Do English people hate talking about money so much that someone is REFUSING TO PAY ME??

I woke up today to a ridiculous email from a friend (a friend!) I’ve been collaborating with.  I don’t mention it often, but I’m a musician and I do a lot of remote recording work.  My friend (FRIEND!?) and I just finished working on a ten track album on which I worked on 9 out of the ten songs.

I do this kind of thing all the time and usually with people I’ve never met.  So what I USUALLY do (very sensibly) is arrange a contract first and everyone signs it before I record a note.  But THIS time it was for an English friend so I thought we could just talk money once I’d finished.  What. A. FOOL.

When we came to talk percentages / royalties ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and now I can’t see past my fury enough to figure out if he’s:

a) Over-reacting

b) A d-bag

or c) Rendered useless by money-talk because of his Britishness

Here’s what happened:

He emailed me to ask about contracts / percentages, etc.  I emailed back suggesting slightly high figures so he could barter me down to what I actually wanted.  Based on my past 10 years of experience – this is how it’s always done.  But here’s his response:

I think I wasn’t expecting any of this and in reality this album wont me making you or I any money.

Really?  Nobody every told me…

I won’t be making any formal agreement with percentages or sales in regards to the songs.

OH, GOOD.  I thought you were going to make this difficult.

I think you will have to accept the original terms – you did this because you wanted to play these songs, not for any financial reward.

What??   I  mean yes, I love music and yes, I like his songs – but I can’t pay my bills with the Sound of Music (unless the hills come alive and pay my mortgage)

You cannot now be asking for percentages and so forth when it was clear from the start I would not be paying you for your contribution to the album.

Um… yes I can.  Because no it wasn’t.

This is the same as a dentist doing a filling and his patient telling him he should accept payment as HIS LOVE OF TEETH.

So cast your votes, expats!  Is he a) over-reacting, b) d-bagging or c) paralysed by the fear of talking about moolah.

Do we tip bartenders here?

SO!  My brother (Leonard) and his wife (Ella) flew into London from Chicago (they get in to Bristol this afternoon!) and this means one thing.  Seeing the UK a-fresh through Yankee eyes!

I can already tell that hanging out with them in England is going to:

a)  Be amazing

b)  Give me major flashbacks about what life was like when I first moved to the UK

For example, I got a text from Len last night – all is said was:

Do we tip bartenders here?

I texted back a quick ‘Nope!’.  But that one text opened the flood gates and I remembered my days of uk-mystery-tipping.  I had no idea who to tip, so I tipped everyone – an extra quid every time I bought a drink, 2 or 3 quid for taxi drivers, a tenner for my hair dresser (TEN QUID!  I can’t believe I did that – no wonder she cried when I moved away!).  Oh, the memories!

Does this happen to you guys?  Someone comes to visit and every time they marvel at a Zebra Crossing, you’re hurtled though a quantum wormhole back to your early days in the UK?

Makes me smile. :)

How to talk about money in England – Don’t.


No matter how English I think I’m getting, that ol’ American-ness always manages to seep through the cracks…

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it, but a sometimes it results in severe foot-in-mouth syndrome.  Not the one where you eat dodgy beef and get loopy – the one where you open your yap and offend someone without meaning to.  I’m a freakin’ expert - I should be the case study to see if it’s curable.

Anyway, this is all leading up to the root of most of my red-faced-foot-chewing moments lately.  I keep bringing up money as a knee-jerk reaction.  I do it because it GENUINELY doesn’t bother me, talking about money doesn’t seem like such a big deal in the good ol’ US of A.

But I’m learning very quickly that it bothers everyone else and I should keep my mouth shut.

I usually know I’ve done it because there’s a brief beat of silence and some kind of shuffling ensues.  The dance of discomfort – I quickly join in a split second after everyone else, once I realise that I’ve done it again.  (again!?!  GAHH!!)

But then what should I do??  It’s too late to take it back, I haven’t learned Hiro’s trick of bending space and time, no spare Doloreans nearby to go 1.21 jigawatts.  My current method is to start talking really fast in an obviously over-excited tone trying to fillfillfill.  Subtle?  No… it doesn’t take a genius to spot the vaudeville-worthy performance that I launch in to.

I think the only way to recover is to have a fail-proof subject change, so I’m fishing for ideas… anyone?  Anyone?  Just something to get me by until I get the clue and stop bloody bringing it up like some kind of noob.  Sigh…

Am I supposed to pay taxes?


Dreamer had a great question on her comment to Yankeebean’s post about the how to go about bringing up the fiance visa question. She writes:

Is it true that if you are an american citizen working in the UK you pay both UK and US taxes? and vice versa?

I went for three years kinda wondering that question and hoping it would just go away like when Hypercolor t-shirts just disappeared after 1992.

Of course, the minute I wanted to import my British guy through US immigration, my history as a taxpayer became very important. With my application, I had to submit tax returns from the last three years, two of which I had to go back and file late as I hadn’t been filing at all since I moved to the UK.  And as it turned out, I needed to be earning over $80,000 a year (or something) in order to have to pay Uncle Sam, so I was off the hook. But I needed help from a smartypants tax accountant. Never in gazillion years would I have known how to file my returns without their help.

Keep in mind that I was earning $0 income in the United States at that point, nor was I employed by a US company and transferred to the UK. And in the past, the hardest part about doing my taxes was subtracting the standard deduction and asking my parents whether I was still being claimed as a dependent.

Oh yeah, and I’m no tax expert so make sure you look into your own situation before you decide what to do. Here’s a link you might find helpful to the IRS FAQ’s.

To make it even more confusion, it turns out I may not have had to go through filing past returns anyways. Because the income part of my visa application was rejected because the income I claimed wasn’t earned in the US!

Anyways, compare that to the UK system where they actually PAID me tax back after leaving the UK because I happened to leave before I paid in the minimum amount for the tax year. HM Revenue & Customs has some helpful information on their website too. Check out the sections on Information on Double Taxation and Social Security Treaties and International Aspects of Personal Tax.

Readers – tell us your tax stories!