HOW TO PREPARE FOR A MOVE ABROAD - 17 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO BEFORE YOUR MOVE

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It has been about fourteen months now since I packed up a decade of doing life in Dallas to move to London. It has been a roller coaster of a move and while I have settled in a lot of areas; there are still days I feel completely out of my depth. One thing that has kept me moving forward has been this space and I am hoping this year; in addition to the travel guides; I can also share the practical ways to travel more and fit that around your work life. Now on to the point of this post, I did not realize how much was entailed in moving countries and there I a few things I wished some one told me before I started the process and ultimately made the plunge. I am not saying it will have impacted the decision to move, but I will have planned better and sooner. If you are thinking of moving abroad for whatever reason, here are twenty things to keep in mind as you prepare. Some will be no brainers and other mights surprise you like it did me.

1. Cancel your services. Make a list of your monthly bills; if you tend to have direct debit set up for your bills; it helps to print out a copy of your bank statement to help you make a list of all of the services I needed to cancel/defer. Some of the more common ones are car insurance; rental insurance; Appliance rentals; toll tags; utility service; cell phone; internet service needs to be suspended or canceled; streaming service that will not work in new home country. Because I travel back to the states a few times, I chose to downgrade my cell phone service to the cheapest option available.

2. Submit your move out notice if renting or Put property up for rental. Most apartments will charge an additional fee if you give less than 60 days move out notice; so as soon as you know you are moving, submit that notice immediately. If you are moving before your lease is up; you may incur cancellation fees. In my case it was one month rent (and my contract did not reimburse me for that). If you own your place, make plans to put it up for rent or sale.

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3. Cancellation fees. The sooner you start prepping for your move the better. Don't forget to factor in cancellation fees for apartment lease; cell phone; utilities etc in your move budget. Those add up to a lot of money.

4. Credit Cards - I recommend keeping at least one credit card open even if you are making a permanent move; it always helps to have that financial connections if you decide to return. One of my colleagues move back to the UK after almost two decades of living state side and it was very useful to have maintained their banking here while they were away; they avoided the hassle that is the process of setting up a bank account/line of credit in the UK. My credit facility in the UK does not offer similar perks as the one in the US i.e. airline/hotel points ; cash back; no foreign fees so I often use my US credit card when traveling. Just make sure to update your travel alerts appropriately.

5. Make a declutter schedule. Start by getting rid of any items you would (should) have gotten rid of move or not. . Hopefully, you have ample notice before you have to move. When you think a move is probable, start decluttering. Don't underestimate what you have accumulated over the years. Be brutal with the process. This process will help streamline the items to ship; store or donate. This is one I wish I did; I crammed everything into the last month of my move and barely slept the entire month.

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6. Schedule Donation Pickup. In line with point 4, figure out what items you are packing and what you are donating early and schedule pickup. Organizations like Salvation army will come pick up donations but require time. I scheduled mine three weeks ahead of schedule and I barely got a date that will not conflict with my actual move date. You also want to do this early one so you have time to clean the property especially if you are renting.

7. Excess luggage vs. shipping. If you will staying in temporary housing while you settle into your new home country. Consider shipping some of your possessions instead of having to log it from airport to temp accommodation and then to the my new home. You can request the shippers deliver it to your new home once you have permanent accommodation sorted. This is another reason to start preparing early, various countries have different requirements for shipping items in and these may be burdensome process. A week before my move, I decided to pay for excess luggage to move my possession because the paperwork involved with shipping was time consuming and tedious. Shipping would have been cheaper.

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8. Store ; Ship or Sell. If you are temporarily moving you might consider storing some your items that you won’t be need i.e. furniture or car. I chose to sell my car and furniture. I donated all of my kitchen appliances and moved personal items only. I have 8 bags; a carry on and a backpack (don’t judge, I had a lot of shoes).

9. Make plans for your mail. Switch as much as you can to electronic mailing only and for everything else, find a mail service that can sort and forward your mail to you. I could not find one in the time I had to move; thankfully family and friends have been kind to store my mail in my absence. If you use a mailing service, don't forget to get a notarized form 1583 for your mail forwarding service - most mail forwarding companies will require this of you.

