22 helpful things to know before you move from the UK to New York

 

There are many similarities between London and New York. There’s also a whole lot of differences. In no particular order, here are some really useful things to know before your own move to NYC:

  1. Tips. Everyone gets tipped here. Restaurants expect 18-22% for good service, taxi drivers like you to add a dollar, hairdressers, supermarket check out staff all like tips (not obligatory). Clothes shop staff work on commission, so don’t get tips. Schools may well ask you to contribute for staff and teacher tips at Christmas. Doormen, concierge and janitors in your building also bank on a generous tip at Christmas. There’s a sliding scale for how much you give each person in your building, factoring in how long you’ve lived there, how much help each one gives you throughout the year, and how fond you are of them. It’s not unusual for a friendly Manhattan apartment doorman or concierge to get $100 tip at Christmas.
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Our favourite New York books for kids and adults

I am a big reader. Always have been. At school I used to climb up trees with a paperback stuck down the back of my dreadful ginger-brown cords to read during lunchbreaks. So when we found out about The Big Move, I started to read up on New York. I put a call out for recommendations on this blog and on Facebook, and started ploughing my way through them.

Here are some of my personal favourite books about New York.

For adults:

  1. New York: A Novel’, by Edward Rutherford. By far and away my favourite book about NYC. It’s a brilliant book, following the lives of one merchant family down the generations, from Dutch Beaver skin traders through to 9/11. It gives a fantastic grounding in the city’s Continue reading “Our favourite New York books for kids and adults”

Goodbye Greenwich, hello New York

All day long I’ve had that song from My Fair Lady in my head; ‘I’m getting married in the morning, ding dong the bells are going to chime!” Except I’ve been singing “New York, we’re coming in the morning,” instead.

Tomorrow’s the big day, The Big Move.
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Here we go round the mulberry bush

Some old family children's books from the 1940s and 50s
Some old family children’s books from the 1940s and 50s

My parents are moving house too, and asked if I wanted any of the old family children’s books. They gave me the most amazing pile of old books, mostly belonging to my mother and her three older brothers from the 1940s and 50s. The Secret Garden, with gorgeous swirling drawings, some classic Beatrix Potters, an old book of nursery rhymes.
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“How goes the work?” called the farmer

Struggling to keep to my official To Do list at the moment, which includes all sorts of tedious-yet-vital things. Check the airline’s baggage allowance, get the kids’ passport photos for visas, sort out International Driving Licences, call the house insurers, yaddah yaddah yaddah.

Instead, I am happily ordering classic British children’s books online. Alfie’s Christmas, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt… pretty much anything involving Julia Donaldson, Helen Oxenbury or Shirley Hughes.
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Checking for horns

We flew our three year old to New York to meet the schools. Interviews seemed to go well, since both offered her a spot.

C and I had flown out earlier to view four schools that still had places available for this September, and narrowed it down to two. They were all incredibly warm and inviting, but explained that they would need to meet the child before they could offer a place. Presumably to check for horns.

T loved spending three days and nights alone with both her parents, while her little sister stayed behind. Found her a hilarious set of black Hello Kitty children’s headphones for the flight. They were so big C had to wad up some paper hand towels to perch them on her head. She never blinks when watching TV, so that giant tears well up and it’s astonishing she can see anything at all.
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Poxy Chickens

Met another mum at a local Greenwich playgroup this morning who’s just back from a year in Manhattan with two kids very similar ages to ours. I invited her round for tea and she’s reeled off lots of useful information, including fact that some New York schools require a chicken pox vaccination certificate.

I didn’t even know it was possible to get vaccinated. Only last week I saw a notice on the nursery doors warning of chicken pox going round, and thought “Oh goody, so they can get it young”. Surely a vaccination is much better. Made some calls. Turns out it’s actually not possible to get it done in the UK anyway, since one of the two vaccines is no longer stocked here.
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“Has she got a tail?”

C flew home this morning, we were all up and dressed and waiting by the window at 7.30am. T went berserk with excitement when the taxi pulled up, and B toddled over pointing a podgy finger and saying “Da, Da, Da, Da”. So lovely. And I have a present, a shiny new iPad with which to write this blog and also keep in touch with everyone once we’re gone. Brilliant. Feel like a smart, sophisticated, technologically savvy woman of the world. Wonder how long that’s going to last.
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Houses and kettles

Apparently Americans don’t really use kettles. How can they not use kettles?? It doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Friends tell me it’s tricky bringing British electricals to America unless they have a transformer. What is a transformer, though? How can you tell if the kettle, juicer, baby monitors, slow cookers and so on will work? Am going on the assumption that basically no electricals will work and we should just buy everything new on arrival. New for New York, has quite a nice ring to it…
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The Big Toy Purge

With the NY move looming, we’ve begun The Big Purge. Challenged the girls to choose their favourite toys that would fit inside their toy hampers. Anything that wouldn’t fit, goes to charity.

Braced for tears and pleading, it was actually fairly painless. We’ve kept all the baby dolls, wooden toys, and anything – naturally- involving a princess. It was actually C and I who found it the hardest to let go of some of those toys. The book that T first smiled at. The bunny rattle that B enjoyed waving on the nappy changing table. C even argued to keep a few favourites back.
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