Newly Corporate

Work, life and the pursuit of happiness for the young professional.

Cheerio Friends: Relocating Abroad as a Young Professional

UK Flag There comes a time when everyone has to say goodbye. That time for me is coming soon. After careful deliberation, I’ve decided to leave. That’s right my virtual friends… I’m out of here and off to the United Kingdom! No expat. This move is entirely on me. After discussing my situation (and complicated love life) I have received approval to relocate to London, England… permanently (or at least for the foreseeable future). The word HR used is ‘indefinitely.’ Whatever they call it, it’s going to be for a few years at least.

Leaving has been a long time coming. I looked outside of my current company, even considered winging it and moving to the Netherlands without a job, but I’ve decided the best fit for me is the same company. Interestingly enough, that was also the easiest way to do it. I guess that’s a real NewlyCorporate lesson: before you do anything stupid, talk to your boss. It might surprise you how reasonable people are. Lessons aside, after some HR wrangling, I finally have the green-light to make London my home.

After my approval, my initial excitement has given way to apprehension as I navigate the maze of visa applications and international-personal finance. As if balancing my budget wasn’t hard enough with my extravagant beer spending and frequent trans-Atlantic trips, I now have to deal with exchange rates and international wire transfers among other expat concerns.

To spare you the nauseating details, I’ve listed a few of my major concerns and actions to date below:

Visa: currently working with an immigration firm to gather required documents. Mostly my work history, information about my new role, etc

Banking: it’s a nightmare to get an account in the UK since you need an address first. HSBC has a program called Passport that is supposed to help with this. I have yet to be contacted by them, they said it takes a week. I think it’s been three business days, I’m not holding my breath.

Personal Finance: I still have bills to pay and Roth IRAs to fund in the USA, so I’ll need to keep an account active in the US. This itself is no problem, but I’m struggling with the best way to transfer money between both accounts without choking under crappy interest rates and international wire transfer fees.

Cell phone: I’ll need a local cellphone plan, but I have no UK credit history (or credit cards). I sure hope I don’t have to use pre-paid. Pre-paid service is for the plebes, ugh.

Housing: Probably the biggest issue for me. Living in London is $$$$ing expensive. The cost of living is 48.7% higher according to the latest CPI. If I want to live in a cool place downtown, I’ll have to shell out £800/$1600!! (hehe, I just learned ‘£’ = Alt + 263, thanks NewlyCorporate) for a SHARED(!) apartmentflat (or settle for the ‘burbs, gross). If I’m going to London, I’m going all out. I’m looking at Paddington and Marylebone for places to live in London. Work is out west so I need to be close to Marylebone station for the overland or suffer from 1hr+ rides to work on the tube.

Salary: I still haven’t heard from HR on my pay. I’m not getting a COLA (cost of living adjustment) so I’m sure I’ll be flat ass broke after covering rent and food.

Transportation: Travel from zone 1 to zone D is £245 a month. That’s how much I’m paying for a 2007 Audi A4 and insurance. Speaking of my car, I need to sell it now, and probably will still owe $1,700 after the trade in.

Money: I’m going to need some mega reserves if I’m going to max out my 2007 Roth IRA, pay first months rent and deposit (£800 x 2 = £1600 or ~$3200), pay to move my stuff, fly over to UK, buy adapters for the few items I’m bringing

Clothing/Housewares: Simple. Clothes only. I may even sell my desktop and 23″ monitor (any buyers?). I’m flying to Amsterdam for New Years so I’m going to cache ~60 pounds of clothes for my girlfriend to bring to London once I get settled. This means everything else is going, including my beloved brewing supplies. It’s going to be a fire-sale that should bring some much needed cash, but for pennies on the dollar. It’s sad to start over, but I’ve only been working three years, I don’t have that much amazing stuff.

These are just some of the things I have to think about when moving. As I said before, I’m elated, but nervous at the same time. I’ll be in the UK in about 6 weeks… there’s a lot of open water to cover before then.

