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Old Jan 21st 2016, 3:59 pm   #1
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Default One year back in UK after 26 in USA

It’s been a whirlwind year. Here’s a brief background. I moved to California (and got married quickly) on a whim in 1988 and ping-ponged a bit for a year until staying there. I started a successful business that ran for 10 years then went through a divorce of my business partner and wife and therefore the business. I stayed in the USA and after meeting someone else, I moved to the East Coast and was there for 13 years. During that 13 years, I experienced New England’s harsh long winters and sweaty summers with a few weeks of Spring and Autumn in between, year on year. The good bit was that I got married again (the right one this time) and we had two beautiful kids. I was working for myself mostly and doing quite well. My wife worked for a decent firm.

So after having our kids it became tougher for me to be away from my family in the UK so we decided to move back. It took a couple of years of admin, getting the kids’ dual passports sorted (I’m a UKC and my wife is a USC) and also I did my USC as well so we could get back easier to the USA if the worst happened. We fell foul of the new regulations and started to panic and then give up. But then miraculously, my wife was offered a transfer to the UK and everything fell into place. We sold our house (with no real income from it as we had bought just pre-crash) packed up and moved. Now fast forward to January 2015.

We arrived early January and stayed with my Mum until we could get a home renal sorted. My eldest (6 years old at the time) started school two days later as a mid-year transfer into year 1… I had come out the year prior and visited schools and focused on one. Again pure luck was on our side and another child transferred out and we were offered the space. We had all the paperwork filed so it was just an admin situation to get sorted and everything worked out. Then with my youngest due to begin reception September 2015 all we had to do was figure out a nursery school for him. My wife started work immediately. She telecommutes up to London from Cornwall. She travels up as needed.

We found a rental and because I had laid ground work (bank, electoral roll, Ni no etc.) we had no problems with the application and signed a rental agreement. Again we were lucky as we didn’t hit any of the horror stories I had read on here. We didn’t even need a deposit. We moved in Feb. 1st.

Then everything else was easy enough. Doctor. NHS dentist. Adding my wife to my bank account. Registered for council tax. Utilities. We had the (apparently) normal headaches with BT Broadband install which took over two months to get our full fiber install although we did get slower DSL in the meantime. We bought a car outright. Rather than buy new or nearly new we opted for a 6 year old car which has done us proud. Insurance was no problem and we got our no claims transferred OK with a little fuss but nothing too bad.

Things have been rolling along fairly well really. I have some overall positives and negatives to report.

Expenses. We saved an absolute ton from our prior living costs. In the USA our mortgage was high. We had very expensive daycare. We had to pay health insurance. Our local taxes were three times higher in New England. Food costs were higher. Our council tax here in the UK is about £130 a month. We have no daycare now as both kids are in schools. We have no healthcare costs (apart from minor prescriptions here and there… the kids are free though which is amazing). Our dental fees are way lower. Schools are ‘free’ (and standards are way higher overall) where before we had to go private due to the local state schools being very poor quality.

Food. While overall we find food to be less expensive, you still have to shop smart. You can’t just go to Sainsbury’s each week or two and do a big shop… you need to mix it up. You can save a lot generally at Lidl. But you can’t get everything you need. So for the most economic shop you have to go to Lidls and get the majority and then fill in with a few bits eleswhere.

Car Insurance. Our first year was a lot cheaper than we were paying for similar coverage in the USA. We got our no claims record transferred no trouble. But this year the renewal is almost double (we have had no changes, claims, tickets… anything). After asking around it’s pretty standard for people to look around and buy insurance from different suppliers each year… this is new as we were with the same firm before for 13 years.

Utilities. In the UK you pay monthly direct debit and costs are based on usage on meter readings every few months. So if you’re not careful costs can jump and you have to pay more. Our water fees just jumped up £25/month for instance after a yearly review. We’re being more careful with our water use but if we kept a better watch of it earlier then we could have taken action sooner.

Eating Out. When you go out to eat it’s generally a lot more here. If you sit and think about the conversion rates then it’s scary sometimes how much more expensive it is. So eating out is much more of a special thing here to us anyway. Whereas in the USA we’d take the kids out to eat once a week or so.

