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Rebecca Shine (03/09/10)Back to top Back to main Skip to menu
Expat Experiences: USA - Rebecca Shine (03/09/10)
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
We took the plunge and moved to Manhattan, from London, when my husband was offered a transfer with his work. He had been employed by the London office for a few years and then received a call about the opportunity to transfer to NY.
We jumped at the chance since we had spent numerous long weekends in the city and had always said it would be an amazing place to live. Luckily it has turned out that way! We have been here 3 years now and have literally settled where we first landed; in Soho. We recently bought an apartment in the building where we were renting and our daughter was born here in the city, so it's feeling pretty much like home at the moment.
What challenges did you face during the move?
This is an interesting question! At the time it was like a big adventure. We had no children so we were literally flying by the seat of our pants and feeling our way in the dark. My husband's company arranged for the shipping of all our goods and provided us with temporary accommodation. The rest was left up to us. We had to find a broker who would find us a long term apartment, work out the health care insurance system once I was pregnant (I hardly knew what an OGB was since we don't get to see them in the UK on the NHS unless via a GP referral.) We had to try and understand and make sense of everything from cell phone deals to broker fees to NY State ID and driving licenses. In hindsight it was a steep learning curve and a valuable one.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We luckily found a good broker (on Craig's List!) who listened to our requirements and found us an apartment in an old (in NY terms!) converted grammar school in Soho to rent long term. It worked out well as we are still in the building now and love it. The whole process was a trial in terms of providing all the paperwork needed within the time frame to secure the apartment so they would take it off the market. Especially in terms of the 3 months down payment and the 15% broker fee. Quite a shock! Not having a credit score in the US makes thing very hard although they did manage to do some kind of international credit check on us and secure the information they needed.
Are there many expats in the area?
Our neighborhood is full of expats and so many of them are from the UK! I belong to a mother's group downtown and I would hazard a guess at 20% - 30% of the 1500 members being expats. New York is such a transient city which makes it easy to meet people as so many people, if they are not expats, are new to the city at some point or another and make an effort to be sociable and to network in order to meet like minded friends.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
What do you like about life where you are?
Downtown Manhattan is so very cosmopolitan. During summer there is such an outdoor Parisian-esque feel to the city. You can wander from one neighborhood to the next, crossing over borders without even realizing, taking in the different cafes, bars and boutiques, wandering through the parks and you feel as though you are living in a series of villages rather than a large metropolis. The neon lights of midtown can often seem a million miles away for downtowners. Everything we need in Manhattan is on our doorstep and if it isn't then it can be ordered online to appear on our doorstep, often within minutes. I love that the high street retail scene which is so prominent in the UK doesn't exist to such an extent in New York. Here the independent retailer may not still be king as he was all those years ago but he still has a major role in comparison to a city like London. There is far more variety when it comes to food, fashion and music culture and there are endless activities and recreational resources for adults and kids without having to travel outside of the borough. In winter the mountains upstate offer skiing and in summer the local beaches and Long Island offer a great city escape.
What do you dislike about expat life?
The only thing that takes up more of my time than I would like it to is paperwork and home admin. Living as an expat with properties in 2 countries and in a way part of our life still in the UK means double the paperwork for tax, immigration, landlord / tenant issues in the UK, insurances - I assure you the list is endless and I won't bore myself by going through it. On top of that I think the US has more paperwork anyway than the UK. Unless I just didn't ever keep on top of it in the UK which is very possible!
What advice would you give anyone going through the same process?
What are your plans for the future?
We will stay in Manhattan as long as we can, or as long as we are happy here. It is indefinite and we keep an open mind and just enjoy our time in the city.
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