Your US/ LA tips please(17 Posts)
We are relocating to LA for about 6 months, with a possibility of returning longer term later. Three DC. DH will be working there. I'm a bit terrified. We are sorted with accommodation (through DH's work) but they are not used to relocating families and I have never lived abroad as an adult. I am working up until we leave so am worried I will overlook something vital.
All your tips for LA or the US in general will be much appreciated.
Have you sorted health insurance? I ask because my brother lives there. His wife has just had a baby which was in special care and insurance doesn't cover all costs. Is there something in place to cover what it would really cost if you or dc needed medical treatment.
Also, can you drive out there? Might be worth doing a US driving test if necessary cos I get the impression a car is essential.
Both as pp said. You'll need healthcare and to be able to drive. What a great opportunity for you, grab it with both hands!
My brother's family buy takeaway food a lot. I think it California is quite expensive food wise, so weirdly takeaways can be cheaper. And if you eat out tipping is a lot more than here. There is loads of choice though.
Are you enrolling your dc in school?
Firstly, I'm sorry if this sounds like a negative post. I used to live in LA, and I really enjoyed it. California is wonderful (I'm assuming LA= Los Angeles, not Louisiana). I'm just not sure about some of the practical issues you'll face, and, if you haven't lived overseas before AND your relocating company has limited experience of relocating people, there are some things you have to consider.
The big three questions:
- is healthcare in hand? Is the whole family covered? Do you know if you have to pay high deductables or co-pays? (Is the insurance designed for visitors, or residents?)
- does your spouse absolutely have the correct visa, ie one that permits him to undertake paid work in his intended role? (I know this is an obvious question, but sometimes employers are idiots, and it'll be you who pays the consequences.)
- how old are your kids? Will they need to be in school?
Six months is actually a really tricky period for which to relocate. You won't be able to really settle, and, legally, you'll be in a weird grey area between being a resident and a tourist/visitor. It's tricky having a borderline status, particularly for things like insurance (health, car, home) and determining which driving licence you need. (Be aware that different companies and government agencies have different definitions of being 'resident'.)
I am surprised that a company would relocate you all for six months - individuals, yes, but it's unusual for a family. Are you getting a decent relocation package? It should reflect the inconvenience and economic inefficiency of relocating a family of five for a short period.
The plus side is that housing is sorted -- does that include utilities? Telecoms, incl cellphones? The issue with being a new arrival is that you have no credit rating, and this means you'll often have to stump up a deposit for certain services, or just pay more.
Driving: you absolutely need to drive in LA, especially if you have kids. As a tourist/visitor, you can drive on a UK licence. As a resident, you need to get a California licence within 10 days of arrival, although there's leeway on this - general rule of thumb is to just sort it out ASAP.
This is where the vague status thing can be a headache. If you're only staying six months, you do have a strong case for saying you're just passing through, you're definitely not resident, and therefore should be able to drive on your UK licence. But you need to make sure you're adequately insured, and that, in a pinch, the insurance company aren't going to declare your UK licence invalid, say you should've got a CA licence, and void your coverage. I would actually recommend you just get a CA licence. It removes the uncertainty, and the CA driving test is so, so easy - just a quick paper theory test, and a short drive.
As I said, I really like LA, but alarm bells ring when you said the company isn't used to relocating families. It's very different to sending one employee over for six months. Make sure they don't leave you really inconvenienced or out of pocket.
Excellent post ARumWith AView! I agree with everything you said about 6 months being a really awkward time period to move abroad for. You're no sooner settling in and figuring out "how shit works" then it's time to start thinking about heading home again. Healthcare, visas, social security, schools, cars / drivers licenses will all be a priority to understand and get sorted. It is unusual to relocate a family for 6 months because it's a huge upheaval and the administrative side of things to get your life established once you get to the US can be very hard in those first few weeks and months as you navigate your way through a new country and system. OP - give us some more detail about your circumstances and situation (visas etc.) then we can offer more advice. And confirm that you are talking about going to Los Angeles and not Louisiana!
Thanks for all the advice. Really helpful. Yes, it's Los Angeles, rather than Louisiana.
PPs have hit the nail on the head regarding my worries, it's such an inbetween kind of time. Creative industry, have relocated single people a lot but no families.
Yes, health insurance definitely covered and the accommodation is some kind of short term apartments they stick people in and all expenses associated with that are covered.
TBH financially, it's not a great move in the short term but it's potentially very good from the long term career perspective, regardless of whether we ever return to the states in the future.
