A relocation drama - leaving London for NY
May 19, 2007 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Most of the questions I've read so far were made by people moving from NY to London, but I am considering the opposite, so I'd like to ask for some opinions to help me make a decision. I am a Brazilian-Italian girl, 26 and have been living in London for the past five years.

During my time in London, I have made a number of friends here, travelled loads to other parts of Europe and have had a really good time. However, in 2005, the end of my four-year relationship and the impression that I had already finished 'doing the London thing' made me start considering a relocation.

The company I work for has offices worldwide and one fine day, I have spotted a vacancy in NY in the internal list. It is something which marries two of my skills nicely and it would be a massive career challenge at the same time. I applied, submitted a test, had a coffee with my prospective NY employer in London, which was then followed by a phone call yesterday: I got the job.

I introduced myself to my London counterpart a couple of weeks ago, in order to find out more about the routine, if she was enjoying the job and other details of the position, since she does exactly the same job I've just been offered. She said that the 'boss' doesn't have that much managerial experience and that's where the worrying bit begins.

Because he doesn't have experience as a manager, some parts of the interviewing process have been somewhat skipped and I do realise this may have been my fault because I didn't ask these questions myself. Well, I really thought I'd have another stage in the interviewing process where I would be able to talk through these things. The first: they are offering a $45k/year salary, this is pretty much what I'm getting in sterling at the moment. I would expect a payrise as I am bringing a lot of experience to the table and because I have been working with that company for over a year now.

There is a relocation package involved, where they would pay for the flight, accommodation for the first month, shipping of my belongings etc, but from what I've been researching, I fear I wouldn't be able to maintain a decent living with that kind of money. What do you guys think?

To buy myself some time, I have asked for the formal job offer and am thinking through the options during the weekend. I am not sure of how I should approach my future manager to negotiate my salary as I never had to do such a thing. How do I go about this?

At the company where I work, they encourage people to tell their line managers they are applying for another job at the second interview stage, but I wasn't quite sure of when that happened, so I found myself in a situation where I had to run and tell my manager before the NY guy told her directly he'd offered the job. She is an American herself, and did sympathise with the fact it was a big decision and that I was in need of a new challenge. She gave me lots of tips and offered to help if need be and said that I wouldn't need to fear losing my current job if I decided to not to go.

I am up for the challenge, but moving is pretty damn scary. I would be leaving my friends and my closest buddies have already said things along the lines of "what would I do without you", which makes me feel like I won't be able to build such friendships anymore. Which I know is not that dramatic, but still... I have been going out with a lovely guy who wouldn't be able to join me there until next February, although he fully supports me on my decision to go.

At the moment, I am not sure if I kind of settled here and am scared am not able to move anywhere, not even back to Brazil or to Italy. Scared of now being able to make friends, although I'm super sociable and extroverted, scared of not being able to find an affordable place to live! Perhaps this is just paranoia and I just need a kick in the bum? : )

I will probably have to face the big decision again on Monday or Tuesday, so any suggestions or comments on this situation would be much appreciated! Thank you
posted by heartofglass to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
NYC is one of those places you can usually only move if you're really young and stupid or old and rich.

you have an opportunity that most people would kill for. NYC is like nowhere else in the world (including London). go for ti, without hesitation.
posted by wayward vagabond at 5:39 AM on May 19, 2007

$45K is totally doable, especially if they are absorbing all your moving costs. you will have to settle for a smaller apartment than you ever imagined (or a roommate, although personally i would rather have a studio to myself than share a bigger place) and possibly a lower standard of living compared to london, but you will have a lot of peers in the same boat--it's not an unusual salary for a young professional. it's just a different way of life. you'll get used to it. you won't need to buy a car.

there are lots of threads on mefi talking about moving to new york, where to live, how to find an apartment, etc. take advantage of them!

you're in the best possible situation to move to new york. a lot of people arrive with far less, and do well for themselves. you'll be totally fine.

and if you don't want to go, then don't go. we can all tell you it will be a great opportunity, but only you can know if it's the right one. there are all kinds of hazards involved with uprooting oneself, and are not to be taken lightly. but you can overcome a lot more than you probably think.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:18 AM on May 19, 2007

$45k is do-able in NYC, depending on what kind of life-style you want to lead. You'll need to either find a roommate or live in upper Manhattan or another borough or both. You can probably find something in the $1000-$1300 range in Upper Manhattan or Brooklyn. If you are willing to go to Queens or NJ you might find something cheaper.

I moved here on $32k in 2001, and it was difficult. But I made it, and found that when my salary crossed $40k, things got much easier. You can't eat at Nobu, dress in Prada, or drink $15 martinins... but you can eat out on a regular basis (there are plenty of cool affordable restaurants). There are tons of free things to do. And with your outgoing personality, you won't have a problem meeting people.

The thing about NYC is the there is so much opportunity here... to advance your career, to do and learn new things, to meet interesting people. What I've experienced in NYC in 6 years would have taken me two decades any where else.
posted by kimdog at 6:24 AM on May 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you've been in London for four years, you can get Indefinite Leave to Remain. Although my employer at the time didn't tell me, the bank had lots of ex-pats working in London and we all stuck together. I got mine in about two months back in 2001 without my employer even knowing.

