Possible relocation to NY/NJ - I don't think I want to go(42 Posts)
DH has been offered an opportunity to relocate to the NY office of his company. He is super keen to go, but I'm really apprehensive. We have a 6 yo and an almost 3 yo. I have no idea about schools/nurseries etc in the US. Over here, I'm a SAHM with a little online retail business (don't earn any money from it yet). DD2 attends nursery 2 days a week and will be going 3 days a week from Jan. DD1 is in the local (lovely) primary school (y2) which she loves. DH would be working in Weehawken and will be sole earner. Salary will be about $170k before tax. This is all likely to happen around Easter 2017 and will be for 36m initially. We will have to use public school as can't afford private. Can somebody give me an idea of how I even go about finding good schools? DH doesn't want a really long commute (an hour tops). Can we live somewhere family friendly with open spaces (house not apartment) within an hour of his office and with good schools on his salary? Is he being realistic? Is it horribly competitive to get into a public school (by public, I mean non fee paying), and how do we do this if we don't yet live there? Also, I really need DD2 to be at nursery for at least 2 days a week. She needs it, and for my own sanity, so do I.
I don't know whether I am so apprehensive because I'm being realistic, or because I am really risk averse and don't really like change. DH is much more open to new things and sees this as a huge adventure. We have done this once before - upped sticks and moved to Calgary, Canada with a couple of months notice for a year with his job, but in the days before we had kids and we'd both always wanted to live in Canada. I have never wanted to live in the US and have absolutely no experience of NY apart from watching TV/movies! Help!!
Where is your DH's Manhattan office? If you let us know street and avenue, or even if it's on the east or west side of Manhattan, then it'll make it easier to recommend places to look at living.
You should be able to live somewhere family friendly with a house and outdoor space, but the rules with schools will vary depending on whether you end up in Westchester, Ct, NJ or in more suburban Queens.
A family relative lived in Stamford, Connecticut, which was lovely apparently.
I'd go like a shot. How fantastic!
Are you getting any other financial assistance from his employers? $170k sounds like a lot in the UK but living in certain parts of the US can be VERY expensive so I'd make sure that you can have a comparable standard of living to what you have in the UK.
We live in a supposedly slightly cheaper city and pay $4.5k a month in rent (terraced town house with no outdoor space), $30k a year in school fees for 5yr old, $800 a month for 2yr old's two days a week in nursery, $100+ a week for basic groceries. You'll have no credit history so things like car leasing and insurance will be horribly expensive for the three years. Children's activities are also much more expensive.
Then there's healthcare... Even if he has insurance through work make sure you look at what deductibles and copays you'd be responsible for.
You can reduce some of these costs if you can be flexible about where you live but you might have to compromise on your dh's commute and quality of schooling.
Generally with public schools you have to live in the correct school district for the school you want them to go to. School funding comes through property taxes on homeowners so good schools tend to mean higher taxes and therefore higher rents
In some areas there are schools that take from outside the school district (charter and magnet schools) but these tend to have pretty complex admissions procedures and local parents have a major advantage in figuring out how to get the places.
Sorry, final post...
I should say that I love living here but it has worked out significantly more expensive than I thought it would and we have a very generous relocation package.
Seeing as your husband will be working in Weehawken, check out areas such as Milburn and Montclair. NJ has the best school districts in the nation, and his commute won't be more than an hour.
As long as you're doing public schools, your budget should be fine to live on. As others have said, things such as children's activities run very expensive. My son's private swimming lesson is $110 a pop, and my friend just paid 5k for her son to join the local ice hockey travel team (he's 8, and just starting out, btw).
Thanks for your responses. His office address is Lincoln Harbour, NJ 07086.
AppleMagic - it's a pretty basic relocation package, and not an expat assignment, hence no school fees . We'll get help with shipping belongings, a month's accommodation paid for, flights etc.
Stopgap - is that $110 per lesson??? Wow!
