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Expat Moving to Belfast with Kids

(12 Posts)
Girard9212 Mon 24-Nov-14 06:40:27

Hi there! My husband and I will be relocated to Belfast in the Spring for my job with our two kids (my son is 5, and my daughter will be 4 come our arrival), and I am looking for advice, help, and any information you are willing to share. We are trying to figure out where are nice areas to look for renting (4 BDRM or house?), the school situation, and just overall life. Nothing really lets you in on a location like hearing from those who live there currently so I've decided to try here. We are orginally from Buffalo, NY (near Niagara Falls) and have spent the last 2.5 years living in Dalian, China so we are looking forward to the change. I work and my husband is a stay at home Dad (lucky guy) so if you see him popping up on here don't be alarmed. He is after all Mr Mum in our house smile

Any information on areas to check out for good family life (without breaking the bank), and the schooling would be greatly appreciated!

Thank so much!

PeppermintInfusion Thu 27-Nov-14 15:58:40

Hi Girard!
It depends what lifestyle you are after- Belfast is very commutable, so you could live in the leafy suburbs which are within walking distance of the city centre (such as south Belfast), a commuter village/small town (eg Holywood in North Down) or even somewhere more rural.

I've worked with some US companies in NIreland, and there is a big expat community in North Down (this is probably the most expensive part of NI to live, but might not seem too bad depending on where you've lived previously).

As for schools, it depends where you end up living and whether you are looking at private or state schools, but I can give you some ideas. You son will be in either Primary 1 or 2 and your daughter will be either Nursery or Primary 1, it just when their birthdays fall in the year.

Feel free to ask away though smile

TheAuthoress Thu 27-Nov-14 16:16:07

I live in Belfast smile South Belfast has the most going on, but is the most expensive area. Ballyhackamore in East Belfast is very up and coming with plenty of good restaurants etc, and is more reasonable. There are other lovely areas in East Belfast too, like Holywood Road. I'm not sure about North and West Belfast.

Will you be working in the city centre and will you have a car? Public transport isn't great if you're working in one part of Belfast and living in another, you'd need to get a bus / train into the city centre then one back out again.

Have a look on property news for houses to rent - (sorry, haven't a clue how to link!)

Girard9212 Sun 11-Jan-15 09:22:51

Hi ladies apologies for the delay things have been crazy!!! Our office is down in WhiteStar so I would imagine we would need a car is that fair? Also I have seen that selection for schools is submitted in Jan and completed by early spring sre we going to have issues getting our kids into good schools? I've been looking online at rentals (thanks so much for the link Authoress and I have no idea how to link either lol) how does rental work there? Is it kind of like the US where you sign for a year and put down first and last months rent? Asia is crazy with yearly or semi annual rentals with pay,mets due up front so I'm curious how it works over there. Also for cars, how expensive is it to lease a car? We are a family of 4 (we are not small people my husband is 6'4" tall and I am 6'2"!!!) so we need something mid size I would imagine, and we do want to have another baby during this leg of our international journey. We aren't into the flash and glamour of having to live in the "it" part of town or having th flashy car, we are very down to earth and after China are looking to continue our simple life in a comfortable way of that makes sense. Given my husband is a stay at home Dad, conveinience is nice but he grew up in a small town so traveling a little to get to the grocery store isn't an issue for him. Oh and one last question.....are freezers not normal there? From lots of the pictures of rentals we are seeing lots of small fridges so just curious. Also what is ghe laundry situation? Over here everything is hang dry are dryers are almost impossible to find and those you can find are evaporation dryers which wrinkle and shrink clothes something terrible. I know that is a completely random set of questions but I can't thank you both enough for taking the time to respond!!!

I'm headed over the first week of Feb to check things out, any must sees in order to get a feel for the place?

justupthebend Mon 12-Jan-15 12:54:39

You'll not be working in the handiest of places, although I'm assuming they'll have parking on site. I know a few people who looked at leasing cars but it was proving to be very expensive, so they just bought a cheap car. A lot of people keep their "big" freezers, tumble dryers in their garage, so that might be why you're not seeing any pics on the rental websites.

It's a bit chicken and egg situation, you'll need to have an idea of where you want to live before looking at schools especially if there's going to be no car for the school run or else have a look at schools before you look at areas but that must be very hard to do if you are going in completely blind so to speak. Does your company have anyone to help with relocation questions/ issues.

With regards to applying for schools, I know that any info I've had a look at recently (my youngest is almost 4 and we've just applied for P1), states that you need to be already living here before you apply and there's quite a lot of over subscription at good local primary schools.

