English people want to buy their first house when they’re foetuses

I was 18 and so was my English man.

We’re sitting in the 6th-Form Common Room talking about the future in a casual ‘we’re going to be famous rockstars’ kind of way.

All of a sudden, he drops the H-bomb.

HOUSE.

When you’re 18 and your man starts talking about buying a house, it’s easy to see it as a ‘planning for our forever together’ type of situation.  But keep in mind that it could also be an ‘I’ve wanted to buy a house since I was in the womb’ type of situation.

Once you’ve started your own expat adventure, it will take you 1.6 seconds to see that it’s true.  The English want – no MUST – own a house as soon as humanly possible.  They emerge from adolescence yearning not for fame or fortune, but a MORTGAGE.  They watch prime-time property porn like Location Location Location, House Doctor, and Grand Designs.

My frothing-at-the-house man and I did go on to get married (and, yes, buy a house) – but I don’t think he was imagining walking me down the aisle when he casually talking about mortgaging-up all those years ago.  He was just being the lovely Brit that he is.

But expats BEWARE!  Fear not the house-owning-desires of your English man!  Fear the DIY that follows.

DIY? DI-Because.

I’ve always had a pretty straight forward attitude to DIY, and that’s D. I. DON’T.  But the tables have turned – and I’m tempted to sand-down those turning tables and paint them heritage Farrow & Ball Pavilion Blue.

When I first moved to the UK, I was adamantly anti-DIY.  Why fix it, when you can buy a new one and grab a Starbucks on the way back home?  (Mmmm… Starbucks…)  It’s bizarre because I come from a creative family of fixers and menders – but somehow the 21st century consumption (20th century back then) had a firm hold on me.

But let me take you back to the beginning of my DIY-downfall.  Little did I know what my future held when I first started dating Mr. Nice Guy at the tender but fearless age of 17.  He was already dreaming of owning his first house – but not just any house – a FIXER-UPPER.  When he first said these words aloud, they struck horror in my very core.  ”Surely,” I thought, “By ‘fixer-upper’ he means brand new house, freshly and professionally painted complete with landscaped garden!”

No.  No he did not.

In fact, what he meant was a Victorian house built in the late 1800′s with knackered wiring, leaky plumbing, damp crumbling plaster and asbestos in the loft.  *shudder*

Don’t get me wrong, I get it.  I see why it’s sensible to buy an old fusty bargain, rip it apart and put it back together again.  It’s a good investment (at least it was before the housing market crash), you can create your ideal home, you get the exact kitchen and bathroom that you want AND you get the satisfaction of the ‘I did that’ moment when it’s all finished in utterly glorious splendour.

Fast forward to a year ago (2011) when we started looking for a house in earnest.  The thought of all that work always niggled at my mind (sometimes it’s stomped all over my mind like the T-rex in Jurassic Park when the electric fences failed.)  How long would it take?  How much would it cost?  How could I cope with the upheaval?  How much would it COST?  Could we both keep our businesses running and redo a house at the same time?  HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?

The thought of it conjured up images of Mr. Nice Guy and I banding together and petitioning the UK government for an official day-time extension.  It would read something like this:

“We, Yankeebean and Mr. Nice Guy, formerly request that the 24-hour length of the UK day be extended to 32-hours, therefore increasing the amount of time the aforementioned applicants may then spend re-plastering the second bedroom.”

But I reasoned with myself that all the positives would out-weigh the negatives and I remained open to the idea of taking on a DIY dinosaur.

To be fair, Mr. Nice Guy was entirely open to the idea of getting a house that was already done-up – something that we could move right in to.  We came at from the same angle – If we find a house that we love, we’ll put an offer in regardless of the state it’s in.

So we looked.

And we looked and we looked.

And lo and behold, a house that was recently re-done came along!  It lit Mr. Nice Guy’s fire because it’s Victorian from the late 1800′s.  And my fire was blazing because it had just been completely redone, freshly painted, re-wired and had a brand new boiler.  Plus it was gorgeous – totes adorbs – and we both knew that it was worth going for it.

