My Evernote is (figuratively) bulging at the seams. I’ve finally seen fit to organise my notes into folders, and right now my note containing Things To See And Do In The US is grossly inflated. That’s mostly thanks to New York, skewing everything! It looks like we’ll be there for a full week in September, but I doubt we’ll be bored somehow. If you’re looking for things to do in New York there are plenty of resources online, plus I’ve got no shortage of recommendations from friends.
A few weeks ago I went into a slight panic when one of my best friends (who’s off to Minnesota, I think, for a conference later in the year) asked if I’d applied for our visas yet. As far as I knew, the only places we wouldn’t get a waiver would be Cambodia and Vietnam. But in its paranoid and profit-seeking ways, I guess the government has to make things complicated and take its cut:
International travelers who are seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are now subject to enhanced security requirements and will be required to pay an administrative fee. All eligible travelers who wish to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for authorization and then pay the fee using the following process…
And so I paid the $30 fee and went through the ESTA rigmarole online. I tried not to freak out when we weren’t both immediately approved. Thankfully, a few days later I checked back in and found that we’d both been cleared. That’s about as much as we can do; from here on in we’re at the mercy of airport officials when we land, I suppose.
I’ve booked an apartment rental for our last few days in New York through a Wimdu host with good reviews (we want to stay somewhere nice for T’s birthday), but I’ve yet to decide what we’ll do for the days before that. Hospitality exchange hosts generally don’t want to commit until a few weeks ahead (I personally prefer not to when hosting) but given it’s New York, waiting seems risky when accommodation is so in demand. Do we wait and hedge our bets on finding an awesome free/cheap host who’ll show us the city from his or her POV, or shell out now for a guaranteed place to lay our heads?
When I blog about something, unless I add a disclaimer, it’s usually the norm. I’m aware most of you guys are American and so I try to present a generally accurate picture of things for your sake, ya know?
I often find myself clarifying the same kinds of things over and over with incredulous American readers, such as:
Yes, we really do pay rent weekly. This is the most common frequency. I’ve only ever paid fortnightly rent at one house – and I’ve lived in a LOT of places. People pay rent through automatic payments. Cheques are so last century. While leases with fixed terms are getting more common, there are still rentals to be found with periodic tenancies, which are open-ended. Moving out usually requires 2-3 weeks notice.
Sometimes we get paid weekly, too. It’s more common in call centre/hospitality/trade type jobs. Temp jobs also tend to pay weekly. This is apparently something a lot of immigrants struggle with. If your income source is the government – e.g student allowance, student loan (living costs), or a benefit of any kind – you will also be paid weekly. And if you were wondering, yep, student loans and allowances are all administered by the government (though I suppose there’s nothing actually stopping you taking out personal loans elsewhere to boost your income while studying). Loans cover your tuition fees and remain interest-free as long as you stay in the country.
Apartment living isn’t big here. Most people rent houses. And the people you live with are flatmates, not roommates (unless you actually share a room, maybe). You do find apartments in the CBD and the odd block further out in the suburbs, lots of which were part of the leaky building wave of construction. In an effort to lift standards and stem the housing shortage, the new rule for Auckland apartments is a minimum of 35 square metres. But breaking down the ‘shoebox’ perception that’s already established will take a while, and changing a whole culture even longer.
Things (everything?) cost a lot. Food, for one – as a commenter pointed out ages ago, we don’t have subsidies or tax breaks on food – so no, I really can’t get our grocery bill much lower. Cars – that’s why we tend to drive really old cars, and you’ll still see a fair few late 80s Toyotas and Mazdas tooling around on the roads. In the cities, property affordability is WAY over the 2x income guideline, or whatever the benchmark is (it’s so irrelevant that I don’t even know offhand, and can’t be bothered looking it up) – think 4-6x. We don’t have the security of 30-year fixed rate mortgages. Also, the general quality of property is dire. Count yourself lucky if you have insulation. Last winter we found a mushroom growing through the carpet in the hallway by the laundry room.
If you missed it last year, you might also like Living in NZ: the ultimate post.
And if you have any more questions, ask away and I shall answer…
Time for a few confessions.
- I fear I’ll never be good enough at anything professionally. I often feel like a fraud. I fear that I will never figure it out.
- This isn’t a big fear, but a small niggly part of me is afraid marriage won’t last.
