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Moving to US- Chicago or Atlanta

(51 Posts)
MrsWindsor14 Thu 15-Jun-17 10:22:07

Wise mumsnetters,
We are currently considering a move to the US and I need your advice.
This move would be for my OH job and the company have given us the choice of Atlanta or Chicago.
We have two kids, 3 and 6 months. I currently work 3 days a week (when not on maternity leave) and am very worried about not working/having a purpose other than childcare. We have tried moving away from friends/my work before and I struggled so much we moved back.
I like the idea of this adventure while the kids are young enough for it not to hugely impact on schooling but I would love your advice on whether Chicago or Atlanta would be better?
Chicago appeals for the culture, accessible museums etc but moving to a built up city is a concern with two little ones. Is there a good community of mums, lots of classes etc?
Atlanta seems like more of a suburban life which makes me think we might be isolated?
Any advice and experience would be greatly appreciated! Tia x

ChinaRose Thu 15-Jun-17 10:26:51

Atlantic is way cheaper cost of living than Chicago. They are two very different places . Personally I'd go for the big house and pool (Atlanta). There are plenty of family orientated suburbs. Chicago for me is too expensive, rubbish winters and a bit snobby. Plus you can't beat good old fashioned southern hospitality! I adore the people in Atlanta. We're moving back to CA very soon and I'm looking forward to it.

Kursk Thu 15-Jun-17 10:26:54

As a Brit who made the move 3 years ago, its the best thing we ever did. We would never go back to the UK. The quality of life here is so much better.

I am not the expert on those cities but I would go with Atlanta. Cheaper and warmer than Chicago!

MrsWindsor14 Thu 15-Jun-17 10:39:52

Kursk did you take kids with you and if so did you find a network of other mums? I am leaving towards Atlanta as I think it will be a better life for the kids but just scared of being lonely and isolated...

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Thu 15-Jun-17 10:41:59

Chicago.

newbian Thu 15-Jun-17 10:45:06

Atlanta is very suburban, you will be relying on cars and driving everywhere.

Chicago is urban unless you choose to live in a suburb outside of the city, but if you are considering that then Atlanta probably makes more sense as the cost of living is lower and the weather is better.

ChinaRose Thu 15-Jun-17 10:47:31

You won't be lonely if you live in a family suburb. Your neighbours will be at your door from day 1, there will be barbecues, kids pool parties, and if you will be a sahm you will meet plenty of others in your area. Not sure what you're looking at budget wise but Chicago is a lot smaller, lots of apartments and single young people. Again there are suburbs but huge differences in cost and no pools generally. Taxes are higher in Illinois.

Monkeyface26 Thu 15-Jun-17 10:57:51

We visit Chicago regularly to see family. It is an extremely diverse city. It is a wonderful place to visit but you need to choose where you live very carefully. Last weekend there 35 shootings, 8 fatal. The public schools are in a dreadful state. There are some good places to live that are proper towns and also well connected to the city, like Evanston, which would be worth serious consideration if you decide on Chicago. (safer, much better schools, more community feel). The winters are brutally cold. The people are liberal, (city consistently votes Democrat) and friendly. Chicagoans love their city.
I visited Atlanta for 4 days last summer. I agree with a pp who said that it is quite surburban and you would need to drive a lot. It was also friendly and diverse but more southern/less sophisticated. Less cold in the winter, more humid in the summer. I don't know anything about the schools, I'm afraid.

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Thu 15-Jun-17 11:44:42

Ideally, I'd live here:

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Park,_Illinois

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Thu 15-Jun-17 11:45:23

Sorry - here - en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oak_Park,_Illinois

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Thu 15-Jun-17 11:45:40

Gah! Anyway, the Illinois one.

Xmasbaby11 Thu 15-Jun-17 11:47:04

Depends if you prefer city living. I'd worry about very conservative attitudes in Atlanta. I'd expect Chicago to feel more European in attitudes.

elQuintoConyo Thu 15-Jun-17 11:48:26

I have been to Atlanta. It's a shithole.

Chicago imvho!

PGOAT Thu 15-Jun-17 12:35:53

I'm American and have family in both of those cities so I have spent a fair amount of time in each. I can categorically say that I would NEVER move to Atlanta. It's basically one huge suburb, with awful traffic. There is very little culture or "personality" to the city, and in fact there is a good deal of racial tension that can make things uncomfortable on both sides. The winters are mild but the summers are UNBEARABLY hot and humid. You have to drive hours to get to a beach/seashore. (Sorry for all the caps and underlines-- obviously I feel strongly about this grin). Although it's a big city and often considered politically liberal, it's still part of the American south, and (esp in the suburbs) there is a fair contingent of conservative Uber-Christian types. (Maybe that's what you want, but most Brits/Europeans I know would be like fish out of water.). Georgia residents are allowed to own carry concealed handguns in most public places.

