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Talk to me about moving to the US

(33 Posts)
FreedomOfTheTess Mon 05-Aug-13 10:20:26

DH works for the London office of a US law firm, that has several offices throughout the US, and every now and then someone from the London office gets approached by one of the US offices for a chance to work in the States.

Last week my husband was approached by the Pittsburgh office. Initially it would be for two years, and as long as they were happy with DH, he would then be offered the opportunity to extend that for another three years.

They would like a decision from DH by the end of August, so while it seems like we've got a while to discuss it, it isn't that long away.

I'm OK with a move to the States. My mum is American (and I have dual UK-US citizenship as a result), originally from Boston, and we visit my family in the States at least twice a year.

However, rather obviously, moving there is a lot different to regular visits!

To those of you who have made the move, can I ask the following:

1. How did your children cope with the move? Our three oldest children would be 14, 7 and 4 when we would be required to make the move. (Our youngest would only be 6 months). NB: DS1 (currently 13) is delighted over the prospect of a move to Pittsburgh, as a few years ago he adopted the Pittsburgh Penguins as his ice-hockey team, much to the dismay of my Bruins support family!

2. How did YOU cope with the move?

3. How quickly did you adjust to life in the States?

4. How did you find moving away from your families? In our case, it would be made slightly easier, as the majority of my mum's side of the family live in the US. The nearest family to us would be in Columbus, Ohio which is where my cousin lives with her family. She tells me that's about a three hour drive from Pittsburgh.

5. Is there any other advice you'd pass on while we make this decision.

Obviously I can speak to my family about some things, but as they've always lived in the US, what I can't get from them is feedback on making a move to the US from the UK. And my mum hasn't live in the US for over 35 years, so she feels any words of wisdom she has, are outdated.

I'd particularly be interested to hear from anyone who may live in or around Pittsburgh (but appreciate this might be a long shot). I do know Pittsburgh, as my cousin went to Carnegie Mellon, and I visited her a couple of times.

Thanks in advance.

NB: Eek!

Keden Mon 05-Aug-13 17:48:47


I'm afraid I can't give you much advice on the kid front, as I haven't any myself BUT I did live in Pittsburgh for 3yrs and I loved it! Met my husband there and now we've moved to Canada.

Pittsburgh has been consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the US, as well as a great place to raise a family (very good school districts, reasonable cost of living and lots of arts and culture).

I lived in Shadyside which was heavy on young-professionals. Still, there were lots of families around. Will your husband be based in the city proper or out in the suburbs? Public transit within the city is decent, but once you cross any of the bridges, you definitely need a car.

I am probably biased, but I think Pittsburgh is a great city smile

FreedomOfTheTess Mon 05-Aug-13 20:09:57

Thanks Keden - great to hear from someone else (other than a family member) who has lived in Pittsburgh.

I must say, I've been doing some research online about schooling and house prices (among other things) and I'm really impressed.

My cousin's input on Pittsburgh is fairly limited, as she said to me, "I was a student, doing student things, I can't comment on the things you want me to comment on." grin

He'd be in the city proper, but if we do make the move, we'd be looking at living in the 'burbs I think. He is used to commuting, he works in London, but we live in Surrey (close to the London border), so it feels like we live in the 'burbs of London at times.

At first, I was kind of gutted that DH had received an approach from the Pittsburgh office and not the Boston office, but from what I've been reading online it seems like Pittsburgh would probably be better for our family.

At the moment, we're sitting in the 'lets do this' camp, but we won't make a final decision yet.

Keden Mon 05-Aug-13 20:57:12

Oh Boston is brilliant I know, but Pittsburgh's not too shabby either smile

The plus side is many of the good "surburbs" are rather close to the city. I'm talking 15 - 30min commutes, which really is quite good. Anything outside of this map then reckon 30mins+ for a daily commute.

Good luck with the decision making process!

