UK

House vs Apartment Living

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Through my life I've lived extensively, in both, houses and apartments. I'm not one to say: "Oh, I will never live in apartments again" or vice-versa. If you live in a big city, like NY, Tokyo, London you might not have a choice, unless you're a millionaire or are living far from the city center. The same goes for living in a suburb, you might not have any apartments , and who knows what life will bring, right? Below are my opinions about advantages/disadvantages of living in each different type of dwelling, I know there's an exception to each topic, as usual, but in average what I wrote holds true.

House Living

House Living

  • There is no one above or below you
  • You might be able to have grass/front and/or back garden (although some homes nowadays have a garden that is the size of a shoe closet)

Front Garden Back garden

  • Larger spaces, rooms
  • Garage/car port
  • When you go food shopping you can just park the car and bring everything in at once.
  • You might have a chance to have a laundry room.
  • You're more vulnerable to robbers.
  • No pet rules (unless you live in a community with a HOA)
  • More privacy
  • You usually get to host yard/garage sales

Apartment living

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  1. More security
  2. Hardly any storage space
  3. Neighbors on all sides, except for the top/bottom floors, for obvious reasons.
  4. Bringing your groceries up or down is a real pain
  5. Usually you have a gym/pool and other facilities
  6. If you live on the top floor of a very tall building you have an unbeatable view of the city
  7. Room sizes are smaller
  8. Usually your washer/dryer are in the kitchen/bathroom
  9. Less chances of kids running around, climbing trees, getting muddy
  10. The rooms are very close together

Funny story: When we moved from Alexandria, USA to Lincoln, UK, we went from a 4-bedroom home to a 3-bedroom home. We had already gotten rid of a lot of our stuff, but even so,  we still had to get rid of a lot more. When we moved from Lincoln to London, UK, we moved to a 2-bedroom apartment... oh it was tight. And believe me, we got rid of a lot! Then we moved with my father-in-law, which meant we had a bedroom! Yeap, you read it right, 1 bedroom for a family of 3! Some of our furniture was spread through the rest of the flat, but if you've ever seen flats in London, they're small... Then we moved back to a 3-bed home in the US and had to buy all the stuff again... oh well, it's life.

My advice when downgrading:

  • Sell your stuff on classified websites, such as Craigslist (USA), Gumtree (UK).
  • Donate, we found that some charities wouldn't take a lot of stuff. I was actually shocked when we were living Alexandria and we were told that they would only certain items. But in AZ or in the UK I didn't come across that, except for a push chair that we were donating and for safety reasons one charity shop didn't take it.
  • Give away to friends
  • Hold a yard/garage sale
  • Don't accumulate too much, I've gotten much better through the years and I'm always donating things that we don't use anymore, but it can still be an issue.
  • If you know your move is temporary, and you can, place your larger furniture in storage. In our case, except for the 1st move, the others weren't planned, they happened because of circumstances.
  • Maybe a family member can keep some of your stuff, if they have the space, if you have a date to come back for it, if they're willing to help.

Each person has a preference whether they like house vs apartment living, but sometimes due to unforeseen and temporary periods of our lives, we don't have a choice. Especially if you choose a nomad lifestyle, but you can always strive to get what you want no matter where you live.

21 Things to See & Do in London - Part 1

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When you first move somewhere it's all new, you go sightseeing, you get out of the house to see and visit as much as possible. After a while it all becomes very normal and you don't make as much of an effort. Life goes on as normal and you get into a routine. Sometimes where you're living doesn't have so much to do and see, sometimes you're far from everything, who knows. In London, for me it was always a "tourist day", I worked across from Big Ben and next door to the London Eye, I couldn't help looking at "The Ben" everyday, I never got used to that view. Now, London is so big, there is so much to do & see that this list will be split.

Here are the top  21 things to see & do in London:

1) Big Ben & Houses of Parliament

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Although they're separate things, they're 2 in 1, the buildings are connected. Did you know that the Big Ben is actually called Elizabeth Tower? Only UK residents are allowed to visit by contacting their MP (member of parliament). If you'd like to visit the Houses of Parliament, you can do that on Saturdays or when it's not in session.

