Out of Hibernation

 

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This morning marked the first time in a long while that I awoke to bright sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. Indeed, apart from the occasional lashings of wind and rain, it appears that the first hints of spring are upon us here in London.

I’m sure regularly readers will have noticed that I’ve been quite for a while – my last post was on 11 January. After an eventful 2015, I decided to take some time to hibernate for a bit.

But alas, two months is long enough! And with spring coming up just around the corner I’m officially coming out of hibernation.

With that, I’d like to catch you up on a few things.

You’re Lookin’ at the UK’s Newest Grad Student!

University of Birmingham

Photo Credit: Flickr User ell brown

One of the many benefits of receiving (perhaps achieving would be a better term!) Indefinite Leave to Remain here is the UK is that it makes you eligible for UK/EU tuition fees at public universities. Earning a master’s degree has always been a goal of mine, but it was never really feasible in the US thanks to high tuition fees. The tuition fees for international students at UK universities are equally eye-watering, so I’ve patiently waited 5 years to apply.

In December 2015 – a whole two months after receiving Indefinite Leave to Remain –  I submitted my application to the M.A. in Applied Linguistics (distance learning) program at the University of Birmingham, and I’m happy to report that they extended a conditional offer to me in late February! I formally accepted the offer this morning and contingent on sending in some references and official transcripts, I’ll be starting my graduate studies in February 2017 :)

Upcoming Trips-a-Plenty

Things have been pretty quiet on the travel front for me since arriving back in London from Bangkok in mid-December 2015.

All that’s about to change.

Skiing in Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana

Photo Credit: Flickr user lynnsta

This upcoming week I’ll be hitting the slopes in Crans-Montana, Switzerland! It’s a short trip with only two days of skiing, but I’m determined to make the most of it. And don’t worry, I’ll be taking lots of pictures (hint: don’t forget to follow me on instagram).

Fossil Hunting in Charmouth

Jurassic Coast

Photo Credit: Flickr user Iamoney

I have been patiently waiting to visit the UK’s famed Jurassic Coast since making the leap across the pond in 2010. Later this month it’s finally happening. I am as much a natural sciences nerd as a I am a linguistics nerd, so this trip is kind of a big deal for me. The S.O. and I will be renting a car from London City Airport and driving to Charmouth, a little seaside town right smack dab in the middle of the Jurassic Coast. We’ll spending a few days fossil hunting, enjoying the local scenery, and celebrating our 9th anniversary (wow, has it really been that long?)

Much More to Come

That’s all for now folks, but I promise you there’s much more to come in 2016 😉

 

Get to know the UK: ISA

 

ISA_Featured_Image

With the festive period officially over and all the January sales coming to a close, it’s that special time of year where everyone sobers up and gets serious.

First up on the super-serious-things-no-one-likes-to-think-about calendar are UK taxes. Yep, if you haven’t submitted them yet, they’re due 31 January.

The tax year in the UK runs from 6 April to April 5, which is an unwelcome inconvenience for US expats — our US tax year follows the calendar year (1 January to 31 December).

Every UK tax year (6 April to 5 April), UK residents are allowed to squirrel away about £15,000 tax free in a special interest-bearing account called an ISA — our UK word of the week!

What is an ISA?

ISA stands for Individual Savings AccountPut simply, and ISA is a tax-free savings account. They come two major forms: cash and investment.

Each year UK residents are given an allowance to deposit money in their ISA account(s) tax free. For the 2016/2017 tax year, the allowance is £15,240 – the rough equivalent of $24,000 USD.

Quirky Things to Know About ISAs

  • The £15,240 annual allowance means you can deposit no more than a combined £15,240 in your ISA accounts between 6 April 2016 and 5 April 2017. However, you are free to divide your allowance up as you wish.
    • For instance, you can choose to deposit £5,240 in an Investment ISA and £10,000 in a Cash ISA.
  • You can only open one Cash ISA and one Investment ISA per UK tax year
  • You can either maintain multiple ISA accounts as the years progress, or roll existing ISA accounts into a new account without suffering any consequences (from a tax perspective)
  • Most cash ISAs allow you to withdraw money without penalty. However, once you reach your annual allowance, you will not be able to deposit any additional funds into your ISA for the remainder of the tax year.
    • Say you deposit £15,000 into an ISA account on 10 April 2016 and withdraw £10,000 from the account on 15 April 2016. Even though your ISA balance is now only £5,000, you will only be allowed to deposit £240 for the remainder of the tax year (until 5 April 2017).

Opening an ISA

Anyone over 16 who is a UK resident for tax purposes is generally allowed to open an ISA. This includes work permit holders. All major banks offer both Cash and Investment ISAs. Interest rates vary between banks and various ISA offerings.

Welp, that just about covers the basic overview of what an ISA account is! Coming from the US it took me a while to figure out how they work, so if you are confused like I was about ISAs, I’m hoping this will help :)

 

xoxo

Girl in London

 

 

The Calm After the Storm: A Look at Post-Christmas London

 

There are a few things you grow accustomed to after living in London for several years. The first is the weather (as much as we’d all hate to admit). The second is the congestion.

London is crowded. Crowded with tourists. Crowded with residents. There are just heaps of people everywhere, all the time.

That is, except for those precious few days between Christmas and New Year’s.

While London is a great place to visit in the run up to Christmas, the city pretty much shuts down on the evening of the 24th. By then, locals and tourists alike join in on a mass exodus from the UK capital. Londoners, I suspect, either head someplace warm to enjoy the festive season or escape to the country. And the tourists? Well I suppose they just go home.

