Yet another "Where should we live?" post
September 4, 2012 1:53 AM   Subscribe

Yet another "Where should we move?" question, unique to my family of course.

In the past we have considered moving overseas but for various reasons are still living in our nice little bungalow in Quake Central, NZ. My husband is currently employed by a medium-sized international company whose employees all work remotely. He spends much of his time in teleconferences - and being in New Zealand makes this tricky because he ends up compromising to meet everyone's timezones so his meetings fall anywhere from 7am to 11pm our time.

He is currently interviewing with a large company whose headquarters are in the Bay Area and who are most well known for their search engine. They have offices in many places and he is working through the interview process to decide which team he is best suited for.

We have committed ourselves to selling our home and moving at the end of this year - but where to? He may take a job within Large Search Engine Company in one of their offices - the job they offer him and the location will determine whether he takes it. If he doesn't take it, he will continue with his current company but will hopefully be free to relocate anywhere in Europe or the USA - he is negotiating with them to sponsor his visa because it will cut down slightly on his travel and put him in a timezone where he can do his job without it seriously cutting into his family time.

We have lived in the Bay Area before so we're not too excited about that idea - we would like to live somewhere new which could be in the US or EU. Our definite requirements are:

* warm climate (no or very occasional snow)
* close to water and parks - we are fairly keen kayakers, mountain bikers and beachgoers
* somewhere family-friendly for our 7- and 9-year old children with good schools or international schools nearby
* short or no commute
* it would be nice if I could teach elementary/primary without having to spend a year or more retraining for local accrediation - but if I have to, then I will. My degree is in primary/elementary teaching. We would work on getting our green cards as quickly as possible if we were in the States, too.
* somewhere relatively economically stable - not Greece!

We have been considering San Diego, Florida, Spain and Singapore. We can't afford Singapore and we know very little about Spain except that we would like to be in the northeast, north of Barcelona. There may be other places we've not considered - I would love to hear them. I can't convince my husband to consider Italy.

So the question is: out of San Diego, Florida, and Costa Brava, which would you choose and why? And what awesome places haven't we thought about?
posted by tracicle to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Well, Spain is not the most economically stable place at the moment either. But the northeast is ok.

When you listed your requirements I immediately thought of the Languedoc which is essentially the same part of the world and has abundant natural lakes and coastline.

To be honest though, San Diego sounds perfect for you. I grew up there. If you live in one of the North Coastal communities the major activities are all beach and biking and running related. The climate is temperate all year round. It's the one I'd choose among your three.
posted by vacapinta at 2:24 AM on September 4, 2012

I'm a little unclear by what you mean when you say "commute"... if your husband is working remotely, then are you primarily concerned with your own commute to work at an elementary school?

Apart from that variable, Northeast Florida (in the Jacksonville/Saint Augustine area) seems like a good fit for you.

- The climate is nice and warm... the joke is that we have two seasons there, summer and Christmas.

-There's water everywhere. From anywhere in Saint Augustine you're no more than a 30 minute drive from the Atlantic ocean (which is nice and warm most of the year), the St. Johns River, the Intercoastal Waterway and the thousands of brackish creeks that drain in to it, and innumerable lakes and ponds. You're also day-trip distance away from dozens of Florida's amazing springs, which are cool and refreshing in the summer time, and packed with manatees in the winter time.

-School quality is hit or miss in Florida, unfortunately, but the good schools in the region are REALLY good; Jacksonville alone has nearly half a dozen of the nation's top high schools, for instance, and most of them are public. Definitely do your homework (ha!) before you move, but you shouldn't have any trouble finding quality education options for your kids.

-No idea what the teacher certification requirements in the state are, unfortunately.

-Florida's economic stability has improved significantly after the fallout from the implosion of the housing bubble several years ago. Houses in the area are still relatively cheap, though, selling WAY below what they were selling for in 2008.

All that said, Florida isn't for everyone. I wrote a comment in another thread a while back explaining why. But for those who can hack it, Northeast Florida's a pretty great place to live!
posted by saladin at 4:40 AM on September 4, 2012

In Florida you would have to deal with hurricane season, and hurricane parties aside, that's really no fun at all. Also? Big. flying. cockroaches. (lived there). I think Spain would be fabulous, but as vacapinta says, its not economically secure at this time (also rules out Italy, Ireland, Portugal).

San Diego sounds great, but it does have its own (less famous) fault, so if you really don't want to worry about earthquakes at all, maybe not ideal.