- I fear we will run out of money on our trip and that we will be homeless, jobless, and any other -less you can think of upon our return (even though I know we have family and friends who would take us in and my emergency fund, and at a pinch, credit cards – and I have a job to come back to). I’m equal parts exhilarated and terrified about embracing the great unknown, though the anxiety is rearing its head more often as the day approaches.
What’s weighing on your mind today?
Tags: life, reflections
It was a bit of a ranty pants week here on the blog. In case you missed it, I covered arranged marriages and name changing (in both cases, the comment threads are great and most definitely worth reading – some have even helped me further clarify my views, which is always appreciated. Oh, and I managed to learn something about my own culture to boot).
Off the blog, my friends and I were trounced at a music pub quiz (they’re always skewed toward the oldies – who the heck are the Boomtown Rats and have you ever heard of them?!) on Monday; I watched the entire Godfather trilogy for the first time and dug it; and I’ve been trying out the ring I bought off Etsy for the wedding, on a finger that it does fit. Result: I no longer know if I even want a wedding ring. I do like this ring and think I’d like to keep it for special occasions but I don’t like that it’s double the size of my engagement ring (and thus feels unbalanced) and still needs sizing. I’ve yet to find anything else I remotely like, and I really don’t care enough about jewellery to spend any more time on this.
To the links!
I was in the carnival of personal finance this week and last week
I think this is fascinating: one writer on why she keeps a Single Girl’s Starter Kit around, and what that entails
I like Donna Freedman’s take on buying quality stuff: “buy once, cry once”
Jess Lively reminds us that copying someone else’s formula for success may not work for you.
A powerful and inspiring read from Stephany about changing her life story, and thus, trajectory
Little Miss Moneybags talks ‘leaning in’
Over at So Many Places, some hard talk on seeing – and dealing with – beggars. I know to expect to see some in KL, as I have on previous occasions there – but I imagine it will be much worse in other countries we visit, and I don’t know how well equipped I am to deal with that
Are things really more expensive today than they were for our parents? Funny About Money crunches the numbers
How people really get rich (vs how we think they do). Via American Debt Project
Fully behind Meg of LandingStanding; sometimes being able to say you’re pregnant would be a great reason to explain some of your preferences without being judged for them
Hope your Easter weekends are going swell! If you have a five day weekend, I’m jealous. With any luck, I’ll be going for a bush trek today and visiting a waterfall.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but there’s nothing shameful about admitting the truth. RIGHT?
T outcooks me in every possible way. He even makes better Chinese food than I do.
All I can really say is: Noodles. Mushrooms. Beef strips. Garlic. Spring onions. Coriander. And some kind of sauce (play around with soy/oyster sauce/fish sauce/vinegar/cornflour?).
Sorry to those of you who like detailed recipes, but we’re both pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants types, especially T. I don’t understand how he can just conjure up meals out of nowhere. Just like I don’t understand people who can bust out amazing musical solos off the cuff. Maybe it’s a skill that can be learned, but I think I’ll leave it up to him.
Also, what am I gonna call this series once we’re married? Husband in the kitchen just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Also, I have lingering linguistic issues with the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, so it may take me a while to adjust to them. Then again, I imagine we won’t be doing much impressive cooking on the road, so there’s a while to figure it out.
Tags: food, recipes
I struggled with deciding whether or not to write this post. While the name-changing thing has never been up for debate for me, I do have some strong feelings on the matter. And, troublingly, I know some of those feelings are wrong (inasmuch as an opinion can be wrong, which by definition it can’t).
Intellectually, I get that choosing to change your name isn’t any less of a feminist choice, and is in fact an active choice, whereas you don’t get any choice when you’re lumped with your family name at birth. But as I’ve previously written, I am secretly disappointed when I hear a woman I know is taking her husband’s last name. This is a bias that I keep to myself; I would never presume to judge anyone else’s choice, but deep down a definite pang is there. It’s one of those things that I know logically doesn’t make sense. How do you overcome that?!
I’ve been surprised at the fact that I’ve been asked about whether I’m keeping my name at all. Asking a woman whether she plans to change her name after marriage? I suppose it depends how close you are, but to my mind, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate question – I wouldn’t ever ask this of anyone. I suppose this is one of my personal quirks. What can I say? I’m very private.