Want2bSupermum Wed 07-Aug-13 06:00:30

I have heard good things about Pittsburgh. It sounds like you are open to the move so I would go for it. When it comes to neigotiating a package your DH needs to think of the following areas:

1. Education - you might need to go private if the local schools are not following the IB and you plan to return to the UK after 3 yrs. If you plan to stay you need to figure out how you will pay for college fast. It is $50k a year for private college tuition plus another $20k for living costs. If you have been out of the UK you will not qualify in the UK as a home student.
2. Housing - if you plan to return to the UK you don't want to be selling your home. Instead have them pay for your rental costs. I have found in NJ that renting a decent home that is suitable for children in a good school district is very expensive - $5000/mth+. This is because most people buy.
3. Pensions - If the intent is for you to return to the UK you need to have them keep making contributions to a pension. You can then also elect to contribute to a 401k if they have one and if you don't work you can put $5k away in a spousal IRA. Ideally they should provide a service that sorts this all out for you.
4. Vacation - Make sure your DH gets enough. When you visit family it is not vacation. I get 3 wks a year and I spent two weeks visiting family. I have not had a true break this year. Next year I get another week - thank the lord. Push hard for 4wks.
5. Check the health insurance they have. Read the docs just to be sure you know what you are getting in for.

FreedomOfTheTess Wed 07-Aug-13 10:40:53

Thanks Supermum - that's excellent advice - I've e-mailed it to DH to raise with his employer today.

Thank you for taking the time to post all that. Much appreciated.

helzapoppin2 Wed 07-Aug-13 22:07:44

We returned from Washington a year ago. Went for two years with Dh's job, stayed five years 2007-12
I completely echo the advice about not buying a house. The market is similar to the UK. Some houses get stuck. We had to get tenants in as we couldn't sell ours before our return date, and it will be a load off my mind when it does sell. You also have to fill out tax forms in both countries while you have income in both.
On the other hand, keeping the UK house was the best thing we did as it made moving back so much easier!
The college thing is difficult. We only had one son with us and managed to pay his fees out of income, but we were lucky. His fees were $23,000 per annum and he lived at home. That may all seem a way off for you, but it comes up fast! International students are also not allowed to work in the US in the hols, but ours earned a bit working on campus. Are your children dual nationals? That would make everything easier!
As an experience it was fantastic, but I did also suffer from homesickness, although I worked out my strategies for watching UK TV through the computer hooked up to the telly, and found a source of Cadburys chocolate. That, and the regular visits from friends and rellies with packs of Tetleys tea bags made it more bearable!

Want2bSupermum Wed 07-Aug-13 23:59:22

You're welcome! I make my DH neigotiate hard for moves because I don't want to move with two small children! You sound like you have a positive outlook towards the move which will make it all that much easier for your family to make the transition.

Rereading what I wrote about education I didn't include considering the option of boarding schools for your eldest. That way their education would not be disrupted through GCSE and A'Levels. It all depends on the child though.

helzapoppin2 Thu 08-Aug-13 08:26:13

A few observations about everyday life!
Your children will probably assimilate very quickly and speak with American accents!

The year has a different pace because you will celebrate different "holidays", 4th July and Thanksgiving being the big ones. Christmas is over quickly (no Boxing Day). Easter isn't such a big deal either.You will gain many small holidays, but your husband may not get them all, Columbus Day, Memorial Day, Presidents' Day, etc, etc. the importance of "the holidays" cannot be overestimated. America is very keen on "traditions".

I had to be imaginative over food shopping. Some things cannot be found there, really small things like vegetable suet for the Christmas pudding, and glacé cherries and citrus peel. Big supermarkets often have a British section, although the choice of foods is based on a typical 1960s diet!
Wholefoods (expensive) is your go to store when you get the urge for a bit of Stilton, pâté and posher British goods.
On the subject of food, in order to get what you want you generally end up shopping at a variety of stores to replicate what you'd buy at one supermarket here. I quite liked that, I was always on a hunt for the perfect loaf of bread! For chocolate, World Market stock Cadburys!

The weather! They have a whole tv channel dedicated to it. It is generally more extreme than the UK, so can become quite an event. With extreme weather comes power outages because the cables are generally above ground, these can last a few hours or a couple of weeks.. The schools shut down when there is extreme weather like heavy snow. It's more of a big thing than in the UK. The plus side is you get more sunshine as well! will probably have good coverage through Dh's job, but every doctors visit or prescription carries a co-pay. Ours was $20. The treatment is generally very good.Take the opportunity to have all your little niggles sorted out. Full blood panels are done regularly so you end up knowing yourself inside out. I discovered I have a dicky thyroid, which I doubt they'd ever have picked up on here!

You will probably discover much more emphasis on religion. It's very normal to invoke god in all aspects of life. I asked a friend if an atheist could ever become President. He said "Yes, but it would be like skiing uphill!"
We were churchgoers, but our church was very moderate. Through it I did some very enjoyable volunteer work with the homeless. Volunteering is BIG in Washington!

