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Moving to USA and specifically to Boston??? Advice Please!

(28 Posts)
AgnesG Thu 25-May-17 21:26:04

Looking for some advice. We are currently pondering the idea of moving to Boston for two years. My DH works for a company based in Cambridge MA and they would jump at the chance of having him locally for a while. I also work for a US-based firm and I'm confident they would be happy for me to work from home. We have one 9-yo DS. We own our house here in the UK and are fortunate enough to be mortgage-free. DH would get a bump in his salary (I'm not sure how much though) and I wouldn't even consider it if we couldn't live in a naice apartment in a naice location close to his work.

Possible Advantages
* Easier for DH - he does a lot of travelling to and from US and spends every evening doing conference calls on US time and probably a good step in terms of his career.
* Great opportunity for DS to experience life in another country.
* Better climate.
* I spend 4 months living in downtown Boston about 15 years and a lifetime ago and really loved the US-but-slightly-European vibe and the great outdoor life
* Lovely places to visit nearby

Possible Disadvantages
* Major upheaval sorting this out in the next few months (I'd like to move before the start of the new school year) can I really manage this?
* Finding the right school (for a bit of background DS is reasonably bright and LOVES any kind of sports so I'd like something to suit that and also to be sure he'll be ready for secondary school when we come back)
* Finding a place to live (DH could probably make a trip across to do some viewings)
* Expense of living in Boston (I understand it doesn't come cheap!)

Questions
* How much would we need monthly to live a comfortable lifestyle?
* Would we need to consider private school or are the state schools good?
* Where is the best place to look for apartments?
* Any other things to consider?
* Am I crazy for even thinking about it?

If anyone has any experience of a move/decision like this or has any good information about locations/schools/generally about Boston and Cambridge I'd love to hear about it!! Many thanks in advance.

7to25 Thu 25-May-17 21:32:46

We were in Boston for a year, lived in Brookline where the schools are good but rents are expensive. $3200 per month.
You can do it.
Better climate? Debatable.
Easy to live in Boston.
Caution: my husband travels a lot to the States from the UK but when we were there he STILL travelled!

TheWormThatTurned Fri 26-May-17 03:56:17

Is it for a fixed term or indefinitely?

Off the top of my head, a few things to consider:
- Cambridge is a wonderful place! Very diverse, each area has its own unique feel. But it's expensive. A 2 bed apartment will be a minimum of 3K per month.
Your husband could feasibly walk to work!
- schools: state schools in Cambridge are very mixed. There is a British school in Boston, and they have a bus from Cambridge, but cost is a little over $30k per year.
- with schools in mind, you might be better looking at some other areas - Lexington, Winchester, Newton, Wellesley, Weston all have excellent school districts and would be commutable to Cambridge, esp Lexington and Winchester.
Have a look at the website Zillow to get an idea of rental prices.
Climate - I have a love hate relationship with the climate! The winters can be brutal and long. But we have 4 distinct seasons and the Fall is stunning.

Hope that helps but feel free to ask anything else. It's a wonderful place, I'm sure you wouldn't regret it!

AgnesG Fri 26-May-17 13:00:58

Thanks for the responses! This would be just for 2 years (at least that's our intention at the moment, who knows what might change...) As I understand it regarding schools then, private schools aside, it is 100% dependent on your address and you are guaranteed a place at your local school is that right? So we probably want to decide on a general area first, find a few accommodation options and then check which of these match up with a decent school...

BritInUS1 Fri 26-May-17 19:07:24

First things first, do either of you actually have a visa to work in the US?

If you want to be able to work too then you would need an L1, which would be sponsored by your husbands company and you would get an L2

We did this and I then had to apply for an employment card when we got here. Legally you cannot work on an L2 without an employment card. When you arrive you need to apply for your social security number - takes a few weeks. Then you can apply for your employment card - this can take 3 months. You cannot work until you have this.

Hopefully work will pay for a good immigration lawyer to deal with all of this for you.

