the seller verbally accepts your offer, that's the point where you need a solicitor and to talk to your mortgage company about what happens next. The solicitor, estate agent and mortgage provider will be able to assist with the next steps (e.g. the estate agent will know all the local solicitors who handle property sales and will suggest one or two names.) If you start on this process, there will be various fees, which you have to pay even if the seller later pulls out of the deal.

Good luck!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 23, 2017, 02:43:17 AM
When you are speaking with your friends and colleagues you may also want to ask about recommendations for mortgage brokers and conveyancers. Avoid the one that the estate agent recommends, they are almost certainly over-priced cowboys.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: SpreadsheetMan on August 23, 2017, 03:28:28 AM
When you are speaking with your friends and colleagues you may also want to ask about recommendations for mortgage brokers and conveyancers. Avoid the one that the estate agent recommends, they are almost certainly over-priced cowboys.

+1 to that. I don't know anyone that has been really happy with a domestic conveyencing solicitor, everyone complains about delays and continual random requests for more information.

Surveyors are equally bad - they seldom find the real faults in a property unless they are glaringly obvious.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 23, 2017, 06:15:34 AM
they are almost certainly over-priced cowboys.

Off-topic - we did some work for a Texas based company about 20 years ago and things went very well and a lot of money was made by both sides. They presented us with a ceremonial set of bull horns and speeches were made lauding us as a great bunch of guys, and the word "cowboys" was used. They were rather taken aback to discover that in the UK, it's a term applied to people who do shoddy work.

I'd second the suggestion for taking friends' recommendations on solicitors; not just a company but an actual named solicitor.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 23, 2017, 06:21:13 AM
they are almost certainly over-priced cowboys.

Off-topic - we did some work for a Texas based company about 20 years ago and things went very well and a lot of money was made by both sides. They presented us with a ceremonial set of bull horns and speeches were made lauding us as a great bunch of guys, and the word "cowboys" was used. They were rather taken aback to discover that in the UK, it's a term applied to people who do shoddy work.

Huh, I never thought of that before. I took it to mean that while I would want a cowboy for horse riding or cow-minding; I wouldn't want someone trained only as a cowboy doing conveyancing work (or plumbing, plastering etc). No intention to offend the cowboys, apologies.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 23, 2017, 04:05:28 PM
Thank you all for the tips and the language lesson.

Today I saw flat 1. I don't think it's the one. But on the way to it, I stopped and had my lunch by the Cam, which was a nice change.

Two more to go this week. If neither of those work out, I might wait a month to try again.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 24, 2017, 05:06:49 PM
Flat 2 today. So so much nicer than flat 1. Flat 3 tomorrow.

I didn't want to share this if there was any chance of me actually taking the place, but this was flat 1:
http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/property/cheapest-property-sale-cambridge-160k-13476431

I don't think the reporter actually saw the property. The bathroom was a perfectly normal size if a bit out of date, but the kitchen was very tiny and fitted into a hall. There's a breakfast bar that swings up and hangs from hooks, and you can swing it down again to bring something wide through the hall. The flat was even smaller than it seemed in the ad, but the location and view were great. The service charge was unusually high, which changes the financial picture.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 25, 2017, 03:50:16 AM
Certainly a nice location by Jesus Green. It's just that Cambridge is very expensive and you don't get very much, even for a lot of money - I expect that place will sell quickly.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 29, 2017, 11:35:07 AM
Today I had an offer accepted on Flat 2. Thirty minutes later I got a call saying that another offer had come in for £2000 more but that the seller was still willing to sell to me if I would match that. I called back later to decline. So seller went with buyer 2. I'm annoyed, but I still have nearly a year left on my current lease and no reason to rush.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on August 29, 2017, 01:48:09 PM
Today I had an offer accepted on Flat 2. Thirty minutes later I got a call saying that another offer had come in for £2000 more but that the seller was still willing to sell to me if I would match that. I called back later to decline. So seller went with buyer 2. I'm annoyed, but I still have nearly a year left on my current lease and no reason to rush.

Ouch, that sucks Kwill....if it's any saving grace, at least they did it quickly before you had paid out for surveys and solicitors.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 29, 2017, 02:26:33 PM
That is one of the more annoying things about our home-buying system.

You'll find the one.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 29, 2017, 04:15:55 PM
....if it's any saving grace, at least they did it quickly before you had paid out for surveys and solicitors.