In dealing with companies on the phone, it's hard to ask a speculative question or veer off script. You have to know exactly what you want.

Provided you live near a dry cleaners you will never have to wash and iron a shirt ever again. They do them so well and cheaply!

These are random thoughts, and I'm sure there's many more! Good luck with your decision!

Wibblypiglikesbananas Fri 09-Aug-13 03:14:03

Hi Freedom! I posted the following on another thread about being 100% behind a move abroad with your partner last month. As we moved to the US, hopefully some of this will be useful to you too. Sadly, it's probably the negative stuff that may be of more use - but they're just things to think about and given that you have US heritage anyway, you'll find it all a lot easier than I did!

One thing I would insist on, with hindsight, is paid for UK flights each year. DH's job is not an expat job but there was some room for negotiation and we should have pushed for this as it gets pricy to make return trips. I'd echo Want re the leave situation - and check anything else such as maternity/paternity leave if that were something that could arise. Bizarrely (to me at least), DH will get 4 weeks' paid paternity leave when DC2 is born later in the year - because the women where he works get four weeks' paid maternity leave...

I don't know if you've seen it, but there's also a Living in America 2013 thread, that you could post on too if you wanted more traffic?

Helza - we must have arrived in DC just after you left. I absolutely agree with everything you've said - especially the weather panic and shopping around! Honestly, we do Trader Joe's, Safeway, Wholefoods, Target and sometimes Walmart!

Hi, in answer to your question, yes, I was behind the move (well, 99%!).

We moved to the US when DD was 9 months old and I was still on maternity leave. I'm currently on a career break from my old UK job and have the option to go back within the next three years.

Good things:

- I was able to stay at home with DD. DH earns more here than in London, so being a SAHM became a reality. We both agreed this was what we wanted.

- The climate is so much better here. We all spend so much more time outside, even just in the garden. Local parks and facilities, including pools, are excellent and generally free to residents. DD and I will be spending most summer afternoons at the pool across the road from the house we rented.

- The role is excellent for DH is terms of career progression and should lead to other excellent opportunities. These will benefit us as a family.

- We have kept our old flat in London and rented it out. Whilst we are not making a profit, we have kept a base in the UK, mortgage history etc.

- We have made some great friends here, from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Bad things:

- I don't agree with a lot of US politics, at all. I find Guantanamo abhorrent, the gun laws ridiculous and I have never lived in a more racist, sexist country (bar China). It takes some getting used to as you can't complain really as you 'chose' to move here.

- I am a dependent on DH's work visa (H1B). You need to check the kind of visa you'd be on if you came here. I cannot work here, full stop. If your DH gets an L visa, an intra company transfer, you'd be able to get a permit to work. Whilst I was keen to be a full time mum a year ago, right now not having the option to get a job drives me crazy at times.

- Linked to the above, not having the right to work means no social security number, no credit for anything (eg a mobile contract), no rights to anything much at all. It is extremely frustrating to go from being a person in your own right with a career, an excellent credit score, a property in London etc, to being refused a Gap card as you're a none-entity.

- Americans work long hours! DH is pretty much always on call. My Swiss friend says his job (and her DH's) would be three people's roles in Switzerland!

- American mums tend to go back to work and have a very short maternity leave period, if at all. I nearly cried the first time I took DD to story time at the local library as I was the only mum. Everyone else was a nanny. Consequently, my friends tend to be other expats in a similar position to me. I have some American mum friends, who have been extremely generous and welcoming, but they're in the minority when it comes to my friendship group. A lot my friends are either other ex-Londoners or German/Swiss/French.

- Health insurance. I will NEVER get my head around the corruption that exists here in terms of health care provision. The biggest US businesses are the HCPs. My healthcare (and DD's) is dependent on DH being employed, and his employer can choose to change insurance company schemes at any point. Consequently, we'd need to change paediatrician for DD, dentist etc. It's pretty scary when you've been used to the NHS and then the option to top up with Bupa or whoever in the UK. My friend has just had to change OB and hospital at 36 weeks' pregnant as her husband's job changed - can you imagine?!

- Linked to the above, the American way seems to be (IME) that it's your own fault if you're ill or too poor to afford medical care. We are in a major city and homelessness is rife (much more so than the UK).