Fast-forward lots of paperwork, red-tape, terrifying amounts of money and celebratory champagne aaaaaaaand — WE’RE IN!

And though I don’t have to worry about fusty plaster laced with asbestos, I find there’s still lots of little jobs to do.  AND I LOVE IT.

I never DREAMED I’d be so excited about sanding and painting a cabinet for the living room.  The official term is ‘up-cycling’, but I call it ‘I-can’t-afford-to-buy-it-from-John-Lewis-so-I’m-going-to-buy-it-off-Ebay-for-ten-quid-and-do-it-myself-ing’.

Mr. NG asks if I want to help put up some shelves and what do I say?  ”YES!” I almost shout – like he’s just gotten down on one knee to propose and I’m accepting.

SO, when did it happen?  When did I become Aunty-DIY instead of anti-DIY?  I suspect somewhere around the time that I signed that scary mortgage contract and sent it, sweaty-palmed, back to the bank.

But one thing I know for certain, along with learning to love Marmite-spreading, wellie-wearing, and weather-discussing – learning to love DIY has made me even a little more English.  How about you lot?  Any DIY converts out there?

Americans living abroad: Your chance to be on the telly!

One of the greatest things about running SNFY with Yankeebean is the great feedback we get from our readers. We get all kinds through our email boxes on a daily basis, and we are honoured that you stop by to say hello, rant, and just let us know what you think. So in keeping with the fantastic offers  we receive, I just wanted to take a moment to share an opportunity that might appeal to you lovelies out there looking for your big break– a chance to be on the telly! Have a look:

Hi,

I stumbled upon your blog while researching for potential contributors for the US hit television series House Hunters International. I understand three of you are currently living abroad in the UK. Would any of you be interested in sharing your story with us? I would love to hear some more details on your house hunt, and see if we can make your journey fit into an episode of House Hunters International.

Here is a brief description of our show:
Our hit show is looking for energetic individuals, couples and families to share their story about moving abroad. Participating in our show is a lot of fun and a great way to document your exciting search for a home and new life abroad. We are looking for people that have relocated any place in the world except North America.

If you are interested in participating with our show or learning more, please send an email to [email protected].

To view current episodes of the House Hunters International, you can visit the following youtube links (please copy/paste the links listed):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh0Q6DYe3QM – London from South Africa
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLmhKEzm5kg – Dubai from Illinois

HGTV is a top 20 cable network in the US and House Hunters International is one of their top rated shows. At any given time the show is also airing in a variety of other countries.

I look forward to hearing from you and sending you further details.

Best,

Melissa Grassi
Associate Producer
LEOPARD FILMS UK
1-3 St. Peter’s Street
London, N1 8JD
+44 (0) 207 704 3300
http://www.leopardfilms.com
[email protected]

If one of our lovely readers manage to make it on this show, do let us know, we would love to watch! xx We’re not jumping on the offer ourselves because, erm, well we just don’t have any money to buy a property here in the UK. Heck, or abroad for that matter…someday though, someday….

Sorry we vanished! We’re not gone or dead, just busy :)

yankeebean

Just a quick post to say sorry for dropping off the face of the earth!

Peacefulyorkshire and I have both been tearing-our-hair-out busy with the game of life.  Peacfulyorkshire is moving away for 3 months, while moving UK-house, too, while planning a wedding, while doing a PhD.  I’m working two jobs which have both exploded with activity, meetings, rehearsals, recording sessions, website launches, gigs and the occasional trip to the zoo (yes, for work – long story).

But we ARE here!  We just took a little post hiatus because we have strict SNFY blogging standards which include:

  • No hazy posts that aren’t really about anything
  • No writing about personal anecdotes that have nothing to do with being an expat
  • No pressuring ourselves to write when there’s too much going on because one of us will just end up calling the other one and crying.

As you can see, we run a pretty tight ship around here ;)  But we’ve both have a string of posts that we’re planning to write now and they’ve already started to peek out into the web-daylight.