I suppose you have ruled out the Asheville area because of weather? I also lived there, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular... and it's just about perfect weather in my estimation: not too cold or hot or humid or arid – but I hate hot weather despite somehow usually ending up living in hot weather places, so we may have very different ideas about "perfect." It definitely gets four distinct seasons, which is something I love. Weather info. Outdoor activity.
posted by taz at 4:45 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Florida before and saladin's link is spot on.

What about North Carolina? I'd concentrate on the Research Triangle area (for the schools) but you'd be driving distance from mountains and beaches. And you might get snow once or twice a year tops, at least in the central portion.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:47 AM on September 4, 2012

As an addendum to the comments about weather, keep in mind that San Diego and Florida have different types of summer heat as well. Florida, like much of the US East Coast, is extremely humid.

San Diego, on the other hand, is basically a desert which meets the ocean. That means a dry heat. It also means that living more than a few miles away from the ocean can mean extremely high summer temperatures.
posted by vacapinta at 5:14 AM on September 4, 2012

I live in southwest Florida and absolutely love it. Short drive to the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico beaches, great weather, tons of woods and parks and water for nature hikes and boating, I-75 within easy reach. I don't have kids, but the city where I live does have some good schools (based on what my friends with kids tell me) and has a lot of family-friendly features. And I love the wildlife -- having grown up in a big urban area up north, the fact that I cross paths with armadillos and wild pigs and gopher tortoises and vultures and yes, alligators while I'm out hiking is a continuing source of pleasure for me. (Seriously, there are alligators in pretty much every body of water, but they are generally afraid of humans and will leave you alone as long as you don't mess with them, and NEVER feed them.)

Sure, there's always the risk of hurricanes, especially on the Gulf coast, but we haven't really had anything major since Charley back in '04 and we're much better about preparedness and communication since that disaster. Summers are indeed very hot and humid, but they also tend to be pretty laid back because the "snowbirds" go home for the summer -- the people who maintain homes in other parts of the country and only live in Florida for the "season," around say October/November to March/April.

The economy can be hit or miss, but I'm fortunate to live in a city that's well-managed and growing -- lots of solid existing local businesses and new ones coming in too. It's still a buyer's market when it comes to real estate.

I'm an old fogey type who likes my peace and quiet, but there's fun to be had here too if you like a bit of nightlife -- it's just not my thing anymore.

MeMail me if you'd like more info on my specific city.
posted by Gator at 5:41 AM on September 4, 2012

I was a teacher in Florida.

You might like Florida, but it's a big state with its own geography.

Southeastern Florida (West Palm Beach to Miami) is suburban/metropolitain. Weather is a pretty regular hot and muggy year 'round.

I would not advise BUYING a house in Florida as the foreclosures in the state, the issue with Chinese Dry Wall, and the issues with obtaining good insurance make renting a palacial abode preferable to buying one and being responsible for all the hassles of it.

Florida has a pretty lax system of teacher certification. I taught under a program with my Master's degree for non-education majors. I was granted a temporary certificate and had two years to pass the state test, take ESOL classes, and do what was needed to be permanantly certified.

As an experienced teacher, you will be paid according to your years of experience on the Union Scale.

You have the choice of teaching in Public Schools, or in a private school. I have friend who teaches at a private school in Boca Raton and they provide for the tutition for her kids. So that's a pretty good deal.

The public schools in South Florida are notoriously bad. That means there are tons of private options.

Due to the poor economy all over the state, teacher jobs are hard to come by, but there will always be an opening somewhere.

Teaching kids in public school will be a terrible culture shock for you. I'm just saying.

As for San Deigo, it's absolutely lovely. Schools aren't so great. (California public schools have suffered under the effects of Proposition 13 for decades.) It's also super expensive. The climate is probably the best of anywhere in the world. You're also close to a lot of great outdoor sports.

Whatever you do, don't rush out to buy a house. Rent for awhile, get to know the area.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2012

I wouldn't rule out Spain on economic grounds: Greece is one thing but the EU is not going to let Spain fail. It could actually be that this is a good time to buy in while prices are depressed. Barcelona is obviously great and a nice bit of France is just next door. Places like Collioure are not Cannes, but in some ways the smaller quieter, arty thing is nicer. My daughter did kayaking and some other water stuff near Barcelona and reckons it's pretty good. You're not going to get big beaches or serious surfing in the Mediterranean of course.

That said you've got a language issue you haven't got in the USA, with Catalan and Castillian in uneasy co-existence. There again, that could be a positive in certain lights.

