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Moving UK to Seattle

26 replies

WhatCanBrownBearSee · 16/09/2016 11:22

DH was informed by his company yesterday that they are closing the London office in a few weeks and that he has a choice of redundancy or an all expenses paid move to Seattle (or SF, though we prefer the sound of the former)
Firstly, does anyone have experience of living in the Seattle area? His work would be based in Redmond/Bellevue. I know nothing about the cities, or tbh about USA in general. What sort of questions do we even need to be thinking about?
We have 3 young children, one is undergoing treatment for cancer. That treatment is well underway and the company medical will cover it (to our surprise). How do we even start with working out moving schools etc. Our eldest would be in Kindergarten, our other children are younger.

We both worry about our parents for different reasons. Neither set particularly elderly but not young either, all are in their 60s. None are well travelled and my parents in particular dislike flying. Our children are the only grandchildren on both sides and are likely to remain so. We don't live close to my parents in the UK but see them every 6-8 weeks. They adore the kids and the kids adore them. They would be devastated if we moved to the other side of the world. They have been an enormous help to us, especially through DS cancer treatment and I'd feel terrible taking their grandchildren away. That said, our parents' feelings can't really be the only deciding factor in making us stay.

Where do we start with making the decision? Redundancy wouldn't be a problem for DH. The package is generous enough and he is in an industry where he is unlikely to struggle to find another role in London. We had assumed that DS medical issues would make moving impossible (and tbh almost hoped that they would so we wouldn't have to make a decision)
Although we don't know a lot about the area, DH colleagues suggest that the quality of living could be much greater out there. We've had a turbulent few years and a place with a slower pace of life would be lovely. But that could just be sugar-coating the Unknown.

Does anyone have any thoughts, experience of moving away from the familiar, ideas about the location or anything else we haven't even thought of yet please? My gut reaction is to stay put here, but there's a certain pull to the change that means I don't want to dismiss it out of hand just yet.

OP posts:
cheeseismydownfall · 16/09/2016 20:47

First off, is this a temporary or, the sounds of it, a permanent move? What visa are they proposing? That will help people to advise you.

Flowers for your DC.

AChanceAtSchool · 23/09/2016 14:01

Bump OP. Hope you get some answers, as we are in a similar position...

whatsagoodusername · 23/09/2016 14:20

I grew up in Bellevue! The Seattle area is lovely, very outdoorsy (in spite of the rain).

Schools are pretty good generally - my mother was a teacher in the Bellevue school district for years, before moving up to Everett.

Bellevue is now very expensive, thanks to Microsoft and similar companies, but there are a lot of more affordable places in the area. The trouble is traffic as it can get very bad - there are buses, but most people drive, on their own, and now commutes can be quite long.

For cancer treatments, I believe Swedish Medical Center is quite good, and there is a Seattle Cancer Alliance which I've driven past many times, but don't know much about.

Flights are 9-10 hours and currently there are 3-4 daily nonstop London-Seattle flights - BA always does one daily, and other airlines pick up and drop the route occasionally. It's a long flight but Seattle airport is pretty small and easy to navigate so at least easy on that end! My mother, who sounds reasonably similar to your parents, does it usually twice a year, doesn't like it, but doesn't find it problematic.

Sorry if this is a bit garbled, I'm on my phone and can only read half your post now that I've started typing, and need to rush off in a minute. But hope that helps a bit, and let me know if I can help with any questions!

WhatCanBrownBearSee · 23/09/2016 19:29

Thank you for all the responses, things are moving fast here and we are still oscillating on whether to go or stay.
DH works for Microsoft and we gather that that can make things in the area easier in some ways - colleagues have found that deposits on rents/guarantors/credit checks are all easier with MS behind you.

It would be a permanent move in the sense that DH would have a permanent contract with MS, but we would be looking at it as a short-medium term move initially. We would have to pay our relocation costs back to the UK, but otherwise there are few penalties in terminating the contract after the first year there. We are thinking 2-3 years.

We are swinging rapidly from "definitely not, we like London" to "wow, definitely go for the adventure" and don't know which side we'll land on in the end. We haven't got long to make a decision so we'll have to get on with making our minds up.

