American family moving to London with 3 little kids...

(380 Posts)
Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 20:41:28

Hello all!

I have no idea where to post this... My husband and I might relocate to London at the beginning of next year. He has a job opportunity in Covent Garden. Our kids are 6, 4 and 2 years old. We will be moving from the NYC area. We are very excited but I'm very nervous at the same time. I'm so worried about being isolated and lonely.

Which area is best for American Expats? Do we try for a church/Christian school? Do we attempt to apply to the American School? I heard this is very hard to get into. Will we be in for a culture shock? Do you think it will be easy to make friends with people? Only asking because a couple people told me it's very hard to make friends, the British keep to their own. I didn't know what to say to that and thought it was a bit silly.

AIBU? ;)

Thank you in advance!

AlwaysDancing1234 Sun 08-May-16 20:48:30

I'm not really great at giving advice on schools but I just wanted to give you hope that not all Londoners are miserable and antisocial!! Once you are here (or as soon as you know the area you'll be moving to) look online at the council website for info about toddler groups in your area. Lots of libraries run story time, art & craft and sometime sessions which are good for meeting people.
My sons class at school come from all different corners of the World and we all get along great. Good luck with the move! smile

Tryingtostayyoung Sun 08-May-16 20:51:26

Well I live in greater London, as pp said check out your local toddler groups and any coffee mornings, you'll make friends with school mums so don't worry!! It's all very multicultural so I don't think you'll have to worry about actually sending kids to the American school!! Do you know whereabouts in London your going to move to?

UmbongoUnchained Sun 08-May-16 20:51:53

I think you will be fine. Just bare in mind that I find British people tend to be quite overwhelmed by Americans but it's not personal. Americans tend to be quite full on a direct where as British are much more reserved and in direct.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Sun 08-May-16 20:59:49

Boys or girls?
How long will you be here?
Do you want to integrate or hang out with other Americans (both fine, no judgment here).

Will your DH have a housing allowance? How much? Will he have an allowance for school fees?

Sorry for the third degree! I'm Canadian and live fairly close to the American School. My kids go to a very good independent school and I work at another. People say independent school rather than private school.

I reckon you want to live in St John's Wood (where the American School is, lots of Americans, and a lovely but verrrrry pricey neighbourhood) or Hampstead (lots of good independent schools, families and lots of expats from various countries) or somewhere in between. Independent school fees are about £15k per year per child for primary - hence the allowance questions.

If you end up in Hampstead or environs there are a whole slew of "NW3 Mummy" sort of groups and websites.

Do you want to buy our place as we are relocating to Canada grin

Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 21:02:03

Quick responses...Thank you!

I have no idea where to move in London. I know that I do not want to drive, that is a whole new can of worms! I heard Chelsea is popular with American expats but again we don't have to live where all the Americans do. I would love to live near parks. I don't know which school area to move to. Our budget is £10K per month. Is there a good school zone we should try for? We would love a Chrisitan based school too. smile

Oh and I'm more of an introvert, quite shy so I won't be too overbearing ;)

Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 21:05:47

Thanks, HeartsTrumpDiamonds!
We have 3 girls. So far it looks like we'll be there 4 years but you never know, it could be longer. We are a pretty laidback family so don't want to be in the most upper class neighborhood. But schools are important. We would go independent or Christian. I heard the publics are good too but I don't know about the zoning...

BikeRunSki Sun 08-May-16 21:15:08

Just a word of advice re: terminology. In the UK "public school" refers to elected private secondary schools (from the time 100s of years ago when schools decided to admit people from any where in the country, not just their parish).

Government funded education is referred to as "state schooling".

I haven't lived in London for 20 years - pretty much since I left school - so have no further advice really.

LadyAntonella Sun 08-May-16 21:18:04

Was just about to say the same as bike. Confusingly, "public school" in UK terminology means private! confusedsmile. Though, I know plenty of uk natives who wouldn't know that either.

SpaceCadet4000 Sun 08-May-16 21:18:17

Hi OP, I'm a Brit but DH an American expat in London. We don't have kids so can't provide any input there, but there are a huge number of expat communities in London and he found it very easy to settle in!

In his experience, the friends he's made are about 50% British and 50% expats from all over the world. It's a really global city and makes for a very exciting social life grin. He's fairly introverted, but what really helped push him to settle was finding his alma mater's alumni in London network (was a surprise as he went to a fairly small mid-western college)- it meant when he felt a little alienated by British culture he could vent to some people who understood grin

I would second the suggestion of looking around Hampstead / St John's Wood if you can afford it- it's a very international area and I think that can make people more inclined to open up to others in their friendship groups.