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16 Comments

  1. Does site like ING allow you to deposit money from UK bank and subsequently withdrawal it into a US bank? I know you can link multiple accounts to an ING savings account? Good luck out there, I look forward to some interesting posts from across the pond.

  2. Here’s a good article about managing a 401(k) and other tax issues when living abroad. It can get real muddled if you’re not careful.

    Also, I know most large US cell phone carriers (T Mobile being one of them) can convert your account to the new country you’re in, as long as the phone is new enough (usually quad-band)

  3. Grant- Sounds phenominal! The good thing about being Newly Corporate is that you have very little roots and l tons of opportunities available to you! Congradulations on having the wuevo’s to make the plung! Good luck my friend.
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  4. Norcross
    I called T-Mobile to convert my Blackberry to UK T-Mobile but they told me it couldn’t be done… do you have more information on this? :)

    -G

  5. I’m am an American who worked in London for six months last year. Pre-paid phones are no problem. I had Orange. It worked well. Also I have Citibank accounts in both the UK and the US. Transferring between the UK and US at least was easy and free. I don’t know about transferring US to UK. No tips on housing- it’s just expensive.

  6. Wow, 6 weeks! After living abroad for 3 months now, I know this is a huge decision. But if you’re going to do it, now’s the time. I’m glad to see you’re paving your own way instead of getting in line.

  7. I came upon this site today (from Employee Evolution, I think?). I made this move last year (although am in Brum, not London). Here are some other things I’ve found while making the journey:
    Taxes – my company is doing my US and UK taxes for two years (and NL as I lived in Amsterdam as an expat for the year before making the “permanent” move). There are a whole lot of fun things like Tax Equalization and things to take into account as the US is one of the few countries that makes it practically impossible to renounce citizenship because they tax their citizens’ foreign incomes.
    IP Phone – I’ve had Vonage for years and years and it has served me well. Also, the stress of keeping in touch is lessened by having a “local” US number – people aren’t confused about how to call you, and it doesn’t cost the earth for either party to take a chance and call like you would have if you were in the same country. (Although, be warned about people “forgetting” (i.e. drinking away or sales calls) the time difference.
    Relocation Allowance – Are they going to ship any of your stuff for you? Although be warned, things are simply smaller here. And, unfortunately, the Brits didn’t figure out the “open stair cases and big window” thing like the Dutch did. Some American just just Won’t Fit.
    Buy US! Often I could get KLM flights from nwa.com for 1/2 of the price I could for the same flights on KLM.com. As long as you still have US credit cards (and and address you can send mail to), you can too.

    I’m sure there’s loads of other things, but rather than post a blog entry in response to yours, I’ll end it there. You can email me if you have any thoughts/questions!

    (Also, I have a friend that have a spare room in a 3apartment in Shepard’s Bush, if you’re interested!)

    Things are expensive here, and you feel far away sometimes (although AMS/BHX flights were only 50 minutes!), but there are loads of perks – the consciousness of quality local produce is amazing (almost all foods have “country of origin” identified), the wine is cheap ($6 will consistently buy you good, drinkable wine), and the place just has so much damned character! Good luck! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!!

  8. In the UK, pre-paid phones aren’t nearly as crappy as they are here in the states. You can add minutes from practically anywhere. Last time I was living there, I could add minutes from the store that was literally next door or at the shop across the street. Almost everyone over there has pre-paid phones not the byzantine American contract system. Trust me, you’ll love it when you get used to it.

  9. For those who are foolish enough to make the silly mistake of not talking to our company about a possible transfer to another country and found a different ( albeit, temporary) way of working abroad, any suggestions on how to stay longer? I have 4 years of sales experience in consumer food from the States and am now working for an Investment Bank in London in Accounting. I absolutely love the UK and am looking to stay beyond my initial work permit allows ( 1 year). I tried to find a way to stay with my company in the States, but they had very few options in the UK, thus I quit (on good terms) and moved on my own. Suggestions from the expat?

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