10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Houston

If you are thinking of moving to the Texan city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the USA, what should your priorities be when it comes to finding out more about your destination? Houston is one of the state’s most popular cities, with a solid job market and a high standard of living. We are going to take a look at ten important things to consider if you are planning to make Space City your home.

 

Can I find a job?

Employment here is, even with the disruption of Covid-19, relatively stable. There are some big name employers here, such as Walmart and the Memorial Hermann Health System, and some major sectors, such as medical, retail, aerospace, tech, oil and gas, manufacturing and life sciences. There’s a vibrant start-up scene, too. If you have a background in STEM subjects or IT, Houston is a good place to seek work.

 

What is the housing market like?

The first question to ask yourself is whether you wish to live ‘inside or outside the loop’ (the loop of interstate 610). Inside the loop includes the city’s downtown and some of its principal neighbourhoods: Midtown, the Heights, Montrose and Desert Oaks. Beyond the loop are the metro area’s main suburban neighbourhoods, such as Sugar Land or the Woodlands (median house price is $365K for a family home). Katy and Cypress are also popular areas, and the Bay Area is up and coming, but bear in mind that anywhere very close to the Gulf will be prone to some severe weather.

House prices in Houston are considerably cheaper than in some other metro areas. Average house prices come in at under $300K, which is not too far from the USA overall average (estimated as $238,000). However, it is steeper than the rest of Texas, which has an average house price of $185,000. Many family homes are under $200K. It’s estimated to be 19% cheaper than Austin and 5% cheaper than Dallas.

To find an apartment, you can use an agent, or online property listing apps such as Craigslist can help. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

 

What is the cost of living in Houston?

There are no state or local income taxes in Houston, but you will find that property taxes, for example, can be quite high. However, because of the relatively low cost of housing, you will find that the overall cost of living in Houston is a pleasant surprise compared to metro areas such as San Francisco or NYC. Gas prices are relatively low and so are energy costs. Forbes estimate that you’ll need a salary of just under $70K per year to live comfortably here, although note that this has gone up by 25% in recent years and may continue to rise.

There are no state or local income taxes in Houston.

 

What is the crime rate in Houston?

Violent crime has been spiking in Houston, according to the local police, and the murder rate is at its highest for a decade. There are also high levels of assault and motor vehicle theft, although overall Houston is estimated not to be as dangerous as Austin, and it is perceived to be a comparatively safe place by residents. 56 residents in every 1,000 are estimated to have been victims of a crime.

 

What is the quality of life like in Houston?

Houston is very diverse and is home to a large number of ethnic groups. It’s also home to the space industry, so if that is your thing, you’ll need to head to the Space Centre. There’s a fine Museum District, too, and a Theatre District. Retail opportunities are good at the Galleria and elsewhere. Foodwise, Tex Mex and BBQ are obvious contenders, but you’ll find a wide range of cuisines here (the late Anthony Bourdain called it “a Wonderland of Strange and Diverse” food) and plenty of taco trucks and ‘ice houses’ – laid back local bars.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

Houston is rich in parkland. It may not be as green as Austin, but it nonetheless has many parks, including Hermann Park and Memorial Park, which has 30 miles’ worth of trails, allowing you to hike and bike in the heart of the city. Houston residents take fitness seriously, and there’s a plethora of gyms and exercise classes in the city. The Chevron Houston Marathon is home to 40,000 runners in January.

Houston is home to the Astros, the Rockets and the Texans, for baseball, the NBA and the NFL respectively. You will find the largest medical centre in the world here, in the form of the Texas Medical Centre – a complex of research institutions, which includes the world’s biggest cancer centre.

 

What is the quality of education here?

The Houston Independent School District is the largest in Texas, operating over 180 schools, some of which are top-rated nationally. If you choose to go private, there is a British International School in the city, run by Nord Anglia. For further education, the University of Houston is here, and so is the Ivy League rated Rice University.

The Houston Independent School District is the largest in Texas.

 

What is the weather like?

In a word: extreme. Houston is close to the Gulf of Mexico and has been badly hit by hurricanes and tropical storms. It is also subject to occasional tornadoes. January is the coldest month, with temperatures around 41.2°F, but in July temperatures will rise into the 90s and stay there. Northern Texas can see snow, and Houston does get sleet from time to time. If you’re not a hot-weather person, however, either Space City is not the place for you or you’ll need an efficient AC system!

 

What is the traffic like?

Houston is enormous – it’s one of the biggest cities in the USA, coming in at 627 square miles – so expect a substantial commute. It is not a very walkable city. Public transport needs an upgrade, although you can use the metro system. You will probably need a car. Bike lanes are being expanded, but it still remains a car-based city. Rush hours – the usual morning and evening periods – can be very congested.

 

What will life in Houston be like for my pet?

Houston is reasonably pet-friendly, and there are a number of places where you can take your dog, from cafes and bars to parks, both on-leash and off. There is an annual Dog Day at Minute Maid Park.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Florida

Florida is a popular destination among expats, particularly British retirees. Many people choose to retire there for the warm weather and the ease of communication. If you are thinking of moving to the ‘sunshine state’, what do you need to know? We will take a look at the top ten things to consider.

 

Can I find a job?

One of the state’s biggest employers is the Disney corporation (Walmart is the largest). Tourism, aviation/aerospace, life sciences and finance are the main areas of employment, but Floridians also find work in the agricultural sector, medicine, commercial diving, construction, and retail. The state is said to need statisticians and a range of medical support personnel. Orlando has the primary job market in the state.

 

What is the housing market like?