Kids are not going to be in school. Eldest will miss one term, I will home school. It was too much to think about schools as well. So if anyone has any hs advice that would be ace.
Driving license... ok I was told I could use my UK one no problem. But if I may as well take a quick test I'll do that.
Oh god. I vacillate between mild excitement and utter fear.
What type of visas are you getting? You are getting visas right?!! Have you read up on the tax implications? You'll have to file a tax return with the IRS for the 6 months income earned while in the US. That gets complicated because you're filing half the year in the US, but still have half a year in the UK. Do you understand how the healthcare insurance works with co-pays and deductibles? Even thought the company are "covering it", there are still a lot of out of pocket expenses which can vary depending on your particular plan. Be sure you understand that fully. Ask whether it includes dental insurance or that might be separate? With 2 DCs, you never know what sort of medical / dental emergencies might arise and the bills can mount up scarily quickly.
Sorry...just read that back and didn't mean to be quite so negative sounding! Just trying to mention all the things you might not have considered.
You'll probably be in one of the Oakwoods or someplace similar. It's very easy to enroll your kids in school…just find out what your zoned school is, and they have to take you. YOu just walk in with ID and proof of your current address. Schools in LA can be a bit hit or miss, but if you're near a decent one, it might be a nice way for the child to make friends and experience his own cross cultural exchange. Check our www.greatschools.org to check ratings and reviews on your local school. And don't be shy to just pop in and ask for someone to show you around. The only thing that could be an issue is that you'll have to show proof of vaccinations…CA requires more of those than the UK. They will NOT take a kid without a current vaccination record. They clamped down last year on that.
I agree with twingygirl. I would enroll your kids in school. Apart from the vaccinations, it's super easy and would be a great adventure/experience for them. The schools in Los Angeles for the most part are very multi-cultural so your kids won't feel out of place. My dc were born in London and had most of their jabs there. I was able to use my dc's redbook to prove the vaccinations. The only one to be careful of is the BCG. It was done in the area we lived in London, but in California they do a TB test rather than vaccinate and kids who have had the BCG can have false positives (and a bad reaction) up to 10 years later.
What part of Los Angeles will you be in. I live here in LA and would be happy to give you advice on schools and more specific information on enrolling the kids. And of course, information on resources for activities, child care, etc.
Oh if you manage to land in a nice suburb it will be lovely. I think Glendale and Pasadena are nice, but in LA generally there's just loads of traffic getting in and around the place. If you only need to drive or get around locally you will be fine. Your husband will probably drive in to work and that's probably the biggest pain. I've not lived in LA but further up the coast of California. If you have an adventurous attitude I think you could make the most of the six months and enjoy it. You could enrol your oldest in school even for home schooling. In California they pay for all your home schooling resources so I'd google that and find a school you can connect in with and get a hold of the extra resources you need. Getting into a network of schooling or something or a church of you go, will help build community and you won't feel so alone. If your husband is working that could be the hardest part so yeah I'd try and get connected somewhere. People are pretty friendly in CA and laid back too. So persoballly I think there is a lot to like. Saying that, someone else might have an experience that's different. I do know LA is different to the rest of California but if you find your own nice corner it will be just LOVELY and there's so much to see and do. Best of luck.
Although there are many, many homeschooling co-ops and clubs in LA, I've lived here all my life and have never heard that "California pays for all your homeschooling resources." The traffic in Glendale and Pasadena are just as bad as in LA proper, if not worse, because the freeways are older and more limited. If you are in a "creative industry", i.e. "the business", you'll most likely be in an Oakwood subsidiary in West LA or Burbank, whichever is closer to your husband's work. You'll almost certainly be near some very pleasant elementary schools that would be happy to have your kids. Don't worry about the BCG, my child had it and my pediatrician noted it before I even told her, and she was exempted from the TB test. No problem at all.
Ok thanks guys, that's all very helpful and I'm starting to calm down.
Yes, real visas are sorted - DH under temporary worker status, O1 I think? and us under the O dependent category.
I understand a bit about the health insurance but it's one of the things that worries me. A friend who had all the bells and whistles health insurance provided by his company was telling me that he still ended up paying loads when he needed an MRI. Dental is included but we are making sure to visit our own dentist here before we go!
We will be in Burbank. That's really helpful advice about the schools; tbh was imagining something similar to the UK and problematic in-year admissions processes so I guess we can review that when we arrive. Great heads up about the red book. Now to find the eldest's....
