Life as an Expat in Austin, Texas. Its just gone 1 year to this day when we packed our worldly possessions and headed for a new life here in the States.
Life has been full of surprises, hurdles or bumps as you’d say but its been full of opportunities and definitely completely different to how we lived in Ireland.
Lots of you have requested this post and want to know why we moved and what does one need to do when making the move…let me begin by telling you why we moved.
When we lived in Ireland, Hubbie traveled a lot, I’m talking the majority of the month (every month) he was gone, as in 2 weeks out of 4. His work required him to be all over Europe, Middle East, Africa and sometimes the states, which may sound glamorous but its quiet the opposite. At first when the kids were small they didn’t seem to notice as much but gradually as they got older they began to understand. And with understanding they started to miss their dad more and more, especially once the eldest started school…it was hard on everyone, Hubbie missed school events or family events and it wasn’t nice for anyone. So when an opportunity came for him to move within the company to do the same position in the states, it made sense. My question to him before we made the decision was “Will it stop all the travelling?” and once it was “Yes” that made our minds up.
There was a lot to consider before moving, missing Family and Friends was a huge part. It was exciting initially but as the departure date loomed and everything was packed it was absolutely terrifying too.
We were scared for our kids as to where we were bringing them to, the dangers they are exposed to here in the States, that we wouldn’t be faced with in Ireland (but I’ll go into that in a little detail in my part two post) plus the guilt of taking them away from everything they know, friends and family, cousins and everything else in between.
So before relocating and making the big move make a short trip to your destination. It allows you get a feel for the place and the different areas and neighborhoods.
I did this in October before we moved finally in January. It will be exhausting but worthwhile, as you can decide on an area and in my case, schools. But there is more on that below…
First up once the decision is made to move to the states, your company will usually organise the VISA and paperwork as they will be sponsoring you. They may offer a relocation package. Check before going (and accepting any contract) if the company contribute towards health insurance (very important to have it in the states see below) A relocation package might include organizing and paying for a moving company to help you migrate/relocate and bring furniture etc (check with your company as some don’t do this). I’d highly recommend a moving company as it makes the move a little less stressful. They will pack and unpack everything, you will not be expected to lift a finger. (initially I didn’t believe this but its true they packed my whole wardrobe, hanging pictures absolutely everything). You’ll have two types of shipping, one by air freight and one by cargo.
Air freight should contain the absolutely essentials you will need to get you through until your cargo arrives. Air freight arrives 2 or 3 weeks after you have landed in the states. For me I packed enough clothes to get us through and some kitchen utensils and towels bedding etc we’d need. Bare in mind the house you rent will not be kitted out, it will be completely empty. There will be no Appliances (there will be a cooker but a fridge is not a guarantee neither is a washer and dryer so double check this when viewing houses!!)
The cargo arrives about a month or 5 to 6 weeks after you land in the states, its definitely a relief when you finally get the cargo as all your belongings are in there, family photos, furniture, bikes, you name it!!
For us we decided to use a facilities company here in the states, to kit out the house before we arrived. What they do is rent to you, absolutely everything you need to function in a house for the month until your own cargo arrives. Its very clever and they think of everything, including appliances such as irons hoovers, clothes hangers, cooking utensils, coffee makers everything you would need. Its well worth looking into it.
Before making the move, make sure that you have enough finance in your savings or that you have Irish credit. You will have to pay everything by cash as you will have Zero credit rating when you land and move to the states to live. It takes a year to build this up. So you’ll need a deposit for renting a house and the first months rent. We had to buy all our furniture or anything we needed for the house by cash, so you can imagine how that can all add up. Cars will also have to be bought by cash, although a lot of Expats use a leasing company to get their cars initially. That will still need a holding deposit of about $4K along with insurance which costs twice as much here due to having an Irish drivers licence. For our 2 cars we pay $5000 yearly on insurance.
Bear in mind too you will have to replace all your kitchen appliances or any electronic appliances as our Irish ones don’t work in the states, so you will need plenty of cash! Its so important to be aware of all this.
Get your driving license!! As soon as you can and are comfortable enough with driving on the opposite side of the road apply for your driving test. Although it is legal to drive on your Irish licence, most places look for Drivers license for everything. From collecting a simple online order, volunteering at the school, to buying something like furniture etc on credit in a store. The main purpose and wanting to get a US licence is if you don’t have it, you are penalized by car insurance company’s. They will charge you almost $1000 more than what you d pay if you had a US drivers licence. In Texas you need to redo the whole driving license procedure, as in knowledge test, video impact test, eye test and driving test, regardless if you have a full Irish driving test.
And so back to finding the house/area you want to live in. Find a good realtor that can help navigate areas for you, ours was excellent, instead of showing us houses or viewing houses, before we arrived in October on our short trip, he emailed us a list of houses in different areas, we narrowed down the houses we liked the look of. Before viewing a single house on our list, our realtor, for the first day, made us drive around all the areas of our preferred houses on the list, we wanted to view along with checking out the nearest schools in that area. It was an excellent idea as we got a good feel for the area and in our case the size of the school for our kids before even viewing the houses we liked. It saved us falling in love with a house but not the area.
One thing I found is area and school size was more important than the house for me. Safety was my main concern and a small school my priority. (some schools as in primary schools (elementary) go up to 1000+ students which is quiet overwhelming for a 5 year old coming from a small Irish country school. This exercise also saved us wasting time on Day 2 viewing beautiful houses that were not in the right locations due to schools or not ticking our requirements due to the area.
Write down before your trip the things that are important or top priority to you for the type of area you want to live in, i.e safety, amenities, location, scenery, schools etc. It will narrow down your choices and make the final decision easy. When you see a house you like, you need to apply to rent it and there is a fee to apply, this will cost $100 per application so be certain its what you want, and even when you apply you can still miss out on the house. It can get frustrating as your fee will not be refunded. But don’t be discouraged. (we lost out on 3 houses but the house we are now in is ideal and in a lovely community and less than a 2 min walk to school).
Once you arrive set up a bank account as soon as possible, the bank will also give you an option for a secured credit card (what that means is you pay for the credit card, you need a deposit of a minimum of $300 upwards) take this option as it will help you to begin to build your scores for credit rating.
What we have learnt the hard way and another top priority, is get all your utility bills set up in your name immediately almost as soon as you land. You need to physically go into the water company and electrical company offices and sign up the house account in your name and pay a deposit. You simply cannot do this over the phone (as we thought we could do initially). We didn’t do this straight away (we thought we could just call them up and sign up via telephone) and our water got cut off, it takes 12 hours for them to connect the water supply so for us it took 24 hours. 24 hours without water is not fun!!
If your company pay towards your health insurance, then register yourself with their recommended Doctors near to the area you live, its important to get all cards etc sorted. Every company is different so check with them what your health insurance cover is and what you need to contribute to it, it will save you a lot of medical and dentist expenses. Health insurance is very important, without it here in the States, it can become very expensive very quickly especially with kids.
Speaking of Kids if you have children, they need to have more immunizations here in the States than they would have at home. So even if you are up to date in Ireland, there is extra ones they need here (about 6 or 8 extra I think in total). Schools in the states will not let you begin school until all immunizations are completed.
It is hard at the start because there is so much to organise but you are also missing your family and friends and feeling incredibly homesick. But once all of the above is done you will settle into things and begin to explore and understand your area you live in. There is a lot of differences here in Texas some I never considered before moving but that’s for another post, the part two
Send any questions you have or if what you want to know other areas apart from the differences etc with Texas , message me and I will cover them all in part two…