Lotus Elan

Potential relocation - UK to USA

PostPost by: PaulFinch » Mon May 04, 2015 2:07 pm

So, as this forum obviously contains a great deal of knowledge and experience from all walks of life I thought it'd be a good place to ask some questions.

An opportunity has come up with work that would mean relocating to the Boston / Massachusetts area. I'm still in the very early phase of negotiations but I'm interested to hear from anyone who's undertaken a similar move. Primarily any technicalities or things you know now that you'd wished you'd been aware of at the time.

Also, I've heard New Englanders can be a little 'abrasive' to outsiders, any truth in this?!

Thanks in advance
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Mon May 04, 2015 4:09 pm

I grew up in Boston area and lived for a time over in London. I think both cultures are similar. The secret is finding a nice neighborhood, or building to live in. Having lived in lots of different cities in the US (Northeast, South and Midwest), which are very different culturally, the secret is the neighborhood where you live and finding groups to join that share your interests. Dan
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PostPost by: pharriso » Mon May 04, 2015 6:01 pm

PaulFinch wrote:Also, I've heard New Englanders can be a little 'abrasive' to outsiders, any truth in this?!


New Englanders aka Yankees just say it like it is... Always friendly though.

Paul, a lot depends on whether you have school or college age kids, schools vary tremendously depending on the tax base of the area involved. We moved out of NYC purely to move to an area with good schools.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the move, my wife & I got married to come over for a 2 year trip, still here after 30 years!

One of the biggest issues is the family that you may be leaving behind, support etc. If you can afford to go back & forwards it may relieve some of the pain, so maybe build return trips into the contract.

Check housing prices in the area that you wiould be moving to, metro NY or Boston are expensive, but not as expensive as London. Feel free to PM or e-mail me.

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PostPost by: mbell » Mon May 04, 2015 7:02 pm

Are you thinking permanent move or just a few years? (Possibly turning into a permanent move?)

I am presuming your employer has a decent presence here in the US and will take care of things like visa etc. Based on my experience thing worth noting are:

- Your healthcare is via insurance from your employer, what is/isn't covered and cost for the individual will vary a lot. Be sure to check they are offering a good plan.
- If you have family you also have a fee to pay to get them on your insurance. You need to check what kind of visa they get, e.g. a wife maybe issued a visa that doesn't permit them to work.
- Check on the number of vacation/holidays, you could have significant less than you do in the UK. Also you tend to accrue them rather than get a job lot at the start of the year.
- See if you employer can help make sure you have a bank account and Credit card setup for when you move. (I found this very painful jumping through the hoops with the bank to get this all done)
- Housing prices/rent vary a lot depending on neighborhood and schools etc, be very careful when selecting where you leave
- You'll have to do both UK and US tax returns, the US is basically impossible to understand and file. Makes the UK system look well designed and run...
- Your UK tax will suddenly become more complicated
- Look into state taxes if you have a choice where to go, some states have income tax, some don't etc
- If you plan to return and are in a high earning profession google "exit tax"
(- Note the amount of comments around taxes...)
- Everything here works differently, e.g. you still pay rent with a paper cheque (check), car insurance is 6 months not 12 months
- You may be familiar with the US but you will know you are living in a different country when your trying to do things you wouldn't think twice about in the UK but are struggling to understand here.
- You need to consider paying in UK National Insurance for the state pension if you plan to return and still if you don't plan to return
- Daily driver cars are a lot more expensive than the UK. Don't think you'll come here and buy a dirt cheap run around for a little while.

If you come first thing you need to do is get a social security number and then a driving license. Getting basic services (e.g. electric) set up with out these can be difficult.

Hope this helps ,I am sure there are more but the pain of all these is starting to fade for me after 4 years here...

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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Mon May 04, 2015 7:17 pm

Nick (Elanner) also is a UK to US move and lives in the Boston area.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Tue May 05, 2015 6:24 am

Lived in the 'states a couple of times in my career. Had a great time.

Ideally you want your employer to provide some form of relocation support - there are third party firms who help with this. As pointed out above, for a country built on immigration, navigating the paperwork as a newly landed expat is a nightmare. It is impossible to open a bank account, get a credit card, take on a phone line, water supply, house or apartment rental agreement or any sort of service without paperwork that you don't have. Getting the right paperwork is a catch-22 circular process of frustration. Working with a firm who have helped others do this shortens the period of annoyance.

Expect to learn a new vocabulary with words like 'co-payment' and 'deductible'. The UK system is more centralised and socialist than the US. Everybody and every service needs paying for in the US.

East coast around Connecticut / New York State / Rhode Island / Massachusetts is a great place to be based. Not without reason is it called 'New England' - a lot like the area of Surrey / West Sussex I moved from.

Finally, I was advised that most expat postings fail because of wife and family, not because of the job. If you are travelling with a family it is very important to ensure they are supported - you have an automatic social life with the job, they do not.