Goodness! What is the point of them even saying they accept an offer if then they just change their minds? Is this a cultural thing somehow? Or is it like this in other places, too? I've never purchased in the States, so I don't know.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 29, 2017, 04:30:20 PM
That is one of the more annoying things about our home-buying system.

You'll find the one.

Thank you.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 29, 2017, 04:48:14 PM
A question for the Cantabrigians here . . .

How is Arbury? Would it be unsafe? Or is it mostly just less fashionable and/or affluent?

Some of the flats that would be feasible for me and also within an easy bike of work are in Arbury, and I know some co-workers and friends live more or less in the area. But the street my friends told me to avoid is right in the area where the more affordable flats are. With the new Cambridge North station and all the development in North West Cambridge and so forth, is the area likely to become more desirable over time?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on August 30, 2017, 12:05:03 AM
....if it's any saving grace, at least they did it quickly before you had paid out for surveys and solicitors.

Goodness! What is the point of them even saying they accept an offer if then they just change their minds? Is this a cultural thing somehow? Or is it like this in other places, too? I've never purchased in the States, so I don't know.

It isn't nice. It is perfectly legal but you are going back on your word. You are right to complain bitterly that they accepted the offer and then went back on it (the second buyers Gazumped you), the sellers probably aren't bragging about it, but they wanted the £2k more than they wanted to keep their word.

It is different as close as Scotland - there is a different system there and offers are much closer to binding (not a lawyer).

I don't know the area, but I found https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode (https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode) useful when trying to cut through what people mean when they say an area is unsafe. [When I was buying, people urged me away from the area I eventually bought in because of 'safety', when I checked the stats and asked them more, it was mostly based on the tendency for young adults to wear hoodies and sit in parks in the evenings.]
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on August 30, 2017, 12:11:55 AM
It is less affluent and some people in Cambridge consider it on a par with central Detroit or something. Anywhere else, it would be just an average suburb, certainly the crime rate is considerably lower than in the centre of Cambridge, and there are many properties which sell for more than half a million. The housing is a bit 1960s and/or bland, it's not visually attractive in the way that some parts of Cambridge are. You might hear similar opinions about Kings Hedges and Orchard Park (new estate to the north of Arbury too.)

There are probably a few specific places that I'd avoid - the flats on Kingsway, perhaps, but the area itself is fine. It would be very obvious from a daytime walk around which places are less salubrious. I would not expect the area to become more desirable - prices are already sky high compared to elsewhere. Bear in mind that a "rough" area probably means there are a few teenagers drinking or smoking dope outside in the evening and you may occasionally see some graffiti or overhear people swearing.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 30, 2017, 01:30:24 AM
It isn't nice. It is perfectly legal but you are going back on your word. You are right to complain bitterly that they accepted the offer and then went back on it (the second buyers Gazumped you), the sellers probably aren't bragging about it, but they wanted the £2k more than they wanted to keep their word.

It is different as close as Scotland - there is a different system there and offers are much closer to binding (not a lawyer).

I don't know the area, but I found https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode (https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode) useful when trying to cut through what people mean when they say an area is unsafe. [When I was buying, people urged me away from the area I eventually bought in because of 'safety', when I checked the stats and asked them more, it was mostly based on the tendency for young adults to wear hoodies and sit in parks in the evenings.]

Thank you for the helpful link.

I found a guide to US home buying for British expats that is clarifying some of the differences for me: http://britishexpats.com/articles/usa/home-buying-process-usa/

When I made the offer I was expecting to need to come in to the real estate agent's office and do paperwork and pay something. Then when it was so informal I was confused and confused and annoyed again when the situation changed so quickly. It seems like in the US the offer is itself a written contract with money involved whereas in the UK, the accepted offer is just a verbal agreement with nothing much to it. In the same situation in the States, the seller would have had to give me back money to accept a different offer.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: SpreadsheetMan on August 30, 2017, 01:34:43 AM
It is less affluent and some people in Cambridge consider it on a par with central Detroit or something. Anywhere else, it would be just an average suburb, certainly the crime rate is considerably lower than in the centre of Cambridge, and there are many properties which sell for more than half a million. The housing is a bit 1960s and/or bland, it's not visually attractive in the way that some parts of Cambridge are. You might hear similar opinions about Kings Hedges and Orchard Park (new estate to the north of Arbury too.)