Sorry again for vanishing – we’ve missed you guys!

Am I supposed to pay taxes?

pacificyorkshirebird

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!

Moving Away: making the first new friends and the glow that comes with it

yankeebeanI’ve noticed my constant use of titles with colons included (:)  I think it’s something I’m going to just going to run with – let’s not over-analyse this…

All that aside, I want to start with a single statement…

Moving is hard.

I don’t mean hard because you have to transfer all your bills, or pack up all your stuff, or make a lot of phone calls, or find a new job (although all that stuff is huge pain in the arse).  I mean hard in a quieter way.  Hard after all that admin-crap is over with.

The ACT of moving is actually incredibly exciting (yes yes, stressful, too) but really freakin’ exciting.  There’s SO much to do, so much to think about, so much that you have to get done.  And SO MUCH GLORIOUS POSSIBILITY.  What there ISN’T a lot of is ‘time to think’.  What will it actually be like when we get there?  How will I meet new people?  How will I fill my time when I don’t know where anything is?  How will I deal with the inevitable loneliness?  How will I keep in touch with everyone that I’m leaving back in town #1?

THESE, my awesome peeps, are the issue that I DIDN’T think about when I was wrapping drinking glasses in last week’s newspapers and wondering if my broadband is going to be up and running in time in my new digs.

Well, tonight I jumped one of the post-moving hurdles – The First New Friends.

It’s been 6 months since we picked up and moved down south from the gorgeous York-iness, and I’ve been through the standard moving phases (another blog on my extensive history of moving later).  I’m familiar with the standard rate of meeting the first real friends after about 6 months – and today (6 months and 16 days after the move – 14 of which I spent out of the country), VIOLA!!  I think I’ve made the first real friends!!

I’m flippin’ GLOWING – Mr. Nice Guy and I just got back from having drinks with another couple and we had a GREAT time.  No awkward moments, no weird looks, just all laughing and all chatting all the time.

It’s one of the big moving hurdles that I’m feeling relieved to have completed – AND they’re successfully invited to my annual UK Thanksgiving extravaganza on 26th November.  Shameless friend-making… HUZZAH!!!

Need an excuse to move to the UK? Another reason to move abroad.

yahooavatar15Your new excuse for a new life in the UK? It will make you a superstar hot-shot employee. In August 2009′s USA Marie Claire Magazine:

When researchers presented scenarios that required ‘out of the box problem solving’, a majority of those who zeroed in on the best answers had spent some years living in another country. What’s more, a recent study found that former expats were more likely to be promoted. Explains Prof. Galinsky at the Kellogg School of management at Northwestern University “When abroad, you’re forced to adapt to a local culture” and to fit in– you’re exercising your brain by thinking about cultural norms and how to adapt to them.’

For all our readers out there that are still pondering that move to the UK, this is another reason (besides British men, Cadbury’s, Topshop and Glastonbury) to get you Americans coming on over. Now if the UK Home Office would only agree I am sure you would be over in a flash, right?

Moving back to America after living in England (a little advice)

yahooavatar15Tell our readers a little bit about yourself:

I think I’ll call myself BigApplePie :)

How long did you live in England and what brought you to the UK in the first place ?

I lived in North East England for approximately 4 and 1/2 years.  I moved for love and married a ‘Geordie’.  Unfortunately, our marriage did not work out and we were divorced 2 1/2 years after I had arrived in this strange country that I came to love.

What were the reasons you decided to move back to America?

This was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.  Being a musician, I worked very diligently to create a name and work for myself to support living on my own.  However, I was thousands of miles away from my own family and felt a little lonely.  In the Spring of 2008 I was offered a job that was located near where I grew up in America and I battled over making a decision to move or not.  On one hand I would be working in a similar field, but on the other hand it was back to working 5 days a week.  Saying ‘yes’ would meant that I was going to leave a career that I had built to return to my family and have a wonderful support system and spend holidays with them. Saying ‘no’ meant I would continue my career but would spend birthdays and special holidays away from my family.  Also, during my decision making time, an intruder broke into my cottage and I had to turn to local friends for help.  It made me a little scared to come home late at night when I was all alone.

