Friday, February 29, 2008

A Small Detail

A few folks have asked me how this move all came about-a small detail I overlooked in my initial post-and one, that unless you've seen me personally in the last month or two, likely didn't get communicated. Sorry about that!

So, here's what happened...

My old supervisor approached me in late October and basically told me, "We've been trying to fill this UK position and are having no luck finding a good candidate. I know you have expressed interest in working abroad, and we think you'd be good at this. Are you interested?"

Yep. It really was as simple as that.

So, I am transferring with Amazon to assume the UK Search Marketing Manager position (a step up from my current role), and will focus half my time on Search Engine Marketing and half my time on Search Engine Optomization. Or really, 100% of my time on SEM and 100% of my time on SEO. It seems like this position could easily be filled by two people already!

So there yo have it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

I can't believe the dumb luck, but I think we (my soon to be roomie, Sarah-more on her later...) may have found a place to live! My goal was to get a sense of what we 'could' have, and instead, I'm walking away from the trip with what we 'will' have. I hope. Phew!

I've been in London this week, and spent Wednesday and today searching for flats. Sarah was able to join for yesterday, and then I had a go at it solo today. Yesterday was the 'lower' end of our price range, and honestly, most of the places made me sad. We saw 10-12, and of all of those, only one strong contender (though it wasn't bad, it's not as *awesome* as what I think we'll get). Most places had a 2nd BR that really wasn't more than a closet, only one Bathroom, were just too small, or just 'off.' I wasn't dejected, or even concerned, but was really just hoping that today would be different.

It was.

Today was the 'higher end' of our price range, and the very first place I saw this morning ended up being the one that we got. It's huge (by US and UK standards), only 7 minutes walk to Paddington, has 3 BR-two of which are great sized, a huge, modern kitchen, and is generally a great property. Oh, and there's a rooftop area as well. We'd call it a townhome in the US, but here it's called a house. It's a few pounds out of the pricerange, but is absolutely perfect, so we're going to suck it up. How much, you might ask? £735 a week. Yes. Ouch. Don't do the math to convert to dollars per month, or you'll cry.

But, it is stunning. Here are a few pics. I've more that I'll upload from my camera when I can, but in the interim:

And the best part of all, is that it's located on a "mews." Right. I didn't know what a "mews" was until yesterday either! In general, it's the back alley behind the really big, nice houses that used to be where the servants' quarters and stables would be kept. In addition, falcons were kept there as well, and apparently, when they shed their feathers, this was called "mewsing", hence mews. Is that not quinticential British or what?!? The best part of this 'flat', is that though the inside is updated and fairly modern, the outside looks like what most of us think a British building would like like.

I'm in love!

Friday, February 15, 2008


I'm heading out to London today for a week. Partially to actually get some on the ground work done and partially to get some on the ground life things (like find a place to live) taken care of.

I then come back to the US for a week and then officially 'leave' on Friday, February 29. T-minus 14 days and counting. It's a day that only comes once every four years, and it somehow seems appropriate that it's the day I'm leaving.

But, for some reason, this time left (or rather, lack of time) in Seattle *really* didn't hit me until yesterday afternoon at work at about 5p. Then, for some reason, while I was printing out some of my travel documents, it suddenly was an "oh, shit" moment. Oh, shit: I'm hoping a plane tomorrow & don't know what time my flight is, where my hotel is, haven't considered what I'm packing, haven't thought about any of the details.

I got all of this taken care of, but when I got home, I had yet another "oh, shit" moment. Oh, shit: I'm packing up my life in two weeks to move to London and still have a dozen opened bottles of condiments in my refrigerator, I haven't even begun to weed thru my clothes to figure out what I'm going to take & what I'm going to leave behind, I haven't touched base again with the Saturn dealer to ensure that they'll buy my car from me before I leave.

And the biggest oh shit: Oh shit, what if the movers really decide not to pack up the things I'm not taking to London and I'm suddenly stuck packing until 3am the night before I leave. And, am I going to be packing 5 boxes or 50? It's almost too much to think about.

Everywhere I looked in my condo last nite was an oh, shit moment. I thought I was stressed before, and now I'm really stressed. I knew this would happen, and it had been building, but I didn't expect the sudden stress level to go from 7 to 10 in literally just a matter of minutes yesterday. It was very unexpected. And, I don't like it. I had intentionally been trying to plan and think about things so that I could expressly avoid something like this. And mother fucker, if it didn't happen anyhow.

It's the unknown that's doing this to me. Largely because I still don't know what I'll be living in (beyond the corp housing) when I live there. Do I need furniture or not? If I need furniture, do I need to bring all of mine? If I bring all of mine, will it even fit? What about plates, cups, utensils?....

At the very least, even if I don't have *the exact* flat picked out by this time next week, I hope to at least have a better grip on the situation.