10. Schedule appointment with Healthcare providers. Get your annual physical done; visit your dentist and ophthalmologist before you leave and while you have health insurance. It might take weeks or months to find a healthcare provider in your new home. I fell ill within a few months of moving here and have had to pay out of pocket for all my doctor visits. While you are at, make sure to get prescriptions filled for you needed medications.

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11. Make a to-do list for your new home. if you are going short-term - have a to-do list of all the non-work stuff you want to experience and do. Let's face it - work experience was only 50% of why you chose the expat life. If it is a permanent move, then maybe you need not worry and focus on settling into your new home.

12. Make a shopping list. This should be of items you make not be able to purchase in your new home country. I absolutely love the first aid beauty red clay skin care line. The brand is not available in the UK or Europe and I will need to pay to have it shipped to me. Thankfully, I was aware of this early one and order a few back-ups to bring with me.

13. Professional licenses and Continuing education. Look into whether you can defer compliance while abroad or if CPEs taken abroad will be considered towards your CPE requirements. If not (and you want to keep current on your license) then you have to make sure to schedule time while abroad to keep up with your CPEs.

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14. Update your calendar for birthdays; anniversaries; profession certification renewal and any important dates of your nearest and dearest.

15. Make one last visit to your favorite places. My friend "S" gave me this advice and I cannot stress how important this was to me to have one final drink at my favorite wine bar; mani/pedi at my favorite spa.

16. Inform people. Believe it or not, this is one that actually gets lost the process and you don't want people sending a search party for you.

17. Schedule a going away party. You want to spend some time with your favorite people before moving on to new adventures and you can one final goodbye and not fifty mini good byes. Time is of the essence that last month before your move.

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LIFE IN LONDON : MUSEUMS ; PRETTY CAFES AND THE MONTHLY VLOG

Peggy Porschen
Peggy Porschen

You asked for it and it is here - the life in London segment of the blog along with a vlog. It has been in the works for six months now; I just did not have the content (or time). That was until a few weeks ago when I had a rare day off work. I had an appointment that was set to take all day but was done by mid-day. Perfect time to check things off my London bucketlist.

Peggy Porschen
Peggy Porschen

First stop - the pretty cafe that has graced your instafeed at least once (even if you live under a rock). I went in part for the pretty facade but also for the food. Peggy Porschen is known as much for this pretty facade as it is for its cakes and beverages.

I had the hot chocolate that was almost too pretty to drink and a slice of one of the signature cakes. The hot chocolate was divine but the cake was a bit too dry for me. I think it must have been the flavor I selected. No matter, the hot chocolate, and the pretty facade more than made up for it. London had a very atypical spring weather so I sat outside and enjoyed the city pass me by. I took a million snapshots of the cafe and my food so prepare for insta-overload.

After about two hours, I talked myself into leaving - there was still a lot of time left in the day, so I visitied the Victoria and Albert museum (which I one of my favorite museums. You know I got a ton of snapshots, but I also managed to vlog parts of the day (and the rest of that week). All in all an excellent way to spend an afternoon off. Watch the vlog of the day (and rest of that weekend via the link below and don't forget to subscribe).

Peggy Porschen
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victoria and albert museum
victoria and albert museum
victoria and albert museum
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victoria and albert museum

11 THINGS YOU NEED TO CONSIDER IF YOU WANT TO BE AN EXPAT

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As I have started (somewhat) settling into my new home, I am reflecting on what it took to get here. The cost to pack up my life in one Country to start up life in another. There is a lot I did not consider when I signed up for this expat position. Some financial; some personal and emotional cost of moving my life across the pond was more than I had anticipiated in some respects. Thought it might be worth sharing some of the costs I have incurred to become an expat.  None of this is intended to discourage you if you are considering a similar move, just something to add to the equation.                                                                                                         

1. Close out costs. When I threw my name in the hat for a position in a foreign location, I knew I will have to pay a fee to get out of my lease. I did not realize there were lots of add on to those fees that were not necessarily outlined in the lease agreement i.e. my apartment complex required a month rent plus eighty-five percent of one-month rents which they tagged as a reletting fee plus a fee for giving less than sixty-day notice.