Good luck.
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PostPost by: holywood3645 » Tue May 05, 2015 7:43 am

From end of Oct to St Pats day, Its Cold! not like anything you have been subject to in the UK.. And you will need a snow shovel

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PostPost by: PaulFinch » Tue May 05, 2015 9:35 pm

Thanks Guys. Some great points.

I'd heard it can get a bitty nippy! Our office in Newton was closed twice this winter with some pretty impressive drifting snow.

It'll be a permanent role. Just my wife and I, no children as yet. It's a very good point about the type of visa for my wife, she is a teacher and would very much want to continue working.
I think, as suggested, I need to make contact with someone who's already made the move within the company. Trying to get information out of the HR department is akin to extracting blood out of a stone.

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PostPost by: pharriso » Tue May 05, 2015 10:20 pm

Paul, if your wife is a teacher, then she would need a work visa to work at all & probably need to be accredited in the state that she would want to work in.
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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Wed May 06, 2015 6:08 am

It all depends on the visa you get, but the one I had, H1-B, did not allow my wife to work. She would have had to obtain a work visa in her own right. Unless you are lucky, this is hard to achieve.
The wives of fellow expats either worked in embassies (work visas not required) or did volunteer work.
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PostPost by: elanner » Wed May 06, 2015 6:46 pm

Oops, nearly missed this - been traveling. Apologies this is so long. Wrote it on the flight. Like Phil says, PM me anytime.

I moved from Hampshire to New Hampshire (and later to Boston via Seattle) about 26 years ago. Never regretted it for a minute (but obviously missed some stuff).

I don't remember the specific hurdles; you'll work your way through them and then forget them. Mark and Andy give a great run down of some technicalities. I'd add:

- For taxes your employer may be able to help. My employer paid one of the big accounting firms to do my US taxes, with UK tax equalization. The first year is likely to be complex.

- Having a US address right from the start helps you get set up. (Imagine showing up off the boat in the UK, with no National Insurance number, no address, funny accent, and trying to open a bank account and get a credit card.) Use your company or manager's address if necessary. Correct it once you've moved.

- Apply for a Social Security card for yourself and your wife during one of your trips before your final move. I remember that mine took a while to arrive and was sent to my manager's home. He opened the letter and gave me the number over the phone while I was still in the UK.

- Have a formal letter with proof of employment so that you can convince people that you're for real.

- Somebody like Santander Bank, with street branches in the UK and Mass, may be able to help you set up a US bank account before you arrive, which would definitely simplify the first couple of weeks. You'll need a SS number and an address.

- You'll have to use your UK credit card to get started. If you have a UK AmEx card they should be able to provide one that is billed in dollars (maybe Visa/Mastercard can do this too). A good trick would be to figure out how to get your credit rating transferred to the US. I've no idea if this is possible. It's another area where somebody like AmEx could help. Call the US credit agencies (there are three: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) and ask. Your credit rating is checked by card issuers, landlords and God knows who else, so it's important to have one. If you don't people will think you're from Mars.

- Get a copy of your good driving record from your car insurance company and hope that you can make it work in the US. Otherwise car insurance is going to come as a shock. Phone the big US insurance companies and ask. Tell them that they'll get your business if they accept your UK driving record.

- Get a driver's license immediately. Waving a passport around as proof of who you are doesn't inspire confidence that you plan to stick around and pay your bills. The test is designed to be easy, unlike the UK where it is designed to be difficult. You won't fail. The Mass Department of Transport (DOT) has a rules-of-the-road book so skim through it before you do the test.

- If you have any needed medical/dental records get them before you leave. I imagine that trying to get them once you're in the US would be challenging.

- Your company's HR people in the UK will probably be hopeless because they won't know anything about the US. And vice-versa.

- Don't forget to tell the UK National Insurance people your US address once you've settled in. I didn't do this, and lost my number, so recently spent several months proving to them who I am.

But a relocation is not decided on the technicalities. They are just a nuisance and a matter of time. Buying all new 110v appliances and winter clothes that work in -20c is a pain but not a show stopper.

The hardest part is emotional. The more you think about it the less likely you are to do it. The upsides are in the future and uncertain. The downsides are immediate and obvious - leaving home, friends, family, job, integration with the society at large, and much more.

So my advice is to close your eyes and jump. If you don't you will spend the rest of your life kicking yourself for missing a wonderful and rare opportunity (this applies to many countries, not just the USA). If you love it you can stay, if you hate it you can be home in 6 hours.

There is culture shock - the language might be the same, but not much else is. If you were moving to Japan you'd expect everything to be strange, but there's a tendency to think that the US will be just like the UK. It ain't. But that's the whole idea; if everything were the same there would be no point in doing it. So you have to leave your prejudices at the immigration booth and be flexible enough to embrace a new, different life. Easy to do in your 20s, gets harder as you age, would be tough in your 50s. American football and baseball are wonderful sports - there's no point complaining that they aren't soccer and cricket. There are plenty of stupidities in the US and plenty of different stupidities in the UK.