If you want to move before the start of the new school year, you need to get them working on the visa application ASAP, as you will also need to book your appointments at the Embassy, etc once the paperwork is ready

AgnesG Fri 26-May-17 19:47:23

Thanks. Since both our employers are US based I think (am hoping) we'll be fine.

LuchiMangsho Fri 26-May-17 19:51:20

I lived in Cambridge MA for many years but pre kids. My friends who still live in Boston all live in Brookline for the good schools.
Do remember that the winters are very very very cold. I love the cold but day upon day of -15 centigrade can test the hardiest spirit.

BritInUS1 Fri 26-May-17 20:03:24

Yes I'm sure in your case getting a visa won't be an issue, it will be the time it takes and the restrictions that come with it

My husband was working for a very big tech company and we still had to jump through many hoops to satisfy the visa

OlennasWimple Sat 27-May-17 11:11:20

As pp have said, work out first what your visa position would be. It sounds as if your DH would be able to apply for an intra-company transfer L1 visa, but they have to demonstrate that they need to bring him over rather than employ someone already in the US, and he needs to be working at the company for a number of years and be at a senior level. Even if it's all straightfoward it can still take some time to get the paperwork together and complete the visa application process (you have to go in person to the embassy in London too)

Your questions:

* How much would we need monthly to live a comfortable lifestyle?*
About $6000 after tax would get you a nice place to live, a decent car and the ability to travel around the US a bit too

* Would we need to consider private school or are the state schools good?*

Massachusetts has some of the best schools in the US, and some of the towns like Brookline and Newton have some of the best schools in MA. There is a helpful website called greatschools.org which has useful information about individual schools, but remember that there are still significant differences between the US and UK school systems. Depending on the age of your DC, you might prefer being on particular school districts, for example some are Kindergarten to Grade 6, then middle school then high school; some are K to Grade 8 then high school.

Yes, your school is determined by your address in most places - there is a lottery allocation in Boston plus selective admission. Personally I would avoid this like the plague, as the good schools are great but the bad schools are awful.

* Where is the best place to look for apartments?

Do you mean websites? Try Zillow and Trulia for listings, but you will probably want to find a realtor to work on your behalf to help find you an apartment and complete the paperwork. Ideally your DH's company would pay for this service as part of the overall relocation package.

If you mean locations, I would think about which school district you want to be in and then work from there. Depending on where in Cambridge DH needs to be, you could consider living in Brookline and he can easily cycle to work (many people do this), or out in Arlington and drive in (ditto). Cambridge itself is nice, very vibrant and lots of great places to eat out, but schools can be hit and miss I believe.

* Any other things to consider?*

Health insurance. The single most important thing (once your visas are arranged) to have in place and understand. It could cost you quite a bit each month, so be prepared for that when doing your sums, but it's essential.

There was a thread on here quite recently about an OP considering a move to New York - there were lots of thoughts on there too about the things that need consideration

* Am I crazy for even thinking about it?*

No!! It's a fabulous part of the world to live, especially for families. In an hour's drive you can be skiing in the winter and on the most beautiful beaches on the Cape in the summer, but Boston itself (and metro Boston, as the surrounding area is known) is so great you might not want to leave. 6 hour flight to get home and some decent ticket prices too (Norwegian and IcelandAir fly from Boston, as well as Virgin, Aer Lingus, BA, American etc etc etc)

AgnesG Mon 29-May-17 09:21:13

Gosh that's really helpful thanks everyone for taking time to provide the information. At least I'll be making a slightly more informed decision now...
Still not sure which way we'll decide, our main concern is that we'll be uprooting DS from his life here, where he is very settled and happy, for something of an unknown; on the other hand it is a fantastic opportunity for him to experience a different culture and visit some amazing places.... <uncomfortable here on fence>

DeidreInaQuandry Mon 29-May-17 11:26:50

Do it! I'd happily uproot DD (12) for 2 years in Boston smile

mathanxiety Sun 04-Jun-17 00:43:22

it is 100% dependent on your address and you are guaranteed a place at your local school is that right? So we probably want to decide on a general area first, find a few accommodation options and then check which of these match up with a decent school...