If Italy's out of the question, what about Bordeaux?
posted by Segundus at 6:11 AM on September 4, 2012

Please let me cosign saladin's Florida comments, and those of others. I just spent 2.5 years in Miami and it was, largely, misery. Yes, it is a GORGEOUS state, and the outdoorsey things were pretty magnificent. And it was cheap to live there, compared to SF or NYC. But it is incredibly difficult to build relationships, as everyone is a commuter, and the culture is very strange (as others remarked upon). Very segregated too. And it's incredibly conservative in many ways--for instance, most of the gay men I met were in the closet, because they worked for Spanish or South American banks and couldn't be out. Also, Spanish is mandatory (at least for the greater Miami area), which is fine at least, and good for your brain. (You'd do that in Costa Brava anyway!)

But the one thing that really got to me was the unending flatness, which might be an issue for NZers. Not so much as a hill in sight for a hundreds of miles! So bizarre to what I'm used to in a landscape.

I knew an elementary school teacher there who was pretty amazing, but I would definitely say that his day-to-day was challenging. A number of outfits are trying to undermine the public schools systems (including Jeb Bush) because they realized they can make a ton of money off privatizing the school system (as they did with the prison system), and that's weakening the public schools already. (Though, in the short term, at least they pay teachers a bit better probably....)

My dream relocation is for Spain myself.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:13 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are going to have trouble with that No Commute thing in Florida unless you live in Miami or Jacksonville. Public transit is not really something Floridians believe in. If you're lucky, they'll have a bus system, which will still mean waiting/walking in over 80F heat and 70+ humidity for 9 months out of the year. I don't think people who've never spent a good length of time here understand how uncomfortable the out-of-doors can be from April through October. It is not just HOT, it is like stepping into a steamroom every time you walk outside. You will sweat through your clothes. Unless you are directly on the beach, there's not likely to be much of a breeze. Walking outside is usually only done before sunrise (because after sunset, then the mosquitoes will eat you alive). I've lived here pretty much all my life and the only time I find the weather pleasant is between November and February. Otherwise, it's time to turn on the A/C. Depending upon the size and insulation of your home, you can rack up significant power bills, plus A/C maintenance.

Outside of the few urban areas, the job market is terrible. FL has a very low cost of living because there are lots of low-wage service industry jobs and not much else in much of the state. People are leaving my area in droves because of the end of the space program. Those jobs are not being replaced, which means that pretty much all that's left is working in a nursing home, hotel or restaurant. Florida as a whole does not have very family-friendly employment policies or programs. Florida is a "right to work state" which means you can be fired at any time for any reason (like, in the case of a family member of mine, if you have cancer). There are a large contingent of people who who are retirees from other states, and therefore feel that they've "paid already" when it comes to taxes, so it's a serious uphill battle to get any funding for schools and government programs. The state government is pretty dominantly right-wing and anti-tax. Not sure if that matters to you, but it makes a big difference in quality of life issues when compared to other places in the US. In smaller towns there is a still a strong Good-Old-Boy network.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:57 AM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

We have lived in the Bay Area before so we're not too excited about that idea

Aw bummer. That would have been awesome.

Does it have to be US or EU? Because there are places (Costa Rica, Brazil) that would meet most of your criteria (warm, near water, relatively stable, right time zone, international schools) but aren't in the northern hemisphere.
posted by ambrosia at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just thought I'd mention, as that, er, software company has a Seattle/Kirkland office (I have friends who work there), if they do offer you that, we have beaches, mountains, and good schools. We don't have warm, but we also don't have snow. (We get snow every 3-5 years for about a week's worth of winter.) So if you're looking for warm, not the place, but if you just don't like snow, it'll do pretty well.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:38 PM on September 4, 2012

Sounds to me like you should give Seattle a shout. The weather is similar to your current. You're close to Vancouver BC if you need to speak english once in a while and your husbands employment possibilities are quite extensive with the current search engine company that he's interviewing and their chief search rival, the worlds on-line retailer of note.
posted by ptm at 4:42 PM on September 4, 2012

A month later so I don't expect this will be read...but we have finally reached the end of the interview process with $search_engine_company and it looks like he will be offered a position in...Zurich. Don't laugh, it snows a LOT but it also gets up to 30C in summer and has loads of nature, lake for kayaking, and is central to most of Europe.

So thanks for the great advice and offers - we totally went off on a tangent on this.

(Having said that, we don't have it on paper yet so it's not 100% certain. Ask me in a week.)
posted by tracicle at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2012

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