There are probably a few specific places that I'd avoid - the flats on Kingsway, perhaps, but the area itself is fine. It would be very obvious from a daytime walk around which places are less salubrious. I would not expect the area to become more desirable - prices are already sky high compared to elsewhere. Bear in mind that a "rough" area probably means there are a few teenagers drinking or smoking dope outside in the evening and you may occasionally see some graffiti or overhear people swearing.

LOL!

This is interesting: https://philrodgers.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/is-arbury-really-a-den-of-iniquity/

Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 30, 2017, 01:35:35 AM
It is less affluent and some people in Cambridge consider it on a par with central Detroit or something. Anywhere else, it would be just an average suburb, certainly the crime rate is considerably lower than in the centre of Cambridge, and there are many properties which sell for more than half a million. The housing is a bit 1960s and/or bland, it's not visually attractive in the way that some parts of Cambridge are. You might hear similar opinions about Kings Hedges and Orchard Park (new estate to the north of Arbury too.)

There are probably a few specific places that I'd avoid - the flats on Kingsway, perhaps, but the area itself is fine. It would be very obvious from a daytime walk around which places are less salubrious. I would not expect the area to become more desirable - prices are already sky high compared to elsewhere. Bear in mind that a "rough" area probably means there are a few teenagers drinking or smoking dope outside in the evening and you may occasionally see some graffiti or overhear people swearing.

This is helpful. I'll try viewing some of the flats there. From the listings, it seems like the same size flat the same distance from the centre can be about 69% cheaper in Arbury than in the more popular or prettier areas. So I might be able to look at something bigger or just save a little more.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on August 30, 2017, 01:39:35 AM
It is less affluent and some people in Cambridge consider it on a par with central Detroit or something. Anywhere else, it would be just an average suburb, certainly the crime rate is considerably lower than in the centre of Cambridge, and there are many properties which sell for more than half a million. . . .

LOL!

This is interesting: https://philrodgers.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/is-arbury-really-a-den-of-iniquity/

Thank you for sharing this. Very encouraging.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on August 30, 2017, 01:12:58 PM
It isn't nice. It is perfectly legal but you are going back on your word. You are right to complain bitterly that they accepted the offer and then went back on it (the second buyers Gazumped you), the sellers probably aren't bragging about it, but they wanted the £2k more than they wanted to keep their word.

It is different as close as Scotland - there is a different system there and offers are much closer to binding (not a lawyer).

I don't know the area, but I found https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode (https://www.crime-statistics.co.uk/postcode) useful when trying to cut through what people mean when they say an area is unsafe. [When I was buying, people urged me away from the area I eventually bought in because of 'safety', when I checked the stats and asked them more, it was mostly based on the tendency for young adults to wear hoodies and sit in parks in the evenings.]

Thank you for the helpful link.

I found a guide to US home buying for British expats that is clarifying some of the differences for me: http://britishexpats.com/articles/usa/home-buying-process-usa/

When I made the offer I was expecting to need to come in to the real estate agent's office and do paperwork and pay something. Then when it was so informal I was confused and confused and annoyed again when the situation changed so quickly. It seems like in the US the offer is itself a written contract with money involved whereas in the UK, the accepted offer is just a verbal agreement with nothing much to it. In the same situation in the States, the seller would have had to give me back money to accept a different offer.

Yeah gazumping sucks - you also need to start making offers with conditions that they take it off the market immediately, and do not show it. Watching some Phil and Kirstie shows might give you more background to the mad house buying process here.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 25, 2017, 01:35:08 AM
The search for a flat has been on hold for a few weeks. Just a couple days after I learned the new word 'gazump', another UK university posted an ad for a job almost exactly like mine but with a much higher salary. I worried about whether or not to apply, talked to my mother, etc. Then the next day, before I'd figured out what I was going to do, my manager saw the ad and got in touch to ask whether or not I was going to apply. Now he's talked to his boss and HR, etc., and I still don't know whether I want to apply. It's a big difference in salary, but various factors make me want to stay here rather than go there. Also, this is coming up too soon after I moved to the UK. I'd need visa sponsorship still, so the other university would have to prioritise other candidates in any case. It's a very small speciality, but I know of at least one UK citizen who would be a viable candidate and who might apply, though she's living overseas. There are some other people who are either European or permanent residents. Much anxious soul-searching this month whether or not even to apply, let alone what to do if I were offered the job. And if I apply, who to ask to be the second reference. Meanwhile I'm busy getting ready for a two-week business trip with a one-week vacation sandwiched in the middle. None of these are bad problems, but they've given me a lot to think about.