Likewise Chelsea, Fulham, Parsons Green and even down into Putney can be great areas to live + lots of green space around.

Nairsmellsbad Sun 08-May-16 21:22:23

If you want your DCs to slot back into the US schooling system in a few years, you may find it simpler to send them to the American School. Although many people don't and it's still fine. If you are friendly I'm sure you won't have a problem making friends. Having smallish children is always one of the best ways to get to know new people anyway.

thanksamillion Sun 08-May-16 21:24:15

OP assuming that you're a Christian (if not this might not apply) you might want to get hold of this book which will give you a gentle insight into life in the UK smile

Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 21:26:32

Thank you, spacecadet! That is helpful. Will you guys live permanently in London?

Do Americans live in the small suburbs outside of London? Like Surrey, etc? I reallyyyy don't want to drive though. Oy.

Ahhh, so "public" school means private? Interesting. I will have to read up on all that.

Are there any unsafe areas that we should stay out of?

Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 21:28:04

Yes, we are Christians! Will definitely get a hold of that book. Many thanks!

Good point on having young children. I hope it makes things a bit easier to meet people.

zoobaby Sun 08-May-16 21:28:45

You have a healthy budget so that's a start. Once you find an area you like, look on the local council website and search for "school place allocation". You'll be able to find a document which lists all the schools in the borough, showing how many school places they offer each year, how many people applied for a place (so you can see which are most popular), and most crucially... what criteria the pupils fulfilled. In the UK, state schools must be "fairly/equally" accessible so they have critera for allocating places. First priority goes to looked after children, then there's this witH a psychological or social reason for why they must go there, then faith can sometimes come in to play (recognised worshippers etc), then the final criteria will be any Ithere children based on their geographical distance from the school. Some schools have VERY small catchments. As in, you need to live within 200 yards in order to get in under the "any other" category (hence the reason why I said schools are "fairly/equally" accessible because this is obviously where the price of property comes in).

Or if you want to go for independent schooling, look at The Good Schools Guide. Also Tatler has a top ten (or whatever) list

LadyAntonella Sun 08-May-16 21:30:38

Yes, my understanding is that some private schools are called "public schools", but some aren't. I don't understand the "rules" about it, but I think the big, famous private schools like Eton and Roedean are called "public schools". If someone is a "public school boy / girl" it means they went to a good private school. I think that's right! grin

Ceilinglight Sun 08-May-16 21:30:58

If you lived in surrey, you'd probably want a car. It's very leafy.

jay55 Sun 08-May-16 21:32:11

For a Commute to Covent Garden you've lots of choice as it's an easy walk from multiple tube stations and you've a massive budget.
London state schools can be difficult for places but there is movement in year. How long are you looking to stay?

Arty3542 Sun 08-May-16 21:34:20

Wow, thanks zoobaby. All good places to start. Yes, £10K is the top of our budget. Would love to find a 4 bedroom for a little less.

Artandco Sun 08-May-16 21:39:03

You probably will want to drive if you don't live right next to schools. Bare in mind private schools begin at 4years, and go pre prep 4-8 years, prep 8-13, secondary 13-18. So with your ages you would have at least two different drop off locations as would have nursery and pre prep, then by the time youngest at school, eldest would be in prep. It's rare they are in same location and most start similar times so would need car to have a chance to move between locations.

Also Christian schools are not really big. They might be a religious school but it would just be a regular school with the odd religion in. Be aware that Christian religion isn't that big in the uk, and most who are are quiet about their religion and just do church on Sunday's maximum. Most who are Christians are only on paper, not in practice.

The tubes lines are the focus for housing. For Covent Garden it would be good to live near the Piccadilly line.

lljkk Sun 08-May-16 21:41:26

I believe there are Agents who will help you find a place to live.
The American ex-pat community is pretty huge in London.

cdtaylornats Sun 08-May-16 21:41:57

talk.uk-yankee.com/index.php#2

The UK Yankee forum has lots of UK based Americans. Advice on everything including taxes, legal, schools, shipping etc.

Artandco Sun 08-May-16 21:43:02

For £10,000 a month you could live directly in Covent Garden area if you wanted also

idontlikealdi Sun 08-May-16 21:43:56

I'm out in zone 4 and my children go to a catholic school and there are Americans in every year groupsmile it's relatively cheap and a decent commute into town for work, 4 bed around £2k a month. You need to decide if you want to be in London or on outskirts. No need for a car here but it's helpful.

CantAffordtoLive Sun 08-May-16 21:45:03

FFS why would you want to move to London? Christ! Well good luck.

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