My family has just come back from a 12-day trip to London and the Cotswalds. While we were in England the financial institutions started imploding one by one. Here are a few impressions from England…
First the news was all from the states–FNMA, Freddie Mac and Lehman Bros. Everyone, everywhere was talking about it. There were TV crisis updates. It was as if England was another American state. We are incredibly influential and tied to the rest of the world.
Our daughter bought a newspaper because it was labeled “END OF THE WORLD EDITION.” There was a cartoon with Bush’s cure for the woes–Bush is saying “Attack Pakistiran Now!”
Everything was very expensive. One pound cost us $1.85 but had the purchasing power of less than a dollar. Budget hotel in London for 4 people for 3 nights was $700. This hotel was run by Serbians and the other guests were Eastern Europeans. Nice area, Kensington, hotel needed some TLC.
Of course, I couldn’t help myself and I re-designed our hotel room layout and left it at the desk. They had placed the wooden coat closet behind a bed so you could only open the closet door a little by climbing into the bed. The window view of English chimneypots and roof garden was lovely, but not the pile of discarded toilets under the window.
I will give you some more views of the English financial meltdown later if anyone is interested.
Furnishedowner - welcome back. I hope you had a great time over there. I did spent quite some time in UK in business trips. My company has a major hub in Brighton, Burgess Hills and Poole. My experience is that they have a very diverse population. Much more than in any city I have ever been. It seems that folks from all over the world and Europe go to England to better themselves. My experience is that they usually have a more balanced perspectie about what is going on in the world. I felt I had more information about International politics and economy while I was over there than from here. It seems that most of our media outlets here in US focus on local and US economy.
I did spend some weekends in London. Unfortunately my company does not have big operations in the city, so I could only spend weekends there. We usually stayed close to Victoria Station because that was the line we took to travel from Brighton to London. It is not a very good area, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.
I heard the minimum wage is 7 pounds/hour. That would be about $13/hour. That wouldn’t go far. That is what inflation will do to us…wages go up, prices go up, no net gain. Nice meal in a restaurant cost us $160.
I heard that to buy an investment house, you need 35% downpayment. You must demonstrate that rent will be 120% of the monthly mortgage payment.
Properties are very expensive. $500,000 to 1 million $ was bandied about as pretty usual prices of nice homes. There is a shortage of homes projected. Some newspaper letter writers wanted a prohibition on homes being owned by investors–“One house should be enough for anybody.” People felt investors were creating the shortage and pushing up prices artificially.
The price of homes however was dropping, down 1%. Sellers were asking an average of 227,400 pounds, so about $420,690.
All homes offered for rent after October 1 must have an EPC–Energy Performance Certificate. This will cost the landlord between 50 and 100 pounds per house. Lots more governmental regulation over there.
As we were leaving, we heard that the Bank of Scotland was going under. That was shocking to everybody as the bank is huge and as English as tea. Bank of Scotland was founded in 1692.
Thanks, we did have a great time over there. Ate strawberry scones with clotted cream, and the English breakfasts with beans and mystery meat sausages.
The pubs are everywhere. They are wood-paneled, warm and cozy and many hundreds of years old. The pubs alone are worth a trip. They serve every kind of beer, ale and cider and food as well. You can sit for hours and enjoy the atmosphere. Our teen-age son was in heaven fetching beers legally from the bar! A great place to take teenagers.
We managed to see the British Museum (the best stolen antiquities in the world), the Tower of London (medieval castle right in the middle of the city), Harrod’s Department store, Buckingham palace.
A word of warning…unless you enjoy the feeling of near-death experiences, DO NOT DRIVE IN ENGLAND. Picture shifting gears with your left hand (all rental cars seemingly are manual), while whizzing around a round-about (watch for the speeding cars entering on the right), inches away from curbs, ditches, and other cars, at a crazy rate of speed. I will NEVER rent a car again in that country nor be a passenger driven by a non-Brit.
It’s nice to be home and still alive.
Furnishedowner - so you saw the 'beefeaters" at the Tower of London? :O) I find British history fascinating… How they killed kings, queens, princes, and princesses. Our tour guide seemed so proud of his job and the fact that he was one of the very few to hold that position from thousands of candidates.
I did drive in UK once when my wife was visiting. We went to Oxford and Cambridge. It was so cool to see an university city. I never had the experience of going to a university/city where the university buildings were spread across a whole town. That was cool.
First five minutes driving I drove over a curb. Thankfully there was no one standing there. When we drive here, you are sitting on the left side of the car. So when you are driving you know how much you have to clear to your left so you don’t hit anything. Over there, because you are sitting on the right side of the car, you have to add half car to your left. I miscalculated that first curve… :O)
I didn’t like the pubs though… Too much smoke. And most of the cool ones closed early. It seems that they go to the pub after work, stay there for a couple of hours and then go home. By the time I left work it was already 7pm and most pubs were either closing or getting the evening crowd. And all the stores were already closed. Can you imagine living in a place where stores close at 5pm? Even the mall? To be fair, the mall was opened late on Wednesday (until 7pm… :O)
So back to real estate… did you see how small some of the houses are over there? I guess when you live in an island, you get accostumed to living in small places… :O)
Yes, we saw the Beefeaters ,Tower of London guardians wearing medieval red garb. They are active duty military I think. Very cool.
We didn’t notice any smoke in the pubs, wonder if they have changed the law. The pubs were always pleasant, I would have noticed a smoker, choke, choke.
We spent a day at Oxford, amazing place. I heard they filmed part of the Harry Potter movies inside the buildings there.
Harrod’s closed at 7. We made it our last stop on a jam-packed day.
I checked out the furnished rental want ads on several real estate office windows. It appears that you can get a furnished apartment in a nice neighborhood–Chelsea, Kensington-- for 500 pounds a WEEK (about $1,000). When I get rich I will come back and rent for a month or two…I wish. There were lots of furnished rentals.
All this has motivated me to get a British website so people can rent here in the low-priced U.S. The Brits can afford to travel and they do.
Hehe, interesting to read about England (where I grew up) from an American perspective.
Yes, house prices are very high, land is at a premium, lots are small, everyone is crammed together. It makes for a very conservative mind-set too. Here people spread out more, their way of thinking too…
The English have a very high standard of driving, the test is difficult to pass. To pass first time is rare. The cars are built for the small windy roads, nippy and can take sharp corners well. You’d get used to everything being on the other side, I did when I came to the US.
It is now no-smoking in public places, so pubs are a lot cleaner. I’m glad you had a good time in them but I find the pub-going life incredibly dull. Except up north where it is much more of a family tradition. At weekends, the whole family, young toddlers through to the OAPs (Old age pensioners) are there to get together.
They excessively regulate all aspects of life, you get used to “conforming”. It’s happening more here as well though. Again it makes people very reserved, no-one is really out-spoken in anyway… Must conform!
Ah, the food, for most part is very unhealthy, quaint but not good sustenance. I do miss silly things like Heinz baked beans and sausage rolls though
Well, I’m glad to be here in America, I will not go back to the UK any time soon.