2. Cost of living in your new home country. I knew moving to London was going to be more expensive than Dallas (obviously), but there was so much I did not consider in the budget. For example, council tax in addition to rent; and tv tax for owning a TV (say what ?). Thankfully, I had a few contacts who had gone through the process and were able to advise me before they move. They saved me from a very rude awakening.

3. The timing of paycheck. In contrast to the U.S., my paycheck is now monthly not bi-weekly. That one took some getting used to and proper planning to make sure I did not spend my paycheck before the bills came due.  Plus, my first paycheck (& moving allowance) did not get paid until the last day of my first month of work. That meant I needed to foot a lot of my moving cost and living cost. Thankfully, I got a decent price for my car to cover the moving costs. 

4. Store; sell; donate or move. Deciding which items to donate; sell or move with me was a tall order. I knew I could not take any of my appliances - the voltage and electric plugs are different. I was very attached to my possession, and debated storing some items - after doing the math for two years of storage vs. repurchasing the items - I chose to repurchase when I return state-side. Everything with value was sold - clothes; appliances; furniture; electronics - this was very handy to alleviate the stress of point three. Every item in my home had been carefully curated and several items held sentimental value. Having to part ways with those via donation/selling was hard for me.

5. The cost vs benefit analysis. I do this with just about every major decision. List out the cost and the benefit and decide if the benefits are worth the cost. Beyond the financial cost - there is an emotional and physical cost for packing up the life you have for the unknown and unless the scale tips in favor of benefits - it is hard for me to encourage pursuing the decision. In spite of the things I have had to give up to pursue this - I am hopeful the benefits personally and professionally will be worth the emotional; physical and financial toll (still too soon to tell).

6. Style Cost. I know this seems vain and odd to include, but hear me out. Working in the U.S meant business casual for work and jeans on fridays. In most other countries - the preferred work attire is business professional five days a week. In addition to the other cost highlighted above, I had to revamp my closet. Besides the work requirement, the weather also paid a major part in the wardrope change. The weather in London is drastically different from what it is in Dallas. My winter wardrobe needed a major overhaul.

7. Immigration Cost. You cannot ask too many questions  to the lawyer in this process. You want to make sure you are clear on any restrictions. If not, it might cost you some money. After getting here, I had to leave the Country for a few days to then return to validate my work visa. I got to spend a few days in Paris (so I am not complaining, too much). The cost of that trip was not anticipiated.

8. All The Deposits. I don't remember having to pay a significant deposit when I got my first apartment in Dallas. I may have paid $200 but that was it. Living in London, in addition to rental application related fees, most rentals require a minimum of six weeks rent as a deposit. Because it is London, you are looking at a minimum of $2,500. Thankfully, my employer has an interest-free loan program that came in handy with rent deposit.

9. Relationship Cost. I am a very guarded person and I don't cultivate friendships easily. It took over a decade to cultivate my community stateside. I think more than anything, the cost of losing my community of friends stateside has been the hardest bit and I fear by the time I find a community here, it will be time to pack up and head back to Dallas. 

10. Expectation vs Reality. To be honest with you, this move has not been a bed of roses. Lots of dashed expectations and if I can only give you one advise - it is this. Make sure you are clear on what you are signing up for. Get it in writing if you must. I had some expectations that are yet to pan out and that has been very dissapointing and difficult to manage.

11. Cost of starting over. To an extent, the expat life is starting over. I worked almost eight years in Dallas and during that time, I built a reputation of work ethic ; discipline; effectiveness etc. Taking the expat role has been (in a sense) starting over to build that reputation. Similar to the relationship cost, I fear by the time I have built the rapport, it is will be time to say goodbye.

Considering the expat life ? Leave me questions/comments - I will be happy to share my insights. If you have already been there; done that - your advice will be greatly appreciated.

