Saturday, May 3, 2008

Yes. It's confirmed. London is expensive.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend give me a good tip for London... "London is the only place in the world where you can buy nothing and you're money will still disappear". That seems to be a true statement.

As I've shopped around at various stores around town, I've come to conclude that a handy rule of thumb is that the numbers on all the price tags are basically the same as NYC, only the units are in pounds instead of dollars. So imagine your favorite pair of Tommy jeans... instead of $80, they would be £80 (or $160). That turkey sandwich in NYC for $12 would be $24 here in London.

Try this one of for size: Gas (or petro as it's called here) is approx £1.8 per liter (or $3.6/liter = $14.61/gallon. Think about that next time you're complaining at the gas pump.... or when chosing between a hybrid or an SUV.

As of today, the exchange rate was 1.97 USD to GBP. That said, that's the bank rate you would get only if you used your debit/credit card (assuming no exchange rate fee from your bank). If you wanted to convert your cash, you would have to do it at an exchange booth. At the last booth I noticed, the "buy and sell" rates for USD and GBP was approx 1.91 and 2.04, respectively. We're meeting with a currency trader tomorrow and will hopefully get some additional insight into the forex markets and what makes those spreads widen or narrow.

For more information about the CBS Pre-MBA World Tour, visit

Friday, May 2, 2008

London - First Impressions

I'm still not sure how I plan to structure these blogs, so I'll just start with a bulleted list of my first impressions in each city. Hopefully, over the course of the week, as we obtain deeper insight into each city's cultural treasures, we will be able to see which of the impressions were more or less accurate. So here goes...

- Surprisingly not much different from the US
- Feels a lot like Boston (I guess they call it NEW England for a reason)
- The subways and streets are very clean (curious, as there are no garbage cans on the streets)
- No street signs. Oh wait, they're on the buildings... ok, never mind, London has street signs too
- Transit system is very sophisticated. Double-decker buses seem like a great idea.
- PDA (i.e. making out in public) seems to be the norm. I'm guessing this is just a taste of what to expect in continental europe...?
- Beer advertisements all seem to emphasize "all natural ingredients". Curious if this is just a recent marketing trend, or an ordinary cultural preference.
- Not as diverse as expected
- Everything closes around 6 PM.

This is just from the first 12 hours... I'm sure there will be lots of other observations to be made, and lessons to be learned, over the next 5-6 days in London.

For more information about the CBS Pre-MBA World Tour, visit

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Let the adventures begin!

Welcome to the first blog posting for the CBS Pre-MBA World Tour. For those of you who may be tuning in for the first time, this blog is dedicated to covering the adventures, first impressions and learning experiences of several Columbia Business School students during our summertime journey to nearly 20 cities around the world.

Our first stop begins in London where we plan to visit with a few of our future Cass of 2010 classmates and the local alumni chapter.

For more information about the CBS Pre-MBA World Tour, visit