Expats in London

magazine cover

In this issue of Expats in London:

  • ‘Sweet and Spicy’ 30 Minute Meal recipe #2, from the “Accidentally Yummy” collection
  • A Newcomer’s Experience at International Banking
  • House-Hunting Tips and Trends
  • What’s Hot and What’s Wrong with this Picture
  • Stereotype Myths: Real or Old School Hype?
Letter from the Editor
Thanks to all of our devout readers who continue to inspire us to write (almost) every day.  Your continued support of this little online ‘zine we’ve got going really keeps the whole machine running.  Keep those letters coming, and please, let us know if you would like to have your thoughts or questions highlighted in an upcoming issue of Expats in London.  We look forward to bringing you the day-to-day events of two crazy-in-love kids and their grand adventures in London.

Sweet and Spicy: a 30 Minute Meal (recipe #2)

Before I forget how I accidentally created a yummy new meal, with beginner’s luck and an amateur excitement about cooking in a kitchen with two pots and a wooden spoon, let me share my brainstorm with you!  Please bear in mind that I have very little experience in the kitchen and no natural cooking talent.  Those readers of a more advanced chef’s pedigree may choose to continue to the next interesting article.
Main Dish Ingredients:
palmful Carrot sticks
palmful Broccoli Florets
palmful Cauliflower Florets
1/2 small Onion, chunked
1/3 to 1/2 Red Bell Pepper, Chunked
Olive Oil ’til it looks right
1 clove Garlic, or good, sensible shake(s) of Garlic Powder
Chili Pepper, flakes or fresh
Salt and Pepper to taste
Balsamic Vinegar
Maple Syrup or Honey
Alright.  Measuring is for wussies.  So, 1) Mix the Balsamic Vinegar and syrup in a small bowl until you have a mixture that is runny like warm pancake syrup. Set Aside.  2) Toss veggies with olive oil, to coat, in frying pan (or the largest silly saucepan you have).  Heat veggies until sizzling and sprinkle with spices, lightly coating the veggies.  Vary the spices to your taste.  (The dish is especially yummy when the chili flakes can be tasted against the sweet syrup.) 3) Cook the veggies until you can insert a fork into a carrot or broccoli floret and it’s the texture you like. 4) Turn off the heat and add the sweet and sour sauce immediately. 5) Toss well, remove from burner, serve immediately.
Side Dish Recommendation:
Couscous in your favorite flavor!
A Newcomer’s Experience at International Banking
Upon opening our first checking account as US expats living in London, we felt like real people leaving the bank that day.  It was explained to us that our checks and debit cards would arrive within 7-10 business days.  Oh, what a rush!  Real, bank card carrying citizens… So what’s the insider skinny on this banking business?  We’re happy reveal the easy, straight forward steps to starting your first off-shore account.
1) To open an account with an international bank, one must present a passport and a bank statement or utility bill showing the applicant’s previous address.  It doesn’t hurt to rock a low cut shirt or rising hemline.  Next, you have to decide on the type of account you want and the added features you desire.  For us, a simple “current” account did the trick.  Online banking, debit cards, and a check book were all free options with this type of account.  Please note that you should confirm with the sweet, thickly-accented personal banker starting your account that he has spelled your name(s) correctly.  It is a good idea to be sure your first name has not been entered as “Mr Andrew”, for example.  That would generate bank records for the individual “Mr. Mr Andrew Huddleston” or a debit card for “Mr. M Huddleston”–both of which may cause confusion when using the card to make purchases.
C) Once your account has been activated, each individual will receive a letter concerning the pin number for their debit card.  The pin number is revealed by using a secret decoder ring (only found in the bottom of select General Mills cereals) with a highlighted passage in the letter; the resulting message should be mailed via Royal Post to the queen for authentication and further confirmation of pin number.
32d) Under separate cover, each individual on the account shall receive a card reader device for online banking.  The card reader must be used each time an account holder would like to log in to the banking website.  The card reader generates a printed message upon card insertion; this message must be entered exactly as printed into the login screen upon first try before the message self-destructs.  Additionally, a separate letter for each account holder will arrive to provide the individual’s online membership ID number.
F) At some point before one of the account holders has another birthday, a debit card will arrive for each individual listed on the account (if it has been properly ordered at the time of account set-up).  When any attempt is made by the account holder to activate the card or try online banking for the first time, they will fail.  An additional trip, and a beautiful hissy-fit, must be thrown at the branch closest to the account holder’s home, or corporate housing, or street grate that you are sleeping on because you have no debit card to pay the deposit on the flat you are supposed to move in to…  Though the phone representatives are very nice and the music they play when they put you on hold is the from the “Pay It Forward” soundtrack, they are slightly unable to help you.
Additional Tips and Info:
Be sure to pack your essential documents in your carry-on luggage; you’ll need them for lots of things once you land.  Essential documents include, but are not limited to the following: work permit papers, passport with attached entry visa(s), original birth certificate, original marriage certificate, tax return documents for the past three years,  college and high school diplomas, medical and dental records, and the crossword puzzle from inside the American Airlines magazine.  You wouldn’t want the airline to lose these documents and you may need them to get through customs.  Of course, you will need them when you open your international bank account and upon applying to rent property.
House-Hunting Tips and Trends 
Before you set out to meet an Estate Agent they are going to ask you quite a few questions.  You need to know your budget, what area you are looking in, what kind of property you want, and what any deal-breakers might be.  Look at a wide variety of properties and check out different areas of the city.  Consider whether it is your top priority to live in a place with blue wallpaper or a place above a laundromat.  Both of these things are really cool, but which feature is the most important to you?
Here are some great internet resources to help you get started.

