We're leaving, on a jet plane....
September 20, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

What would you start doing today, if you thought you were going to move from Boston to London in September 2012?

(Anonymous as coworkers know my account, and I don’t want this to impact my career)

My wife and I are beginning to think about moving to London in August/September 2012. We would both be 32 years old. She would be going over as a PhD student (full time enrolled in a UK university). My plans are up in the air, but could be either as a fellow PhD student, or as a full time professional employee.

We would probably plan on staying 5 years, then moving back to the US.

She would be over on a student visa. Quick scans of the UK immigration scheme say that I’m qualified for a work visa. So far, that’s about as much as we’ve thought about this!

So: If you were moving from Boston to London in 24 months, what would you start thinking about now, and what actions would you start taking to best prepare yourself for the transition?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would make sure all my pets were on schedule with their appropriate shots, and appropriately microchipped (which may differ from microchips they already have).
posted by endless_forms at 10:25 AM on September 20, 2010

If you're renting: Make sure you're on a month-to-month lease, and make sure you understand how much notice you need to give to your landlord before you can leave. Some places will allow month-to-month but require three months' notice before the lease can be terminated.
posted by lizzicide at 10:25 AM on September 20, 2010

Depending on the type of visa, start saving money - many of the visa schemes require you to not only demonstrate that you have a certain amount of subsistence funds available, but that they have been present in your account for several months prior to your application. Also, accommodation in London is expensive so depending on how the PhD would be funded you need to think about that.

(A side note: If your wife is going as a student you're likely to be able to go as her spouse without having to apply for a separate visa (at least if you want to work; not sure what the status would be if you'd both be students). FYI, student visas are normally given for the estimated duration of the program, which is likely to be less than 5 years; my PhD visa is valid for just under 3 1/2 years, and if I take longer than that to finish, I'll have to apply (and pay) for an extension.)

Also you could think about downsizing your possessions starting now; unless you have good storage for free in the US while you're in the UK, you'll want to get rid of a lot of stuff rather than trying to carry/ship it all over with you.
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 10:27 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and make sure your passports are valid for the whole duration of your stay, if possible - you can get a new one without having to replace the visa (I think), but then you have to travel with both...
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 10:28 AM on September 20, 2010

I would start researching London - where she would be studying, and where you'd want to live. The latter question will probably have the largest impact, as it could be incredibly costly to live where you want to.
posted by djgh at 10:35 AM on September 20, 2010

I'd, er, know that the London Olympics end on the 12th August 2012, so depending on whether you think that's awesome or ghastly, plan appropriately. Whichever way, accommodation may be harder to find and more expensive straight afterwards.

I'd also go with as much cash as possible, and if it were me, I'd want one of my and my other half to be earning while here. London is expensive. It's not that you can't have a good time on a tight budget here. But it's more fun with a bit of cash to play with. Plus, with connections to Europe you have the chance in a lifetime to weekend in Paris, Rome, Berlin etc etc.

You don't need to plan for it today, but get a sense for London's geography. In truth, you can learn to love most areas, but London is less of a city and more of a tight collection of villages. It would be helpful to you to know a bit about which of them are more your bag before you're on the clock trying to find a rental property.

I'd also learn to drive a stick shift. Whether buying or hiring a car, it'll be a lot easier and cheaper if you know how to drive a manual.

If you plan to be here 5 years I wouldn't bother investing in any tech. Because of the voltage differences, it can be a real faff bringing it over. And whatever you put in storage may be gathering dust for 5 years and become antiquated or obsolete.

It may sound a little Machiavellian, but life will be more fun and cheaper if you have friends in Europe. Either make 'em or don't lose them between now and coming over because it having a network of people you know can be a real boon.