Even in the 21st century, this still seems to be very much the exception rather than the norm. To me, the whole practice feels very archaic. (This post by Bitch PhD pretty much hits the spot for me.) Let’s face it – name changing is a bullshit patriarchal custom, a hangover from the days when women were no more than property to be sold off to husbands by their families. With that said, I do plan to have our kids take T’s name. I don’t have strong feelings about that, despite being adamant about retaining mine.
One of my friends used to say “I never want to be a [very common Indian surname]“. And what do you know, she found herself a nice boy, who was of course saddled with that accursed name. Funny how things turn out. Despite that, I’m almost certain that NOT changing her name was ever an option.
People who decide to change their names seem to do it for one of two reasons:
They prefer their husband’s name – fair enough. I despise my surname; it’s caused me plenty of grief. But at least it flows, which is more than I can say for slapping T’s last name next to my first name.
Or because, you know, it’s tradition. I don’t buy that. I’ve never considered the name thing an integral part of marriage. Perhaps it’s because my mother didn’t. When I was in primary school, a friend once saw a letter addressed to both my parents by name. “Aren’t your parents married?” he goggled. “Yes – she just kept her own name. And?” was my reply.
This is such a dealbreaker for me that when we butted heads over this pre-proposal, I was prepared to simply scrap marriage altogether. Eventually T realised how important it was to me, and accepted it.
Heck, I’ve gone 24 years without ever bothering to change my first name to the name I use (my Christian name is not my legal name), partly because it feels like I’d be culturally rejecting a choice my parents no doubt put a lot of thought into, but mainly because of the cost and hassle. (I’m finding it hard to pin down what it actually costs, but it looks like nearly $130, plus all kinds of extra fees for name changes on various documents.)
It’s not just the IRD. It’s the NZTA for your driver’s licence. It’s your bank/s. Your investment fund providers. Your insurance company. Your cellphone provider. Your ISP. Your power company. Your place of work. And no doubt dozens of other important places where your name is on file.
Another biggie for me is that I’ve been published for years under my name. But I think that name changing can be professionally detrimental no matter what your field. It’s insanely unfair, but there are studies that have found women who take their husband’s names end up earning less. Possibly those women are also more likely to take time out from work and raise children, accounting for that – or maybe it’s genuine bias in the workplace that penalises them. Or some other factor. /shrug
(When I first read that, I thought ‘how in heck would anyone know if you’ve changed your name? DUMB QUESTION – unless you get married at say, 20, and start off your professional career under it. Women who get married at work change their email addresses – thus announcing their new marital status to the entire office, which men never have to do – and then obviously have to deal with things future employers calling up past references who know them as somebody else.)
Unfortunately I don’t really see any way to smashing that barrier, aside from soldiering on, choosing to change your name, and kicking ass in the workplace – I just won’t be a part of that, I suppose.
And now, after writing this, I’m more conflicted than ever – not about my personal choices, but just by all the social and cultural norms and ramifications involved in a wider context.
Again: I’m not here to bash on you for changing your last name. I’m genuinely trying to reconcile my feelings on this matter.
Tags: life, marriage, relationships, weddings
One of my dearest friends is about to get formally engaged. It’s a modern arranged marriage, which, from my perspective, simply means that her parents have been heavily involved in the matchmaking (think of them as her wingmen, out scouting the community!), and in the end she has the ultimate choice.
I’ve known her for over 10 years now, and I’ve always known that she would almost certainly have an arranged marriage. That said, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon and so fast…
Their compressed timeframe is absolutely mind boggling. They met last month. They’re getting engaged over in his hometown over Easter. They’ll be tying the knot later this year (as in, within six months or less). I don’t know about him, but she hasn’t really dated anyone else. I know it took me years to learn to be in a healthy relationship, so I struggle to fathom how two strangers, essentially, can slot into each other’s lives just like that.
That said, I really like the guy. Us girls all do, based on our one and only meeting so far – we have no quibbles whatsoever with him. In fact, he seems just about eerily perfect for her. After all, the families have spent years looking for the right match, so maybe it’s not all that surprising. I think they’ll be just fine.
Intellectually, I don’t have a problem with her arranged marriage. It’s an active, informed choice she’s made, and I support it. Given that we’re not dealing in dowries here, I don’t see anything inherently anti-feminist about an arranged marriage.
