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Posts Tagged ‘money’

Expat Banking

When you move to a new country and try to set up a life there, you encounter a broad range of differences in the way people do things in this new country. For instance, in Britain, everything is harder. Ha! No, it just feels that way sometimes, especially when it comes to banking. Without five years of checkable addresses in the country (I wonder if it counts if you’ve lived some of them in Ireland, Wales or Scotland?), you only qualify for a type known as a Cashminder Account. All this means is that, like in the United States, you have a debit card, can bank online, and can deposit and withdraw money. OK, good, that’s all I wanted to do. Here, customers are charged a monthly fee for different levels of banking because the bank will offer you things like free worldwide travel insurance, home insurance, financial advice, and an overdraft. Overdraft is basically a line of credit. We have something called overdraft in the States, too, but I’ve never had it as anything other than a link to my savings account in case a check bounces, so I won’t be charged.

All things considered, I suppose the British overdraft and the American overdraft are similar, it’s just that its like having a credit card attached to your checking account instead of not having anything and being charged a fee if you go into the red.

My problem with British banking is that it’s ridiculously hard to get anything done. To change your address you have to go into a branch. Not just any branch, either, but the branch at which you started the account. You have to put in various parts of two codes to get into your account online. And because my proof of address, which came from Ealing Council, for a bill for our old address, and thus says C/O [my new address], they’re having problems accepting it as proof. They also won’t issue me a bank account right away because I’m not a UK passport holder, even though I’m not asking for any credit. What is that all about?

They say it’s so you’re more protected against fraud, and I wonder how much there is compared to in the States, but I do know someone who had her identity stolen and fraudulent charges made against her bank account.

Oh! And I forgot! Apparently you can’t do online purchasing through your bank card unless you have a card reader sent to you? Maybe that’s only with Royal Bank of Scotland. But Brits, please tell me your experiences with online purchasing. I’m really interested to know now that I’m about to be able to start doing that.

Now that I’ve finally got a job, I’m really looking forward to being paid. But wouldn’t ya know it, I can’t be for at least another week. Which means I still can’t get a cell phone. I’ll just stare wistfully at the HTC Desire for another week and debate endlessly over which phone provider to go with.

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Last week I purchased the Limited Edition flavor Mascarpone, Passion Fruit & Truffles on impulse, lured in by my love of mascarpone cheese and passion fruit.

Due to consuming 1 bottle of 7.5% cider, this was a bit of a tipsy impulse buy, and that’s all I can come up with for my near-instant dislike of the flavor. It led me, also, to find the UK Häagen-Dazs website, to click on the “contact us” link, and to write an email all about how I thought it was an unsuccessful flavor combination and that I wanted my £4.79 (exorbitant!) back. The next afternoon, when I decided to give it another go, I found it unutterably delicious and finished off the pint. *shrug*

Today, the boyfriend came laughing upstairs and told me that Häagen-Dazs had sent me £5! I didn’t know if I would hear back from them, and thought that maybe if I did they would send me a coupon for a free pint (I had high hopes of several free pints). Instead they sent me a £5 postal order! How amazing is that!? So I have to write them an email thanking them for their good customer service and to tell them that I will continue buying their products (duh).

Brits, complaining doesn’t always get spit in your food. Try it once in a while.

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Is this one of those times when my parsimony, like a tired slip, is peeking out from under my normally gaudy exterior? When I will live to regret not spending a few more ducats in the face of such grand improvements to my life? Yes, possibly. After accruing over $5,000 in credit card debt on the way to trying to be allowed to stay in England with my fiancé, I am staring down the barrel of just another $150 and quavering at its enormity. This time it won’t be spent in gathering more than the bare minimum items of clothing necessities (like, could I have please just told myself that I could afford two pairs of those delicious Diesel jeans that I can no longer find? the ones that are just so perfect I could die and go to heaven in them?) but would be spent to improve my eyesight.

Seven years ago I spent a number of ducats I gained through bodily injury – two car accidents suffered in under one month. After some time, and some lawerly wrangling, I was awarded a princely sum and felt I could afford to have Lasik eye surgery. It really was awesome. And I spent $150 per eye (there’s that number again!) extra so that I could have a lifetime guarantee of satisfaction. I am on the brink of now having the surgery again, but that little bit extra required, a $150 eye exam, and not being 100% sure whether the surgery is yet needed stays my hand when I reach for the phone to set an appointment. Is it really that bad? Could I not wait? What if there are side effects? What if I have the exam, spend the money, and find out my eyes aren’t bad enough for another surgery?

Ojala que vaya en Londres soon enough, and then I won’t be able to get it for several more years. Do I want to put up with glasses if it gets bad enough? Or do I just suck it up and spend the monies now? Tough call.

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Responsible Buying

I have been reading the blog (now mostly skimming) of a New York City resident’s journey through zero environmental impact living since just before the end of his self-imposed year of zero impact, titled No Impact Man. It’s certainly a worthy endeavor, and I am exposed to many more ideas about environmentalism and subjects I want to know more about than I would without his blog. Hence “skim”. While I think that his discussion topics are important, I often dislike his tone and don’t think his methods have been made as transparent as he asks for from companies. Still, I keep him around because some of his posts make me think.

Other people in my online reach expose me to questions about my food and where it comes from. A short series shown here in the UK on More 4 titled Blood, Sweat and Takeaways took 5 young Britons out of their comfortable homes to Thailand, to do the jobs required to bring them their takeout food. It was an eye-opening series, one statistic in particular, regarding rice: from planting to packaging one 130 kg bag of rice nets only £17. That same bag nets £140 when sold in England. This put me in mind of my favorite restaurants back in NYC, two sister Thai restaurants who do a booming business in cheap, delicious dishes. Do they profit off the backs of those in their homeland? Because if they can’t source the raw ingredients cheaply they can’t pass them on cheaply. How do we ask for the fair trade ingredients we’re becoming accustomed to requiring from coffee suppliers when we go out to eat?