Indefinite Leave to Remain - for all intents and purposes, a UK "Green Card" - would give you the added benefit of being able to return to England to live at a later date without employer sponsorship. At least one caveat - you can't remain outside the UK for more than two years, but there are work arounds; a colleague in New York takes three weeks leave a year in London. You can probably get this document pretty quickly, but consult a professional for all of the ins and outs. Your current employer needn't know.

In terms of your salary, now is the to speak up and put your concerns on record. Speaking as a ex-pat who started working for a bank in New York, then moved to Frankfurt and finally London for the same institution. I'd be a little concerned about the straight "pounds to dollars" calculation. YOU are doing THEM a favour by moving. You've every right to expect an increase in compensation.

Get some standardised HR data detailing cost of living in both cities. Use this as part of your argument for more cash. I suspect London is more expensive than New York across the board but flat rental may be more costly. So you'll need some details on the various components of the cost of living in both cities. If housing is indeed more expensive, this will be part of your argument for increased compensation, the other, of course, the level of commitment you are demonstrating to the firm by relocating, the expertise you bring to the table, your increased value to the firm, etc.

Also, in the rush to go many folks forget about taxes; if they haven't already, have them retain a firm to evaluate - in writing - your situation in both countries. Does your package mention tax equalisation at all? I had this, and it's essentially an agreement that you tax burden in New York won't exceed what you previously paid in London. Don't be fooled by straightforward nominal rates either; ex-pat taxes are fairly complicated and to suss this out you'll need a professionals expertise. There is absolutely no reason to make an expensive mistake here in the rush to get to New York.

Other things - one first month free housing is sorta light in the grand scheme of these things, not even considering the difficulty of getting a place in New York. In both London and Frankfurt I got a "flexible" 90 days; ask for that.

Will they help you find a flat, and perhaps co-sign? Your selection may be sharply limited as your US credit history will be non-existent. More than likely, you'll need some help here.

The package seems to not mention home leave; you've been here five years. You've got roots. Ask for at least an annual trip back to England, at their expense. You can visit your boyfriend in three months to soften that blow a little.

Have you ever been to New York? If not I'd suggest working there for a month before definitively accepting the position. You can never tell about these things, you might just hate the place. And that month will give you a leg up to focus your flat search; you'll be able to visit various neighbourhoods and see if one strikes your fancy.

That's about all I can think of except try to slow down and not rush into this thing. Best of luck!!
posted by Mutant at 6:28 AM on May 19, 2007

If you've been in London for four years, you can get Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Nuh-uh. Five years. They changed it. And it's retro-active.
posted by randomination at 6:37 AM on May 19, 2007

if the OP is brazilian/italian, i'm assuming she's living in the UK on an EU passport.

if she's on a work permit, she can only apply for indefinite leave to remain after *5* years residency, and must take the "life in the UK" test. it costs £750 to apply by post (which takes up to 3 months) or over £900 in person.

ILR cannot just be renewed through holidays to the UK every 2 years - you need to prove you have maintained substantial ties to the UK.
posted by wayward vagabond at 6:42 AM on May 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers so far - and yes, I am an EU citizen, so I don't need a permit to live and work in the UK.
posted by heartofglass at 6:44 AM on May 19, 2007

"And it's retro-active."

Interesting - not to derail but do you have a citation? I suspect I'm ok as I got mine years ago and haven't heard anything from Home Office about them taking it back, but a friend submitted her paperwork just recently. It will be interesting to see what her Solicitors says
posted by Mutant at 6:44 AM on May 19, 2007

I can't believe they would offer you a straight sterling to dollars conversion. 45K sterling is like 90 grand a year. There is a HUGE difference in lifestyle in NYC between 45K and 90K. I don't really know what 45K Sterling buys lifestyle wise in the UK, but in NYC 90K is the difference between tight budgeting and having a roommate vs. being able to live on your own and relax your vigilance with money. If I transferred to my company's Ealing office and got a straight dollars to sterling conversion I would be living like a king I believe.

Anyway, besides the money you are perfectly qualified to make stellar friends here - Brazilian/Italian and super outgoing?? This city was invented for you. All you will need is a few months of happy hours after work with your colleagues and you'll be off and running, guaranteed.
posted by spicynuts at 7:43 AM on May 19, 2007

You will be taking a pay cut of approximately half your current salary. New York City isn't half as expensive to live in as London.
posted by grouse at 8:08 AM on May 19, 2007

See if you can push back on the 1-month rent thing--not for the money, but for the practicality. Rental occupancy rates are hovering around 1%--painfully low, like London in 98-99.

I was born and raised in Manhattan, and what makes this place special is the constant stream of interesting, forward-looking, fun, and talented people from all over the world. People in their first few years here burn brighter than the natives. New York needs them.

Try to continue being super-outgoing (and, following spicynuts, remain Brazilian/Italian). Use the subway. Don't stand outside bars talking late at night; and don't block the sidewalks, at any time of day, ever. Follow this and the city is yours. Welcome.
posted by Phred182 at 11:15 AM on May 19, 2007

At the risk of sounding somewhat somber, keep in mind that many neighborhoods in New York City currently are experiencing a significant bedbug problem — which is emphatically something you do not want. Be sure to double-check potential buildings in Bedbug City and the Bedbug Registry.
posted by WCityMike at 2:57 PM on May 19, 2007

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