BUT. There’s a but. Most of all, what bugs me is the fact that by default, she will be moving to Australia to live. And that’s what gets my goat. That the convention is to defer to the guy – though I suppose the context for this part of the tradition is exactly the same reason many women take a backseat to men in general, arranged marriage or not: generally, the guy is older (in this case, true), his career is more settled (true), lucrative (unclear – I don’t know what he does aside from the broad industry), etc, and thus takes precedence. I imagine this is even more pronounced in an arranged marriage, where the families are probably quite concerned with finding a ‘successful’ man, while the criteria for good wife material is perhaps not measured quite the same way.
Tags: life, reflections, relationships
Investing, like flossing, is one of those things you often think you’ll get around to … eventually. But the earlier you start, the better. Today’s guest post is about taking that first plunge.
In the past, the stock market was an intimidating entity. You pretty much had to be a broker or financial expert to know where to invest money. With the development of technology, there’s tons of information available about stocks, too much for one person to sift through. Therefore, to get the most out of your money, it’s important to do your research and know which information to believe.
Before you invest, it’s a good idea to assess your personal finances. How much can you actually afford to gamble? Do you have extra money that doesn’t need to go toward mortgages or monthly expenses? Do you have debt? You don’t want to put yourself in a difficult position if your chosen stock doesn’t do well and you lose money. As part of this self-assessment, find out what your credit score is. You can sign up for a free credit report and once you’re sure that you don’t have any problems with it, you’ll be able to invest with a clear head.
Investing is a game of information – having the right info at the right time. Research will help you narrow down your choices and will also minimise impulse decisions. Read business websites that are updated daily for a while before making any decision so you can learn about the smart or risky aspects of a company. Once you’ve got a shortened list of options, be sure to diversify.
Everyone’s heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Never has it been more true than in the stock market. Investing in different industries covers your bases in case there’s a major event that will affect one of your stocks, but not the others.
I know it’s tempting once you’re in the game to throw money at a bunch of stocks, but only invest in a select few that you can stay on top of and track. Unless it’s your full-time job, you want investing to be something you can put some money into and watch grow with little effort, so do yourself a favour and don’t go overboard.
With these basic tips in mind – a firm knowledge of your personal finances and credit report, research into the stock market, and wise choices, you can come out ahead.
Ever known anyone who, upon getting a new job, freaked out after finding out the company works on a monthly pay cycle?
I get that budgeting is a deeply personal thing and managing your finances when money is coming in on a relatively infrequent basis can be tough. It seems that as a rule, most of us would prefer to be paid more frequently (in smaller amounts, obviously) whenever possible.
At a previous job, one colleague learned that most of us were getting paid on a fortnightly basis, and after finding out, tried to negotiate with HR to get on the same cycle. Given that this was months and months after said colleague had joined the company, the answer was unsurprisingly no (if you’ve coped that long, you can keep coping!). I’m not sure how this works as a general rule – most companies, especially smaller ones, operate on one single pay frequency, but this particular organisation had a lot of unionised employees and as a result, pay cycles for different staff ranged from weekly to fortnightly to monthly.
I’ve been paid on pretty much every kind of cycle there is over the years (including monthly in arrears for mystery shopping assignments – always fun) and I’m pretty confident I could cope with any pay frequency today.
Here’s a little rundown of my pay vs rent (my biggest expense) history
- Weekly pay / weekly rent
- Fortnightly pay / weekly rent
- Fortnightly pay / fortnightly rent (on opposite weeks!)
- Monthly pay / fortnightly rent
- Monthly pay/ weekly rent
Every new adjustment took a little bit of work. But eventually, I got used to it and made it work, largely because I like to operate on a weekly cycle. Even when rent wasn’t weekly, groceries, petrol, etc still were. Every pay day I transfer my money into my savings account, then transfer out money in weekly increments to cover that week’s outgoings. (And because rent is pretty much never paid monthly by anyone in New Zealand, I don’t get these ‘bonus’ paycheques in the two five-week months of the year that you Americans always go on about. Sadface.)
If I had the choice, I honestly don’t know what my preference would be today. Ideally, I guess it would be one that matched up with my rent payments – aligning your income with your biggest expense is always handy.
How often do you get paid?