Travel. Trains are quite expensive and it’s often cheaper to fly down here from London to Newquay. Fuel costs are high too but it balances out because the cars are in general much more fuel efficient. Diesel and petrol prices are down right now which makes things even better here. We don’t do a lot of miles here compared to the USA. For instance our daycare was about a 10 mile drive away and work for my wife was a 40 mile commute each way. So we’d fill up at least once a week over there, and we had two cars. Here we only have one car and we only need to fill up once a month. My Dad lives up in Shropshire and we recently made it there and back on one tank of diesel and that’s for our Skoda Octavia vRS which is still pretty powerful and large and comfy. Local bus services are plentiful and fairly cheap. Plus we have a local shopper bus that we can shuttle around town in if we need to due to bad weather. Later we’re looking forward to being able to drive down to France and beyond for inexpensive self-drive holidays.

The work scene. This is a negative for me, although we were prepared for it. I’ve been working for myself as a freelance marketing consultant, designer and photographer for many years. I’ve taken on full time roles here and there too, all back in the USA. I’ve always done quite well and have averaged a decent six-figure income most years. I tried to make myself virtual and worked from my home base for the last few years thinking that I might be able to bring some clients along for the ride. But I’m in another country now and that’s quite a chunk for clients to swallow. With my wife stepping straight into her new role with her transfer, I was able to not worry too much and take some time to get the kids sorted, our housing setup and deal with other details regarding the move. I kept my ear to the ground and hoped that I’d be able to identify a part-time or full-time role that I could step into. But I haven’t been too lucky. For starters, we’re down in Cornwall. Pay scales are very low. Decent jobs, and larger firms are scarce. A quite large percentage of people are self employed making ends meet doing this and that. Secondly, I am seen as an unknown quantity. I have been outside the UK for 26 years. I have large holes in my general knowledge about things. Sure I have a basic understanding of most things concerning the country, but there’s a lot I have simply missed out on. As a generalization, when I ‘left’ in 1988, computers and cell phones were still very new and mostly unusual. Office environments were much different that they are today in the UK. So it’s definitely ‘who you know’ here rather than all being about what you know. Also, everyone knows EVERYONE it seems. It’s crazy! You have to be soooo careful. Also keep in mind that I’m 51. This is a crap age to be searching for work. So I’ve been doing a bit of volunteering. I have also been working part time on a freelance basis for six months for the same firm. And I’ve made up my mind that I’m going to have to work for myself again if I have any thoughts about making a decent income. It is what it is.

Credit cards etc. We were able to easily open up American Express here based on our USA based account and that seems to have brought some credit history with it although we haven’t had the need to use it. I haven’t applied for any loans or credit cards at all.

Money in general. It seems so very old school that firms still pay people once a month here. After being paid either weekly or every two weeks in the USA, it’s hard to get used to that again. Given that we’re currently living off one main income right now (my wife’s with a small cash injection here from my part time work) we’ve been able to keep our heads about water but we’re certainly not in a position to save or anything. Given that we reduced our expenses by a lot (as mentioned earlier) it would be great if I could find steady work as we’d be able to save quickly. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I can find a decent job or some steady freelance clients. Wish me luck! I am just about to apply for a job at one place I’ve been freelancing at. But even then, the salary for full time will likely only be in the high £20K range and I was making more than that before I left in 1988 in the London area so that’s a bit depressing. So my own business will likely be the way to go long term.

Environment. It has to be said that we live in a pretty amazing place in the world, Cornwall. So I can’t sniff at that. We can walk to three beaches in 10 minutes, and we have castles, beautiful parks and gardens and many other attractions all within a short walk. Then we’ve got the rest of Cornwall to enjoy too. But amazingly I can’t believe how many people around here drop litter. We live close to a convenience store, which doesn’t help. But on the walk to the school with the kids, I see litter dumped daily along pavements, in bushes, along paths… it blows my mind. I understand there’s a new anti-littering initiative being started but I just am stumped why people do it. Thankfully poo trees aren’t a reality around here.

