nw3 to nyc

Observations on moving my family across the Atlantic


NYC to NW3

As I sit here in London, munching chocolate covered pretzels, my last paean to New York, I am just working out how it feels to come home, to repatriate. Not quite in NW3 yet, we move in later this week, but near enough.

The familiarity is good; the accents natural and the food the same as usual. Paddington station was confusing, someone moved the taxi rank and didn’t tell me. No sign of Paddington Bear either, which was a disappointment to J.

Taxi cabs are wider, well, they seem wider according to E; and the driver chattier. They’ve got credit card machines in now and I’m sure that’s new. I asked the driver whether most people use cards now. No, he says, mostly cash. I think that may have more to do with the 10 per cent surcharge. New York taxis rides are mostly paid for with credit cards, which is odd that New York should be more advanced, as we found the finance system in the US to be pretty backward in many ways.

Starbucks was surreal this afternoon: sitting in an identikit cafe, sipping the same old drink in the same old cups but surrounded by British accents. It is far more expensive than New York. I was just desperate for a decent cuppa as where we are staying the kettle is ingrained with the deposits from the super hard water of London. No water filters here.

So it’s really just a slow process of assimilation now. Doing all the boring stuff you do wherever you live, but this time it’s normal, I am normal and my accent is irrelevant. I am not having to learn everything anew.

Over time I expect the New York experience to fade and become the ‘can you believe we used to live in New York’ type of memory. Only the photos and the videos; the Fairway’s reusable bags, the Zabars mugs and the love of salty sweet snacks evidence we were ever there.

This is my last blog post. Amazingly I have written 312 of them.

I have loved doing this blog, it’s been a fun way to record our experience and share it with anyone who cares to read it. It doesn’t matter than you don’t know who I am (unless of course you know me anyway) but hopefully what I’ve recorded is useful, interesting and above all amusing.

Someone told me once that I was being ‘snarky’. I think that’s a bit harsh. I may have been occasionally sardonic and often sarcastic, but it’s all done with humour and a layer of exasperation resulting from getting to know another culture. And that’s what this has been all about.

And there I leave it. I was nyc-newbie.



2 years old today

I wrote my first blog post about moving to New York exactly two years ago today. 275 posts later I am still here and still blogging. I love recording my experience and reading it back, I’ve already forgotten so much. Life has changed a lot since we got here, mostly because J is growing up and is three next month. He goes to pre-school five mornings a week now, so our exploring has been curtailed. Even if he hadn’t gone to school, he was reluctant to behave in art galleries and even more reluctant to sleep when I wanted him to. Getting him into and out of the subway now requires a feat of strength with his buggy that is pretty much beyond me these days. This does mean that my blog posts will be different now and may be less frequent. I’ll still try to look for the odd, the amusing and cast a wry eye over it all, recording for me, for my family and for anyone who cares to read my blog. Please continue to enjoy.

Love nyc-newbie.

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Heath to Park

Late November on Hampstead Heath. What a beautiful, unique space. Going for my last run (everything is the last at the moment) the colours are amazing: trees the colour of red hot pokers; carpets of leaves cover the grass. One huge, now bare, tree looks like a giant came along and gave it an almighty shake. There are the ubiquitous dog walkers but my favourite sadly absent: the polar opposites of the lolloping Bassett hound with his long legged, horse-like great Dane friend always make me smile. I remember the many British Military Fitness sessions, running in the rain, the snow and the mud. Oh, the mud. I will so miss BMF and lament my failure to persuade anyone of the merits of getting a wet bum on the Heath first thing on a Saturday. Hope there’s something similar in Central Park. Hampstead Heath is 800 acres and Central Park only a little larger. The Heath has its own flasher who we are all warned about; pockets of undergrowth where sadly people end their lives and its toilets have a certain reputation. Regardless of this – I expect Central Park has similar – I will miss the place where I trained pre and post natal in the early morning mists and ran for miles to blow away the cobwebs. I will look to learn to love Central Park in the same way.

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Admin city

Oh my word, what a lot of admin. I currently have a list of 68 organisations or people that need to know that we are moving to New York. It’s exhausting dealing with every single one. The Internet makes a huge difference but everyone assumes that we are moving within the UK, so anything involving a move overseas involves either a frustrating conversation in the branch of well known high street banks (not an experience I would recommend) or writing a letter (how much are stamps these days!!). I also seem to have got on to the mailing list from hell and have had so many catalogues recently, I’ve heard trees crying there’s so much wasted paper. E calls them scribble books and slowly desecrates each one with moustaches and horns on models. An improvement in many cases. I just have to send yet another email via yet another Contact Us form on yet another website of yet another company who’s stuff I would never buy. What a complete pain in the proverbial.

And if I have one more conversation with a complete stranger about how exciting it is to move to New York and are we affected by Sandy, I’ll scream. I’ve decided we need to stay in NY forever now as I’m not doing this again. 

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Now serving ticket number N123

Welcome to the bizarre world of the US embassy in London. Where headphones are not allowed (and in my case ended up in the bin in Berkeley Square) and some enterprising chemist just down the road has set up a roaring business in storing phones and other embassy undesirables for the princely sum of 3 quid. Queuing for a 0930 appointment not knowing quite when it will be over and with no electronics, my iPhone and Blackberry addictions were replaced with a few hours of the Nanny Diaries, the Manhattan world we’ll certainly not be experiencing.

It feels a bit like some strange seventies sci fi film, with the constant drone of the disembodied American female voice telling the room that ticket number blah is now serving at window number so and so. The room is full of nervous, tense people, intent on getting their visa. Regional accents mingle with foreign languages. Business men in suits mix with families with surprisingly quiet small children – this is no place for them, cold, authoritative and unwelcoming. No one reads with any conviction, too worried that they miss their calling from the voice.

First call gets you through to level one of the investigation and yet another fee. Sent back to the masses to wait again for level two: the interview. Hidden behind what is probably bullet proof glass and bars the reach above that to the unnecessarily high ceilings, surprisingly pleasant but unnervingly interested US officials carry out endless probing interviews with the nervous masses extracted from rows of plastic chairs. A cacophony of voices surround you, snippets of interviews float around the room. The world weary voice of the sometime alcoholic confessing his history and accepting with resignation the inevitable rejection. The East European accented English: yes she did intend to leave after three weeks, but the voice behind the glass did not seem convinced. And the dejected but unfailingly polite candidate unceremoniously told conversation over: there was no debate. No visa. A sad,litany of those desperate to break into the US.

Granted our visas, we shuffle off to our final level and pay for the pleasure of the delivery company bringing our passports and their Willy Wonka style golden tickets back to us. We made it.

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NW3 to NYC starting out

This blog is meant to be a light hearted view of what it’s like to move a family from leafy North London to the heart of Manhattan. From the sheer enormity of the move logistics to the discovery of a new form of English, this blog will chart the journey of our new life over the next two or so years. Enjoy.