I guess one of biggest concerns (the biggest is finding a decent school and some part time high quality daycare for the 3 yo) is that I detest city living. we moved out of London in 2009 and now live in semi rural West Sussex. House backs on to woods and fields, so I just climb over gate to walk dog (oh god, will it be dog friendly?), live in a biggish village with pubs, library, swimming pool, basic shops all within walking distance. I loved being in the city when I was younger, but now I hate that feeling of being closed in - it really affects my state of mind and makes me anxious. Will we be able to find somewhere to live that has open space nearby and no tall buildings?! Am I being unrealistic? My only knowledge of NYC and the NE USA comes TV and movies, so I really have no clue! I've spent quite a bit of time in Houston for work in the past. Will it be like that (not climate wise obvs!!)?
One of my cousins relocated to suburban New Jersey when his DC were at school. TBH it was fine for his 12 year old - the local public school was a lot better than the local state school she would have gone to in France, where they were living previously - but it was a disaster for his wife and older child. I think it can be pretty weird to be an expat with no expat advantages (private international school with ready made social life).
Bobochic - I don't think the lack of ready made social life would be too bad. He has other UK colleagues that have relocated there in the past few years (same deal as us) that would be willing to take us under their wing for a bit. I'm also concerned that I don't really have the right personality as I'm a bit of an introvert and home bird and find it hard to make good friends. Will I sink amongst the extrovert, shouty New Yorkers? Just when I start to talk myself into considering it, I think of something else that puts me off!
Fair enough - if there are other colleagues and their families there is a bit of a social set up, and people to answer key questions on arrival. Where do your DH's colleagues live? Can they help you with schools, housing etc?
Trust me, if your children are in school in suburban public schools, you will make a ton of friends. I've lived in the US for over a decade, and to be honest, have found people friendlier, more outgoing, and more willing to be sociable, and most of that time was spent in Manhattan.
But in any case, you won't be in NYC--you'll be in NJ.
I'm not ever so familiar with NJ, but do know that there are rural parts within Somerset and Hunterdon Counties. Through horse riding, I do know that Bedminster NJ has a ton of horse farms, but have no clue about the commute. City-data.com is a great place to start and ask questions.
Have a look at greatschools.org for school ratings in your likely area. Scaled 1-10, with 10 being the best.
We're outside Houston and pay $20 a week for lessons 4 kids to 1 teacher, and they're very good. Don't panic about the costs. You could google your area to see what's available, and other activities. For eg scouts is $125 a year, season of soccer was about the same included the shirt. Tennis lessons are $30 for 1.5hr group lesson.
There are a gazillion and one areas within an hour of Weehawken that are like where you live now. I have 7 acres of woods backing onto our almost 2 acre yard and can be in Manhattan within 45 minutes! My town also has pools, restaurants etc. EVERYWHERE is dog friendly!
$170k is perfectly doable. These threads always make me laugh as I'm not sure what MNetters think "regular" people earn in the tri-State. You're not going to be living in NYC itself and there's loads of other areas you can go for.
I haven't got time to write more tonight but feel free to pm me and I can give you a whole host of ideas and school districts to look at. I love it out here and I promise you I've never once been intimidated by the NY types. Good luck!
I live in NJ about 20 minutes from weehawken. NJ is lovely particularly the areas around Montclair and Englewood both easy commute to his work. Go onto Zillow or Trulia and you'll get an idea of house/rental prices which will help to build a budget.
Sorry I'm going to place mark as there's a chance I'm going to be in exactly the same situation as you at a similar time next year. DH is hoping to be offered a move to NJ, we live in rural Surrey, I am a SAHM and DCs are 6 and 3!
Thanks everyone for your responses. Will have a proper look tomorrow - been a busy few days!
Someone above mentioned Millburn; yes I live in Millburn township in Essex County (which also incorporates Short Hills which has its own zipcode and train station). It's a fantastic location....15 minutes/10 miles west on the Interstate Rt 78 from Newark airport (BA, Virgin and United airlines) and approx 40 to 50 minutes into Manhatten, although I have done it in 30 minutes non-rush hour in the car. It isn't far from Weehawken.
There is the enormous South Mountain Reservation of hundreds of acres which borders Millburn, parts of Maplewood and South Orange....thousands of trees, open spaces and a great place to take a dog as it also has a dedicated dog park. Also only 5 minutes by car from Millburn is the very nice Turtle Back Zoo, which is adjacent to the beautifully renovated reservoir park with a fabulous play park for children, swan boats etc. (see www.essexcountyparks.org and look up the South Mountain Reservation).