OP posts:
Canyouforgiveher · 23/09/2016 19:43

It is a hard one.

What would your visa status be like? Would you be able to work if you wanted to?

I live in the US. In some ways things are simpler. For example with schools, as a general rule where you rent or buy determines your school. Doesn't matter if you move in the middle of the school year, your child goes to his local school. Schools work hard to be a community too in my experience. People generally pick the best school district they can afford.

I imagine you will have an excellent health care benefit in which case your child will get excellent treatment.

The one thing I would say is that the US seems familiar because of movies/tv/common language but it is still a foreign country and it can be hard to live in a foreign country sometimes - there is a low level culture shock that can be surprising somewhere like the US.

With regard to grandparents, no it can't be the only deciding factor but I know I caused enormous pain to my parents by living so far away from them. They were great about coming over but there is no doubt at all that my children had a different relationship with their grandparents than their cousins did. I also missed every funeral, lots of weddings, events etc over the years.

That said, we love living here and I think Seattle would be a great experience.

Two pieces of advice I got when trying to make a similar decision were

  1. With all the competing factors swirling around, there is generally one that is the most important (as in for you it was your child's treatment but that is now not a factor), try to figure out which is the most important to you and decide based on that factor.

  1. Imagine your day in the new place - in detail, imagine how you would be living (if you can) and see how you feel about it.
AChanceAtSchool · 23/09/2016 20:37

My main worry is childcare - we are currently lucky enough to have a place at a really good nursery - one of the council CC ones - and they are quite educational and look after DC to a really high standard.
I guess it's just fear of the unknown, but I have this vague concern that any old childcare place in the US won't have the same focus on child development or be of the same standard generally.
Anyone know what childcare is like in the US (esp Seattle)? I hope I'm being silly. I know they will vary, but in general is childcare considered educational or just "looking after your kids"?

Canyouforgiveher · 23/09/2016 20:46

Early childhood education and child development generally is a huge industry (for want of a better word) in the US. so childcare is like the UK really - it depends entirely on the place you chose.

We had our children in a professional daycare (as in not in someone's home). It was perfectly educational, warm, friendly, safe, developmentally appropriate etc. Met some lovely families and made friends there and several of the women became babysitters for us. But that doesn't mean every place is the same. In general home daycares (woman minding them in her own home) are probably less focused on development but that isn't true of all of them either.

Lalux · 24/09/2016 17:12

Our next door neighbours have just moved to Kirkland. They have 3 young kids and I have seen photos of the nursery that their 2 year old is attending and it looks amazing. Loads of outdoor areas, animals and lovely 'classrooms'. They seem to have settled in well already. The school definitely seems to be a big part of the community.

AppleMagic · 24/09/2016 17:50

I wouldn't worry about the quality of early years stuff, just the price. Most daycares near us (Chicago) start pre-preschool educational programmes at 2. In fact, if anything I think formal "learning" starts earlier here than in the UK even though "school" starts later. i haven't met any 2yr olds in our neighbourhood who aren't in some sort of preschool, some of the week, even those with SAHP or full-time nannies.

AChanceAtSchool · 25/09/2016 21:25

That's really helpful everyone! Reassuring.

Sorry OP for hijacking your thread. I feel exactly as you do - we swing from "why would we want to leave?! It's perfect here" and "our reasons for staying are really flimsy and when we look back at 60 we'll kick ourselves for never trying".

I am quite simply terrified of giving up our spot at our local Learning Trust Children's Centre. If we do move, then have more children and eventually move back to the area, they won't benefit from their older sibling's placement.

I know it's a ridiculous thing to worry about - something that may or may not happen years in the future to a child who doesn't even exist yet! But we were so so lucky to get this place and I honestly don't know what I'd do if we didn't get a spot for any future children. All other childcare round here is cripplingly expensive.

WhatCanBrownBearSee · 25/09/2016 22:22

Hijack away AChance, you're thinking of things that I hadn't so the answers you're getting are useful to me too.