Meanwhile I have an English-language question. What do children call adults? Not relatives but friends of the family or adults from church or neighbourhood groups. When I was little, I would call adults 'Miss/Mrs/Ms Surname' or 'Mr Surname' or sometimes 'Miss/Ms/Mr FirstName'. These days American children seem to call adults by their first names without any title most of the time, but it sounds a bit too familiar to me.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on September 25, 2017, 01:55:35 AM
Apply! Apply! Apply! You can always graciously turn it down.

I think the UK has had a similar trajectory of Mr/Mrs/Miss Surname to Firstname. When I was young it would be whatever the person introduced themselves as/however my parents introduced me to them. So generally a mixture. There was Graham the neighbour but Mr Burns the family friend. My husband has commented in the past that he always called adults Mr/Mrs/Miss Surname, but I think he's exaggerating and probably had a mixture like me. I think the change has been wrought by the adults, though, not the children, because the adults are introducing themselves as Firstname. So if you want to be called Miss Kwill, you just go right ahead and say, "It's nice to meet you, Timmy, I'm Miss Kwill."
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 25, 2017, 05:32:17 PM
Apply! Apply! Apply! You can always graciously turn it down.

I think the UK has had a similar trajectory of Mr/Mrs/Miss Surname to Firstname. When I was young it would be whatever the person introduced themselves as/however my parents introduced me to them. So generally a mixture. There was Graham the neighbour but Mr Burns the family friend. My husband has commented in the past that he always called adults Mr/Mrs/Miss Surname, but I think he's exaggerating and probably had a mixture like me. I think the change has been wrought by the adults, though, not the children, because the adults are introducing themselves as Firstname. So if you want to be called Miss Kwill, you just go right ahead and say, "It's nice to meet you, Timmy, I'm Miss Kwill."

Ha ha. You're probably right. At least applying will let me put off any decision for at least a few more weeks.

Interesting to hear about those interactions. I asked someone at work today about this, and she said she'd only ever seen children refer to adults as Miss FirstName in American storybooks. I could start it here. Dr Kwill, Medicine Woman. Except not medicine, and that sounds silly anyway.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 26, 2017, 12:00:55 AM
I asked someone at work today about this, and she said she'd only ever seen children refer to adults as Miss FirstName in American storybooks. I could start it here.

My children are nearly adults, but I can't think of anyone other than teachers that they would have called Miss (or Mr.) over the last 20 years. Adults are as likely to be "Lily's mum" or "Jack's dad" as Mr. Smith.

In my own childhood (i.e. going back to the 1970s) I can think of a few older people who would have been Mr. or Mrs. but Miss would only have been for teachers. So I think the rule is that children generally address people outside the family in the same way that adults do.

I think that you being American and it being a church setting means you could introduce yourself as Miss Kwill and it would work though.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on September 26, 2017, 01:29:22 AM
Yeah, addressing someone as Miss seems really strange and old fashioned to me, especially as I think Miss is such a loaded word in gender stereotypes.

It also has class connotations, as it was servants called the Masters children.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on September 26, 2017, 02:10:40 AM
*Soapbox alert*

I have issue with Miss and Mrs, especially when children are asked to use them - we are inherently teaching children that a woman's marital status is critical to know before even talking to her, whereas it's irrelevant to a man. Is this really what we want children to believe?

As for the class thing, it can come across as seeing yourself as a higher class asking to be called by a formal Mr/Ms, especially nowadays when everything is getting more and more informal.


However being American, you can get away with whatever you choose :).
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 26, 2017, 01:17:55 PM
However being American, you can get away with whatever you choose :).

:-)  Well, that bit sounds good anyway. Except if the rules are always different for me, it sort of means I'll never belong here. When people open up about what they think of Americans, I sometimes wish I hadn't brought it up. Apparently we're big and noisy and aggressive. Also, we eat funny and talk through our noses.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on September 26, 2017, 11:39:57 PM
However being American, you can get away with whatever you choose :).