Florida’s accommodation is averagely priced when compared to the rest of the USA. Some property experts say that you are likely to pay around $280K to $330K for a family home, and monthly rental prices are around $1200 to $1800. Waterfront or beachfront homes are usually more expensive.

Bear in mind that you may also have to pay expensive home insurance costs, as Florida can be subject to some extreme weather. Hurricane and flood insurance is a must, and this is likely to be on top of your existing home insurance. Some realtors advise that Florida is currently seen as the ‘new California’ and that prices are therefore artificially inflated.

Locals recommend the area around Pinellas County and down through Manatee County, plus Bonita Springs. Anna Maria Island is said to be a good bet. Note that locals also prefer higher ground, to avoid hurricane-related flooding. Hollywood is another popular destination. North Florida is less built up than the southern part of the state.

To find an apartment, you can use an agent, or online property listing apps such as Craigslist can help. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

Waterfront or beachfront homes are usually more expensive.

 

What is the cost of living in Florida?

The cost of living in Florida is slightly below the national average. However, this does depend to some degree on which city you choose to live in. Daytona Beach is comparatively cheap, whereas Fort Lauderdale is more expensive than the national average. Utility costs also vary considerably from city to city, and so do grocery costs. However, you will save on income tax – Florida does not charge it, which is one of the reasons why it’s so popular! Note that the minimum wage is substantially below the national average: around $8 rather than $11 per hour.

 

What is the crime rate in Florida?

The rates of violent crime and crimes against property are slightly higher than the national average, but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement notes that crime rates overall dropped by 12% in 2020 and are generally declining. Locals say that ‘crimes of opportunity’ are more common, so take some basic precautions. Don’t leave your valuables in a bag on the beach when you go swimming, for instance! South Florida is supposed to have higher rates of crime than the north of the state. However, if you’re a little careful on the streets at night, as you would be in most cities, you should experience few problems.

 

What is the quality of life like in Florida?

Florida’s climate (hurricanes apart) make it a nice state in which to live, as noted, but it also has a number of high-end and luxury facilities, as well as some excellent opportunities for dining. The state has some beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife and interesting scenery, such as the Keys and the Everglades. If you’re into outdoor sports, surfing or sailing, it’s an ideal location for you.

Florida is legendarily family-friendly, with a wide range of theme parks, and it is cosmopolitan, with a diverse population. If politics is important to you, note that south Florida tends to be somewhat more liberal overall than the north of the state.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

An outdoor lifestyle gives you plenty of opportunity to stay healthy, but the humidity can get to some people (and so can the range of bugs!). In 2019, the state was ranked as the 33rd healthiest state in the union – putting it among the least healthy states in the US. This may be due to the relative age of the population, as the sunshine state appeals to an older demographic. Health authorities cite obesity and a low level of physical activity as issues, plus a relatively high rate of drug-related deaths.

In 2019, Florida was ranked as the 33rd healthiest state in the union.

 

What is the quality of education?

The public school system varies, and you should note that teachers’ pay is low. Some school boards have voted for a pay rise for staff. Overcrowded classrooms and a lack of support have led to a significant teaching shortage. The Florida Education Association reported in January 2020 that over 2,440 teaching positions remained open in the state, and there is a need for recruitment. If you have children of schooling age, therefore, you may want to consider the private sector. The state also has a number of universities, such as the University of Florida and Florida State University. If you are a football fan, the state has three NFL teams, plus baseball and basketball.

 

What is the weather like?

Florida is known as the sunshine state for obvious reasons. It’s sub-tropical climate results in mild winters and long, hot summers. Most days see a fleeting rainstorm, and it can be humid. The main bad news about Florida’s climate is that, as noted above, the state can be prone to hurricanes. Late summer is hurricane season, but they can occur at other times of the year, too, so make sure you’re aware of hurricane safety protocols as soon as you relocate.

 

What is the traffic like?

Driving is the main form of transport in Florida, unless you choose to fly or take Amtrak between the major centres. Within cities, you should be able to get by using buses or trolleys, with the addition of Uber and other services, and a couple of places have bicycle sharing initiatives. Floridian drivers do not have a good reputation.

 

What will life in Florida be like for my pet?

Florida is not hugely dog-friendly. Although most state parks have dog-permitted areas, dogs are often not allowed on beaches, and you must keep them on a leash if you do take them onto the beach.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Denver

If you are thinking of moving to the ‘Mile High City’, then what do you need to know about your destination? Denver has much to recommend it, from its beautiful mountainous location to its vibrant cultural scene. We are going to take a look at ten important things to consider if you are planning to relocate there.

 

Can I find a job?

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Denver’s job market has not been completely decimated. It ranked 32nd out of 51 among the country’s largest metros in terms of job growth. What work you find will depend on which sector you are involved in.

Denver-based CirrusMD has been recruiting in tele-health. Work in IT is also available; companies specialising in big data and fintech are still hiring. Lockheed Martin Space has its HQ in Denver, and if you’re an engineer, then this might be a workplace to consider. The aerospace and defence company has continued hiring throughout the pandemic, and Denver is trying to place itself as ‘Aerospace Alley’, with companies like Boeing and Northrop Grumman based here, too.

Comcast and IBM, among other big companies, are also in Denver. Employment in the health sector is also possible, with calls for surgeons, physicians and gynaecologists. Food and agriculture are big sectors here. And the (legal) marijuana industry is a big one.

 

What is the housing market like?

The Denver housing market is the second most competitive in the country. House prices are five times the median household income in the Denver metro area. The average price of a single-family detached home was $615,766 according to one estimate, but even more conservative figures have it at twice the national average. The average monthly rent for an apartment is $1,631, but this is neighbourhood dependent. In the des res Highlands, for instance, you are likely to be looking at more than $2K per month. Hipster River North (RiNo) is somewhat cheaper, with $1700 per month rentals, and the Harvey Park area has homes in the low $400Ks.