Tags: money, personal finance, work
Whenever people ask me how wedding planning is going, they get a noncommittal “ehh” and a weak shrug. Let’s face it, simultaneously planning a six-month trip is a much larger undertaking, and it’s taking a lot out of me. But it’s also way more fun.
With that, let’s get stuck into the latest Byteful Travel Blog carnival!
Emma Goho presents The Gohemian’s Guide: What To Do In Jaipur posted at gohemiantravellers, a piece on her favourite Indian city, Jaipur. “A beautiful city, full of beautiful people!” One of my best friends will be tying the knot later this year in India. Alas, I won’t be able to attend (I’m not sure where we’ll be as I don’t know her date yet, but we don’t really have the time or money for a detour to India).
Kevin Giffin presents 10 of the Best States to Visit with Kids posted at Summer Nanny, saying that planning a family vacation can be an overwhelming prospect, especially when the budget doesn’t allow for international travel. We’ll hopefully be hitting up about half of these states while in the US.
Go Green Travel Green presents Dog Sledding in the Okanagan Wilderness, Canada posted at Go Green Travel Green. Sounds like a real adventure.
Go Green Travel Green presents Best New Orleans Restaurants for First-Time Visitors posted at Go Green Travel Green. Still undecided about Cafe du Monde – but I suppose if we aren’t able to find beignets anywhere else (I have a tip about another beignet place to try buried in Evernote somewhere) then we might just have to make a stop.
Mariska presents Where I am.. Anguilla! posted at Bordélique. Annoyingly, my computer has trouble displaying images on some WordPress (usually hosted) blogs, but I’m sure your photos are stunning!
Dani Blanchette presents I’m Illegal posted at Going Nomadic. An epic tale of a North American who finds out what it is like to become an illegal immigrant in South America.
Pinch of Adventure presents São Jorge: Hospitality lessons in the middle of the Atlantic posted at A pinch of adventure. I think we all underestimate the capacity for human generosity.
Hannah presents Egyptian Pizza (And Other Travel-Bites) posted at DiscoverTravelLive. I can’t believe you don’t have Mars Bars in the States! (But whatever – they’re pretty nasty unless you’re into gooey caramel.)
Suz Crawt presents Are We Too Developed? – The Paleo Network posted at The Paleo Network. See how the locals live in Indonesia.
Holiday Baker Man presents Chili’s – Honolulu – Molten Chocolate Cake posted at Holiday Baker Man. I’m always down with cake.
Peg Peter presents How to Put On a Dry Suit – Beginner’s Edition posted at A Kilt and A Camera. A humorous account of a first time getting into a scuba drysuit, complete with humiliating photos. At least you can laugh at yourself.
Zhu presents 5 Canadian Culture Facts I Never Truly Understood posted at Correr Es Mi Destino. I’m really not looking forward to having to mentally add tax to everything we buy in North America.
Lindsay presents Year of the Durian: Ancient Durians in Uma Bawang posted at Year of the Durian. T is committed to trying durian in Malaysia. You can buy it here, too, but there’s no way we could make it through an entire fruit.
Peter Rudin-Burgess presents Compare Holiday MoneyForeign Currency – Three Top Tips posted at Compare Holiday Money. This is something I spent a bit of time researching – am planning a post at some point on how we’ll handle money while abroad.
Jeremy Zongker presents Cost Saving Alternatives to Hotels posted at Economy Trips. By researching alternatives you can save quite a bit on lodging on your next trip.
Go Green Travel Green presents How to Find an Eco-Friendly Hotel or Resort posted at Go Green Travel Green. Self explanatory really.
William presents Don’t sunburn your credit card posted at Card Guys Blog. A mid-winter or late winter getaway doesn’t have to break the bank.
Cherry Liu presents 10 iPhone Apps to Help You Get Around a New City posted at House Sitting Jobs. I’ve already got a few of these on my list!
David Thompsonn presents 20 Creative Ways to Save Money for a Family Vacation posted at Backup Care. Small savings add up fast.
Theresa Torres presents How to Deal with a Lost or Stolen Wallet While Traveling posted at Travidition. This has got to be a traveller’s worst nightmare.
Tourismjournal presents Items You Must Bring to Make Your Travel Easy posted at tourism journal. I’ve started compiling a packing list, and we’ll need to buy our backpacks in the next few weeks.
That’s it for this edition! Submit your posts to the next edition of byteful travel blog carnival using this carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.
Tags: blogging, travel