:-)  Well, that bit sounds good anyway. Except if the rules are always different for me, it sort of means I'll never belong here. When people open up about what they think of Americans, I sometimes wish I hadn't brought it up. Apparently we're big and noisy and aggressive. Also, we eat funny and talk through our noses.

Belonging is a strange one, do any of us really belong anywhere?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: katekat on September 27, 2017, 02:57:05 AM
I have never heard 'Title FirstName' from a British person. As a kid, authority figures like teachers and doctors were 'Title Surname', adults were usually FirstName if they'd introduced themselves (since that's how they always did) and if they haven't they were often 'so and so's mam' when talked about and rarely addressed directly in named terms. More intimate respectful relationships were often 'Aunty FirstName' or 'Uncle FirstName' regardless of actual relation or lack of.

The American (or, in general, non-British) exemption from class markers is something that MrKat and I talk about a lot, especially now that he's working a manual job with a very working class peer set. He's from an affluent background but that's invisible to them, and he also blends well with my middle-class family and coworkers. I think British people often have at least a little bit of class anxiety in any situation where they don't blend well, although maybe that's my upper-working-class/lower-middle-class background lens applying itself to other people ;)
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 27, 2017, 04:02:47 AM
Except if the rules are always different for me, it sort of means I'll never belong here. When people open up about what they think of Americans, I sometimes wish I hadn't brought it up. Apparently we're big and noisy and aggressive. Also, we eat funny and talk through our noses.

Everywhere has stereotypes about people from other places. Overweight and loud would both be common beliefs to have about Americans, I've never heard eating funny and talking through noses before (although the French have a stereotype that Americans speak without opening their mouths.)

As for belonging - that's surely for you to decide?

My grandad, an Englishman, moved to rural Wales in the 1950s, to run a hotel in a seaside village, employing a number of people. He learned to speak Welsh, became a local councillor, was a preacher in the local chapel and was involved in preservation of the local steam railway. When he left after 15 years, there was a collection to buy him a present and wish him well; the speech began "although Mr xxx is a stranger here." I think people are much more willing to accept others now.

I've lived around Cambridge for 20+ years but will always consider another part of England as "home" even though I have no intention of ever living there. The vast majority of adults who live in this area are not from here originally and of course there's a significant number for whom English is not their first language.

I meant to pass on some comments from an American colleague who spent a couple of months here over the summer. One was "why do British people end texts with xx or xxx?", another was "why is TJ Maxx called TK Maxx in Britain?" She was also surprised to find that fortnight is a word in regular use and that we don't use creamer in hot drinks.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on September 27, 2017, 12:05:42 PM
What *is* creamer? I've been imagining it like condensed milk, which sounds disgusting
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Playing with Fire UK on September 27, 2017, 12:31:26 PM
Yes, it is much like condensed milk, sometimes with flavourings. In hotels it is nearly always powdered or in those tiny little pots. I am not a fan.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 27, 2017, 01:10:30 PM
I meant to pass on some comments from an American colleague who spent a couple of months here over the summer. One was "why do British people end texts with xx or xxx?", another was "why is TJ Maxx called TK Maxx in Britain?" She was also surprised to find that fortnight is a word in regular use and that we don't use creamer in hot drinks.

I've wondered about the x's at the end of messages or texts. In American usage, those would stand for hugs or kisses, but they seem too common here to mean the same thing. What does it mean?

I looked up the TK Maxx thing before. Wikipedia says it's because of potential trademark concerns in the UK. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TK_Maxx

I'm OK with milk instead of cream or creamer, but I don't understand why Starbucks here only offers skimmed or semi-skimmed milk unless you ask especially for cream or whole milk. Why would anyone bother to put skimmed milk in coffee? But I guess it depends on what you're used to. A few years ago in a museum cafe in the States, there was a customer with an English accent who seemed completely perplexed by the fairly standard array of dairy options for coffee: half and half, whole, 2%, and skim. I had to explain and finally just point out which one was regular milk.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 27, 2017, 01:15:43 PM
Everywhere has stereotypes about people from other places. Overweight and loud would both be common beliefs to have about Americans, I've never heard eating funny and talking through noses before (although the French have a stereotype that Americans speak without opening their mouths.)