And, the stress.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

One Step Closer

Yesterday, I went to my UK biometric appointment as part of the visa application.
What is a biometric appointment, you might ask? Well, basically it's the UK Government's way (US too for that matter...we do the same...) of making you feel like a criminal before ever stepping foot in their country. I had to go get fingerprinted and photographed as part of my visa submission.
So, in just a few days, I'll be turning over my current passport, expired passport, visa application, work permit, bank statements (gotta prove that i'm not going to the UK to mooch off of their generous social system), and a few other odds & ends to send off to the UK Consulate in LA for visa approval.
One step closer to being in London. One step further away from Seattle. Hm.
About the actuall process itself..Though my effort was for a UK process, it's actually run by the US Government. My understanding is 'cuz this is simply due to the fact that we've got the people & the space to do it.
My appointment was for 11a, and I decided to get there a little early & beat the proverbial rush, so I arrived at 10.30a. Paid to park (doesn't that just seem like a ripoff? there is no where to park but this one lot at the building, and you're forced to pay. grr..), and went in. Cleared the metal detector-of which, i think they actually do a more thorough job of screening than TSA...and then queued up. From this queue, i was given a number, and sent to a big 'holding room' that was primarily full of immigrants wanting to get *in* to the US. Out of the ~50 people in there at the time, only 3 of us were there because we're trying to get *out.*
By now, it's 10.45a, and i'm thinking: woo hoo. this is going well!... In fact, though my number was 125, and they were only on 111 when i walked in the holding room, within 15 minutes, my number was called with a slew of others in which we queued up again. From there, we were called one by one to present our paperwork for preliminary review.
I almost hit a snafu b/c my passport lists my middle name, but my visa application does not. There is not spot for "middle name" on the app. There's a spot for "other name" but how the heck am i supposed to interpret that to mean middle name? I assumed that meant nicknames...Which, is what i convinced the preliminary review dude of. So, i turned my paperwork over, and was told to go sit down again while he did some basic checks.
I was then called back, given a new number, and told to go sit in a seperate line. Apparently, there is ony one individual at this facility that handles the UK Biometric appointments. And, by now, it's 11.15a. At 11.30a, someone made an announcement to the three of us waiting that the UK lady was on lunch break. And, we would have to wait out in the holding room to wait for her return. 30 minutes go by, and finally, my name is called. By now, it's noon.
I'm fingerprinted on some fancy-schmancy digital machine (no ink marks on my paws. yea!), a most unflattering photo is taken of me, and then after a few minutes i'm sent on my way.
Total time spent? An hour and 45 minues. Which better than the two hours I was told it would take. Total time of this spent in line, or waiting: An hour and 35 minutes. Gotta love government efficiency!
One step closer...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Something Funny

A funny thing happened to me last week & I just thought I should mention it...

I went to my dentist, Dr. Lee, for my last checkup before heading to London. I made it clear that I was going to be moving and was a little concerned about keeping my teeth in tip-tip shape while gone.

Their advice? Don't let the UK dentist touch me! Dr. Lee told me he has several clients who expressly come back to Seattle once a year for checkups and cleanings. Why? Well, apparently, cleanings aren't a common occurance, and checkups-if there is something wrong-frequently result in extractions.

Yikes. I will be certain to keep away from the dentists while in London! :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

By the Numbers

When making the decision on whether to move to London or not-and especially when negotiating my salary & other 'moving benefits', the biggest question I had was: how much was it going to cost to live there. Really. And for the cost, what exactly am I getting. Really.

I had played tourist in London many times, most recently as of June 2007, and from these experiences, I knew that cost of living-if it approximated what it cost to be a tourist-was at least 2X what my Seattle (or even general US) cost of living was. Ouch.

It goes without saying that I wasn't successful negotiating a 2X salary increase (but it would have been great if I could have), and so I've really been scratching my head the past few months of, "*how* exactly do I make this work?" From other research, I do know that, just like in the US, I will make more than the average Londoner, but that's really it. Information I was able to find on the web was either so dated (2005), made for students planning on studying abroad, or so generic that it was really hard to put it all together. So, in the effort to maybe help some poor soul who may eventually stumble across this blog, I've decideded to give a peek into the true London cost of living-and yes, be a bit forthcoming about my salary & taxes along the way.

So, warning: If you DON'T WANT TO KNOW MY SALARY, STOP READING this post now.

Currently, my back of the envelope calculation tells me the following about my monthly income and expenses. These are just guesses now based upon what my general current monthly costs are, and factoring in lifestyle changes like more travel, less eating out & clothing shopping. The realities of these costs will bear themselves out over the upcoming months, and I will update actual costs as regularly as I can. It will also be interesting for me to see just how far off I likely am on this initial guess...All numbers below are in pounds.

Monthly take home pay (post taxes): 4300
Rent 1500 (this is just my half assuming I have a roomie & we're crammed into 700 sf)
401(k): 200
Insurance: 50 (rental)
Medical: 50
Transportation: 300
Food: 300
Travel: 500 (yes, I plan to do this A LOT)
Utility bills (power, mobile): 200
Entertainment: 300
Clothing: 200
"Stuff": 200
Total expenses: 3800

So, in theory, I should have 500 pounds left over at the end of every month for savings. Which, I hope to god I do, because I will continue to have US expenses (mortgage of $700 that exceeds my rental income, storage costs of ~$30, and I'm sure another $100 for 'stuff' like insurance). So, when all is done, if the numbers above are sold, I'll almost break even every month. Which is a far cry from my lifestyle here in the US. And, a little scary.

Stay tuned. I'll either be OK, or buying Ramen in bulk.

Monday, February 4, 2008

"See you in London"

Talk about your surreal moments...

I went home to The Metropolis (aka Hickory, NC-my hometown) this weekend for one last visit with my dad & a few friends before I head across the pond in a few weeks.

Saying goodbye to my bff, Scott (that's a guy for those of you who didn't know) really took on a surreal moment on Saturday afternoon as I was driving away from his parent's house. I rolled down the window and yelled, "See you in London.!" This was weird for a few reasons...One, I know it to be true and two, until this weekend, it's not exactly every day when I say to folks 'see you in London' -true or otherwise.

Of course the flip side of spouting this exciting phrase to Scott-architecht extrordinare with Duda Paine in Raleigh (, was that when I said the same thing to my dad when I said goodbye on Sunday, I completely knew it to not be true. It breaks my heart to know that he won't (read: NOT can't) do this. For himself. For me. Doesn't matter. He won't.