Depending on what kind of travel you plan doing, if at all, you might consider learning some French or Spanish or Italian. It's not critical. Hell, millions of British tourists go to both countries with barely a word among them. But for France, Spain and Italy especially, a little language goes a long way and opens up so many more doors. By contrast, knowing no language slightly relegates you to the group of boors who demand the rest of the world speak English.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:40 AM on September 20, 2010

As someone who is moving from one state to another soon, I say this in all seriousness: I would stop bringing anything into my possession that was not absoultely necessary, and I would start getting rid of anything in my possession that was not necessary. I currently look at everything we own and think, do I want to move this? really? I've sold cds and books and jewelry and gifted tons of furniture and clothes to new homes. I wish I had started this process a year ago. I hope I remember it when I get to the new place, because I feel like a lighter person without all the...crap.

In the same way, think about anything you might "store". Is it irreplaceable? is the cost of storage going to be that much less than replacement? If you can live with it in storage for five years can you really live without it for ever?
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:01 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make a list of everything you've ever wanted to do, try, or see in Boston, and then start ticking through that list. As someone who moved from Boston two years ago and misses it terribly, there are so many things I never got around to, and that makes me sad pretty often. I visit infrequently and when I do I find I'm preoccupied with a to-do list - it makes trips back fun, but a bit hectic (not to mention it's a bit sad to be a tourist in one's former city). Also, if you love Boston, consider what items you'll bring with you that will remind you of your time there - framed poster of the Citgo sign? Ted Williams jersey? Anna's Taqueria t-shirt? Having done what you wanted to do in Boston will let you move on to truly embrace your next step instead of wasting time looking back.
posted by AthenaPolias at 11:18 AM on September 20, 2010

If you have pets - http://london.usembassy.gov/ukpets.html
posted by A189Nut at 12:11 PM on September 20, 2010

Take at least one weekend a month to visit places nearby or not so nearby that you think sound interesting. And make a list of all the things in Boston you've wanted to do/see/visit but haven't yet.

Make a plan and schedule a way to get rid of all of your house "stuff". And don't buy anything to do with electronics (tv's, computers, dvd's, video games, etc etc) in the next 2 years unless you plan to sell them before you leave. I'd not even consider taking more than a couple suitcases with me to the UK. There are furnished flats available everywhere. So much easier.
posted by kirstk at 12:35 PM on September 20, 2010

Definitely agree with dpx.mfx.

I'm also making a big move soon and when I sat down to think about the things that I'd absolutely have to take, the list was startlingly small, for me at least. Clothes, a few treasured items and important documents and I'd be good to go. Surprisingly, all of that would fit in two suitcases, max.
posted by BrianJ at 12:53 PM on September 20, 2010

Save more money.
Start selling the things I'm not taking.
Stop accumulating anything new. Tell people you know and love to please not give you things that are heavy or that you don't need. When I moved overseas people started giving me things like books - and not books I could read and get rid of or irreplacable art books, but shit I was supposed to treasure and ended up having to throw out because it was Hallmark or Susan Polis Shultz type crap.
Don't buy any new appliances. Yes you can run things on a transformer but you don't want to.
Start solidly researching things like storage and shipping.
Visit any family or friends you haven't seen in a while. 5 years is a long time.
Take photographs of people you care about.
Eat every type of food you truly love as often as you can. I dreamed of bagels and pizza and chinese food when I lived abroad.
posted by micawber at 1:29 PM on September 20, 2010

accommodation in London is expensive

...and smaller. Boston can be expensive so rents can look comparable but you will be getting a lot less square footage so plan accordingly. As other people have one of the best things you can be doing now is researching areas to live. A couple of points to bear in mind: Expect to be commuting to college, especially if it is one of the central London ones, otherwise you will be paying through the nose when there are better to place to live. The places American's stereotypically cluster are expensive and kind of dull but people do seem to make decisions based on this: I have some friends from Boston who had moved to London under similar circumstances to you and ended up living in St John's Wood, while I'm sure it was very nice, not mention convenient it also struck me as completely ridiculous when I found out. Its Boston equivalent would be living in say Beacon Hill or Newton when in reality they lived in Somerville and Arlington when they were there.