The school district is regarded as one of the best in the USA, although neighbourilng towns eg. Maplewood, South Orange, Summit, Chatham and Madison also have excellent schools too (and are all on the MidTown Direct line into NY Penn Station (underneath Madison Square Garden) and also trains into Hoboken for lower Manhattan. Your address/zipcode will determine which school district you are in, but all realtors will know exactly when you go to look at properties.
Whenever I go shopping for groceries in the wonderful Trader Joe's on the edge of Millburn and Maplewood (owned by Aldi, it's a pity they're not in the UK) I hear an English or Aussie accent, there are loads of expats around here. (Check out www.traderjoes.com)
OTOH if you are in a town which isn't on a train line, property prices are lower (commuter parking is usually restricted to township residents and some towns have long wait lists, although they may offer a jitney (minibus) service to some parts of suburban towns. You may wish to have a look at for example, West Orange. If your spouse doesn't need to go into NYC for meetings and will only need to be in Weehawken, this may be a good option for you and do bear in mind that the further you are from NYC then it tends to be cheaper for property as well.
Millburn has a number of nursery schools (kindergarten) including Montessori, a Co-Operative nursery school (parents volunteer to help out with running it one day per month) and across the street opposite Taylor Park is a non-religious preschool at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the town centre and I know Brit and Aussie expats living in and adjacent towns who sent their children there. (Episcopal is the US version of the Church of England)....actually the rector, Sheelagh Clarke is from Wimbledon, London and she operated the preschool before becoming the Rector (she's really nice btw).
You can google Millburn + Preschool and see the list. There are also Jewish preschools in the area....my son's GF is a nursery teacher at a non-denominational preschool in South Orange. Also in Maplewood is a daycare operated by the 'Y' (the YMCA).
As you are in rural West Sussex, I think that you may very much like the pretty 'village centre' in Maplewood (5 minutes in the car from Millburn) as it's the nearest equivalent I think to an English large village. Like Millburn It has good casual places to dine (all family friendly) and a pub!
Both towns have a cinema and the Recreation departments organize lots of sporting events eg. Ski trips for kids in the Winter and operate the open air swimming pools in the Summer....it gets very hot and humid and you need air-conditioning due to the high humidity. It's actually very warm right now, in the high 70sF, although this is unusually warm for October. Another great place is the Connection in Summit (8-10 minutes drive from Millburn) which is a family-friendly gym and indoor swimming pool....they offer dozens of programmes for children and adults for a reasonable price eg. Dance classes, yoga, gymnastics, cooking, art, swimming lessons/fun and children's birthday parties. See here:
I would also take a look at Montclair, but there isn't as much recreational space there compared to where I'm located and the schools are not as highly regarded....but I do like to go for brunch at Raymond's in Church St. lol!
Happy to discuss further if you wish; just send me a PM if you like.
Hamble I love your review of the mid-town direct towns. It is spot on.
I would also hasten to add that you should consider Weehawken itself and Hoboken. If you are willing to accept living in an apartment (1300-1500 sqft) can be had for $3600 in Hoboken and for less in Weehawken. Both towns have a publically funded PreK and are good school districts. I live in Hoboken and it's very easy to get around. You don't need a car so while your rent will be more you might find it a lot cheaper overall. If your DH is working at that big bank on the waterfront in Weehawken, uptown Hoboken is perfect for you. We have a Trader Joes coming to uptown Hoboken in April next year and we have all the manhattan delivery services so you have no need to drive anywhere if you don't want to. If you do need/want to drive you can use zipcar. I use it with kids and if you go this route I suggest getting the harnesses for the kids to wear so you don't have to carry car seats around town.
You can also do a two bed and have one child in the walk-in wardrobe. No joke, walk in wardrobes here are often bigger than a box room in the UK. Also, it snows here. Do you really want to be shovelling snow in January and Feb? If you are in an apartment you don't have to figure out who is going to shovel your driveway or rake your leaves. A house here isn't always the best solution. Our big house had close to zero insulation so our bills during the winter months were high at about $500.
From Hoboken we take the train (still not fully operating after the crash) to Summit for the swimming at the Connection. It is fab. We also have the sky club in Hoboken that I have booked for the children to have swimming lessons. We booked a 'private' lesson with a bunch of kids and siblings from DD1s preK3 class.