Property is still booming in the city, and it is expected to undergo further rises in 2021. So, if you are intending to move here, it is worth lining up a job first. To find an apartment, you can use an agent, or online property listing apps, such as Craigslist, can help. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

The Denver housing market is the second most competitive in the country.

 

What is the cost of living in Denver?

The cost of living has been driven up by house prices, but it is still regarded as affordable. Income tax is at a flat rate here, and property taxes are comparatively low. Healthcare comes in at over the national average, however. Note that salaries here fall below the national average and are not keeping pace with rising housing costs.

 

What is the crime rate in Denver?

A recent survey lists Denver as the safest city in America, and, although crime rates have risen, including violent crime, they are still low in comparison to the national average.

 

What is the quality of life like in Denver?

The quality of life here is high. Denver is a vibrant, go-ahead city, with the second largest arts campus of its sort in America, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which is home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Opera Colorado, Denver Center Theater Company and the Colorado Ballet. Denver also hosts the Cherry Creek Arts Festival for those interested in arts and crafts.

If museums interest you, you will find the Denver Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you’re more of an outdoors person, then there’s plenty of scope for snowboarding, skiing, hiking and other activities up in the Rockies. There is a thriving retail scene. And it’s one of the beer capitals of America, with around 300 microbreweries!

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

Remember that it’s not called the Mile High City for nothing. As such, you may find that you need to acclimatise to the altitude a bit in your first few weeks here. Make sure that you don’t overdo it!

Otherwise, Denver frequently makes the top ten lists of America’s healthiest cities. It has numerous green initiatives and some of the main healthcare facilities in the state. If you’re a sports fan, the NFL Denver Broncos are based here. If you prefer baseball, then you can follow the fortunes of the Colorado Rockies.

Denver has numerous green initiatives and some of the main healthcare facilities in the state.

 

What is the quality of education here?

Colorado’s public school system has had difficulties over the past few years, with some big achievement gaps that seem primarily race-related. There are 84 top private schools in Denver County, with 50% of these having a religious affiliation (mainly Catholic and Jewish). Denver has an international school, where there is teaching in French, Spanish, and Chinese, with programs that are accredited by ministries of education in France and Spain, as well as the Hanban in China. Higher years are taught the International Baccalaureate.

 

What is the weather like?

Summers here are hot, while winters are cold and dry. Throughout the year, the temperature varies from 22°F to 89°F and does not usually fall below 6°F or rise above 96°F. Denver is supposed to be one of the sunniest cities in America, with over 300 days of sun per year. Temperatures can rise and fall substantially throughout the day, so consider wearing layers of clothing.

 

What is the traffic like?

Denver’s traffic is bad and reportedly getting worse. Experts say that Denver needs to raise its gas tax and put more money into funding public transport and infrastructure – the roads here are not in a good way, and traffic into ski resorts at certain times of the year can be heavy. A 4WD is recommended.

Trains and buses are likely to become a more efficient way of getting around than the car, and a lot of locals rely on the RTD, but Denver is also bike-friendly. Rush hours at either end of the day are the worst times to travel, but expect traffic build up for an hour or so on each side of these periods. Denver International is the sixth busiest in the USA.

 

What will life in Denver be like for my pet?

Colorado generally is dog-friendly, and you should have no shortage of places in which to walk your pet.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Colorado

If you are thinking of moving to the lovely state of Colorado, then what are your priorities going to be when it comes to finding out more about this beautiful, mountainous state? We are going to take a look at ten important things to consider if you are planning to make Colorado your home.

 

Can I find a job?

The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating early impact on Colorado’s job market, but do not despair, as it is still possible to find work here. Experts reported in 2020 that, in spite of the pandemic, they were still seeing more permanent jobs than part-time or temporary ones in sectors such as health (for instance, nursing), retail, office and administration.

E-commerce is also a possibility – Amazon has been recruiting and so has Walmart. Albertsons Companies have been recruiting for part-time workers, for instance with Hilton Hotels. Instacart are also looking for personnel. Denver-based CirrusMD have also been recruiting, as tele-health is an expanding sector, particularly post-Covid-19. Check out some of the online job fairs for the region.

 

What is the housing market like?

Colorado is an expensive state when it comes to housing, with a serious shortage of low-income housing. In rural areas, this has been so bad in recent years that school districts, among others, have been building low-cost homes for teachers, in order to prevent lower-salaried workers being priced out of the housing market.

The Denver market is the second most competitive in the country. The average price of a single-family detached home was $615,766 in Denver, and prices are expected to rise in 2021. Currently, house prices are five times the median household income in the Denver metro area. Boulder is also expensive.

The average monthly rent for an apartment in Denver is $1,631 and $1,273 in Colorado Springs, although it is possible to find apartments from $600 in the latter location. Trinidad, Pueblo, Canon City and Grand Junction are said to be the cheapest places in which to rent.

To find an apartment, you can use an agent, or online property listing apps, such as Craigslist, can help. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

Colorado is an expensive state when it comes to housing.

 

What is the cost of living in Colorado?

The cost of living is high, due to the housing market. Utilities, however, are reasonably priced, and residents of Colorado spend less on their utilities than the national average. The state produces its own natural gas, and it relies on this to some extent. Water costs can be high, however – the state is coming out of a major period of drought. You are likely to spend slightly more on your food per month (around $340) than the national average.

It is also a ‘flat rate tax’ state, so you will be paying a fixed percentage of 4.63%. The base sales tax rate is 2.9%, and individual cities may add their own sales tax on top. However, property taxes are very low, at 0.59%. Gas is quite expensive, and you will also find yourself paying tolls on the state’s roads.

