Links I Love: 10

Have you found any good links this week? Share them in the comments!


Links I Love: 9

Have you found any interesting links this week? Share them in the comments below!

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Links I Love: 8

I’m a few days late with this week’s links, but there is no shortage of links I love.

Have you come across any interesting links this week? Share them in the comments!

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Expat Diaries: Knowing the [Dress] Code

All Business

Expat diaries is a weekly feature where I talk about my experiences as an American expat living and working in London. I discuss cultural nuances, a few tips for would-be expats to the UK, and sometimes throw in a bit of pop culture, too. Have any questions, or topics you’d like covered in this feature? Then get in touch!

I only had a short weekend to adjust to living in Britain before heading off to my first day of work in the UK. I had the usual first-day jitters: would I be able to navigate the public transport to get there? Do I know which stop is mine? Would I get on with my new colleagues?

One of the jitters I didn’t expect was about the dress code. I work for a large Silicon Valley tech company, and in Silicon Valley, the dress code tends to be reasonably casual; if the dress code isn’t casual, it’s business casual. For my first day on the job in the UK, I showed up dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans. What I didn’t expect was that most of the people in my new office would be dressed in proper business attire; suits and ties for the gents, skirts and jackets for the ladies.

At first, I wondered if I stumbled into the wrong office. When people dressed in suits in Silicon Valley, it generally meant one thing: they were interviewing for another job. I instantly started feeling a bit out of place. Then I questioned who was actually out of place? Was I out place because I didn’t conform to the British work dress code, or were my co-workers out of place for not embracing Silicon Valley standards for work wear?

A close colleague clued me in a few weeks later. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit fever pitch in the year leading up to my move abroad. There were rumblings of potential lay offs at companies across the globe, and unfortunately, my company was one of those threatening layoffs. Up to the start of the GFC, a high percentage of my company’s workforce in the UK dressed a bit more casually, but once rumors of layoffs spread, people started dressing smartly when they showed up to the office; a sign, apparently, of taking one’s job more seriously.

There are fewer of us data-monkey/programming types lurking the hallways here in the UK than there are in Silicon Valley. For us, the dress code is less important; we sit in front of our laptops, toiling away, lucky if we even talk to our co-workers. These days, I spend 99 percent of my time working from home, and 95 percent of that time working in my pajamas. Does that mean I’m any worse at my job than those showing up to the office in their suits and ties? To be fair, many of the job roles in my office are customer-facing, so it makes sense for those employees to dress smartly regardless of the GFC.

Since I’ve been working in the UK, I’ve had an opportunity to work from my company’s offices in Brussels and Amsterdam. In Brussels, I found more people embraced Silicon Valley culture and dressed more business casually. Amsterdam, however, seemed to fully embrace Silicon Valley culture, and most people were dressed quite casually. But was that a reflection of the corporate culture, or more of a reflection of the local culture?

What I’ve learned since my first day working in the UK is that it’s important to take a bit of time stop and understand your surroundings. When you’re traveling, take some time to understand the cultural norms for your destination. Many people say they want to get the full cultural experience, but then go on to stick out as the token American tourist in ill-fitting jeans and white sneakers. Perhaps to truly embrace a culture and experience things like a local, you have to look more carefully not only at what the locals are doing, but how they’re dressing. If you’re traveling on business, do the locals dress up for the office, or are they a bit more casual? Will it bother you if you don’t conform, or are you trying to share a bit of your culture with your colleagues or customers?

Over time, I’ve made a bit more of an effort when going to the office. I may not wear jeans and a t-shirt, but I still don’t pull out my skirt and jacket. I have absolutely no interest in giving up who I am as an American, or as an employee for Silicon Valley, but at the same time, there have been plenty of clothes added to my wardrobe which reflect my time and influences in London.

Ultimately, traveling, working, and moving abroad is what you make of it. Don’t be afraid to express your individuality where ever you go in the world, but be respectful of the people you meet, and if you truly want to experience life as a local, why not try out the local dress code?