Try livinginlondon.net and this guide from the University of London, as starting places. When it come to finding (rented) accommodation, MoveFlat.com is the place to go, but Nestoria has a really good search interface that allows you to search by price and location. It displays stuff on a map and gives you info about the surrounding area so it will give you a good idea of what is available, for your budget, and where. I have a webpage of resources on housing in London (it's a couple of years old now so it might be a little out of date in places) and there is also this page on moving to London, I made to answer some questions for a friend who was plannig to study there.
posted by tallus at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would start paying attention to current British culture, of whatever variety interests you--watching clips from British TV, reading British newspapers and magazines online, etc. When I lived in Scotland for a year, it was a bit strange how everything was culturally pretty much the same as in the States...except with different characters. Suddenly I was totally out of the loop, and it got tiring to always be the clued-out one asking questions like "What's East Enders?". So, if you like to debate politics with your friends, you'll be better off if you've already got an opinion on David Cameron. If you think reality TV shows make great idle chit-chat, you might need to know who's on The X Factor. If you're a sports fan, do you know how Arsenal's doing this year? Building up the background you need to participate in friendly discussions of things like this takes time, but I think it will pay off when you're trying to meet and bond with new people.
posted by ootandaboot at 2:17 PM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: this may have changed in the decade since I worked in the UK.

Arrange for bank accounts via sister/subsidiary/parents of your US banks. Setting up UK bank accounts is a nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions once you're in the country, since they want all sorts of ID that you can usually only get if you've already got a bank account you're paying bills into/out of.

You'll want/need an NIH (health insurance number) when you get there for tax and healthcare purposes; depending on where you reside the queue to arrange them can take from weeks (very posh areas) through to literally never (for very poor areas); without one you'll pay more tax, amongst other things.
posted by rodgerd at 12:26 AM on September 21, 2010

When the time comes to start looking into rental flats in London, I would pay very close attention to whether the ones that catch your eye are furnished or unfurnished. Before we moved, we put all our furniture into storage, because we were told that pretty much all rental flats were furnished. That ended up being only partly true-- furnished flats proved to be more common in the UK than in the US, but they weren't universal. And once we moved here but left our furniture in the US, we were kind of locked into renting only furnished flats, since we didn't want to end up with duplicate furniture in the US and the UK.

I nth those who suggest you start saving money. I'd also suggest you think about what kind of budget you'll be on in London, and start trying to live like you're on that budget now. Not only will it help you save money, it will mean you won't be dealing with budget shock at the same time you're dealing with culture shock.

I'd read Watching The English by Kate Fox to get a sense of the unwritten rules of English life. But don't take it too literally-- London is a cosmopolitan city with all sorts of subcultures. Still, it will get you started thinking about some subtle cultural differences.

And finally, on another note, subscribe to the feed for Ask.Metafilter posts tagged with London. You're sure to find answers to lots of questions you wouldn't have thought of asking.
posted by yankeefog at 6:08 AM on September 21, 2010

Given that you're moving in a couple of years, I would keep a close eye on the immigration criteria, to make sure that they don't change. In the past 4 years or so, the requirements have changed several times, sometimes significantly: in my case, 4 years ago I didn't qualify, for a couple of years I did, now I would no longer qualify. The government has a stated goal of reducing net immigration, and they can't cut the number of EU immigrants, which means they have to toughen up requirements for people like you and I.

The good news is that they will announce any changes before they come into force, but I'd encourage you to bear this in mind.

Also: try to get your bank to set you up a UK bank account, much easier than doing it over there (as rodgerd said). Make sure you have good written references from landlords (I'm not sure if that's standard in the US - it certainly is in the UK). Make contact with employment agencies in your field (maybe 3 months before you come over?). Start learning about UK culture - there are differences, some trivial, some more serious [Americans don't have kettles? And have almost no idea what snooker is?]
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:46 AM on September 24, 2010

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