 

What is the crime rate in Colorado?

The crime rate overall is decreasing, although there is a very slight rise in violent crime across the state. Glendale has the highest rate of violent crime in the state, and crime rates in Denver have also increased – though, since it was a safe city to start with, it is still pretty safe! One recent survey lists it as the safest city in America.

 

What is the quality of life like in Colorado?

The quality of life here is high. Colorado, with the stunning scenery of the Rockies, is a beautiful state with an outdoor lifestyle. You will find good food here, though you may not have access to the same ethnic diversity that you might find in, for instance, Chicago or San Francisco.

The state is host to a number of arts festivals, such as the Estes Park Fine Arts and Crafts Festival. With the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder, the Vail International Dance Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, and Boulder’s Colorado MahlerFest, you should find plenty of outlets for your cultural side.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

Colorado is one of the healthiest states in America, but wealth is the biggest indicator of health here. The state’s ski resorts are, perhaps not surprisingly, the healthiest places to live in. Up in the mountains, you’ll find plenty of opportunity for skiing and hiking, and in the cities, you will come across plenty of gyms and fitness clubs. Alcohol consumption is pretty high here, however, so watch your intake.

Colorado is one of the healthiest states in America.

 

What is the quality of education here?

Education in the state is something of an issue. Three of Colorado’s five largest school districts won’t have a permanent superintendent at the beginning of 2021. Also, as mentioned earlier, there is a problem with teachers being unable to afford housing. Colorado students in the public school sector underperform in reading and writing.

However, there are 534 top private schools in Colorado, with private school tuition in the region of $8,751 annually for elementary schools and $15,450 for high schools. As an expat, you may want to consider this option.

 

What is the weather like?

Colorado, as mentioned above, has just come out of a drought, and you will be facing excessive desert dryness here. There are big risks of wildfires, avalanches and dust storms. January is the coldest month, and you will experience cold winters, with some snow, and hot summers. If you don’t fancy extremes, head for mild-mannered Canon City.

 

What is the traffic like?

Colorado is a big state and not overcrowded, but the roads are not in a good way. Also, Colorado drivers are said to be the sixth worst in the USA. However, the state has good connections with the rest of the USA, via a number of major airports and the road network.

 

What will life in Colorado be like for my pet?

Colorado is a dog-friendly state, and, with its outdoor ethos, you will find a range of trails and parks where you can walk your pooch. Off-leash play spaces are common, and there’s even a dog park/tavern cross in Denver.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Chicago

If you are thinking of moving to the ‘Windy City’, then what are your priorities going to be when it comes to finding out more about your destination? Chicago is a popular destination among expats. Property prices here are competitive with other cities in the US, and the quality of life is high (though be prepared for some chilly winters!). Let’s look at ten important things to take on board if you are planning to make Chicago your home.

 

Can I find a job?

Following the pandemic, there are still jobs to be found in Chicago, but local recruiters say that the job market has become depressed, with organisations such as banks limiting hires and cutting salaries. Cook County has 650,000 unemployed people and 75,000 job postings: a disparity that highlights the problem. Aviation has been cutting its employees and so have sectors in law, accounting and other professional services. There is some demand for workers in factory jobs. The city has had a high rate of start-ups. Given the current state of the market, it is advisable to have a job lined up before you relocate.

 

What is the housing market like?

Property, whether you plan to rent or buy, is expensive in the Second City, but nonetheless, Chicago fares well in comparison to some other American cities. Most recent figures say that the average rent is $1,948, compared with $1,463 nationwide. For prospective homeowners, the cost of a family home is $281,000, which is well priced in comparison to the national median of $245,000, given Chicago’s size and status. Property taxes, however, are comparatively high: at 23%, they are double the national average.

River North, Streeterville and River West are said to be the most expensive parts of the city, while the least expensive neighbourhoods include West Pullman, The Island and Austin. There are a number of family-friendly communities in the greater Chicago area, such as Oak Park.

To find an apartment, you can use an agent or an online property listing app, such as Craigslist. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

There are a number of family-friendly communities in the greater Chicago area.

 

What is the cost of living in Chicago?

According to Numbeo’s cost of living index – which is benchmarked according to prices in NYC and which includes groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities – Chicago scored 82.23 out of 100 in July 2020. Thus, the cost of living in Chicago is about 20% less than in New York, without rent being factored into the equation. Food is also relatively cheap, but sales taxes are high, and you will find that generally local tax rates drive up your costs.

 

What is the crime rate in Chicago?

Chicago is not the most dangerous city in the States, but the local police say that violent crime rates and murder rates remain relatively high, with around 700 murders in Cook County in 2020 and in the region of 4,000 shootings. West Garfield Park is described by locals as dangerous, and the city in general is on track to break its own murder records. Much of this is gang-related, and regional.

 

What is the quality of life like in Chicago?

Chicago is an inland city, but you’ll still find a stunning waterfront – lakeside rather than seaside. Lake Michigan has 28 miles of beaches, and over 8% of the city is occupied by parks (there are 570 of them). Food in the city is reasonably priced and plentiful – check out the hot dogs, Italian beef and deep-dish pizzas, as well as the city’s wide array of ethnic cuisines and Michelin starred restaurants. The West Loop is one of the city’s main dining districts.