Yes it is your address that dictates what public school your child attends. They must accommodate your child at the school. That goes for any special needs your child has too.

*No^ do not find an area first and then go looking for schools.
It should be the other way round.
Find some schools you like and then find somewhere to live within one of those School Districts. At 9 your DS would probably be going into middle school, so you are looking at middle school or elementary school districts. Within each District you may find there are several schools, and perhaps not all of them are good. So you have to find an individual school, then find out what the boundaries of the catchment are. Be very thorough in researching the boundaries.

(Where I live, one side of a certain street goes to one school and the other side goes to another. A few years ago one school was a good deal better than the other, but the worse one has now caught up so it doesn't make as much difference).

'School District' refers to the tax and administrative authority that funds and administers the schools within it, and it also refers to the catchment.

mathanxiety Sun 04-Jun-17 00:50:17

Things you should be asking your employer:
Moving allowance - should be very generous and include free rent somewhere until you find your feet. Remember you will be buying all new household appliances, etc. Apartments do not come furnished. Even houses for rent do not come furnished for the most part.

How will the employer support you in dealing with banking, credit, and the ins and outs of getting a driver's licence?
What visa do you anticipate having for yourself?
Can your company sponsor you or can DH's company get you a visa that will allow you to work? To drive?

Health insurance: should be comprehensive and should have very small individual deductible. Should cover all services including mental health, dental, maternity, and all childhood vaccinations, well-child checkups, as well as all sick visits. Will either employer provide health insurance?

Your DS will need proof of either vaccination or having had the sickness in the case of measles, mumps, chicken pox. He may need to get boosters of some vaccinations.

Pallisers Sun 04-Jun-17 01:10:10

Hi OP, missed this first time around. I live in Boston area - moved from Ireland before I had children.

It is a great place to raise children - really great. Museums, winter sports, summer sailing, very child centered. I think you'd love it for a couple of years.

As others have said, schools are the big thing. So from my own knowledge

Cambridge is a brilliant city to live in - just great. Schools though are urban schools so not leafy suburbs. I did a volunteer thing of read to a child at lunchtime in a Cambridge elementary school that would have had an intake that was probably poorer than the average and I was tremendously impressed by the school. The level of projects in the classrooms, the kids themselves, the messages from the school. Living in cambridge would be lovely - but it is expensive to rent.

Other towns nearby to consider are Arlington, Winchester, Somerville, Medford, Watertown, Waltham. All getting more expensive by the minute (I live in one of them and me and my neighbours are gasping at house prices these days). Winchester would have the best school system, followed by Arlington and Watertown imo. Once you pick a school district, the community is there more or less. Schools really reach out and most of us here make lasting friendships through the schools.

You could move way out but then your husband will be commuting and you won't be living in the inner boston area. But there are some lovely towns outside of Boston. I couldn't do that commute myself but people I worked with did it every day.

Is there anyway your husband's employer would spring for private school fees? They are expensive here but some international companies would pay for it. If so, pm me.

Also catholic schools are a good option for a smaller school feel without the level of private school fees (still fees but they are less) and they are generally very accommodating to other religions.

Honestly I can see why you wouldn't want to uproot your 9 year old but I think he'd have a blast - he could ski, skate, play ice hockey, soccer (every town has a soccer team) maybe try lacrosse. he would be the cool kid with the british accent age 10.

Boston is steeped in history, fab art, symphony, tanglewood in the summer, tolerant by and large (some really deep currents of racism but at least they acknowledge them).

Your biggest concerns outside your children and school should be health insurance and vacation time. oh and pension - what matching will they provide.