To answer a couple of previous questions, I understand that DH would have an L1 visa and I would get L2, which I believe would allow me to work. I'm a sahm at the moment though, and would likely continue that at least short term.
I'm an early years teacher, though no idea if my teaching qualification (PGCE + MA in early childhood education) would transfer, but in any case it's good to hear that early years provision is in a good state in the area, both from a professional point of views as well as having my own 3 year old twins.
I'm a bit confused about schools. So if we move house and it crosses a boundary into the catchment for a different school then my kids have to change school? We are likely to have temporary housing provided by Microsoft for a couple of months whilst we get sorted with our own rental, which would likely be in a different area. If we decide to stay longer term we might well then buy, but again may not stay in the catchment of one school. Does each house move mean changing schools?

Also can someone tell me more about nurseries etc. Here the twins are in school nursery, they are eligible from the September after they turn 3 and do half days. Next September they start full time school. So is there public preschool for 3 year olds? Or is it all private? The elementary schools I've looked at (pretty much at random) don't seem to have a pre-K class, but occasionally one does. If the local school doesn't offer pre-K then do they go to a preschool? Or do kids stay at home (or in daycare) until they start kindergarten?
Apologies for all the questions, I thought I knew a fair bit about America, despite never having been, it turns out I know very little!

We are no nearer a decision that when I posted first last week. I'm getting more used to the idea in some ways. DH is moving away from the idea. But we change our minds regularly! I really appreciate all the thoughts that are coming through the thread, so thank you all.

OP posts:
AppleMagic · 25/09/2016 23:38

In my experience daycares/private schools will have preschool rooms but public pre-K is rarer and varies by school district (I think). It might just be where we live but most parents pay for private preschool hours. We asked for 15hrs preschool funding to be included in our relocation package (they already offer school fees).

On an L2 visa you need to make sure you apply well in advance for authorisation to work as it can take months. It might vary by state but I know that in some places you can teach in private schools but not public if you have a UK qualification.

whatsagoodusername · 26/09/2016 10:29

I don't think the catchment areas for schools are particularly strict in the Seattle area - I certainly didn't ever go to the school I was meant to! School buses pick kids up from all over. So moving around within a reasonable distance (Bellevue, then over to Redmond, for example) will probably not affect your child's school place.

Pre-K is usually separate, and I don't think it's government-funded. Some pre-Ks also offer kindergarten, then the kids move to an elementary school, but this is less common.

mathanxiety · 02/10/2016 01:28

I think you should operate on the basis that school districts are strict about residency. There could be exceptional circumstances that allow children to attend a school outside of a district or a school in a district that wouldn't normally be their school - I am familiar with a family where a child with an IEP attended a school that was set up for his particular SN and the others in that family were able to go to that school too.

Requirements can vary from district to district, depending on factors like crowding or integration imperatives, etc. but in general residency requirements operate.

The good news for you is if you arrive in Seattle before your oldest is required to go to Kdg (before September 2017), you don't have to send him or her anywhere until you have done research on the ground. I assume you will have a few months in subsidised housing and will then move somewhere else. Since your child isn't yet old enough for Kdg then you have that cushion. You could send the child to any sort of preschool (but you will have to pay afaik, as free public education only starts at Kdg). Private preschool will not have any catchment, though some RC schools use parish boundaries or parish membership as de facto 'districts'.

Nursery provision on the lines that it is available in the UK does not really exist in the US. Most childcare is private. You might find some sort of public preschool in some places but my guess is places would be allocated by lottery, and not something you could depend on finding. A lot of middle class communities have a variety of different preschool options and classes all the same, and they can be affordable and require no year long commitment. I sent DS to preschool when he was 4 in the local YMCA, registering him for 8-week sessions (three mornings a week) on a rolling basis. People I know sent their children to a music and dance school where they spend a few mornings a week singing and prancing around and playing instruments. People tend to patch together a few classes to expose their children to different experiences - a child could do painting one morning and then ice skating in the afternoon, and soccer the following day, with suzuki violin two days later, and swimming slotted in somewhere too.

mathanxiety · 02/10/2016 01:30

...There is a lot of schlepping involved. Many people are happy to participate in carpooling.

lizzieoak · 02/10/2016 02:00

What about a Montessori preschool? It looks like Seattle has a few. One of my kids did Montessori preschool & it was a really good experience.