Well, nobody has actually said Americans talk through their noses, but they have said that the American accent sounds nasal. I use my fork and knife like an American still, and the more formal the setting, the more that stands out as strange and, at least according to one person, barbaric.

I'm a fairly small and quiet American, so maybe people feel free to share their overall view of my countrymen as large and loud because they can make an exception for present company? This has come up a number of times.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 27, 2017, 02:31:53 PM
I've wondered about the x's at the end of messages or texts. In American usage, those would stand for hugs or kisses, but they seem too common here to mean the same thing. What does it mean?

Same here - just it seems like (some) British people use them a lot more than Americans do.

I'm a fairly small and quiet American, so maybe people feel free to share their overall view of my countrymen as large and loud because they can make an exception for present company?

Or maybe they're just rude? I guess a sign of being accepted somewhere is when people feel it's OK to tease you?

Which reminds of another alleged cultural difference. An American friend told me that he would consider it acceptable to help yourself to food from a friend's fridge without asking in the US, but not here. Does that sound right?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 27, 2017, 03:18:10 PM
An American friend told me that he would consider it acceptable to help yourself to food from a friend's fridge without asking in the US, but not here. Does that sound right?

I don't know. Maybe he has some very close friends he's known since childhood or who he spends time with on a regular basis, watching tv or something? Or maybe it is different with men and women or with different kinds of households.

There aren't many people in the States that I know well enough to go raiding their fridges, let alone here. It might depend on the person. When I'm staying with my parents or my cousins, I help myself to food from the fridge if I am sure it isn't meant for a particular meal. I might fix myself something if I'm staying with friends and they specifically tell me to feel free to help myself, especially if they are busy with small children or will be leaving me alone while they're at work. When I had housemates, we tended to keep things separate for the most part.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: ixtap on September 27, 2017, 03:22:57 PM
An American friend told me that he would consider it acceptable to help yourself to food from a friend's fridge without asking in the US, but not here. Does that sound right?

I don't know. Maybe he has some very close friends he's known since childhood or who he spends time with on a regular basis, watching tv or something? Or maybe it is different with men and women or with different kinds of households.

There aren't many people in the States that I know well enough to go raiding their fridges, let alone here. It might depend on the person. When I'm staying with my parents or my cousins, I help myself to food from the fridge if I am sure it isn't meant for a particular meal. I might fix myself something if I'm staying with friends and they specifically tell me to feel free to help myself, especially if they are busy with small children or will be leaving me alone while they're at work. When I had housemates, we tended to keep things separate for the most part.

In my America that is so unTrue that people feel the need to expressly say "help yourself" when they have asked you to take care of their children or home for an extended period of time without them around. I would never just go hang out with a friend and then rifle through the fridge while they were in another room.

Maybe there folks would never say "help yourself" when a friend mentioned that they were peckish, but would get up and get something for their guest?
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 27, 2017, 04:19:54 PM
In my America that is so unTrue that people feel the need to expressly say "help yourself" when they have asked you to take care of their children or home for an extended period of time without them around. I would never just go hang out with a friend and then rifle through the fridge while they were in another room.

Maybe there folks would never say "help yourself" when a friend mentioned that they were peckish, but would get up and get something for their guest?

I didn't mean that I was taking care of the kids or the home. I was thinking of a situation when I was spending time with a friend who had her hands full with the children. Before she had kids and even when she had only one kid, she was more protective of her kitchen. Now that she has four, it's less of an intrusion and more of a help if I get what I need for myself.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: former player on September 27, 2017, 04:56:18 PM

I'm a fairly small and quiet American, so maybe people feel free to share their overall view of my countrymen as large and loud because they can make an exception for present company?

Or maybe they're just rude? I guess a sign of being accepted somewhere is when people feel it's OK to tease you?

There is definitely a strand of English culture (and I think it is specifically English and posslbly Scottish rather than British) in which it completely acceptable to insult your friends but enemies must be treated with the utmost politeness.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: shelivesthedream on September 28, 2017, 12:33:49 AM

I'm a fairly small and quiet American, so maybe people feel free to share their overall view of my countrymen as large and loud because they can make an exception for present company?

Or maybe they're just rude? I guess a sign of being accepted somewhere is when people feel it's OK to tease you?

There is definitely a strand of English culture (and I think it is specifically English and posslbly Scottish rather than British) in which it completely acceptable to insult your friends but enemies must be treated with the utmost politeness.