There are a lot of high-end shopping opportunities. Chicago is full of galleries and museums, such as the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Locals say that if you’re in full-time work, it can be a relatively relaxed place to live, since people aren’t struggling just to make their rent. In other words, the comparatively lower cost of living contributes to the quality of life.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

Chicago comes 12th in the Mindbody Wellness Index rankings, just missing a spot in the US top ten. It does feature in the top ten of other lists. The Chicago 2025 vision plan aims to improve the city’s health indicators, which are already quite good. The city’s motto is that it is ‘a city in a garden.’ It has a high number of running trails and gyms, and healthcare costs, while not the lowest in the States, compare well with in other major centres. You may want to take your bike out on the Lakefront Trail or join the Chicago Sports and Social Club.

Chicago comes 12th in the Mindbody Wellness Index rankings.

 

What is the quality of education here?

Education here is of a high standard, and the city is home to a number of universities: The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology and Loyola University Chicago all have homes here. The city’s public school system has a good reputation, with over 82% of students graduating. Payton College Preparatory High School was ranked ninth nationally. You’ll also find a wide range of private sector education provision.

 

What is the weather like?

Chicago’s nickname comes from the hot air spouted by politicians and does not necessarily reflect the climate. This said, Chicago can be windy, as well as extremely cold. Its winters are often snowbound, and sub-zero temperatures are common. The city makes the most of its summers, which in contrast can be extremely hot and humid. Expect some rainfall, too.

 

What is the traffic like?

This is one city where you can viably rely on public transport rather than your car. The Chicago Transit Authority fulfils a lot of transport needs, including the city’s famous ‘El’ or elevated trains. The Pedway is a primarily underground system of walkways, which makes downtown in the winter a viable proposition. Bike-sharing company Divvy has a number of stations throughout the city. Parking is expensive, and many people simply don’t bother with a car.

 

What will life in Chicago be like for my pet?

Montrose Beach has a designated dog-friendly area. Navy Pier will allow you to dine with your dog. And, overall, the city has a reputation for being pet-friendly.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To California

California is one of the jewels in America’s crown and a popular state among expats looking to relocate. However, moving there is not always easy. It’s one of the most desirable US destinations, with its vibrant cities, fabulous beaches and mountains, and a high standard of living. If you are thinking of moving to the ‘Golden State’, then what do you need to know? We will take a look at the top ten things to consider.

 

Can I find a job?

California is the home of Silicon Valley and is one of the technical powerhouses of the USA. Google, Facebook, Twitter and other household social media names are all based here. In addition, there’s a big medical establishment, and Los Angeles is the home of the entertainment industry. Beyond the cities, there’s an extensive agricultural sector, and the state is also host to the wine industry. California’s economy is the fifth largest in the world. However, it is expensive to live there, so it is a good idea to line up employment before you go.

 

What is the housing market like?

Accommodation costs, whether you are looking to rent or buy, are generally expensive in California. San Francisco and the Bay Area are homes to some of the most expensive real estate in America, and Los Angeles is not far behind. The general rule is that the further you go from the urban hubs, the cheaper property will become – but this has a natural limit. Head out of San Francisco to the north, and you’ll find property prices falling, until you hit the Napa region, when they’ll start to rise again.

Property in coastal areas is also expensive. However, more reasonably priced areas can still be found, such as near Pittsburg, to the east of San Francisco, in what used to be the farm belt. However, the rail system now extends there, so it is becoming more popular. Locals also recommend the regions to the north of the city – Martinez or Richmond. Essentially, once you pass out of easy commuting range, the prices drop.

The median family home price in the state was recently estimated at $717,930, but again, this depends on where you go. The median list price of homes in Sacramento was $395K, and average rent for an apartment in the same city was $1,529.

To find an apartment, you can use an agent. Alternatively, online property listing apps, such as Craigslist, can help. Experts suggest finding a short-term rental first and using it as a foothold to find somewhere more permanent.

 

What is the cost of living in California?

The cost of living in California is high, with accommodation being the biggest expense. Experts say that you will need a decent six-figure income in order to live here comfortably: upwards of $130K if you’re renting and $150K if you’re buying. California has the third highest cost of living index in the States, coming in just behind Hawaii.

Bear in mind that taxes here are also some of the highest in the US.

 

What is the crime rate in California?

California’s crime rate has been dropping since 2010. Progressive communities and community investment are the main drivers for this fall. However, the state’s rate of violent crime is around 3% higher than the national average, and Californians are more concerned about crime than the residents of some other states. Murder makes up only 1% of violent crime here.

California’s crime rate has been dropping since 2010.

 

What is the quality of life like in California?

The quality of life in the state is good. This is a big, cosmopolitan state with a liberal ethos and a great deal of diversity. Food and drink are second to none, and the state has some of the most beautiful scenery in the US, from the stunning coastal highways to redwood forests. The state boasts 28 national parks. The consistently warm weather is also a plus. However, there are some drawbacks, including the prevalence of forest fires and earthquakes.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

California, with its outdoor lifestyle and focus on physical fitness and image, is an easy place in which to stay healthy. Its cities have a plethora of gyms and workout classes, and the coastal and inland regions are hosts to a multitude of hiking and cycling trails. Fresh food is inexpensive.

The coastal and inland regions in California are hosts to a multitude of hiking and cycling trails.

 

What is the quality of education here?

California has some of the US’ best known universities, such as UCLA and Berkley, but its public school system does not have such a good reputation. Educational experts blame insufficient funding and poorly trained teachers. Schools in poorer areas have higher absenteeism rates and thus are granted less funding than those in wealthier areas. There are some good schools, but it’s crucial to look into this closely if you have school-age children.

 

What is the weather like?

California’s weather – despite some dramatic episodes – is mild and sunny overall. However, you might think about this large state being divided into regions – North Coast, Central Valley, Central Coast, Sierra Nevada and the north, South Coast, and the southern desert. In LA, you can expect well over 200 days of sun each year. San Francisco and the Bay Area tend to be foggier and wetter.