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Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary
Photo by Mike Legg Photography.

Today Darren and I are celebrating our first anniversary! I’m so lucky to be married to my best friend, and cannot imagine being any happier with anyone else than I am with him. Happy anniversary, Darren–I’m looking forward to many more. x

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Links I Love: 7

  • I love homemade cleaning products and lavender, and I really want to try these lavender DIY laundry essentials.
  • Thinking about taking a trip to LA? Take at look at this local’s tips for a fun time.
  • If you need more inspiration for an LA trip, look at Joy’s trip to Little Tokyo. Those Japanese sweets look so tempting!
  • I enjoyed this post on love languages. I think I fall into the categories of acts of service and quality time. How about you?
  • How do you deal with negative people in your life? Maybe it’s time to chuck ’em to the curb.
  • If you’re getting started with a dSLR, here’s an article explaining the benefits of prime lenses.
  • I loved Victoria Smith’s beach inspired Thoughts for a Friday post.
  • Living the creative life isn’t easy; Lucy dishes out some harsh truths to those pursuing their dream career.
  • Planning an event big or small one? Consider these 10 tips to hosting a successful event.

Have you come across any interesting links this week? Share them in the comments!

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Five Favorite Bay Area Activities

Big Sur
The coastline near Bixby Bridge.

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, then you may know that I was in California a few weeks ago. The trip was planned partly on a whim, but had good intentions: Darren and I wanted to make sure California was as good as we remembered, and that we were still set on moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area. The good news was that California completely exceeded my expectations; the bad news was that I had to come back at the end of it (which, hasn’t been bad at all–all that vitamin D cheered me right up!).

Today’s post is a run down of some of our favorite Bay Area activities.

1. Take a Drive Along Highway 1

I love long drives along Highway 1, and I don’t think it matters whether you start your drive in San Francisco and head north, or at Half Moon Bay and head south toward Santa Cruz. Either way, you will be guaranteed beautiful, lush scenery, beaches, and great places to stop and take photos along the way. On this trip, we drove south from Half Moon Bay, stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz, and kept driving to Bixby Bridge just before Big Sur. It was gorgeous. To get the best out of this trip, try to go on a day when the coast is clear–literally. We’ve taken a few trips along Highway 1 when it’s foggy at the coast, and while it is magical in a completely different way, it cannot beat the scenery in the sunshine.

2. Stuff Yourself Silly

The Bay Area has no shortage of restaurants, and compared to London prices, food is a bargain. Restaurants utilize their local food resources well, and take full advantage of all the fresh fruit and veg that is available. There also isn’t a shortage in different cuisines, so whether you like Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian, or comfort food from the American South, the Bay Area has you covered.

3. Visit San Francisco

SF from Twin Peaks
The view from Twin Peaks.

Go to San Francisco. I don’t care where you go (as long as it isn’t Fisherman’s Warf or Pier 39–unless you’re going to Ghirardelli Square, I can forgive that one), just go. San Francisco has a certain je ne sais quoi about it. Sure, the people can be a bit different at times, but that’s what makes The City unique. If you’re dying for suggestions, take in the hippy spirit on the Haight (if you love music, you must visit Amoeba Records), see the beauty of San Francisco from the top of Twin Peaks, go shopping at Union Square, or have a meal in North Beach. Really, just walk around–you’ll get a great workout from all those hills, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun along the way. Just beware that San Francisco can be shockingly cold in summertime. If you have flexibility in your planning, go in September! Otherwise, be sure to wear layers.

4. Grab Some Snaps in the Marin Headlands

Carrie at the Headlands
Posing in front of the Golden Gate at the Marin Headlands.

