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Moving near London from the US

(53 Posts)
ecemom Mon 11-Feb-13 13:07:43

My husband has just taken a two year expat role near West Thurrock/ Grays. We are from Ohio and have never even been to London or the UK, so I need lots of help/ suggestions. We will be bringing along our 6, 4, and 3 year old children early this summer. My husband's company is paying for moving expenses, some of our housing, and the kids schooling. We know not to live near his plant, but does anyone have suggestions for towns within a 35 minute (?) commute. We need to have access to a good primary school. Since the company will pay, tuition isn't a problem. We are also Catholic, so a Catholic school would be fine. I think commute, safety, and schooling are our biggest issues. We would love to find a nice little town with parks, shops, and restaurants nearby. Again, any suggestions or places to avoid would be much appreciated.

NorthernNumpty Mon 11-Feb-13 18:37:37

I think saffron walden would be a complete pain to commute M11/M25 a nightmare in rush hour. I agree though, lovely place.

ClaudiaCutie Mon 11-Feb-13 18:48:34

Ecemom - how exciting! This will be a wonderful adventure for you and the family! Great idea to plan ahead and don't rely too much on the reloc companies for seeing things from your point of view. Knowledge is power, and all that.

Schools results and lots of info about each school should be readily available online. Looking up the Ofsted reports here:

Some planning tips for checking out areas that might help you:

Have a browse on the "for rent" section of and have a good look at the houses in a given area. To see floorplans of typical houses in an area, look under the "for sale" section of the same website - most houses for sale will have floorplans showing, but To Rent properties don't often have these. Check out the room sizes of typical houses - they will probably look small to someone coming from the US.

Once you have an idea of an area, make sure you understand the postcode ranges in a given area. Learn how the postcode system in the UK works; it's an extremely comprehensive system and a full postcode (typically six figures) will zoom down to identify an area of roughly sixteen houses.

You can check the demographics of a postcode in this website:

If you have a street address but not the postcode, you can get the postcode from the Royal Mail website.

All this (and checking out streetscapes etc on Google Streetview) can be done online way before you get here. It's a great way of ruling areas in or out.

This move will be a wonderful opportunity and don't worry about the driving adjustment, people are generally very courteous and forgiving even though they don't like to admit it. Within a very short time it will be second nature.

grovel Mon 11-Feb-13 19:10:30

An American expat's view of Essex.

Umlauf Mon 11-Feb-13 19:13:26

Hi! I don't know Essex but just wanted to say don't panic about the other side of the road thing. I've just had to do it in Spain and it was terrifying for all of half an hour. You get used to it so quickly its ridiculous! And welcome!

ecemom Mon 11-Feb-13 20:11:38

I am guessing Essex is the most logical choice. I am not sure my husband is willing to make the commute up north as far as some have suggested, but Chelmsford area and south seem like they would work. Any other input into the schools mentioned or places I have to check out during our house hunting/ school trip next month would still be appreciated.

It seems like most of you think I will get used to the idea of driving on the other side of the road relatively quickly. I am willing to give it a try, but I can't promise I won't be the crazy lady in the round-about that can't find her way. (For the record- we have maybe 2 in my whole large city here in Ohio!)

Thanks again for all the input and "welcomes". I am glad I stumbled upon this site!

NorthernNumpty Mon 11-Feb-13 20:29:07

If you have a budget for the house m'netters are fabulous at finding you a selection of properties, we love a bit of house hunting by proxy

NorthernNumpty Mon 11-Feb-13 20:29:39

Oh and you could repost in chat for more traffic?

nowwearefour Mon 11-Feb-13 20:34:55

New hall school nr Chelmsford is catholic and well regarded

grovel Mon 11-Feb-13 20:48:03

When my DH worked for Texas Instruments the expats (and partners) coming here were given 3 driving lessons by professional instructors.

ecemom Mon 11-Feb-13 20:50:27

I will check the expat package for that, but I don't remember seeing anything in the generic one my husband has so far. That would be great.

grovel Mon 11-Feb-13 20:58:35

Most people over here learn on stick shifts so the instructors did the lessons in the (generally automatic) cars rented by the expats.

namechangecity Mon 11-Feb-13 21:04:38

I was going to say brentwood too - really nice place. You could look for houses on clements park development - lots of nice big houses to rent there.