 

RAINY SATURDAY AT CAMDEN MARKET

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I have not had a lot of weekends off since moving to London last November. A few weeks ago, I threw caution to the wind and took a Saturday for myself. It was very cold and very rainy (and very London) and we decided to be brave London dwellers to spend some time at Camden market.

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I don't need a lot of convincing to visit a market. It is one of my favorite parts of travel. We started with something warm from Eden Ethiopian coffee - I had the spicy coffee and my sissy had the chai tea - both were phenomena. Then we moved on the cheese wheel in hopes of trying the hand-rolled pasta - the line was too long. Instead, we order some halloumi fries topped with mint and pomegranate - it was delicious.

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We barely got through our order of halloumi fries when my eyes caught the menu for the Venezuelan spot. The guys cooking up Latin America favorites were fun to watch as they blasted music while serving up tasty Venezuelan meals - we ordered some plantain and cornbread - so good ! 

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At this point. we were stuffed and decided to head over to the shops around the markets - antiques; jewelry; leather shops where they made a belt on the spot and then on to the vintage shop clothes shop. After an hour trying to figure out if the Burberry overcoat that caught my eye at the vintage shop was the real thing, I was ready for more food. I return to the hand roll pasta shop and the lines were still wrapped around and I was not having it. I went for the posh spice mac n cheese from The mac factory - creamy mac and cheese topped with srirarcha sauce; chorizo and fried shallots - the best ! We wrapped up the day out with jelly-filled donuts and cronut. It was the perfect (rainy) day in London.

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SETTLING INTO A NEW COUNTRY

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I cannot believe I am typing these words. It has been a month since I packed up sixteen years living stateside to begin a new adventure in London (aka new work role that absolutely terrifies me). The last month has been a mix of emotions and doubts about my decision to move here. Most days, I feel out of my depth and wonder if I made the right decision. Everything seems familiar but yet nothing seems familiar (if that makes sense). Living in London is significantly difference that visiting (and not in a bad way).

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Adapting has been easy in some aspects, but extremely difficult in other aspects. Having finally resolved the adulting part of moving to a new Country; I am not focused on the everyday living and working in London. One of those adulting things that took up way too much time than anticipated - opening a bank account. I am trying to give you money - why are there so many roadblocks ?!?

We found a home !!! I am told we lucked out in the size of the space we found (and I tend to agree). I will probably do an instastories of the space when I am completely unpacked.

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Work is work. I am learning a lot, very quickly. It feels like drinking out of a fire hose most days.

I still say dollars instead of pounds; I spell color without the "u" and get irritated at spellcheck for correcting me. I am fairly certain the lady at the corner Paul's thinks I am an idiot because the time it takes me to sort through the change to pay for a cup of coffee. I am sure by the time I get comfortable with it all - it will be time to return

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The other day, I sprinted (no joke !) to catch a train. I have been told that is a sign I am fitting in just fine. Surprisingly, one of my favorite things about living in London has been public transportation. I love the idea of not driving and dealing with traffic and parking. I have planned my walk from the flat to the train station perfectly;  I arrive just as the train pulls into the station. Also, walking to/from the train station/bus stop is a built-in workout. I am getting ten thousand steps daily without trying. 

On Saturday night, my sis sis and I had dinner at a Korean restaurant in SOHO - Jin JuuThe food was amazing; the Yujacha tea was phenomenal. Along those lines, you have got to check out my new Instagram page - portland-grace-eats. I am sharing food recommendations from my travels and I am so excited for the content that is coming up. I will be happy if you gave a follow.

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I have been struggling with what happens to the blog (and shop) now that I am a London dweller. The shop is on hiatus, but the blog will continue with a bi-weekly " living in London" series. The weekly post on travel will continue with a twist. In addition to sharing travel stories and guides, I will also be sharing my moving to London experience; what to do and not do when moving to a new Country. I hope you find them helpful if you are planning a trip or considering moving to another Country.

Have a wonderful week and remember to...

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." - Desmond Tutu