I truly battled over this decision and with the economic downturn, I decided that if I ever wanted to try and move back to the states that this was the time to try.  Moving with a job, was a better segue than just moving blindly back without the promise of work.

So after 6 months, I said ‘yes’.

How long did the process take to move back ‘home’?

Moving back was very straight forward. I decided to move in August and by October I was living and working in the US.  My personal items arrived a bit later.  I used Pickfords, the most amazing moving company in the UK, their US equivalent is called Allied.  I arranged for sea freight and they packed up everything and started the move one month before I actually left the UK.  I also went through the paperwork of moving with my large breed dog.  This has been made very easy through a programme called PETS.  However, it requires rabies injections and clearances 6 months prior to moving, so be prepared.

Now that you have moved back what do you miss about the UK, if anything?

The grass is always greener.  I never thought that moving back to the USA would feel like moving to a new country, but I was learning things that I had forgotten and it wasn’t as easy as I thought.  I actually hadn’t lived in the US for over 5 years because of my transition. Very quickly after moving, I started regretting leaving the UK.  Even though my parents had been so helpful with arrangements, I just missed the independence I had created in the UK.  The move did end up costing a lot more than expected and with the economy down the tubes, the exchange rate was NO longer in my favour… bummer.

I love that the UK has such wonderful customs and traditions.  It always amazed me to arrive at a gig and find that I was performing in one of the oldest castles or an incredible stately home.  The society is very ‘real’ and this reality is very touching.  Meeting new people, whether rich or living on very little, there was an appreciation for life and music too which was a bonus.

Also, the UK’s national health system is amazing and SOOO easy.

What changes do you notice about yourself since you last lived in America?

I am a more polite driver and I am not as ‘fast-paced’ as other people my age.  I realized that I had forgotten a lot of Americanisms, because I had changed some of my words and speech to ‘fit in’ in England… now I was being criticized in America, so I am learning how to speak all over again.  No more boot of the car, right-hand drive cars (which I occasionally get in the car and sit there hoping that no one saw me get in on the wrong side!! LOL), pants/trousers, etc…

Anything you have noticed now that you didn’t notice before about America/Americans?

I see that the states is extremely competitive in work and life.  There are fewer holidays and people are very ‘work-driven’.  It is almost sad.  Also, there seems to be this horrible threat of being ‘sued’.  I don’t understand this at all.

The other thing is that I find Americans are very wasteful.  With the focus on becoming ‘green’ a few more Americans are starting to conserve but as a nation it is very disheartening to see the waste going on.

Any advice to other Americans in the UK that are thinking about moving back home?

Be sure of what you really want in tens years from now… make a choice based on your life, not your surroundings.  There are things that I miss about both sides of the pond and I am still unsure about my choice but everyone is different.  But make sure you visit ‘back home’ before you take the plunge… things might have changed and your views might have changed too.

Any chance you will return?

This is something I am still seriously considering.  Stay tuned…

What have you noticed about American men in comparison to the UK guys (I asked this because  we get asked that a lot)

I am probably the worst person to answer this… but generally there are good, respectful men and the opposite in both countries.  Always remember to look at their family values… how did they grow up and how do they treat their mothers!!

Thanks so much!

(Thinking of making the move back to America yourself? You might also like this post)

Your negativity is eating my brain… stop it, I NEED my brain

yankeebeanRecently we had another cracking comment from one of my fave readers, ‘I Love This Blog’ (don’t worry ILTB, you’re not the one eating my brain, more on that later).  On our post ‘My English man and our long distance relationship‘ She said:

I was just wondering how your loved ones reacted to your moving overseas for love? Not that it’s really affecting my decisions, but most, nay-ALL, of my closest friends are 100% against the idea and think I will either have my heart broken or be sorely disappointed.. The only ones who support my decision are the ones who are completely right-brained, completely romantic, and have no grasp of common sense or logic (so, it’s a little disheartening..)