Girard9212 Mon 12-Jan-15 13:36:55

Thank you so much for this info it's great!!! We are seeing the same with schools as well which is why we are getting a bit nervous about our timing. You mention the school run, do you have to drop your kids or is there busing there too? Our company does help with relocation but honestly we have learned as with this most recent move to China that talking to local folks is by far the best way to get info.

I've also heard that leasing a car is quite expensive is there a reason for that? When I look at the price of even some small cars I almost want to die!!! Is there a good used car market there? Does the area near Whitestar have good public transport near by?

Thanks so much for the tip on the freezers and dryers it's already a win compared to here lol! Thank you so much for all the sharing it's great!!!!!

TrashcanMan Tue 13-Jan-15 19:51:12

Hi Girard, myself and my family have just relocated to Belfast from Australia. We lived here before so it's not as new an experience for us!

We organised short term accommodation using the airbnb website. We stayed in a lovely two bedroom apartment near the university area. I used the propertynews app to search for a house to rent. Four bedroom, unfurnished houses with gardens were hard to find, and a bit expensive. As pp's have said, there's more choice and more for your money outside the city.

With regards to a car, we looked at leasing, but we discovered you were paying to lease and insure a brand new car, so we decided to buy a cheap, old car that will hopefully last us for a year or so, before trading up. My DH handled this, mostly, but one thing to bear in mind is that a lot of the car dealerships are outside the city, in country areas that can be hard to get to using public transport. You need a car to buy a car! In the end, he lined up a few he liked, and hired a car for the day to go look at them. One dealership tried to sell him a car with Republic of Ireland reg plates, which is a total headache to change, so avoid.

If you've any other questions, let me know. I am delighted to be back, I love this city and missed it so much!

Glitterwips Tue 13-Jan-15 19:58:32

Most kids are dropped to school. There are school buses but only in rural areas.
Generally people don't have massive freezers!!
I agree choose where you want to live and take it from there. I live in South Belfast and it's pretty cosmopolitan. Applications for my kids school close tomorrow so you are going to have to get moving. Private (paid for) school is an option Fullerton, Downey House, Campbell (boys), Inchmarlow (boys) and Victoria (girls)
Try gumtree or autocar for used cars.

Girard9212 Wed 14-Jan-15 12:27:11

TrashcanMan that's actually wonderful to hear that your back for a second round and love it so much! Thanks so much for the info on the cars too I think we are going to have to have one given my office isn't in the city and after living in a city of 10 million people having some space at home is a welcome change lol! Was it relatively easy being an expat to buy? Did you find it easy using the websites to view and find places to rent? From what we are seeing it looks like South and East Belfast are nice and have options in lots of price ranges.

Glitterwips I am totally freaking out on the school situation. I know that we are coming in after all the school selections have been done. Do they allow new enrollment all year for situations like ours or will we have to wait? I can't seem to find any info on that and I am petrified that the schools we may like will not have space or we will have to wait to enroll them which isn't ideal. From what I am reading the public schools are quite good for the little ones is that true?

justupthebend Wed 14-Jan-15 13:24:45

If you have a look at the BELB (Belfast and Education Library Board) website, you'll be able to access a document that lists primary schools within that Board. It'll give you an idea of numbers of places and number of applicants for each place. You'll also get postcodes etc of the schools which you'll be able to use if you're looking at postcodes of rental properties. Each Board obviously has its own website so if you venture further out you can do the same.

I'm assuming you have valid driving licenses at the minute - you have a period of grace, I think it's somewhere between 6 - 12 months to get a driving license reissued if it's a non EU license.

I'm not sure how schools are going to work for you. Most of my experience with primary schools us within the maintained sector. You may have a little more leeway with regards to schools if you are looking at private schools but I don't know.

The idea of a short term rental to base yourselves, and then looking for a longer term one is a good one (sorry I can't scroll back to see the posters name who did it).

Also have a look on Netmums Belfast pages for info/advice.

Glitterwips Wed 14-Jan-15 13:37:46

I think they can make some exceptions but there are class size limits. You would be best deciding where you want to live and seeing what schools are nearby and then contacting them directly. Would you be in a position to pay for schooling - even for one year? The schools are pretty good. You can get more information here on how the schools are rated but many might not have had an inspection for a while.

PM if you want any more specific info about individual schools.

PeppermintInfusion Thu 15-Jan-15 14:21:11

If you are going to be working in titanic quarter, you will need a car (there is public transport but it isn't that regular and a bit patchy) then you can really live anywhere as it is very accessible via the motorway etc. I work in that area, but live 10 miles away and the commute is v short (<25 mins).

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