Chicago, on the other hand, I would move to in a minute. It's an incredibly cool, interesting, diverse city, right on an enormous lake (big enough to have proper beaches.) It's a proper city with great walkable neighborhoods, and absolutely lovely "proper" suburbs. The architecture in both is wonderful. If you've ever seen the movie Home Alone, that's a good example of a lovely Chicago suburban house-- although one like that would probably be a couple of million dollars. The downside, of course, is the cold. Chicago gets absolutely frigid in the winter. But it's proper "snow" cold, not like a rainy London winter, and the people there are fully prepared to deal with it. If you invest in proper outerwear and an appropriate car and you won't have a problem. And Illinois has fairly restrictive gun laws, which just sits better with me.

Good luck with the move. Happy to answer any more questions if I can.

PGOAT Thu 15-Jun-17 12:44:05

As far as friendly people, I think in either place that boils down to the specific area/neighborhood you choose, and in any case is often a bit of a crapshoot. Southerners and Midwesterners are both consideeed very friendly on the whole, in comparison with the snobby elites in the coasts.

As an expat and "trailing spouse" myself I've been through what you're doing and it's very hard to know what you're getting into from the outside. You have to do as much research as you can. I recommend the website city-data.com. It has tons of information, and there are forums for each city where people will advise you on where to live based on your budget, your husband's commute, and what you are looking for in a community.

PGOAT Thu 15-Jun-17 12:46:23

www.city-data.com/forum/atlanta/

www.city-data.com/forum/chicago/

NoahPinnyon Thu 15-Jun-17 12:52:34

Chicago.

However, I would have considerable reservations about moving away from your job and support network.

Kursk Thu 15-Jun-17 13:13:13

I did take kids however we chose to live remotely, so no I don't have a network as my nearest neighbor is 5ish miles away.

UKsounding Thu 15-Jun-17 15:14:45

Chicago over Atlanta definitely (I think..)

SenecaFalls Thu 15-Jun-17 21:44:31

I have lived in both Atlanta and Chicago. As a single person, I lived in the city of Chicago, not the suburbs, and had a great time and loved the city, although, having grown up in a warm climate (Georgia), I did find the winters very very challenging.

I disagree with the poster who said that Atlanta lacks personality and culture, but I know the city well and have seen how it has changed over the years, mostly for the better as it has become much more diverse and cosmopolitan. As a result, its culture is more diffuse and harder to describe, unlike say other Southern cities, like Savannah and Charleston. Two things observed above are true: the traffic is horrendous in the city, and in the suburbs, you will find some small-minded Southern fundamentalist types.

As for the summers, the most miserable summer I ever spent was in Chicago. Heat radiating off of all those buildings created an almost unbearable atmosphere at times. I'm sure it was different in the suburbs, but the average daytime temperature in July in Chicago and Atlanta are roughly comparable.

Atlanta is not close to beaches, but it is close to some of the most beautiful mountains in the US.

MrsWindsor14 Thu 15-Jun-17 22:45:03

Thanks so much for the advice.
We have seen an area in Atlanta that appeals- morningside. Is it a nice area? We are not religious at all- do you think we would feel ostracised in these communities? PGOAT mentioned that there are some über- Christian types in the suburbs.

24balloons Thu 15-Jun-17 22:57:03

My advice would be don't go. Especially if you want to work unless you can guarantee a visa. Did it years ago & we lived in Chicago, it's almost impossible to go outside form about November - March with bitter windchill way way below zero and snow for at least 3 months. I spent a very miserable year there & couldnt wait to leave.we live very close to the Lake & Zoo & it was an extremely unfriendly place to be as an expat.

SenecaFalls Thu 15-Jun-17 23:07:28

OP, there are uber-Christian types all over the US, but probably more in the South. But there are just as many or more who aren't. I live in a Southern city much less diverse and sophisticated than Atlanta, and most of my friends are not church members. People tend to find like-minded friends and you will encounter just as many people who don't attend church as those who do. And many of those who do will be the more mainline liberal denominations like Episcopal and Presbyterian.

Morningside/Lenox Park is one of the great old Atlanta neighborhoods. www.greatamericancountry.com/places/local-life/morningside-atlanta-what-its-like-to-live-here

AndNowItIsSeven Thu 15-Jun-17 23:13:40

Absolutely Atlanta lovely weather - the summers are not too hot , hot is a good thing. Friendly people , cheaper, near to Nashville.

SenecaFalls Thu 15-Jun-17 23:16:08

Another point about religion. I think there are a lot of misconceptions in the UK and other parts of Europe about religion in the US. It's true that there is a lot more church-going in the US, and the influence of conservative Christianity unfortunately plays a role in politics. But, in some cases, our religious institutions are more open minded than those in the UK. As one example, the US Episcopal Church is currently under suspension from the Anglican Communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, for solemnizing same-sex marriages. The Presbyterian Church USA, the counterpart in the US of the Church of Scotland, also performs same sex marriages.

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