Just remember to be honest with your agent, ask plenty of questions, and don’t be afraid to explore places with which you are unfamiliar.  There are agents in every neighborhood and on every high street.  They are all working for the landlord, so go on and give up your innocent ideals of being fairly represented and get cheeky.  Buying a book about relocation can be helpful, but it is a good idea to ask people who live in your new city/area, ex-pats who’ve relocated to there, and then figure out that no one can predict your situation for you.  Roll with it.  Your gut instinct about what is around you when you go to view the property is usually a very good indication of whether or not it is right for you.

What’s Hot and What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Wandering the streets in London, it becomes clear that tights are in.  Wooly tights, patterned tights, thick, legging-style tights, bright tights, and neutral tights can all be worn with ballet flats or boots. But what’s wrong with this picture? Oh yeah, your purse is legally required to be bigger and/or weigh more than you.
tights and purse

Stereotype Myths: Real or Old School Hype?

Is it true that fish ‘n chips is the only dish served in London?  Are all big-city folk rude and pushy?  Do all Londoners have teeth like toe-separators?

My husband and I recently joined an online group of US expatriates.  I was so dismayed to read a recent string of messages dedicated to things these Americans miss.  Topping the list were things like Lucky Charms and Peter Pan peanut butter.  I feel for those people who are here with the military and not necessarily by choice.  For them, I think, there is much more room for homesick posts about crappy fast food and grocery items.  The rest of us should stop and appreciate the reasons we chose to be here.

We have really old buildings in London, a very funny governmental structure to laugh about (and learn from), opportunities to interact with people originating from cities all over the globe, and theatre that trumps anything I’ve ever imagined.  “Chicago” is playing at a theatre I can see from my living room window.  Really.  We are a stone’s throw from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Rome, Scotland, Ireland, Wales…  It’s really hard to adjust to a new city and that’s beautiful in and of itself.

In my opinion, the only thing really worth being homesick for are those lovely family members and friends we left behind.  The myths and stereotypes about London and Londoners are just that.  With your best friend beside you, a genuine smile, a healthy sense of adventure, and some southern charm an American can feel right at home here.

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