Tip: You can start your day right here and you can walk to a lot of different sights from here.

2) Tower of London & Tower Bridge

The Tower of London was where all traitors used to be hung or have their heads cut off. This is also where the Crown jewels live. It's an amazing experience, the place is massive and there is so much history, remember Queen Anne Boleyn? She was beheaded here.

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Tip: Make it a day, the tower is big and there is so much to see. After, have a walk all the way the top of Tower bridge.

3) Parks (any)

For being such a big city, London is very green, it has parks everywhere. While visiting London, take a day to rest and eat a picnic at the park. A few of London's parks: Hyde park, Richmond, Green park, Battersea, St James park, Regent's park, Clapton common, Victoria park, and many, many others, everywhere. Who knows, you might see a deer or 2...

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Richmond Park

Tip: Bring a blanket or rent one of the park chairs, sit and relax. It's worth it.

4) Museums

The city of London is full of culture, you look around and it's there, you don't need to look very far. Museums are FREE!!!! And everyone should be visiting them. I went to the Science, National History, Victoria & Albert, British museums so many times, I've lost count, to name a few, there are many, many more.

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Tip: If you head to the Victoria & Albert museum, stop by the Royal Albert Hall, it's an amazing Opera house.

5) Convent Garden

I love Convent Garden, but on nice days only. Everyone is out, markets everywhere, street artists... It's really lovely.

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Tip: In this restaurant below, there are musicians, playing classical music, so relaxing.

6) The London Eye

It opened in 2000, first time I went was in 2001 and still owned by BA, but little did I know that I'd be going to it with every visitor I had in town... and as I worked at the Marriott next to it, I went many times over with clients. And it never got old...

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Tip: You can get hitched or have afternoon tea up in a capsule.

7) Greenwich

Not in London, but worth a trip, if you have time. I used to like taking the clipper (an unusual method of public transport, a speed boat) and go to Greenwich. You can stand right on the line that divides E and W, you have a gorgeous view from the top of the park and visit the national maritime museum.

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Tip: Enjoy the day in Greenwich. It's a village with loads of markets, cute restaurants...

8) The City

I love this area. It's buzzing all week-long and deserted on the weekends. It's the business district and I loved walking around there, it's my thing, I love the hustle bustle of it all.

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Tip: On weekends even restaurants close, don't plan on going there unless you want to see a ghost town.

9) Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street & Oxford Street

Piccadilly circus is a circle where Regent street meets Piccadilly. The famous Eros statue is always packed with people trying to get a photo, honestly, I don't think I ever got a photo with no one else in it. It's crazy packed. Oxford st & Regent's st are shopping central. All major stores are

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Tip: I advise heading to Oxford street as early as possible to beat the crowds.

10) Trafalgar Square & National Gallery

So, this guy Napoleon lost the battle of Trafalgar and the Brits celebrated it by creating Trafalgar sq. Nelson's column is guarded by 4 lions (which were cast from the melted ships from the battle above, talk about rubbing it in). The National Gallery is right there, over 2300 beautiful paintings from all over).

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Tip: Climbing up for a picture with the lions is harder than I thought, but worth it.

Stay tuned for the part 2!!!

8 Steps to Get a Job in the UK

Waterfall When you move to the UK (my experience was in London) you will start looking for jobs and if you aren't used to it, you will find out the "joys" of employment agencies. The most annoying and idiotic way to find jobs, although online applications are on the same level, if not worse.

When we got to London, we started looking for jobs straight away. We went to loads of interviews and I mean loads. The thing is, you interview with the employment agency, then with the actual place, it's just unnecessary work. I don't understand why companies can't do this job themselves.