NaturalBlondeYeahRight Mon 11-Feb-13 21:56:44

Just spoken to a relative by coinsidence that lives in that area. She said all of those private schools are well regarded, Brentwood is a proper town whereas as the other two are villages. It's all very exciting, if a bit daunting. Don't know how I would feel if other half said we were off to US for a while wine
You should keep posting, even when you choose, just to give you an idea what we Brits are like (reserved but nosy mostly)

sittinginthesun Mon 11-Feb-13 22:01:30

Yes, we can be your first proper UK friends (following your thread, even though I have no knowledge of Essex!).grin

ecemom Mon 11-Feb-13 22:12:21

I was the one that actually encouraged my husband to go after the role in London. The other options for expat roles are mostly in Asia and the long flights over there and my utter lack of knowledge in languages outside of English, made London seem like a great location. We figured any chance for our young kids to get outside the US and experience another culture (before they are old enough to hate us for it!) would be an opportunity we couldn't turn down.

I will take any British "friends" I can get. I literally know nobody that lives there. I am feeling a bit better about my nerves seeing how many people have already posted helpful suggestions.

mumzy Mon 11-Feb-13 22:27:42

The other option is to live in London proper and your dh commute to Grays. This could work out well as he would be going the opposite direction to the commuting masses. The C2C from Fenchurch street goes to Grays depending on your budget I'd suggest the Barbican in the city of London, Spitalfields or by the river at Limehouse, Wapping as possibilities. All these areas have both state and private school options and they are all fantastic central locations for exploring London.

grovel Mon 11-Feb-13 22:42:44

mumzy, I thought about suggesting that. It's certainly an option.

Poor OP. Such a lot to think about but I think she's got a great attitude and will make it work.

difficultpickle Mon 11-Feb-13 22:53:14

If I were coming to London for a short time I'd definitely live in London and commute out to Grays rather than living in a commuter town.

mummytime Mon 11-Feb-13 22:55:32

Saffron Walden is lovely, but a bit of a commute. There are nice villages near Brentwood, and some of the houses that way might appeal to an American.
Grays is a dump!

Good luck!

NaturalBlondeYeahRight Mon 11-Feb-13 22:56:45

Mumzy, was also thinking that until she said work wasn't near station. It depends what situation you are in at the moment, city or suburbia? Much more exciting to live in London 'proper' for a short while. Plenty of green spaces. 3 children under 6 might be 'interesting' in a London pad though......

ecemom Mon 11-Feb-13 23:07:08

I live in total mid-west suburbia here and have never really lived in a city. We are so far away from any cities that would rival London in size. I live in nice community here where the houses are a bit older but the schools are fantastic. Although I would love the idea of living "in" London, I would need a push. And, my husband's work isn't within walking distance of any stations (bus included).

KumquatMae Mon 11-Feb-13 23:22:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

grovel Mon 11-Feb-13 23:34:11

ecemom, I think you're right (and realistic). You can live in Central London when your kids are at College and your husband is President of P&G's International Division.

MonkeySea Mon 11-Feb-13 23:48:41

This looks nice, if a bit 'Essex':

Please note: it does NOT look like that for more than six or seven days a year in this country.

A lot of house for the money though.

mumzy Tue 12-Feb-13 09:09:58

You could live in Limehouse/ wapping and your dh could drive to Grays straight down the A13 and the advantage is he'll be going the opposite direction to everyone else and much less likely to be in traffic jams probrably takes 30 minutes on a straight run a better commute than on public transport imo and similar costs also gets over the problem of not being near a station at the other end. I would urge OP to live in London if expenses allow rather than a commuter town as its a totally different experience especially if school fees are paid for. The following are private primary schools in the local area: and there is also a good state catholic school locally HTH

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