- The expat community - great in some ways, but people are always moving on. It's hard when DD asks for her little friends and a couple have since moved away.

So - it's been a mixed bag. Culturally, it would have been easier to go to somewhere else in Europe rather than to move to the US, despite the language. We expected it to be easier than it was because of the prevalence of English but systems are so different (tax/buying a car/medical care etc) that it's been a hugely frustrating learning curve. After just over a year, we are all (finally) happy and settled and strangely, after my last trip 'home', I was glad to be back! We're planning on being here for another couple of years at least, so we'll see...

Good luck!

FreedomOfTheTess Fri 09-Aug-13 10:22:35

Wow - thank you so much everyone - so much helpful information and insight.

DH and I are going to sit down at the weekend, and have a long talk, and we'll ask our oldest three children for their thoughts. Although I know that DS (the 13-year old) is chomping at the bit to make the move.

I would be able to work in the US, because of having citizenship, so that's not a worry for me. I'd probably stay at home though, if I'm honest, because we could afford for me to do so.

So much to think and talk about.

BiddyPop Fri 09-Aug-13 15:33:14

If you live there for a period, would it give your DCs a US passport? (I know as I was the one born there, I want to go within the next decade to get DD hers, I don't know what rules would be in your case - but may be worth considering in terms of their future options).

FreedomOfTheTess Sat 10-Aug-13 13:19:07

From what I can gather from the U.S. citizenship website, it sounds as though my children would automatically qualify for U.S. citizenship under parental grounds, once we're living there.

I found this information...


Automatic U.S. Citizenship After Birth - But Before the Age of 18

The child was under 18 or not yet born on February 27, 2001 (this applies to all my children):

At least one parent is a U.S. citizen, the child is currently under 18 and residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to lawful admission for permanent residence.


I'll have to do a bit more digging about that though, but it's my interpretation of it.

FreedomOfTheTess Tue 13-Aug-13 10:55:14

I just want to thank you all once again, for the wonderful advice/words of wisdom you shared.

We sat down at the weekend, talked it all over, there were some tears at some point. It certainly wasn't easy.

Our final decision is, that we're going to do it, we're going to make the move.

DS1 (13) is completely on board with it. I sat down and talked through things with him, making him realise what he'd be giving up, such as his rugby. Earlier this year he started at the elite academy of a professional rugby side, he's got so much potential, and if anything that was the one thing that was holding me back from saying yes with 100% certainty.

However, he stunned me when he said that in the last few months, he had actually decided that he didn't want to continue at the academy, he doesn't think professional rugby would be for him. Fair enough, I respect that.

So hearing that kind of sealed the deal.

We're going to do it.


Keden Tue 13-Aug-13 17:42:06

Woo-hoo! Congrats Freedom!!!

I hope this move is positive all around for your family. Best of luck!

And if for some reason it isn't, you can ALWAYS come back home. That was my mantra when we had to move to Canada because of DHs job. And so far so good!

FreedomOfTheTess Tue 13-Aug-13 20:18:51

Thanks Keden.

I feel really good about it, I actually think this will be great for our family.

We've slowly started to tell people, starting with my parents, who took it surprisingly well. However, they then said they've been discussing making the move across the pond, when they both retire in about 18 months time. I knew my mum always wanted to move back to her homeland when they retired, but I'm surprised my dad is on board with it.

Then we told DH's parents, who didn't seem that bothered, but then DH isn't their 'golden child'. If it had been the 'golden child' there would have been tears. For us they just shrugged and said, 'well if it's what you want'. Perhaps it hasn't hit home yet though!

butterfliesinmytummy Tue 13-Aug-13 21:27:38

Yay, well done! We landed in Texas 3 weeks ago and I'm already wondering how I lived so long without a walk in pantry, a waste disposal and whipped Philadelphia .... I'm easily pleased blush

NapaCab Wed 14-Aug-13 05:14:45

Sounds like you made the right decision for you and your family, Freedom. The reaction of your parents and PILs is the real telltale sign. If you had close ties to family in the UK who would desperately miss you out in the US then you would find the move harder but having that clean break where PILs aren't bothered and your own DPs are going to be moving out to the US soon anyway makes it a lot easier.

It is great that you have family ties to the US because you will transition much more easily. I have family ties to the US (although extended family rather than direct parents so no citizenship rights) and I do feel much more at home here culturally as a result.