Want some photos of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge? The Marin Headlands are the best place to get these. The Headlands are a short jaunt over the bridge (which is totally worth driving over–the scale of it makes you appreciate what an engineering feat it must have been). Take the first exit, and follow the signs. There are designated parking places along the way–if the first lot is full, there is another one that’s just a five minute’s walk further up the hill. But make sure you go to the viewing area where the first parking lot is–that’s where you’ll get the best photos of the Golden Gate’s glory, and get spectacular views of San Francisco. Instead of driving back to Highway 101 the way you went, keep driving along the road toward the coast. At the summit, it becomes a one-way road that spirals down the hillside and gives some beautiful views of the coast line.

5. Go to a Farmer’s Market


One of the best things about California is the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables available all year round. When I moved to California in 2005, farmer’s markets were one of my favorite things from the outset. They were a fun way to spend a Sunday morning, and a great way to get the freshest produce California had to offer, all at a bargain price. But it wasn’t until 2008, when I moved to Mountain View, that I discovered my favorite market. Mountain View’s market is held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Caltrain Parking lot. They have a huge selection of not only fresh produce, but vibrant flowers, fresh eggs and meats, coffee and honey. After you’ve finished at the market, there are plenty of brunch options just a short walk away. Even if you’re just visiting, it’s worth a stop for a quart of fresh strawberries, or a fresh apple cider.

I hope you enjoy some of these activities as much as we do, and please share your favorites!

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Expat Diaries: Fate and Moving to London

Carrie and Darren

Expat diaries will be a weekly feature where I talk about my experiences as an American expat living and working in London. I’ll discuss cultural nuances, a few tips for would-be expats to the UK, and maybe throw in a bit of pop culture too. Have any questions, or topics you’d like covered in this feature? Then get in touch.

In 2009, I was living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. I was happy with life–I lived in a nice apartment in Menlo Park with my cats, had a job I enjoyed, and a boyfriend I adored. Problem was, my boyfriend was moving away later in the year, and the big question we faced was whether we’d be able to continue our relationship.

Darren and I hadn’t even been together for a full year when this decision came upon us. He was a physicist, and his post-doc at SLAC was coming to an end, and he was awaiting a decision on whether he’d gotten a full-time job at a university in Florida, another position in the Midwest, one in Amsterdam, or perhaps even another post-doc position but this time at CERN. I’d kept my fingers crossed that he’d at least get one of the jobs within the US, but realized it was a real possibility that he might be moving away forever.

In January, he was offered the post-doc at CERN. I was really happy for him–I knew that CERN was super-prestigious, and having an opportunity to work there would potentially lead to more possibilities in the future. In the subsequent months, he was busy flying to and fro to interview for the full-time positions. Time passed and tension built. I was becoming increasingly concerned with what this meant for our relationship. Would things end once he left in September, or were we going to try to make things work long distance?

Spring came, and by April Darren got news on the full-time positions. It wasn’t looking good for our relationship–the only job offer he got was in Amsterdam, and we knew he’d be moving for sure.

I was super bummed about this news, but unwilling to give up on a good thing, I started thinking about what I could do. My manager at the time was vaguely aware of the situation, though I hadn’t formally discussed the matter with her. One afternoon, a co-worker sent me an instant message (IM) asking if I’d be interested in an opportunity to work abroad. It turned out, that one of my colleagues in Europe was going on maternity leave, and her team required someone with experience to back-fill the position. My European colleague had originally been in touch with the co-worker who IM’ed me as first choice for her back-fill. But he had recently purchased a house, and wasn’t looking to uproot and move.

The stars had aligned! Before I had a chance to talk to my manager, she had approached me about the same opportunity. I mentioned that I’d already heard about, and was very interested in applying. I had to scrape up a resume, and prepare for an interview, but she thought I’d be a shoe-in, more or less.

By the end of May, I had secured the perfect opportunity. It was a job that I’d be able to jump into feet-first with plenty of knowledge to keep me confident, but plenty of opportunity to learn to keep me interested. I was set to fly to Stockholm to begin training in June. Unfortunately, my Crohn’s had other ideas, and I spent that week at Stanford Hospital instead.