 

What is the traffic like?

Traffic in the big urban centres can be terrible, with congested freeways, especially at rush hour, and correspondingly long commutes. The state is not badly supplied with public transport, from the BART in the Bay Area to Greyhound throughout the state, and you may wish to explore trains, buses and ferries for your commute.

 

What will life in California be like for my pet?

The state is pet-friendly, and dogs are allowed on a number of trails and beaches, although some will specify that they must be on a leash. Bear in mind that you may find county-dependent restrictions on how many pets you can own – in Merced County, for instance, you will need a permit for more than four animals.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Boston

If you are contemplating a move to the New England city of Boston, what will your priorities be when it comes to finding out more about your destination? Boston is a popular choice, and is one of the oldest and most sophisticated cities on the Eastern seaboard. We are going to look at ten important things to take on board if you are planning to make the City on the Hill your home.

 

Can I find a job?

The job market in Boston is still vibrant, with education, finance, IT and life sciences leading the field. MIT and Harvard are located nearby, and companies such as Pfizer, Novartis, Google and Amazon, as well as a number of investment companies, all have a home here. If you are a white collar worker in a high-end industry, you should find opportunities, but the city can be expensive for those further down the employment chain.

 

What is the housing market like?

Boston is one of the oldest cities in the US, and it has some beautiful old areas, such as Beacon Hill, but these are correspondingly expensive. “Southie” – South Boston – is also popular among families and those who enjoy living near the waterfront, but again, it’s not the cheapest place to live. Back Bay is another popular but pricey destination. In all of these areas, expect rents to be around US$2500 to US$3500+ per month. If you are renting, remember that Boston and other nearby cities are college towns and the rental market will reflect influxes of students.

Many people who work in the city live outside it. There is a network of communities that surround Boston, such as Cambridge, Worcester, Quincy and Belmont. Again, prices are not cheap. For instance, a family home in Cambridge can set you back around $750K. In saying this, you may be able to find a house in Worcester for around $250K.

Locals say that the pandemic has pushed up prices for free-standing houses and that it is unlikely that you will be able to get a family house in any good Boston location or in a desirable next-door suburb (Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge) for less than a million. However, condo units – which are entire floors of traditional three-deckers, originally built for working-class families but with beautiful detailing – can be found for $750K.

 

What is the cost of living in Boston?

Boston is not the cheapest city in the US. Living here will cost you 47% more than the national average. LA, Chicago and Dallas are less expensive. Utilities, healthcare and accommodation are significantly more costly here than in other American cities. Locals mention the sales tax on some items and suggest going over the New Hampshire border to save some money when making purchases. Make sure you do your research before deciding whether to relocate here.

Utilities, healthcare and accommodation are significantly more costly in Boston than in other American cities.

 

What is the crime rate in Boston?

Boston is relatively safe in comparison to cities elsewhere in the US, but not in comparison to other cities in Massachusetts. You have a 1 in 38 chance of being the victim of violent or property crime, and the crime rate is 97% higher than in the state’s other cities. Tourists are advised to steer clear of Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester, especially at night. However, there is some evidence that Massachusetts residents are more worried about less-probable crimes (such as home invasion) than actual ones. You are more likely to be burgled when you are out, for example.

 

What is the quality of life like in Boston?

According to Deutsche Bank, Boston is the eighth best city in the world when it comes to quality of life. Locals say you can live in a house with a garden (if you can afford it) and be downtown within twenty minutes. Boston has some excellent cuisine (the seafood and local beer are of a very high standard) and a large number of restaurants and bars. The nightlife is good, with a range of clubs catering to all musical tastes, and there are also some great options when it comes to theatre.

Boston is one of America’s most historic cities, so if you’re interested in the past, you’ll find plenty to investigate here, along with museums – such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Science, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History – and galleries – such as the Harbor Gallery. If you want a break from high-end culture, nearby Somerville has the Museum of Bad Art, too!

There are two world-class orchestras – the BSO and the Boston Philharmonic, which are across the street from each other – as well as many smaller orchestras and chamber/operatic ensembles. Locals tell us that there also used to be a lively jazz and folk scene before the high cost of living caused it to shrink, with people like Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman regularly visiting. For visual arts, neighbourhoods hold open studios regularly.

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

The city has over 2,000 acres of parkland and is easily walkable, so perhaps it is no surprise that it is supposed to be one of the healthiest cities in the States. Its healthcare is also of a very high quality, with a number of top-of-the-range hospitals. A number of farmers’ markets allow you to have a fresh, healthy diet. The American Fitness Index says that it ranks 7 out of 50 when it comes to America’s fittest cities.

If you want to combine fitness with learning, then try the Freedom Trail, which will teach you about the history of the city. Locals suggest walking it backwards, so that you end up in the part that is richest in bars and restaurants – although, this may not be the healthiest option!

If you’re a sports fan, Boston is the home of two iconic teams: the New England Patriots for NFL and the Red Sox for baseball.

Boston has over 2,000 acres of parkland and is easily walkable.

 

What is the quality of education here?

This area of New England is home to some of the world’s greatest educational institutions. We have namechecked Harvard and MIT, but Tufts University, Boston College and Emerson College are also here. The city’s public school system has 125 schools, and there is substantial opportunity to educate your child privately.

 

What is the weather like?

This is New England, so expect cold winters with snow (Boston averages 48 inches a year) and a fair amount of rain. Summers tend to be warm, and in July average temperatures are in the 80s. Fall in New England is notoriously beautiful, and the city’s parks will be at their best at this time of year. Locals also recommend spring, when you will find a generous spread of flowering trees, such as apples, cherries, magnolias, and dogwoods. The Arnold Arboretum, one of the city’s lungs, is beautiful in all seasons.