Next up is the clothing we wear. How many remember the scandal over sweatshop labor practices in Kathie Lee’s eponymous clothing line? Can ompanies like Top Shop and H&M possibly pay their workers fair wages when they’re selling shirts at $4 a pop sometimes? Or is it just that their business model relies on large amounts of inventory to enable them to sell at lower prices? American Apparel was supposed to be the answer to that, clothing made in the United States by US workers paid fair wages and provided with health and dental insurance. It may not be cheap but I am willing to pay a higher price in order to support a company that is good to its employees. But the company has been dogged by rumors of sexual exploitation on the part of its founder Dov Charney. So what I want to know now is: are the actual labor practices of the company as golden as they are claimed to be? And how do I find out?

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Yesterday I received in the mail a package of clothing from the States. Ahhh…bliss, I’m wearing all my favorite summer clothes again. Cute tops, my shorts and capris (thank god, no more hot denim in the sun!) and even a few dresses! It’s enough to lift my spirits. Spirits have been low lately due to a lack of information on the job front and a lack of ability to work in NYC during the time I have to go back to the States. As I am still not registered with the GSCC, finding jobs in London has been difficult. It’s not impossible but it looks as though I’ll have to go out of even Greater London, into nearby towns like Essex or Hertfordshire in order to find work. At the very least it will be good interview practice as I haven’t interviewed anywhere in the last four years.

Last week I saw cricket played, and participated in the playing, for the first time in my life. I’d seen maybe 45 continuous seconds of cricket, in a movie, once. Maybe 2 seconds on t.v., before someone changed the channel. The rules of classic cricket, as taught by children, are rather easy to grasp and I have to thank my bicycle riding for enabling me to chase after tennis balls for an hour and a half straight. I even got to hit the ball using one of those bats I first saw in Shawn of the Dead. Yep, I’m American.

Recently changed back to the 19t cog at the back and have bitty knee pains. We did this b/c the boyfriend sold me the excess set of wheels (Miche Primato hubs laced to Araya CT-19N gunmetal grey rims if you’re feelin’ nerdy) and I have to give back the 20t cog I was borrowing from someone else. Mostly cos I didn’t feel like cleaning the 20t cog. So, in short order, I will have almost everything new on my bike. Bought a new crank set (the bits that the pedals attach to and including a 47t chain ring) that is the correct length for me, have new bars (need a new stem), have a “new” seatpost, new wheels, and am picking up a new saddle on lend tomorrow.

It will be nice to really suit the bike to me. Then I’ll need to sell a few bits & bobs, which will make up what I have had to lay out to get this stuff.

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Money is running out. Not as fast as it could, because I am careful, but still – the application to register to be a social worker has been fubar’ed and I have now lost at least another two weeks in the process. So that means that I will probably not have confirmation of my registration status before I am made to leave the country. I’m going to cry. I just want to stay here with my boyfriend, I have a skill that this country needs, why is everything so hard? I think I need to go to the embassy and see if there’s a way around this.

But back to the subject line. I need another tattoo, true or false? [keep in mind I have a barterable skill but would that be considered “work” for purposes of visa applications? ; ) ] It will be of a cute little bird, puffed up from the cold, because I love that image. Plus, I’ve a) wanted a greyscale tattoo for a long time, b) I’ve sort of wanted a bird tattoo (but every other hipster and their brother has a bird tattoo), and c) I’ve wanted red in a tattoo. Et, voila!

tufted titmouse

I’ve been cycling a lot more, trying to put in a lot of miles. Today I had a close call and almost forgot to keep pedaling. Thank god I was going quite slowly. I think I’m going to wander around Ealing on the bike, mapping the area in my head so I don’t feel like such an idiot not knowing which way is up. But when everything looks like this can you blame me?

P.S. Our location is somewhere on this map.

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Well, having your loved one with you in another country is a sure-fire way to ignore everything you don’t want to think about and to spend all your time looking at neat stuff you’ve never seen before. Two and a half weeks flew by and the boyfriend went back to England last night. What do I do now? Why, get a job, of course! I have two conflicting issues in my search for work.

First, I know I understand Spanish decently, but I become absolutely flummoxed when confronted with the majority of the Madrileńos I encounter. My proficiency breaks down relatively early in a conversation and while that’s not necessarily a problem in everyday life, just an annoyance, I worry about whether employers will take the chance on sponsoring me without a better grasp of the language. So I’ve thought about taking a month-long intensive course here in Madrid. I found a place that is much cheaper than others, which is both a boon and something to be questioned, and can afford not only to spend the next three months here, but pay all my bills and still have several months’ income available afterward, should I not find work within that time.

Second, what if I don’t find work within that time? I don’t want to go back, so I’ve thought about how long to give myself here in Madrid before high-tailing it to another city and trying again. A month is the time I can come up with. I need to find work within a month, or at least I need to have exhausted all options of employment here in Madrid that I can find, before trying another city.

Do you see the rub? A month of classes would make me more marketable but I want to find work within a month. Over and over again, what I need to remind myself of is that I have done the math and I know how much money I have and what my expenses are and how long I can stay in Spain even while having enough to start over again in NYC, should it come to that, even if I don’t find work. And that number is somewhere around 5 or 6 months.

So buck up! Do what you gotta do! Find work while taking that intensive course! It gets out early enough in the day that I can still canvas the city looking for the ever-elusive euro.

It’s for real real snowing in Madrid! I need to find some gloves I like!

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