The idea was that I would move in September. This gave me and my employer only four months to sort out where I was going to live (it was up to me to choose which country to move to!), my work visa, what I was going to do with all my stuff, and my two cats. Choosing where to move was pretty easy. I’d only been out of the country once before the job offer, and that was to the UK for Christmas. Yes, it meant that Darren and I would still be living apart, but it meant I would have one less barrier (the language), and I’d always dreamed of living here when I was younger.

Deciding what to do with my stuff was a bit complicated. I ended up selling anything I could on, donating some of it, and sending the rest home to Wisconsin (which, when moving less than a one bedroom apartment is actually quite challenging–especially in a time-crunch). Thankfully, my parents agreed to take on my cats, but I still had to fly them to the Midwest. I decided in July that instead of moving in September, I’d push back a few more weeks to the middle of October. This gave me a bit of time to go home and help the cats adjust to Midwest living.

My brother came out to visit before I left, and we drove my car from California to Wisconsin. The gravity of the situation really hit me the morning we were set to leave. I realized there was a possibility I’d never live in California again, and that this was a completely new, scary chapter in my life. Darren wasn’t set to leave California until the end of the month, and saying goodbye felt terrible–it felt like I was saying goodbye forever, even though we’d see each other in two month’s time. Somehow I managed to pull myself together, and was on the road to the Midwest.

I spent a few weeks in Wisconsin with my family, making final arrangements to move things back, working, and researching. I found Moving 2 London a great resource (it’s aimed at Aussie expats, but was still super useful). I searched through ads on Gumtree to find somewhere to stay for the first few weeks, made some living arrangements, and re-booked the ticket I was supposed to use for my vacation in June the week before I wanted to leave.

I still remember arriving in London on October 10, 2009. I waited two hours to get through immigration at Heathrow’s T4, got the fast train to Paddington, took a taxi to my hotel on Tottenham Court Road, and waited a few hours in the hotel lobby to check into my room. The first thing I did once I was settled into the hotel was head down to the the junction at Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road to buy a SIM for my phone so I could send Darren a message to let him know I had arrived.

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The Sartorialist: Inspiration in Pictures

The Sartorialist

I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I only heard about The Sartorialist in the past few months (gasp!), but ever since I subscribed to the blog, I’ve been completely hooked. What’s not to love about Scott Schuman’s blog? It has beautiful photography and loads of style inspiration. I love his philosophy of keeping his commentary to a minimum, and allowing readers to make up their minds about a particular outfit/style/etc; let the masses be inspired–and inspiring, but don’t dictate their style.

The Sartorialist--Look 1

I was pretty exited to learn that he has published two books, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. So last Wednesday I ordered his first, The Sartorialist.

This book is chock-full of inspiration. Flipping through the pages, I’ve already gotten inspiration for new ways to wear clothes I already own, ways to start accessorizing my wardrobe (I’m positively dreadful with accessories), ideas for my basics (I don’t subscribe to the logic that white button-down shirts suit us all), etc.

But for me, it’s not just style inspiration, but also photographic inspiration. I adore Schuman’s photographic style–it’s clear, crisp and shows off his subjects perfectly. It’s a style where, if you were to see one of his photos on the web, but no additional information was given, you’d know straightaway it was one taken by Schuman. It’s something I believe all bloggers hope to acheive in their work.

The Sartorialist--Look 2

Schuman’s first book, The Sartorialist, has a well-earned place on my bookshelf. It will be my new go-to for fashion and photography inspiration, and to be honest, it sparks a bit of travel inspiration, too. If you flip through the pages, you’ll see photos with New York, Paris, Milan, London, etc. in the background, which makes me want to get on a plane to see new places and soak in all this inspiration first-hand.

Do you have a favorite website or book that’s your go-to for inspiration? Why not tell me about it in the comments?

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