Because the state took care of the Charles River, and because there’s a network of ponds and wetlands near it (Jamaica Pond, Fresh Pond, the Fenway and the Minot Rose Garden), there is exuberant wildlife that spills into people’s gardens: rabbits, raccoons, possums, skunks, peregrine falcons, owls, nighthawks, songbirds and hummingbirds.

 

What is the traffic like?

Boston has one of the oldest public transport systems in the country. It also happens to be one of the best, which is good news if you are facing a commute, since road traffic here is best described as ‘horrible’. In addition, you may think the roads badly signposted. The MBTA (the ‘T’) is extensive and services a number of surrounding cities. However, central Boston is small enough to be walkable – this is one of America’s most ‘walking friendly’ cities. Uber and Lyft also serve the city.

 

What will life in Boston be like for my pet?

Boston is, of course, home to its own breed of dog: the Boston Terrier. It is a good city for dog walking, with Boston Common – the oldest park in the USA – having a number of areas where you can walk your dog without a leash.

10 Things Expats Need To Know When Moving To Austin

If you are thinking of moving to the Texan city of Austin, what are your priorities going to be when it comes to finding out more about your destination? Austin is a popular choice – its unofficial slogan is ‘Keep Austin Weird’, and it’s known for being a blue city in a (largely) Republican state. We are going to look at ten important things to take on board if you are planning to make Austin your home.

 

Can I find a job?

If you are a white-collar worker, particularly in IT/tech, then the home of ‘Silicon Hills’ is a good choice for you. Austin has become an IT hub, and business continues to boom. Social media companies, such as Facebook, have a home here, and fintech continues to be well represented by companies like PayPal. Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Oracle and Google can be found here, too.

However, IT is not the only industry in Austin. Banking, business, healthcare and communications, plus governmental employers (local, state and federal), are a major part of the business scene, too. In 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranked the Austin area as the best-performing metro (in a list of the top 50) for jobs. However, locals warn that there are a lot of highly qualified people here, and markets are competitive.

 

What is the housing market like?

The housing market here is buoyant but relatively expensive, particularly in high-end areas such as the downtown area, East Austin (gentrification is in progress) and South Congress. Locals suggest North Austin and Westgate to those looking for more affordable options. Circle C is a large, planned estate, with a reputation for being family-friendly, with a very strong Homeowner’s Association.

 

What is the cost of living in Austin?

The cost of living in Austin is relatively high. The median cost of property is $347,000 – this is steep compared to the rest of Texas ($185,000) or the USA overall average ($238,000). Average monthly costs for a family of four were recently estimated at around US$2,888, not counting rent. For a single person, also minus rent, you would be looking at around US$600. The cost of living is offset in higher paid jobs by comparatively high wages, but nurses, lower earning government workers and schoolteachers are finding it extremely difficult to live within the Austin city limits, often moving to outlying communities instead.

The cost of living in Austin is relatively high.

 

What is the crime rate in Austin?

The crime rate in Austin is comparatively low, including violent crime and crimes against property, although it has been rising in recent years. The murder rate rose sharply by 54% between 2019 and 2020, to the extent that federal, state and local law enforcement, plus prosecution authorities, have set up Operation Undaunted to deal with it.

 

What is the quality of life like in Austin?

The city has scored top slot on US News’ Best Places to Live list for two years running, and locals describe it as a vibrant and diverse place to live. Live music is booming, and the quality of food here is excellent, particularly when it comes to BBQs. 6th Street is often compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and you will find the city’s signature food trucks supplying much of your sustenance needs.

The city is known as a ‘majority-minority’ city – no single ethnic demographic is in dominance, and Austinites say that this is how they like it. South by Southwest and Austin City Limits give you a chance to attend a music festival, but there is also the Austin Food and Wine Festival to enjoy.

Do not be surprised to find musicians playing in your local grocery store. The local international airport also has several small music stages in the baggage area!

 

Is it a healthy place to live in?

You will find lots of activities available in Austin, from hiking and biking to camping, swimming and climbing. The city has a large number of waterparks and public pools. The Zilker Metropolitan Park in the heart of Austin includes the spring-fed Zilker Pool, for example. The city is one of the greenest in the USA, regularly appearing in sustainability charts, and has been aiming at carbon neutrality. Watch out for ‘cedar fever’ – a weapons-grade type of hay fever – which afflicts some people.

Three of the city’s 46 hospitals rank among the highest healthcare provisions in Texas, although the state scores relatively poorly in healthcare rankings for the US. Scott & White Hospital South Austin Hospital, the University Medical Center Brackenridge and Seton Medical Center Austin were listed top out of more than 5,000 hospitals in the entire USA. Healthcare in the city is continuing to expand, and you should have no trouble in accessing an excellent standard of care.

Three of Austin’s 46 hospitals rank among the best in Texas.

 

What is the quality of education here?

Educational facilities, such as the University of Texas (UT), are major employers here. UT has a top of the range library and research center. Other institutions include Huston-Tillotson University, the historical Black institution of St Edwards University, and Concordia University. Another option is Austin Community College.

Austin also has several magnet middle and high schools, for which you must apply and be accepted.

 

What is the weather like?

“Violet Crown City” (so called for Austin’s unusual purple twilight) trends hot; this is Texas! However, it is less baking than Houston or Dallas, and the low hills that surround the city make it a little less scorching. Winter is warm, but spring and summer can be very humid. There are weeks where it reaches over 100 during the afternoon every day and may not cool down below 80 at night. It’s a great place for solar cells!