One thing to be aware of though is how isolating it might be to be at home with the DC as a SAHM though. I am a SAHM here in the US purely because I don't have a visa to work. It is much harder for me as a result, I think, because I don't meet people in the day-to-day course of life but have to get out and meet people and do the whole 'Mommy & Me' scene. I have made some good friends here, fellow SAHMs mostly, but it is not easy! Socially I think working, even part-time, would be a lot easier.

And, yes, Americans do work crazy hours but if your DH is a lawyer in London in the private sector, he'll presumably be used to that.

Tax is also fiendishly complex by the way so make sure your DH's firm includes free tax advice / filing in your first year to make that easier for you.

FreedomOfTheTess Wed 14-Aug-13 11:10:13

DH isn't a lawyer, he is the finance and administration director, but yes that still includes crazy hours. I know those hours will be even crazier in the US, as does he.

Work is the only small area of concern I have. I've only ever worked for my dad's business, he has his own design and print company (which he's selling to a colleague when he retires), and I'm a graphic designer. I need to start looking at what options I have. I'm considering dabbling in being a freelance designer, seeing how that goes, as then I can work around family and home commitments. Need to look more into it.

This has actually happened at a good time for us, as I'm on maternity leave at the moment (DD2 born 9 weeks ago), so I'm at home and I can do a lot of researching and planning online while DD2 is napping.

Finding an area to live in, and sourcing out schools, that's my priority right now.

Want2bSupermum Wed 14-Aug-13 19:59:02

Congrats! When doing your research into different areas do consider what facilities are available and ask what they cost. In my town the pool, tennis courts and basketball courts cost $120 for a family or $30/person. The next town over to us charges $450/household for the town pool.

Your son will be fine - worst case he will play football over here!

FreedomOfTheTess Wed 14-Aug-13 20:07:27

Thanks for that Supermum - I didn't even think of that.

What's what my son said, either football or ice hockey!

mummytime Wed 14-Aug-13 20:27:17

I would also investigate incase there is any Rugby, it could be an "in" to a whole other crowd. I was shocked when I worked at a US Uni that the first poster I saw was for the Women's Rugby team.

I would suggest you try to stay until your 14 year old finishes school. It is easier to go to UK Universities with US qualifications than swap between US and A'levels. Do try to argue for help with college fees whether in the US or UK, as you will probably lose UK home student status.

helzapoppin2 Wed 14-Aug-13 23:07:22

Ugh, tax! My advice is find a good accountant to help.
Even with one, its a palaver doing US and UK tax.
I'm doing the UK at the moment and there's a lot of work involved looking out the right information.
I wouldn't have known where to start with the US tax!

Want2bSupermum Thu 15-Aug-13 02:23:16

Taxes are not that bad at all. When I moved over I had it all going on and the IRS were impressive with their help. No joke they walked me through all the schedules I had to fill out line by line but this was because I called them in January when they were quiet.

I scheduled a meeting with Inland Revenue in Bootle before I left the UK. The lady did her job but wasn't helpful at all. I brought along half a filing cabinet with me because I had no idea what was needed even though I had asked three times. I was annoyed that the only thing she ask for was my NI number hauled it all back to London with me. After I filled out the paperwork during my meeting plus a non resident form once I had actually left the UK I didn't pay tax on the rental income from my flat in the UK, only the US. I wasn't going to mess about with applying for refunds.

If your DH's employer does provide tax assistance make sure you are with one of the big 4. They do this sort of thing everyday and know it inside out.

There will probably be an Irish group that has a rugby team. They will be older people who will probably have no idea of the rules. I would tread very carefully with this one because my experience has been that Americans are super competitive. I saw a girls lacrosse game and when I played in the UK we were never that violent.

helzapoppin2 Thu 15-Aug-13 17:27:32

First, congratulations on coming to a decision, I'm sure you will all have a great time and it will be a fantastic experience.
I'm sure this is the last thing you want to talk about right now, but it might be worth having a little think about how long you're going for, initially, anyway.
I say this because I ended up in a very sticky situation with dh. We went for two years, stayed five (fine!) but I was only happy if I knew our time there was finite and we would return. He, meanwhile, wanted to stay indefinitely!
Cue dreadful arguments and much unhappiness! It was an awful period of my life, and now I feel I am raining on your parade, I'm sorry!
Just something to consider!

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