The process in a nutshell:

  • You look for the jobs you want Everything is online.
  • Apply for the job (s) Apply for as many as you can.
  • The employment agency calls you for an interview Even if it's just at the emp. agency, dress appropriately
  • After that interview, they will schedule another with the actual company for another interview This is the one that counts, practice loads before
  • Dress appropriately for your industry Each industry is different, hotels are stuck up
  • Kick some ass
  • Write a thank you note Again, I guess this depends on the industry, but I don't really know what difference it makes, in my opinion, it just puts HR managers in a pedestal, and make them feel good about themselves, there, I said it!
  • Get the job!
  • If not, start all over... better luck next time!

In my case, I was interviewing mainly for hotels and event venues, as this is what I worked in my previous life. The one interview question that used to drive me crazy was: "Do you have London experience?" Well, if you don't give me a job how on Earth am I going to get "London experience"? It was insane.

Bad Interviews

I had 2 really bad ones, one was at the Chelsea Football Club, I was really excited, but it turned out that pollen count was at its highest and my eyes couldn't stay open and I wanted to sneeze the whole interview. Awful! Later the guy from the agency asked why I didn't cancel, but I thought it'd give me a black mark, so I didn't. Another one, I went to this hotel somewhere near King's Road and the manager started checking his text messages. I was so close to getting up and leaving. I thought it was the rudest thing ever. I never even wrote a thank you note.

Prepare For Your Foreign Outlets

Last week I asked my husband if he had any post ideas for me and at first he came up with nothing. Apparently he knows everything about everything that there is to do with moving abroad and when he moves he doesn't need any information at all.  He's that good! So, after a few minutes he gave me the idea to write about foreign electrical appliances. Old Radio

 

Pretty boring stuff, but very important when you're moving to another country, especially because nowadays every household has, what I call, an army of electrical appliances. Be it in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the living room. Honestly, I'm all for that, it makes my life much easier.

One of the things to check when you move abroad is the country's voltage and what kind of sockets they have, foreign outlets and plugs can be a pain. For instance, Switzerland and England, both use 220v, while Brazil and the US use 110v. Actually, in Brazil things are even more exciting! Voltage might vary from city to city, yeap, you read it correctly, you might have voltage 110 in one city and change to 220 in a city 2hrs away. Oh and don't forget the different outlets... They're all different, funny when you think about it, not so funny when you don't have the right stuff.

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When we moved to England we bought about 3-4 transformers, super heavy and hard to maneuver (and they hurt when you kick). We also brought loads of little adapters. The transformers were mainly for our big stuff that take only 110v and the adapters for the actual plugs.

adapters  voltagetransformer

 

 

How to Find a Primary School in London – Part 2

So, continuing from here. Once you've discussed with neighbors, visited schools and your kid is at the right age, you should head on here to apply (a little prayer and fingers crossed help as well). Usually you can pick up to 4 schools, but in London you can pick up to 6 (fierce competition I tell you) and please, don't think that even if you are sure that you are getting in a certain school you shouldn't apply for any other school, you can choose up to 6, so go for it! It doesn't hurt. If you apply for one school and your child doesn't get in, you are going to have a much harder time trying to get her/him into another school after the deadline has passed.

Steps:

  1. Register online
  2. Fill in your child's information
  3. Choose your schools (ALL 4 or 6)
  4. Attach any document you might need,such as, baptism certificate, letters to school (remember on my previous post?), birth certificate

And... guess what! I found out that there is an app for that now! Android or Apple

Don't let me fool you, the whole application process seems very easy and it really is painless, really, really easy... but the wait!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh the wait kills you! I was so nervous, like I if I was waiting for a call from a job interview. That's where Victoria got her first rejection letters :p I don't have them anymore, but I remember as if it was yesterday... and one fine day you get the other letter, the acceptance one and all is forgotten about, she still got into one of our top 3 choices (fine the 3rd choice, but it wasn't the 6th!).

To make it easier:

Application Tutorial

Below are some links you might find useful as well:

School term dates

School closures in case of emergency

Types of school (my daughter was studying in a very good Catholic school)

And hopefully this little guide will get your kid into the UK school of your preference.