Shops and shopping. I still don’t know where to go to get certain things. The shops have changed a lot since I was here in the late eighties. There are a myriad of new clothing shops both on the high street and online. Thankfully there are still some local shops here and there but most of the local butchers and green grocers have died off. There are plenty of small convenience stores where you can pickup nearly everything you might need at a push. There are a LOT of charity shops and a surprising amount of people buy from them regularly. In fact I have got used to checking around a few of them for school clothes, toys, books and knick knacks that we might need. Why not?

Schools. The quality of schools down here is pretty amazing. The schools are small and the kids get a lot of one-on-one attention. Both my kids are doing amazingly well across the board. My eldest was definitely behind in reading and maths when we got here compared to the other kids that started school here.

Social Scene. We have already met some amazing new friends and people have been really accepting. I was really worried about my wife being seen as the ‘ugly american’ but honestly she’s not suffered from anyone being strange or critical. In general people have questions about my time over there and are genuinely interested, and of course everyone wants to know about the presidential race for this year. But I’m really happy that everyone has been so nice to us. Also in general people are lovely and are always saying hello. We’ve both met some lovely neighbours and have been able to establish ourselves here easily. Cornwall is very close knit, so we’ll always be outsiders. But we always would have been even if we were from Devon

Visas and immigration. With me and the kids a no-problem scenario it still leaves us to switch my wife’s visa from her current tier 2 ICT visa to a spousal one. We need to make that application quickly. I understand the costs are going up. Have they already or is it happening soon? Argh!

Anyway I’ll stop waffling now. If anyone has any questions feel free to PM me or answer the thread. I hope you’re all doing well and I wish others making the big leap home all the luck in the world!! xox
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Old Jan 22nd 2016, 3:49 pm   #2
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

That's a really great update, I'm sure it will be helpful to many making the move. Glad to hear things are going well for you. A year already, wow that went fast!
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Old Jan 22nd 2016, 5:21 pm   #3
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Great to hear from you! A year already! The fees are going up in April so, if you can get it going before then, that would be good. Making these moves is daunting for all of us but it is worth it, isn't it?!
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Old Jan 22nd 2016, 7:07 pm   #4
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Fantastic update! Overall it seems you have no regrets about the move?
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Old Jan 22nd 2016, 9:32 pm   #5
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Thanks for your wonderful post, Mr Muffin. I've only been in the UK for a couple of months (on a spouse visa) but found myself nodding at many of your observations. Wishing you the very best of luck on the work front
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Old Jan 22nd 2016, 10:15 pm   #6
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Glad to see you're settling in well. Regarding your wife's spouse visa - the sooner the better as the fees will be going up in April and any time spent on a Tier 2 ICT won't be counting towards the five years required for ILR.
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Old Jan 23rd 2016, 10:49 am   #7
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Great update !
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Old Jan 25th 2016, 6:34 pm   #8
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

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Originally Posted by spouse of scouse View Post
Thanks for your wonderful post, Mr Muffin. I've only been in the UK for a couple of months (on a spouse visa) but found myself nodding at many of your observations. Wishing you the very best of luck on the work front
I sent you an email.
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 8:23 am   #9
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

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I sent you an email.
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Me or Spouse of Scouse? If me nothing received. M
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 10:55 am   #10
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Thanks for taking the time and effort to relay your experiences. I too may have to return to the UK in the not too distant future. So a couple of questions sprang to mind when reading your post:

1. How did you move your belongings to the UK - did you only do this after you found rented accommodation - or did everything ship at the same time as you left ?

2. If the shipping happened later, did you have to pop back to the USA to arrange everything ? Or did someone in your former residence in USA let the removals men in ?

Unfortunately I don't have the option of temporarily moving in with relatives - so I would have to arrange accommodation before I even get there - and that might be tricky.

Last edited by ah207; Jan 26th 2016 at 11:00 am.
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 11:52 am   #11
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Thanks for taking the time and effort to relay your experiences. I too may have to return to the UK in the not too distant future. So a couple of questions sprang to mind when reading your post:

1. How did you move your belongings to the UK - did you only do this after you found rented accommodation - or did everything ship at the same time as you left ?

2. If the shipping happened later, did you have to pop back to the USA to arrange everything ? Or did someone in your former residence in USA let the removals men in ?