+1 Banter!
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 28, 2017, 01:16:19 AM
There is definitely a strand of English culture (and I think it is specifically English and posslbly Scottish rather than British) in which it completely acceptable to insult your friends but enemies must be treated with the utmost politeness.

Very much Aussies &  Kiwis too.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on September 28, 2017, 05:34:33 AM
You cultural problems abound everywhere, at work I'm trying to work out whether I should tell someone calling me "dear" is so inappropriate - they are in India, and must have picked the phrase up from somewhere.....
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 28, 2017, 06:36:25 AM
You cultural problems abound everywhere, at work I'm trying to work out whether I should tell someone calling me "dear" is so inappropriate - they are in India, and must have picked the phrase up from somewhere.....

It's really common to do this in India - and it always sounds odd to us. I often get addressed as "Hi dear" or "Hello dear" and have to tell people that we only use dear for close family members and it's better to use someone's name, or just say hello without any salutation. People in Hindi will often add "Sahab" or "Bhai" to show they're being friendly and so I think end up using sir/madam or dear incorrectly. I would definitely contact them 1:1 and explain it, so that they don't come across as weird to other people. When I first started dealing with people in Japan in the 1990s, it was very helpful to have someone Japanese correct me on correct forms of address from time to time - I think most people are happy to be politely helped if it's not done in public.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: ixtap on September 28, 2017, 06:41:02 AM
You cultural problems abound everywhere, at work I'm trying to work out whether I should tell someone calling me "dear" is so inappropriate - they are in India, and must have picked the phrase up from somewhere.....

It's really common to do this in India - and it always sounds odd to us. I often get addressed as "Hi dear" or "Hello dear" and have to tell people that we only use dear for close family members and it's better to use someone's name, or just say hello without any salutation. People in Hindi will often add "Sahab" or "Bhai" to show they're being friendly and so I think end up using sir/madam or dear incorrectly. I would definitely contact them 1:1 and explain it, so that they don't come across as weird to other people. When I first started dealing with people in Japan in the 1990s, it was very helpful to have someone Japanese correct me on correct forms of address from time to time - I think most people are happy to be politely helped if it's not done in public.

Having lived in the Southern US, I will take dear any day over the Chinese use of "lady". I am sure it is being taught as the translation of something acceptable in their culture, but it grates on me.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: dreams_and_discoveries on September 28, 2017, 07:37:31 AM
I was just discussing with a colleague, and I think 'dear' has connotations and can be used to oppress, similar to that demonstrated by David Cameron in the commons once.

Lady also sounds strange...
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 28, 2017, 07:43:51 AM
I was just discussing with a colleague, and I think 'dear' has connotations and can be used to oppress, similar to that demonstrated by David Cameron in the commons once.

True if being used by a British person, but it's gender neutral when being misapplied by an Indian. They think it's the right/friendly thing to say, not trying to offend/patronise.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on September 29, 2017, 01:20:20 AM
. . . When I first started dealing with people in Japan in the 1990s, it was very helpful to have someone Japanese correct me on correct forms of address from time to time - I think most people are happy to be politely helped if it's not done in public.

You've been dealing with Japanese people in Japanese since the 1990s? I am suddenly concerned we may know each other in real life. I take back anything inappropriate I've ever said here.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: cerat0n1a on September 29, 2017, 04:49:31 AM
. . . When I first started dealing with people in Japan in the 1990s, it was very helpful to have someone Japanese correct me on correct forms of address from time to time - I think most people are happy to be politely helped if it's not done in public.

You've been dealing with Japanese people in Japanese since the 1990s? I am suddenly concerned we may know each other in real life. I take back anything inappropriate I've ever said here.

I have, but I highly doubt we know each other :-)

(I work in silicon chip design and Japan used to be quite important in that industry.)

I do know a woman from Cambridge who trained to become a missionary in Japan; she does things like translating Victorian methodist hymns into Japanese, which seems a bit pointless to me, but she thinks it's god's work.
Title: Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
Post by: Kwill on January 22, 2018, 12:01:51 PM
It's been about two years now, and I think I've covered many of the UK Mustachian life basics thanks to help from all of you. I'm starting a journal now, in which I'm trying to be somewhat more anonymous about my details. Maybe the journal can be for intermediate-level UK Mustachian life. :-)