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Moving to Chicago, advice please?

(26 Posts)
FrenchGirl Mon 18-Apr-05 20:29:31

Dh's boss is being transferred to Chicago and dh and us might be following. Early days but it is a vague possibility at the moment. You are a wise and knowledgeable lot so have any of you lived there, how good is it for a family, how expensive is it to live there, how bad would the paperwork be for all boring admin things, etc..... I have only been to Chicago once about 15 years ago, and thought it was a great place, but obviously priorities have changed now...

cod Mon 18-Apr-05 20:30:47

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FrenchGirl Mon 18-Apr-05 20:31:26

really? but you see we're not rich....

cod Mon 18-Apr-05 20:31:39

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FrenchGirl Mon 18-Apr-05 20:32:49

liie the sound of that
dh thinks he will be facing daily gunfire and gangs....

stripey Mon 18-Apr-05 20:41:54

My dh was transferred there several years ago and I went along. My honest advice would be DON'T GO but that is because I truly hated living there and didn't have kids at the time. It would possibly be a different lifestyle with kids and you would probably be in the suburbs.

I could go on and on but don't want to bore everybody. The main things I hated were :-
- not being allowed a work permit
- being treated like a second class citizen
- rubbish food in the supermarkets
- the sub zero winter temps (-40 C with windchill at times
- the lack of international news or realisation that there is life beyond America
- beggars on every corner

stripey Mon 18-Apr-05 20:52:25

sorry I may have got the temp wrong it could have been - 40F not sure but was definitely very very very cold.

FrenchGirl Mon 18-Apr-05 20:52:29

eeek stripey... I am used to living abroad, but I do feel very european, so not sure how real life in the US would be for me. There is a lot to consider. Anyone else?

FrenchGirl Tue 19-Apr-05 09:55:50


tex111 Tue 19-Apr-05 10:08:05

My best friend lived in Chicago and I've spent a lot of time there. I love it but I'm American so a lot of the annoying American stuff wouldn't really annoy me! Like any big city the different areas vary widely. There are rough areas but there are beautiful areas too. My friends lived in Lincoln Park, which is lovely and close to the city. Generally, the houses in the US are considered huge by European standards. You should look at to get an idea of the kind of places you could afford.

Crime is probably higher and I agree with the general lack of quality food in the US, though this is changing. You just have to know where to look and I'm sure you would be able to meet other expats who would share their tips.

Chicago is a great place for kids. There's a free zoo in Lincoln Park, lots of great museums and a beach on the lake. There are also lots of nice areas within an hour's drive of the city with lakes, forests, etc. There are some very nice suburbs too that are totally self-contained so you wouldn't need to go into the city unless you wanted to.

All in all, I like Chicago. My friends have moved back to Texas now and the things they miss are the more liberal politics (you can imagine what Texas is like!), the friendly, laid-back people and the more metropolitan way of life. The thing they do not miss is the weather. They do have tough winters but the city copes with it well. Lots of gritting of the streets, city snow plows, etc. Just very, very cold!

FrenchGirl Tue 19-Apr-05 10:50:13

thanks tex111, it's good to get some positive feed-back. I like the fact there is stuff for children to do. I know there is a little french community there, and apparently a couple of french schools (but that's only from the french consulate website so it might be different IRL!) Not that I want to be be frenchies all the time but it's nice to know they're there.....
will have a look at the property site in a minute

stripey Tue 19-Apr-05 14:21:13

tex111 thats where we lived Licoln Park (corner of Clark and Fullerton). I do agree the Lake and the Zoo were fab.

I think one of my major problems was I had no kids and wasn't planning any for a while and with no chance of a working visa there was nothing constructive for me to do all week. This also meant losing a whole income for us. It would have been fine if I was American.

FrenchGirl do you work now or are you a SAHM?

stripey Tue 19-Apr-05 14:22:08

BTW Lincoln Park was definitely not a cheap area to live in.

FrenchGirl Wed 20-Apr-05 09:10:25

stripey I work part time at the moment (one job is teaching a few french clubs and the other is media analysis work which I do from home)

Enid Wed 20-Apr-05 09:26:07

dh has just got back - enormous portions of food he says

stripey Wed 20-Apr-05 09:33:03

Hi FrenchGirl

I was just asking as I am fairly sure you will not be allowed to do any form of work in America I think (not 100% sure) you are not even allowed to do voluntary work. Just something to consider if you are thinking of moving there.

tex111 Wed 20-Apr-05 13:05:22

Yes, the food in the grocery store isn't brilliant but the restaurants are fantastic! One of the best meals of my life was brunch one Easter at the top of Hancock Tower. Beautiful views of the city and the most amazing selection of food. Our friends had had their first baby by then and he was well catered for too. Really nice.

