Sunday, March 27, 2011

Come one, Come all... the Greatest Show on Earth!  Also known as, The Royal Wedding.

An article in this Saturday's Times gave a breakdown of the various places around Westminster Abbey that onlookers can rent on April 29th for Kate & Wills wedding.  Coming in on the low end of the spectrum, at £60 per head was Methodist Central Hall, which is a 'lecture hall with champagne breakfast for 500 Guests or the Great Hall accomodating 1000 people.'  The Lecture Hall is owned by the actual Methodist Church.
On the upper end of the spectrum are the NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company) House and The Sanctuary (effectively owned by the Church of England).  Both also offer views of Westminster-at a paltry £100,000 for run of the facility.

There are also apparently several places in the vicinity of Westminster that are for rent ('price not disclosed'). I guess it's a case of, 'if you have to ask, you clearly can't afford it..' For the most part, these places are all owned by the 'Crown Estate.'  Who's that you ask?  It's the royal family themselves.  Yep.  The very people who are holding the wedding (at the cost of me, a taxpayer, mind you...) are effectively going to make money on the very event they're having.

I've clearly missed the mark.  Simon & I shouldn't be inviting guests to our wedding.  We should be renting out the chairs for viewers instead!

...why didn't we think of this first?!?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vitality Aromatherapy-My New Favourite

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Vitality Aromatherapy is a new company that my friend (Lou) has recently started, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be testing some of the products she will eventually offer for sale on her website.

Regardless, I am officially in love with her gorgeous, perfectly scented, homeopathic products!  So far, my favourites have been her Peppermint & Lavender Aloe Gel and the Body Butter.

 With the running I’ve been doing, the Aloe Gel has become the first thing I reach for when I get home, and I can’t get enough of it!   Beautiful smell, great cooling properties for my hot tootsies, and the aloe and naiouli are doing a great job of healing my various blisters and pain points more quickly than if I were to simply let them be.   Plus, I find that the Peppermint & Lavender combo just makes me happy. J

The Body Butter...oh, what can I say about the body butter?!?...  The cocoa butter smell is light enough to notice, but not in a sickly-sweet Cadbury/Hershey chocolate bar kind of way; it is divine.  The butter simply melts in your hands (literally), and goes on so smoothly.  I honestly have licked my hands after using-it simply looks & smells good enough to eat-and is!  Don’t judge me.

Anyhoo.  I am so incredibly proud of Lou-she’s been working towards her goal of getting her company up & running for some time now and I can honestly say that after testing some of her products, that she will be a raging success.    She’s passionate and knowledgeable about what she does, and that shines thru in the beautiful things she makes.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit Vitality Aromatherapy and see for yourself.  Lou is still finalizing all of the online ordering bits of the website, but she can still be contacted via the website to place a bespoke order.

Here’s to you Lou-I wish you all the best!  

Monday, March 7, 2011

Relocation Benefits

An old colleague in the US recently asked me about relocation benefits: she's contemplating a move for work abroad, and isn't sure what benefits may (or may not...) be available to her. In the course of crafting my rather lengthy response, it dawned on me that there's power in the collective, so I thought I'd repost my response here and ask folks to pipe up with other suggestions.

In no particular order, here's what I've managed to come up with:

The first thing I'd state is this: regardless of what is *offered*, you should get creative in what you ask for-and ask for everything (this gives you a better position to negotiate from!): salary too low? Ask for a transportation subsidy or more on temp housing. Own a house in the US? Inquire about your company supporting a sale that guarantees you won't loose money (ie the company covers any difference between initial purchase price & resale price-PLUS expenses). Or something to that effect. Anyhoo, for what it's worth, here's a laundry list of things I've either personally received (or know others have received). Some if it's probably pretty obvious, but others may be a bit more obscure..

-Pre-move visit to search for housing (can't say how important this one is)
-Up front local market real estate agent support (whether to buy or rent...)
-It goes without saying: corporate housing for a minimum of 2 months. Push for more. And then, if you're able to move to permanent housing earlier, get your company to agree to split the difference on the 'rental refund.'
-Even better: get them to pay for housing for the duration of your stay
-Ditto for living expenses (ie a per diem). This is well & truly a true 'expat package' feature, and not that many companies do it any longer, but it still never hurts to ask!
-House hold good shipping (options: air freight-faster, but *very* expensive. a good solution to getting a few extra boxes that you couldn't bring on the airplane. or, shipping container....slower (think ~6 weeks), but this is where you could literally bring your entire house). -and negotiate how *much* the company is willing to ship-regardless of method
-Visa support-push for the most open type of visa that would be available (ie one that will last for years and avoid the need to be 'company sponsored'-if that is indeed an option where you're moving-ie the equivalent of what is/was a Tier 1 in the UK)
-Also make sure that the household shipping includes packing & unpacking
-Relocation bonus. The new tea kettle, TV, couch, etc...isn't going to be free! :) this is an especially good one to negotiate, as frequently hiring managers can't add more to the salary-but relo bonuses tend to come out of different 'pots', so there could be more flexibility here...
-Tax preparation-both for the US & the country you relo to. Be *aggressive* on this one-even request a pre-move tax/financial planning chat with a professional. This gets very expensive to pay for yourself-and trust me, you'll need help on your taxes both while you're abroad, and for a good number of years after you move back!
-Storage: not moving all of your stuff abroad? Ask your company to pay for your storage in the US
-Auto: if you plan to drive, get a transportation allowance-whether it means a company provided car/driver or whatever....or...if you don't plan to drive, ask for an allowance for public transportation
-Early contract cancellation fees: For example, if you need to break your mobile contract early or gym membership, apartment rental...ask for your company to cover the cancellation charges.
-Banking: get your company to help you establish a checking account AND get a credit card
-Flybacks: have them pay for you to return to the US X times each year-to be used for personal trips at your discretion
-Your boy/girlfriend/partner/husband: visa sponsorship as well as the same relo benefits you'd ask for ('stuff', car/xport, flybacks, etc...).
-Language Lessons: unless you're both already fluent in the foreign language of where you're moving to! :)
-Have a pet? Get the company to ship the pet-and pay for the quarantine pre/post shipping.
-If you'd still be paid your salary in your US bank, have the company cover any wire transfer fees you'd incur for getting money to the country you're moving  to live off of. 

Whew.  That's what I came up with in just a matter of minutes-I'm sure I've missed loads-like, there has to be things to ask for if you have children.  But, I've no clue about that! :)

What else is there?  What else have you received/heard of someone receiving as part of a a relocation package?  Give a shout-or better yet, post your comment.  Thanks!