 

What is the traffic like?

Austin routinely scores poorly for traffic levels, and driving is still the main way of getting around, although Capitol Metro is a public transport choice. The citizens of Austin have recently voted to fund Project Connect, which includes a rail system and express bus routes. State Highway 130 is the main route to San Antonio, and it is known as a fast toll road. Alternatively, you can take IH35, which can be either a slow-moving parking lot or fast and furious with lots of interstate truck traffic.

If you are moving to the city and have hired a removals truck, then remember that Texas requires you to have a temporary parking pass. Contact the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that you do not start your life in the city with a fine!

 

What will life in Austin be like for my pet?

Austin is known as one of the most dog-friendly places in the USA, so this is a great city to live in if you own a pup. There are lots of trails to walk your dog along, such as the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake – a 10-mile trail that includes skyscrapers, neighborhoods, ball fields and cultural sites.

And, as a final curious fact, the city is also a big centre for bat conservation. It has the largest urban bat colony in the world, which you can view from the Congress Avenue Bridge or from Lady Bird Lake.

Anjali Nair, Tampa Bay, Florida

Who are you?

I’m Anjali Nair, a Marketing Planner and Program Specialist living in the Sunshine State of Florida, USA.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Tampa Bay, Florida, USA from Mumbai, India in around June 2017. My husband and I met online through a matrimonial portal, then got married in India, and I moved to the States to be with my husband. This was my first time visiting the US.

What challenges did you face during the move?

It took me a year to get my spousal visa processed, so my husband and I lived apart for a year, and he kept visiting (sweetest thing ever!). After I moved, it took me another year or two to feel settled. The transition phase had many ups and downs. From cultural clash to picking up new skills to adapting to a new city/country/citizens – I faced it all.

It took a year for Anjali’s spousal visa to be processed

How did you find somewhere to live?

My husband found an apartment before I moved in, and it was a one-bedroom apartment in a safe neighbourhood. I was used to apartment living, because that’s the only option we have in Mumbai. The part I had to get used to was not having enough social interaction. The apartments we lived in didn’t have very many folks of South Asian descent, and I was too nervous to speak to others in my first few weeks. Most people kept to themselves, but they’d greet me whenever we crossed paths. Overall, I liked the place, because it was comfortable and I was an excited new bride in a new city!

Are there many other expats in your area?

It’s funny that I only came to know of the term ‘expat’ after spending two years in the USA. I called myself the ‘immigrant wife’ (which also stands true). I discovered other expat groups and met more folks when we started socialising in culturally similar setups and networking events. Of course, Facebook groups also helped. I learned that most of the foreign-born people I had met had moved to the States for either of these reasons: to study abroad, to work abroad or for marriage.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Initially, I was too nervous and shy to strike a conversation with the locals. I would observe how my husband effortlessly spoke to the locals, and I admired that soft skill. I started picking up some social cues, signs and slangs. I would watch a lot of American sitcoms, listen to the News and read articles to pick up and mentally take note of American vocabulary and pronunciation.

Slowly, I started practising by speaking on the phone, running errands, ordering coffee, visiting the farmers market, etc. I really started getting comfortable talking to the locals when I started blogging locally, when I met my husband’s friends for game nights, and at professional networking events. There was a learning curve, for sure!

Anjali watched American sitcoms and read articles to help improve her vocabulary and pronunciation

What do you like about life where you are?

I have begun to appreciate the things that I disliked during my first year in Florida – the peace and quiet, the relaxed way of life in a mid-tier city. The other things I really like are the ‘live and let live’ attitude, the friendliness and warmth of the locals, the diversity, the lack of traffic, the increased space, the vast blue skies and the work life balance.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

The only thing I dislike is that I’m away from my family and friends, who I left behind in India. I also miss the service/hospitality and the food I used to have the privilege of growing back there!

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

Mumbai is like the Manhattan of India. So, think of a New Yorker uprooted from city life and placed in Florida. I found it amusing and strange when unknown people would greet me and smile. I didn’t understand why Americans enjoy and take pride in doing everything by themselves. For example, in India, we get help for every kind of service. So, imagine my shock when I realise that there is no one at the gas station to fill the car’s tank up!

Other differences include the large portion sizes at restaurants in the US, the infamous ‘small talk’, and the love for road trips. I also wrote a blog on this topic: American things foreigners find amusing.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

If you are a woman moving abroad, my advice would be to do your research and study the city/country you’re moving to. There are far more things to learn than you might imagine. Join Facebook groups and communities for expats and immigrants to connect with other folks.

I would also advise people to find a guide or mentor or someone to hold your hand, because it’s an emotionally and mentally taxing journey. If you find a person who’s ‘been there, done that’, you’ll not only learn and adapt faster, but you’ll also make new friends. And having emotional support and social exposure helped me a lot!

Anjali’s advice would be to research your destination and connect with other expats

What are your plans for the future?

The plan is to help other expat and immigrant women feel at home when they move to the US. After I got through my adapting and transitional phase, I decided to guide and help others in my community going through a similar journey. I share a lot on my Instagram page about immigrant life in the US. I also plan to travel all through the USA. I’ve made so many expat friends through social media that I can’t wait to travel to the different cities and meet them!

Anjali is a Marketing Specialist by day and immigrant blogger by night. She writes articles about life in the USA, and helps other expat women adapt and re-start life in the US. When she’s not working, she likes binging on Netflix, cuddling with her pup Yogi and hitting the beach with her husband.

You can follow Anjali on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok @adesigirlinus. You can also find her on LinkedIn, or read her blog at TheAnjaliNair.com/blog.

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