Much to my surprise I found that I love the cold, blue, dry, snowy winters. The seasons here are one of the region's great attractions.

Which is the better country? Well, the person who stays here will tell you one thing, while the person who goes back will tell you another. So you have to find out for yourself!

I very much agree with the comment that it's not about you. It's about your wife. Unless you can get her a work permit she's going to be sitting at home with no friends, missing her mum. At least you can do free phone calls to the UK these days. The local schools will doubtless welcome a volunteer. So don't rent a place out in the country because you like the idea of a few thousand square feet, a few acres of land, and a big garage for your cars and the Elan you'll obviously have to buy. Get somewhere near to town, a nice walkable neighborhood, and good public transport to the city. Your wife has to love it. You won't have time to love it because you'll be working your *rs* off! Fortunately, Newton has some very nice areas.

Boston is about the easiest place for a European to adjust to, and the shortest flight home.

As for abrasive. What, compared to the Brits? Ha ha! ;-)

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PostPost by: mbell » Wed May 06, 2015 8:22 pm

Some very good points there.

elanner wrote:- For taxes your employer may be able to help. My employer paid one of the big accounting firms to do my US taxes, with UK tax equalization. The first year is likely to be complex.


My company did this and it actually caused me a lot of hassle and stress.The whole process left me none the wiser how the US system worked or how to deal with it the next year.

They had a well know big accounting firm do it for me. Which basically consisted of them getting me to enter my information in a badly designed website that closely resembled the tax forms or turbo tax and was very hard to fill in with little to no advice. They then got my tax return wrong in a way that was luckily obvious enough for me to spot it, so I had to pre-pay a large amount of tax, file an extension while they sorted it and get a refunded of some of the tax money back. I know other people at my company who have had similar issues that has cost them a decent amount of money in late fees because tehy weren't given information they should have been.

Based on my experience I think you be much better getting them to pay for a local tax person to sit down with you and walk you through it.
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Wed May 06, 2015 9:35 pm

Citibank used to have a nice dual currency account. You get two of everything. Two check books, two debit cards, two credit cards... It was also very easy to convert currency on the website, and they have a good retail network for ATMs and the occasional bank visit. I had the same experience with the big accounting firm, but taxes are really a significant consideration. Good logistical recommendations in the other posts. My wife liked living in the city, so that it was constantly drawing her out of the house to explore. Newton is close enough to Boston, that you can easily live in the city, and drive or ride to the office. Might also help to make living with one car possible, which would save some money. Car insurance is a lot. Good Luck. Dan
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PostPost by: CBUEB1771 » Thu May 07, 2015 5:17 pm

PaulFinch wrote:Also, I've heard New Englanders can be a little 'abrasive' to outsiders, any truth in this?!


Paul,
Don't worry about New Englanders, we are a harmless lot. Expect some good natured ribbing about the events which started in 1775. I received very much the same when I studied at the University of Sussex. Largely due to the considerable growth in pharmaceuticals research in Cambridge (Kendall Square neighborhood) there is a large community of English ex-pats in the Boston area. One of my favorite spots for dinner in Cambridge has an informal "ex-pats" gathering on Thursday evenings. As others have pointed out, the winter weather can be unpleasant however this past season was unrepresentative owing to a large number of heavy snowfalls in the space of a few weeks. We also have no shortage of enthusiastic Lotus owners in the area although we tend segregate ourselves into early (Mark IX, XI and Elite), Elan/Europa era, and modern Lotus camps. Keep us posted on your plans.
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PostPost by: Chancer » Thu May 07, 2015 7:36 pm

elanner wrote:There is culture shock - the language might be the same, but not much else is. If you were moving to Japan you'd expect everything to be strange, but there's a tendency to think that the US will be just like the UK. It ain't. But that's the whole idea; if everything were the same there would be no point in doing it. So you have to leave your prejudices at the immigration booth and be flexible enough to embrace a new, different life. Easy to do in your 20s, gets harder as you age, would be tough in your 50s. American football and baseball are wonderful sports - there's no point complaining that they aren't soccer and cricket. There are plenty of stupidities in the US and plenty of different stupidities in the UK.

Which is the better country? Well, the person who stays here will tell you one thing, while the person who goes back will tell you another. So you have to find out for yourself!


Nick


You make some very good points relevant to any country and which I can really identify with, I think you said something about jumping in, well I am definitely from the jumping in blindly camp and sorting out the cons?quences as they occur, great wisdom like the above is in my mind of far greater value then the incidentals which although annoying and could be avoided can usually be sorted out on the ground, also the comments about wife and family although that wwas not a consideration to me I know from looking around me that its the major source of unhappiness.

Whilst things are tougher as you get older I think once you have jumped ship and cut all ties once it is much much easier to do so again at any age, I will soon be doing it again in my mid 50's possibly 60's if things take longer to develop.
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