Pallisers Sun 04-Jun-17 01:11:38

Oh also have your dh ask his Cambridge-based colleagues with children where they live.

mathanxiety Sun 04-Jun-17 01:14:10

If you get an AMEX card now, you will be able to get one in the US. You may find that credit unions are happier to take you on with no US credit history than a bank would be. You will need ID to start an account, and you will need an account to get utilities, obv to buy necessities. The company should be able to give support.

Health insurance should be quoted separate from the salary. Don't let them present you with a 'compensation package' that leaves you guessing how much of the compensation is actual money. Ask for fine print of the health insurance.

Ask the employer about annual vacation - US employees get far less than Europeans to. This is not even fine for US employees, but when you may want to visit family in Britain, a week of annual vacation is not on. Ask for comparable vacation to what you get now.

Pallisers Sun 04-Jun-17 02:28:05

and with regard to vacation make sure your dh has - say - 3 weeks in his first year - not 3 weeks accruing. Makes a big difference.

AgnesG Wed 07-Jun-17 12:40:24

More really helpful info, thanks everyone.

I was looking into afterschool provision at one of the schools we are considering, It seems very expensive ($6.5K + per annum) but is also more that we'd need - 3-6pm every day but I hope to be finishing work around 3:30 so could pickup by 4 - or he might walk home if we are close enough. Also, it appears to be oversubscribed. What do other kids (9-10yo) do after school? Are there typically afterschool clubs/activities available locally?

Pallisers Wed 07-Jun-17 15:51:15

Usually there is an in-school after school and also some nearby ones operating out of church premises etc. You could also hire someone to walk him home and stay with him for an hour.

I would look at the local newspaper online for wherever you are. Often there is a town listserve where people post ads etc. Or ask the school for information. If you want to pm me the location, I can give you some links.

If it is a private school, then you may be more stuck with the after-school option.

TheHodgeoftheHedge Wed 07-Jun-17 15:58:16

Not much helpful to add other than I would jump at the chance.
Also better climate? Have you seen winters in Boston? Brutal!

Pallisers Wed 07-Jun-17 16:00:58

yes the winter is hard but you can easily skate, ski, snowshoe - my kids used to go sledding at breaktime, snowshoeing for PE, after school ski trips.

mathanxiety Thu 08-Jun-17 07:41:32

You can look up public facilities like rinks, pools and providers like park districts (admin bodies that run public programmes for kids and often adults too, in field houses and parks and other facilities). Look for local YMCAs and local public libraries too as resources for after school.

Many kids where I live head to the local library after school at age 9-10-11.

My DCs' elementary (k-8) school offered an extended day option that was priced in 15 minute increments. Families paid an annual registration fee of about $350 per child and after that they were billed for the time they actually used. The extended hours started at 7 and ended at 6. Some children were on the premises for 11 hours a day, between school hours and before and after school.

You will find that Americans are much happier to hire teenage babysitters than it seems people are in Britain, and many more American teens babysit than British ones do. Finding a teen (even as young as 13/14) to walk your child home and spend an hour or so watching him daily might not be a huge challenge. You could ask in the school if it goes as far as 8th grade, or ask other families if they recommend someone for daytime hours. DD1 used to babysit when she was in 8th grade (aged 13) for an 8 year old girl whose parents got home at about 4:45. DD3 had a job for a school year when she was 15, walking 3 children home from their school four afternoons a week, supervising their homework and preparing a simple meal. Everyone survived.

BeALert Sat 17-Jun-17 01:18:35

Have you seen winters in Boston? Brutal!

Ah... I've obviously lived here too long. I pop to Boston in the winter to get away from the really really bad weather :-)

toffeeboffin Sat 17-Jun-17 01:30:47

Another one laughing at brutal Boston winters.

Try six hours north!

Seriously though, the winter can be lovely, skiing, ice hockey, skating etc etc. It's cold but not humid. I swear I've been colder in Lancashire than in Canada.

mathanxiety Sat 17-Jun-17 01:51:43

Boston had a whopping amount of snow a few years ago, but I wouldn't call the winters brutal. I have been far colder in Dublin.

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