How did you do it? Did you find a job first, or did you just up and move? I’m a little nervous!

So many memories (good/bad/ugly) flooded in when I read this comment.  When it came to hopping-the-pond for love, my heart and my head were pretty much always in agreement.  It was my FRIENDS of all freakin’ things that made me wanna panic, unpack, and apply to work in the nearest global food chain.

There was no shortage of negativity – it came pelting in from all angles.  Even my best friend showed her disapproval just by keeping her mouth shut about it (y’know, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say’, yada yada yada).  Sometimes I felt like their negative monologues were actually burrowing into my brain… gross… too much information.

Negativity isn’t exactly what you NEED when you’re about to cram all of your belongings into two giant suitcases, say good-bye to your parents, hurtle through the air in a giant metal tube (I hate flying…), and stumble, bleary and unkempt, into the wonderful arms of ‘the reason for all this’.

I really de-railed a couple of times pre-move when my friends would launch in to a ‘This is never going to work and when it all comes crashing down you’ll be alone and penniless in a foreign country’ speeches.  SHUT UP, for God’s sake!!  I need SUPPORT right now!!  I’m about to move to a country that doesn’t even have a written form of their constitution!!  Can you freakin’ BACK ME UP for a minute here??  (That’s the sound of me derailing… sorry about the constitution snipe)

At the end of the day (to use a most-excellent English expression), none of it ultimately stopped me from boarding the giant metal tube… I mean plane.  I tried to apply an ‘I’m rubber and you’re glue’ attitude to the whole friend-negativity-eat-my-brain mutiny.  Did it work?  I have no idea, but here I am!  And it’s good… it’s REALLY good…

Oh yeah, about the job hunting – I did look before I arrived, but I didn’t actually land a job until I’d turned up.  I’m sure you’ll find just the thing!  And if you need a shoulder for leaning or an ear for bending, we’re here!

First impressions of living in the South

yankeebeanI’ve now lived in the South of England for about 2 glorious-sun-filled-but-lonely-for-my-York-people weeks.  Now that the ‘moving’ exhaustion, muscle strain and caffeine/sugar coma have subsided – I think it’s starting to sink in that I live here now.  That’s good… because I do…

So what are the differences that I’ve noticed so far?

  1. More sun! – I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that we just left a York Winter for a Southern Spring, but statistically we’re living in the sunniest city in England and it’s FREAKING HEAVEN!!  Almost every day we wake up to the sun – or if we wake up to the rain, half the time it burns off to a sunny afternoon.  It is, in a word, AWESOME…
  2. Bzzzzzzzzzz – The buzz here rocks my world.  It feels like there’s so much going on and, even if I decide to stay home and read, I can still FEEL the buzz (in a good way – not in a distracting way).
  3. Neutral territory – My husband, Mr. Nice Guy, and I had the ‘where should we live’ debate when we were coming to the end of our long-distance relationship.  I move to York initially because that’s where he lived and it was easier for me to go through the immigration process here than vice-versa.  But it was tricky moving into ‘his world’ where he already knew his way around and also had an established set of friends that I had to ‘slot into’.  It took a long time for me to feel comfortable there.  But the South means a clean slate for the both of us and it’s ‘our place’ instead of just his or mine.  It’s been awesome exploring a new place with Mr. Nice Guy and I can already feel that it was the right thing for us.  Woop!
  4. There is no place, there’s only people – My biggest complaint about the South is that all the people that I love didn’t move here, too.  Despite all my campaigning and coercing, not one single person packed up their stuff and piled into the moving van with us.  I’m definitely missing everyone already – especially my fellow American ladies – and I keep reading the ‘meeting new people‘ blog entry to motivate myself to ‘get out there’ and get started.

These are just the initial thoughts about the South vs. North from my POV – oh and I think I prefer the Yorkshire accent :)