Unfortunately I don't have the option of temporarily moving in with relatives - so I would have to arrange accommodation before I even get there - and that might be tricky.
Most shipping companies will offer storage service after they pack you up and at the other end. Sometimes you can get a few days or weeks free, but if not you can pay for it. If you're paying rent in the US it would be better to pack up when you leave. It takes 3-6 weeks for the shipment to arrive, so just that delay often gives people enough time to find new accommodation, but if not, arrange the shipping company to hold at the origin country or destination. I've even had our belongings held at origin for several months and then ended up scrapping the move and had the belongings re-delivered.
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 12:27 pm   #12
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Re: ah207's questions...

We used upakweship for the actual shipment of a container. We had a local firm pack the container for us. Unfortunately they underestimated what we could get in the container so we had some last minute decisions to make regarding what extra items to leave and giveaway. We had about 48 hours after the container left our driveway before we actually flew back. We then had about 6 weeks until the container arrived in Cornwall. I have to say that upakweship we flawless especially their agents in the UK. We were able to secure an exact delivery day and we were given extra time to unload before we went on the clock which was amazing. We did the same in the UK and hired a removals firm to unload the container and carry everything into our house. We did the actual unpacking. We had a 20ft container and they had it unloaded (4 guys) in about 2 hours flat. It only cost £200 for that portion. Regarding finding a rental, we were lucky and we moved into our house 2 weeks after signing a rental agreement (arrived in Cornwall Jan 12. Signed approx. Jan 18. Moved in Feb 1.)

Do a search for threads that I started as I think I gave a pretty thorough account of working with upakweship. If I find it I'll post it here later. Good luck to you!!!
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 12:29 pm   #13
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Re: BritInParis... thanks as always for your advice. Yes we are intending on doing the visa switch as soon as we can. We wanted to do it sooner but money has been tight. But we'll definitely get it done ahead of the new pricing that will be coming in soon. I hope you are doing well? Take care.
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 12:37 pm   #14
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

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Originally Posted by Shard View Post
Most shipping companies will offer storage service after they pack you up and at the other end. Sometimes you can get a few days or weeks free, but if not you can pay for it. If you're paying rent in the US it would be better to pack up when you leave. It takes 3-6 weeks for the shipment to arrive, so just that delay often gives people enough time to find new accommodation, but if not, arrange the shipping company to hold at the origin country or destination. I've even had our belongings held at origin for several months and then ended up scrapping the move and had the belongings re-delivered.
That's comforting to know. So its not necessary to leave all your stuff behind - then go back for it at a later date after you have found a destination address.

Would be nice to be able to arrange accommodation beforehand - and then move everything at the same time. But finding a new job and finding accommodation while still abroad is not easy.
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Old Jan 26th 2016, 12:41 pm   #15
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Default Re: One year back in UK after 26 in USA

Thanks also to curlytops, michali, spouse of scouse and fullwood. It was lovely of you all to check in and say hi. I hope you're all doing really well. Yes michali... it has been well worth it for me. I must admit I feel sooooooo at home back in the UK. I didn't realise how NOT at home I felt in the USA actually until I got back here.

Things that now niggle my (USC) wife about the UK just flow over me and I do my best to make her feel as comfy as possible. She's really enjoying it here thankfully. Passing her driving test first time helped that a lot!! I tried to help teach her to drive in the UK but as part of the 'normal' husband/wife scenario, we had some serious words when she stalled in the middle of a roundabout. She's driven a manual for years, and the diesel we have tends to stall quite easily under low RPM load, so it wasn't like it was completely anyone's 'fault.' But after that she took some driving lessons with a school and then carried on just to make her totally comfortable ready for her test. She sailed through... yippee.

The kids absolutely love it here. My daughter (now 7) engineered a British accent during the first few days of her new school. She only sounds a teeny bit American if she gets angry. It's all funny. Also my son (now 5) sounds like all the other British kids. Hee hee.

I still get a lot of blank looks and questions about where I'm from. That's annoying but after being in the USA for 26 years, it's not surprising I have some accent baggage. Also my wife is clinging onto her accent so that's not helping me

Lastly, thanks Spouse of Scouse for the good luck on the job end. I'm working on a job application right now for a nice firm. I can only hope that I'm successful as it would really be a nice fit. But being 51 sucks looking for work so I'm not getting too excited.

Take care all! xoxox
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