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

 

A NEW CHAPTER BEGINS FOR PORTLAND GRACE...

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Just in case you did not pick up on it from my social media posts and multiple 'see you later" events last week - let me let you in on the secret - Portland | Grace (aka me and my laptop) is off on the adventure of a lifetime (Nah !). We are off to work overseas, but we will attempt to squeeze in as much adventure as we can while in London. 

I have started and stopped this post several times. Each time I sit to write this, I am reminded of one more friend; aunt; cousin I am yet to inform or my mind wonders to the exhausting to-do list surrounding a move (FYI: my brain and body is so tired - it took about five minutes to accurately remember how to spell "exhausting"). The first time I sat to write this post - the weight of what we were about to undertake hit me like a ton of bricks and I had crippling panic attacks. I set the computer aside and buried myself in other things (read:work work work ).

Second attempt - 5:02 a.m. on a Saturday.  Not sure why I am awake this time of day. Lord knows I need all the rest I can get. I am too exhausted to check off anything on the to-do list and too wired to go back to sleep (another symptom of the panic attack - Jesus take the wheel). It has been two months since a post graced this space and now seems like the best time to get you caught up on what we (the laptop and I) have been up to lately. Let's start in May.

May was wedding overload; Closed out May with a birthday celebration planned by my friend "G". June was a whirl wind of travel. Spent some time on the East Coast. That was when this whole moving thing was birthed (getting to that soon). Then it was off to Hawaii  it was work related, but thankfully I was able to tack on some personal days to explore and lay on the beach. Yes ! travel guides and pictures will be arriving soon. Mid-July to date has been a blur of interviews; paperwork; work; work; work and packing.

The third attempt at this post picks up almost a month since attempt two.  I am sat in my temporary apartment in Camden and after a morning spent wrapping up some work matters for Dallas and trading emails with my new team; now seems like the perfect time to wind down this post. Since attempt number two  - I have managed to stuff the last sixteen years of my life stateside into ten duffel bags and two carry on. My brother got married (it was an amazing day - see pictures here); I have had five panic attacks, but I am finally embracing the reality that there is no going back now. This is the choice we made and now we got to live it out. 

The hardest part of the decision to move - leaving the community we formed stateside. Walking away from friends that had become family; random coffee chats about life and faith ; building community (and serving community). Random dinner plans ending at Japanese grocery stores and karaoke. This was a tough decision and whenever we cross your mind - call us (nah we don't do call so, text us) and say a prayer - we are leaving comfort and familiar for a lot of unknown. There are some parts we are excited about, but lots that is terrifying. For this blog, it will continue and hopefully be better than ever. The print shop will wind down for a few months while I assess how to run it from across the pond. Definitely follow me on instagram for any the highs and lows.

Cheers to new beginnings....