An empty Limehouse (my neighbourhood) in the fading afternoon light.

Either way, that leaves those of us who do choose to spend the holidays in London with a fantastically empty city. With that in mind I ventured out for walks every day between Christmas and New Year’s just to soak it all in.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

One of the places I chose to visit was Covent Garden, which is usually teeming with people. On a drizzling post-Christmas morning though, it was pretty empty.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

From Covent Garden I wandered over to Seven Dials and Neal’s Yard, which still managed to look cheery and colourful in the rain.

Seven Dials

Seven Dials

Neal's Yard

Seeking Cover in Neal’s Yard

Neal's Yard

Neal’s Yard

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

Beyond Covent Garden, I took a walk along the Thames through Central London, stopped by at St. Katharine’s Dock (near Tower Bridge) and explored parts of Shoreditch. The one part of the city I did purposefully avoid was Oxford Street, which is notorious for its crowded post-Christmas sales. The rest of the London, however, was an absolute delight.

London

View of the City of London from a bridge along the Thames

Christmas Tree in St. Katharine’s Dock

 

Announcing: An All New Wanderbliss and an All New Ebook!

 

Why hello my lovelies!

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season.

These last fews weeks I’ve been glued to my laptop, working on a complete makeover of my former blog Wanderbliss and a brand new ebook!

I’m happy to announce that on April 1st the Wanderbliss team and I (yep, there’s a whole team now!) will be launching the first of several online classes designed specifically for travel lovers.

The first class is called Digital Nomad 101, and is aimed at anyone who has ever thought about traveling the world full-time and working from their laptop.

After April, our second course will be for anyone wanting to live and work abroad (e.g. move to London and work full-time).

If either class sounds like something you’d be interested it, I’m inviting you to subscribe to Wanderbliss’ newsletter below. It will come out monthly (don’t worry, we’ll never spam you) and will include updates on the exact release dates of the classes (along with some very generous discount codes)

As a special bonus, anyone signing up using the form below will get a free e-book entitled “20 Remote Career Resources for Digital Nomads”.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2015 and I’m looking forward to sharing 2016 with you on GirlinLondon and Wanderbliss :)

 

xoxo

Girl in London and The Wanderbliss Team

A Winter Walk through the City

 

This past Friday I found myself with an early morning appointment in The City, and another meeting at 11:30am. This left me with a few hours to explore and enjoy the Square Mile on the last major working day before Christmas week.

beasofbloomsbury

I kicked things off at Bea’s of Bloomsbury, a great little coffee shop at One New Change, which is a modern shopping mall located next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral, by the way, was absolutely glowing in the early morning winter sun.

st_pauls

After coffee it was off to Bank where I wandered around The Royal Exchange and admired all the luxury shop windows dressed up for the season. The interior of the Royal Exchange is absolutely stunning, but unfortunately no photos are allowed. (I found this out the hard way from a very polite security guard)

royal_exchange

hermes

No trip to The City is complete without a wander through Leadenhall Market. There’s been a market here since the 15th century, but the current covered structure has been in place since the 1880s. After my brief trip to Leadenhall I continued to wander aimlessly for another half hour or so, reminding myself of how lucky I am to not only live in London, but have the luxury of taking a random stroll through its streets on a Friday morning.

leadenhall

the counting house

thecheesegrater

I’ve been working my butt off for the last few months, but next week I’m going to take things easy and enjoy the festivities here in town. This will be my first Christmas in London for four years and I’m really looking forward to it.

xoxo

Girl in London

 

Get to Know the UK: Sheep-Worrying

 
sheep worrying

I don’t think I managed to worry any sheep!

As a writer and translator I deal with language all day, everyday. And the longer I live in the UK, the more my eyes are opened to the huge chasm between US English and UK English. While (or is it whilst?) there’s certainly a lot of overlap, there is still no shortage of words and phrases originating the UK that would have the average American scratching his or her head, so I’ve decided to highlight one per week in attempt to share with you all the wonderful world of UK English.

This should be a lot of fun for all you Anglophiles and word nerds out there.

I’m kicking off the series with a truly bizarre term: Sheep-Worrying

sheep-worrying (ˈʃiːpˌwʌrɪɪŋ))

Noun – (agriculture) the act (of a dog, sheepdog, wolf, etc) of chasing a flock of sheep and biting or injuring the sheep.

Ex. Farmers were allowed to shoot other men’s dogs if they were caught sheep-worrying.

(Source: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/sheep-worrying

Yep, sheep worrying. I know what you’re thinking: surely this is some sort of archaic term no one uses anymore. Nope. Sheep-worrying actually pops up quite a bit in newspaper articles here in the UK, especially around lambing season.

Here are a few examples:

“Farmer shoots £800 family dog for worrying sheep.” (Full article here)

“DOG owners in Derbyshire are urged to keep their pets under control following complaints of sheep worrying.” (Full article here)

“We are urging dog owners to be responsible around sheep and warning them that sheep worrying is a crime.” (Full article here)

A Very London Christmas: London-Themed Christmas Decorations

 

It’s hard to believe, but Christmas is just a few weeks away. And for the first time in a few years I’ll be spending the holiday in London with my other half. That means I finally have an excuse to decorate our flat and get a Christmas tree!

For those of you who are new to London, you can in fact get a REAL tree without dragging it through the Tube with you. There are a few places that deliver both live and cut trees to addresses in London, and I’ve taken the liberty of pinning them to the board below. I’ve also included lots of London-themed Christmas decorations to give your tree some local flair. Enjoy!

Follow Girl in London’s board Christmas in London on Pinterest.