This summer not a few people from the US will pack up crates and move to the UK. It’s an experience that is both terrifying and exciting all at once. It is also a logistical nightmare (or wonderful problem to solve, depending on your perspective).
My wife and I were blessed to have a few contacts “on the ground” here who helped answer a lot of our questions before we moved, and we have learned a ton since we arrived as well. We thought it would be helpful to future pilgrims to document what we learned.
I have written several posts about getting to the UK, and Kate has written several about what to do when you are here (specifically focused on Cambridge, but the basic principles are the same elsewhere). I thought it would be beneficial to do a quick summary with links to each of those posts.
Wait, let me rewind that. That’s not quite how it went.
<I enter the store and think to myself: This is a nice Vodafone store. Lots of employees. Hmmmm…where do I begin. Maybe we should get an iPhone on a contract, since that seems to be the most cost effective plan. I wish I could track down someone to talk to me. None of the salepeople are even looking up at me. They’re all just minding their own business. I’ve been here like 10 minutes and no one has even approached me. Weird. Oh, wait, they told me about this. I have to initiate; salespeople leave you alone. Right. Here goes.>
“I’m interested in signing up for a 2-yr contract with data, phone, and texts with the iPhone 5.”
….. 20 minutes later ….
“Well, Mr. Lanier, I really really wish we could make this work. I’ve called underwriting at corporate three times to get them to approve your contract, but they will not do it since you do not have any demonstrated source of income and have not been a customer before.”
“But, you don’t understand, I’m willing to pay THE ENTIRE CONTRACT up front, right now, in cash, for all 24 months of our plan + the cost of the device + and the activation fees. The entire thing … today, before I walk out. I won’t owe you another shilling … it’s completely risk free for you. I’m not sure how my lack of payment history matters if I pay in full for 24 months ahead of time. How can this not be approved?”
“I’m sorry, I really am. I don’t really understand either. But underwriting will not approve it. The only thing we can allow you to do is purchase a pay as you go plan without a contract. So you’d have to buy the phone at retail price and then we can provide you with a SIM card.”
Thus was my first attempt at getting something set up in the UK, where things may not always make sense.
“Hey, come take a look at this rental. It’s 3 bedrooms, near the river, has a nice kitchen, good insulation. Oh wait…it’s £1,700 per month. And…it just got taken off the market. They just posted it!!! Argh!”
“Oh, wait, come take a look at this one. It looks great. Has a nice backyard, near the bus stop, has not just one but two toilets (would be great for hosting guests, you know). Let’s take a look at Google Maps Street View. … Wait … seriously … is that the high speed rail line … no, it can’t be. There’s not even a fence??? This house sits right on the backside of the rail line? Like 15 feet away?!? With no fence!!! No wonder it’s only £1,400 per month. Argh!”
“Ok, last time tonight, I promise. I know it’s 11pm. I know you’re tired. But I’m flying over in 14 days and we have to have a list of rentals to look at. Okay, here’s this one. Gas heating, good energy efficiency rating, nice residential area, one of the parks is only 0.2 miles away. Yes, I google mapped it. I know, I’m insane. Anyway, it’s only a 2 bedroom but they’re big rooms. Like, 8 feet by 8 feet. No closets. Oh … wait … you have got to be kidding me. Landlord says, ‘No families with children.’ Right, because college students treat a house a whole lot better than a responsible family with children. Ok, I’m done. I’m going to bed.”
For a month, I tracked the open seas to make sure the large container ship called the Hoechst Express had not sunk somewhere in the Atlantic. Mind you, the ship is 300m long. But at the peak of our moving stress, I was not always rational.
Even in an age where one rarely is surprised by what can be found on the internet, I was pretty impressed by the tracking available for commercial ships, available at www.marinetraffic.com. They know where every commercial vessel is at any given point of time anywhere in the world. Stunning, really.
So I knew, fortunately, when my friend the Hoechst Express arrived in Canada, then the Netherlands, then London, and finally the port where our piddly little wooden crate of stuff would be unloaded and, by the seemingly miraculous intervention of God, make it to our doorstep the day we moved in. Which brings me, of course, to the third part in the series on moving to the UK.
“So what do you think of nationalized healthcare?”
Admittedly, this question could be asked on both sides of the Atlantic, but with obviously different overtones. We’ve been asked several times what it is like to live in a country where national healthcare is fully implemented and has been for decades. The jury is still out for us, since we have not been here long enough to visit the doctor all that much (…and I just jinxed us…).
However, before moving here healthcare was one of the biggest unknowns for us. We literally had no idea really how it would work or whether and under what circumstances we would be covered. So hopefully this post will help clear some of that up.
In addition, I’ll address one of the other major issues with moving overseas: finances.
My daughters and I have a cute thing we do when we read books about Dora the Explorer.
If you are unfamiliar with our resourceful, ever successful, Swiper the Fox evading, multi-lingual Latina friend, one of the features of basically every Dora the Explorer episode or book is that she and her friends have to get to some destination, and usually very quickly. Every time she asks, “Who do we turn to when we don’t know where to go?” Always her trusty anthropomorphic friend Map is there to guide the way. The solution invariably requires that Dora go to two places, all on a linear route, and then she will arrive at her destination. So, for instance, to get to the library, Dora has to go Bridge, then Rock, then Library.
<Yes, I am the father of two little girls, and yes, I have watched my fair share of Dora.>
When we come to that point in our books when Dora asks, “Who do we turn to when we don’t know where to go?” we always say, “God … and then Map.” Hokey, I know, but at least I’m trying to balance Nickelodeon with a biblical worldview.
Anyhow, in Dora’s world, three things are always true: (a) getting to the destination is always a simple 3 step process, (b) Map is always on hand to tell her where to go, and (c) she always gets there.
In real adult life, of course, it is not quite so simple. In moving to the UK late last year, we learned that (a) getting to our destination required seemingly an infinite number of steps (and it hasn’t actually ended, though we’ve been here for four months now), (b) there was no Map (though there was God, in a big way), and (c) we weren’t quite sure along the way that we’d get there! The goal of this next series of blog posts is to summarize a few of the major logistics-related things we learned in the move, which I hope might benefit others who may be moving here in the future. While I found numerous helpful websites along the journey, I never saw a consolidated “How to do this without losing your mind” document that covered the major questions I had. So I will try to make one.