Thanks everyone. You have all been super helpful and it's given us loads to think about.
want2bsupermum - I don't think apartment living will work for us for various reasons including our dog. Also in order for me to deal with this move I need to be in a much less densely built up area. Millburn is looking like a real possibility at the moment. Currently waiting to hear back from some realtors.
hamble - thanks for all that info...really brilliant stuff.
Will continue to digest this, negotiate with the company (it probably is the big bank in Weehawken that somebody mentioned [UBS]), and research loads.
Millburn is great as is Summit. The only issue will be the commute and you will need two cars. From Millburn/Summit the most efficient way to get to that office is to drive to Harrison and take the PATH. You then will need a car too. Cars here are not cheap. Expect a small run around for your DH to cost $10k and your family car to cost $20k. Also, in a house you need to have a company coming in to do your snow removal and leaf removal. We did it ourselves (actually I did it!) as it is about $250 a month (all year around) for a small lot. Our neighbours with an average lot were paying up to $500 a month.
Take a look at weichert.com for rental listings. Go with an agent and have UBS pick up the one month broker fee plus pay the deposit on your behalf. It is a pain to transfer the money over. Right now prices are lower because after Nov 1st nothing moves. If you can move over between now and Feb 1st you should be able to get a really good deal.
I read want2bsupermum's message but yes I do think that Hoboken would not be your cup of tea....it's great for couples and singles (I have friends there without kids) as it can be "party central" especially at the weekends due to the close proximity to NYC and there is a college there. It's a nice place to go for a Sunday brunch (I love the Elysian, Amanda's and there is a fab Cuban cafe for example....the whole main street is full of restaurants and bars).
The public schools in Hoboken aren't so highly regarded either and some people choose to send their children to the more 'affordable' private Catholic schools. Parking is an absolute nightmare in Hoboken too. I'm not familiar with Weehawken tbh.
I just wanted to add that it is very unusual to get a company car in the US (your spouse's employer may be different!). We were very naive when we moved to the US and paid cash for our car as we had no credit rating....too late we were given information from our shipping company for a company called International Auto source; it specializes in expats and the military who need to start from scratch with getting a credit rating. Most car dealerships don't allow customers to finance a car with no credit history in the US, especially foreigners who've just arrived lol! They also won't sell a car without a NJ driving licence which you need to get within 30 days of taking up residency (some towns have wait-lists for the driving test but you can go anywhere in the State. Newbies from overseas have to take a theory test (easy) and a practical test (too easy....some places like Wayne you don't even go on a public road, basically reverse around a traffic cone and that's about it...all done in under 10 minutes!)
The International Autosource enables newbies to get a car to buy or lease and also assist with insurance (btw premiums are always for 6 months and not 12 unlike the UK! They don't always take your UK experience into account either....). We personally haven't used this company but I know on the www.britishexpats.com USA messageboard that other expats have and have been very happy with them:
Also a big mistake we made when we moved was to buy a car without 4 wheel drive and it was hopeless in the Winter as there can be a lot of snow here (they close the schools). It is cleared quickly but you don't want to be slipping and sliding on the side roads or hills. We have a Subaru Outback (son has a smaller Subaru Cross Trek) which are very popular here and feel confident to drive to the ski resorts in Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Btw: there is an expat 'wives' group in Maplewood....not sure if it is your thing but happy to pass on info if you are interested.
If you don't actually want to go, that's fine - many of us wouldn't. It's a lot to ask of a partner, especially when there are DC to consider.
I've lived in the US pre DC and wouldn't want to live abroad again, not least because of DC having to move locations and schools at least twice, and popular UK schools probably being full on return.
Hamble For all the awful test results, I am shocked at how good the schools are in Hoboken. My daughter got into spence and we opted for her to go to Wallace in hoboken with her brother, who is autistic. We couldn't be happier. They are doing a great job of challenging her and her teacher has put her into an enrichment program to stretch her. She is doing the afterschool program which is $400 a year. The programs they have the kids doing are great.
So many families are staying in town so there is more and more available for children up to the age of 12. Morristown is now where all the young people go. The bars in Hoboken are in crisis with one now operating as a bagel shop! Bin 14 is where everyone goes on a Saturday night and it's all over by 11pm as we are all parents. It isn't the young town it used to be.
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