Davros Wed 20-Apr-05 15:44:03

Chicago? Wrap up warm or you won't feel the benefit
Seriously, have known quite a few Americans from Chicago although have not been there. I like the sound of it though and it seems to be the setting for lots of films these days. can't offer any proper advice but sounds v exciting!

FrenchGirl Thu 21-Apr-05 10:00:18

I don't mind not working for a while, but having the possibility would be nice... Still don'tknow whether this is going to happen, dh's work is in major chaos at the moment... We'd both like to go though...

mamadadawahwah Thu 21-Apr-05 16:18:10

Spent six months in Chicago about 8 years ago. Didnt like it. Far nicer american cities. Very cold, and i mean VERY. Dirty, rough, insular and poor. If you have money and can live where it is nice, then you may have a totally different viewpoint.

very flat. One hill in all of chicago! Its huge and the drivers are not very forgiving.

Plus side? Great bars of every description. If you buy three or more drinks, they give you one for free or give you a double. food is excellent, lots of choices. Great "liberal" community who cant abide the general and current american "trend" of neoconservative politics. Beautiful park, beautiful lake and gorgeous real estate. Look out for Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Truly magnificent.

IlanaK Thu 21-Apr-05 19:21:59

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and when I moved back here with my mother, my dad moved into the LIncoln Park area downtown over looking the zoo. I visited many times and really loved it. Not all of Chicago is great, but there are certainly pockets like that that are lovely. AS for the annoying american things - well, you will get that wherever you go in the US. On the whole, I would not dread a move like that.

stripey Fri 22-Apr-05 09:44:15

I think one thing that really struck me about living in Chicago was the MASSIVE gap between rich and poor. People (in the Lincoln Park area where I was) were either well off or dirt poor.

There didn't seem to be an in between.

IlanaK Fri 22-Apr-05 11:09:47

I think that can be siad about many cities. The area I live in London (near Marylebone Village) is exactly the same.

On an aside - here is my scary story from visiting Chicago. I was about 16 and visiting my dad for the summer (Lincoln Park area). I was doing a project for school and using the local library. They did not have the info I needed and suggested I go to the University of Chicago Library instead. Now, not living in Chicago, I had no idea that the Uni was in a terrible terrible neighborhood. They gave me directions as to what was the nearest stop on the "L" train. SO off I went - very white, young and naiive looking in my denim shorts, pony tail etc. AS I am sitting on this train getting closer and closer, I start to notcie that I am the only white person left on it, and out the window I can see parking lot after parking lot with burnt out cars, etc in it. I must have gone into a sort of denial mode and refused to really see the implications.

I got off at the stop I had been told with no map and no idea of where to go. AS I walked down the steps to the street, there was a police car sitting right at the bottom. I have no idea why, but something made me knock on the window to ask for directions. At first knock, they did not even look in my direction, but rolled the window down a tiny bit so I could speak. When I started asking, they literally did a double take at me. They told me to get in the back of the car and they drove me to the Uni. On the way there, they basically told me that if they had not driven me there, they would have been picking up my body later instead. They gave me very specific directions to get back home via a special bus that runs from the Uni into the better part of town.

I look back on this now, almost 17 years later and still can't believe how lucky I was.

This has no bearing on the thread, just wanted to share it!

Ameriscot2005 Fri 22-Apr-05 11:25:34

Never been to Chicago, but we did live in the midwest for a total of 6 years (4 years with children).

I'm very glad we had the experience but also very glad to be back in the UK. To me, a lot depends on how well padded the compensation package is. I'd have hated to have been there and have to watch the pennies.

The biggest negatives for me were the food, church, and down-to-earth friends. The internet is fab, and that saved me as I was able to keep up with communities I was already on.

On the plus side, the typical suburban life is very comfortable and child-centred. People are friendly and even if this is shallow, it's still better than being grumpy. Kids can play on the streets, ride their bikes etc.

The weather can be great, and even thought the winters are cold, everything is geared up for it. The summers are hot, although stormy. Fall is the best season (like a fab summer here - cool overnight and hot in the day).

As for working, it depends on hubby's visa. If he is on a L1A, you can get an Employment Authorization Document and Social Security Number.

stripey Fri 22-Apr-05 14:11:52

Ilanak I can believe that story after seeing some of the dodgy parts of Chicago and hearing stories on the news.

I do think there are bigger discrepancies over there. How come there are so many beggars? I am not sure if they have a similar state benefit system to us? I know hospitals will turn people away without insurance for instance.

Anyway this isn't really what the thread is about and I wish you good luck if you decide to go FrenchGirl, you may well love it over there. I think the suburbs are probably more family oriented than the City but then you miss out on being close to everything. It depends on what you prefer really.

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