I am a bit worried about being lonely, but I think that's kind of secondary to the rest of the big relocation worry. DH has some friends there so we'll know some people but he'll be working very long days so the time for socialising will be minimal.
This sounds like it's a great opportunity for your DH, but look out for your own interests here, too: it's easy for the trailing spouse to become the facilitator, dealing with relocation practicalities, childcare etc while the visa-holder has a stimulating job which enhances their own career. You said you're working up until you leave, so presumably you're taking a career break for this.
I'm not saying 'don't do it', but go into this with your eyes open and don't let the fact that it's a nice location make it seem like this is a big treat for you. It's a weird time-frame, it won't be a holiday and you're doing a lot of work to make sure your DH can take up this employment opportunity without being separated from his family. As a SAHM overseas, don't minimize loneliness. I know there are a million issues that seem more pressing when you're doing a long-haul relocation with kids, but you need to look out for yourself and make sure you enjoy this experience.
Sorry - that's my standard issue trailing spouse pep talk! But it's important to acknowledge your part in this, and push to get as good a deal as possible, whether in securing practical benefits from the company relocating you, or working out your own family dynamics (ie making sure the budget allows for you to have interesting experiences and not be stuck at home, and that your spouse helps with childcare so that you have a chance to recharge or do your own things).
Okay... practical things. The visa situation sounds sorted: 01 is very common for people in the creative industry.
Off the top of my head, these are the practical questions I'd want to ask. (I know some of these issues seem petty, but IME its the accumulation of a million smaller details which can make a relocation hard. There's also a certain amount of wasted money with each move - as you're relocating for such a short time, try to avoid bearing these losses yourself.)
- what is the accommodation like? Is it really suitable for a family? Some company-provided accommodation tends towards the businesslike or spartan. Make sure what's on offer meets your needs. Assuming it's furnished, are smaller appliances (hoover?) and crockery, pans, linens etc included? (This is always one of my biggest wastages when I've moved: replacing smallish items which weren't worth shipping. It all adds up.)
- cellphones. Assuming home cable TV, internet etc are already sorted, will the company be helping you with cellphones? If not, you'll have to research month-to-month deals, because I'm not sure you can get a contract for six months. Tracphone is pretty good.
- salary. Is your DH being put on the US payroll? Will the company offer some tax assistance? You won't end up paying double taxes, but I think you will have to file tax returns (state and federal). This is a headache, so get help with this if possible.
- healthcare. Especially with kids, you need to ask about co-pays, e.g. will you have to pay anything for each GP (aka Primary Care Practitioner) visit, or for certain prescriptions or treatments? Are existing conditions included? Is there a deductable, ie you pay for the first $xxx of the year's treatment, and then the insurance kicks in?
- cars. Will your husband need a car for work? If he does, you'll realistically need two vehicles - do not get stuck carless with three kids all day! Will the company stump up for rentals? What's the situation with car seats?
- back home. Do you own property in the UK? Are you renting it out while you're away, and does your mortgage permit this? If it'll be unoccupied, does this void any of your home insurance?
- furniture and personal possessions. How much are you going to bother shipping? (I wouldn't ship furniture for a 6-month move, but it's your call.) Does anything need to go in storage? Bear in mind that, with some shipping options, your belongings may not arrive for weeks. Perhaps consider one of those 'we ship your excess baggage' services to bring along extra suitcases of stuff.
- pets. I assume you would've mentioned if this was an issue! Just in case: I wouldn't ship animals over for six months. In particular, re-importing your pets to the UK is very expensive and requires some exacting paperwork.
Sorry for the very long posts; we moved to LA six years ago, and have since returned, but my cousin has just moved out there, so I'm reliving a lot of the issues!
Call the Burbank School District and explain what's going on and ask what the local schools are for your children's ages and ask for them to email you the application paperwork. Better to get it all filled out before you go in case you need signatures or paper that is easier to get while still in the UK. They are required to find a place for your child at the school local to your address, so they will appreciate advance notice that this is happening.
I did this when I moved back to LA from the UK and wanted ds to start school on day one and we were moving back only a few days before school started. A mom on the PTA got me the paperwork and mailed it to me and then I mailed it back to her and she brought it in. This was more than a decade ago, so I am guessing that you can do this by email these days.
How old are your dc's? What activities do they and you like? I'm sure some of us Angelenos can direct you to places/things to sign up for that are local.
Los Angeles is like London...super spread out and even worse traffic. You will want to (and will be able to) find things local to you. Bear in mind that the weather is good pretty much all the time which makes life much much easier.
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