OlennasWimple · 04/10/2016 03:00

On your qualifications: you would need to apply for a state licence to teach (even if you have moved to Seattle from Idaho you would need to apply for a new licence). But you might find lots of places, including the public schools, happy to employ you to do supply teaching or teaching assistant work without a licence, and this can be a good option at least at first if you want to work without committing to a full time position.

AChanceAtSchool · 13/10/2016 11:34

Hi all! OP, did you make a decision?

We are still (!) floundering about trying to decide what to do. I know this is a "how long is a piece of string" question, but what sort of income bracket should we hope for?

OH makes £80,000 all in at the moment. Which is, at the current exchange rate, $97,500. But I know that doesn't represent an equivalent salary in the US - could anyone give a ballpark figure of what would be? We don't want to go backwards in our standard of living but also don't want to turn down a decent offer.

unicornlovermother · 15/10/2016 20:05

We had the same dilemma 6 years ago- no job or a job in the U.S.
We took the plunge and honestly we love it here. The quality of life is better in our opinions. Kids stay kids longer I think and weekend sports are a big thing and all kids are encouraged to play which I like- it can be a bit more elitist in the UK I feel.

However, I will say that we miss my parents more now 6 years in- it was easy with little kids but now they are older we get no break ever and I do feel the kids miss out on seeing grandparents and they miss out on the kids.

But, we still would have done it because we have a better life here but our son has had periods of sickness and I will not pretend we have not longed for family support at times like that. I am sorry your son is experiencing cancer-I would weigh up what is more important because moving to the U.S, they will have a different relationship with your parents.

unicornlovermother · 15/10/2016 20:23

Just to say the childcare options in most cities are pretty amazing. ALso with a company like microsoft you have a highly educated workforce- they demand good childcare and often the techies are the most progressive so you will have very good childcare available. Our son went to a co op and it was pretty special- many families were zero screen time and it was all very right on- but lots of good comes with that like play based learning and always being empathetic and ensuring kids' needs are met. I never did childcare in the UK but i got the feeling the UK is more traditional on that front- here people are SO picky about the right environment for their child that they may tour 20 places and deliberate over the various nuances of each place. Seattle will have many excellent options- cheaper than the UK- we pay $800 a month for full days but the norm is closer to $1200.

I would say don't come for under 100k and ask for 30K more than you really want because salary negotiation is expected over here. On 100k you can rent a pleasant 3 bed home in a decent school district and manage on one income if you are pretty frugal. $125K would be more resonable but still modest and at Microsoft many earn a lot, so go in high. Ask for $160 if you want $130. Don't haggle over holidays- you get what you get on that.

unicornlovermother · 15/10/2016 20:27

A chance- the average salary in the US is 56K. Managers generally earn near 100K and directors start 130k and upwards depending on the company. Avoid SF- it is so expensive. Seattle is better value for your money all round.However even in an expensive city we find we can survive on less than it cost us in London and life is just much more pleasant all round. I rarely feel stressed here but in London it just felt like I was on a hamster wheel every day with the commute and the grey skies.

mathanxiety · 16/10/2016 06:27

Make sure with a child undergoing cancer treatment that your health insurance is really, really good and doesn't exclude pre-existing conditions, look at the $ limits per illness, and lifetime $ limits, plus individual and family deductibles, what charges are covered by insurance and what sort of plan you are being offered. HMOs are different from PPOs. Often health insurance is part of an overall compensation package, so be careful that your actual paycheque will also provide a decent income.


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abbyfranny · 26/09/2018 13:05

hey, I see that you were in a similar position to me. Hubby offered a job at Microsoft in Redmond. We are on the same path that you were back in 2016... I wondered if you would shre your experience with me.

How did it go?

BritInUS1 · 29/09/2018 20:45

abbyfranny you would be best to start a new thread as there will be people here that can help, but your post will get lost tagged on like this

pumkinspicetime · 30/09/2018 01:03

In terms of salary in DH's field salaries are double in US to UK, if you are doing a straight unit transfer with some relocation assistance that is what we would look for. Many things in the US are much more expensive, groceries, utilities, insurance for example and you have no credit rating when you first arrive.

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