Spies. 

Something dodgy is going on.

I’ve had one external approach in the past 3 years about a marketing vacancy. But in the past week alone, I’ve been approached by 3 different companies to see if I’m interested in an opening at their firm.

And on each occasion, the opportunity has got better. Yesterday it was a Head of Marketing role at another leading tech company.

Given how close we are to leaving, the timing is suspicious. Maybe it’s a set-up by my employer to test my resolve and commitment to the move?

I can imagine the conversation with their recruitment spies:

“Sir, he’s still not budging.”

“Then offer him Natalie Portman’s love child and the moon on a 24-carat gold stick. We’ll break that sunshine-chasing Brit, goddamnit.”

I’ve been quick to turn them down, but the approaches have helped me home in on the reasons for our move.

Our move is not driven by money, frustration with our current jobs, or boredom with our life in London.

We’re doing it because it’s a good career move, for a fresh life experience, to find new adventures, and to show the kids a different perspective. One that involves free refills and pull-out disposable toilet seat covers.

Truth is, wild horses couldn’t stop us.

(note to recruitment spies, if you’re reading: throw in a date with Dave Grohl, and I reckon Alex will very quickly forget the whole thing.)

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A state. 

We love California. Like, really love it. We want to hold it, squeeze it, and never let it go. 

And guess what? California feels exactly the same way. About our money. 

Yours too, unfortunately. Just by reading this blog, they’re on to you. You now have to file a tax return in the US and pay tax to California on previously earned income. You may have to donate your kidney and left testicle too, subject to how clean-living and attractive you are. 

It was round 2 of tax talks today, this time about the US entry process. The consultant played it to perfection. He enthused about exemptions and foreign tax breaks, paused for dramatic effect, and then sternly informed me we’re not eligible for most of them. I’m surprised he didn’t give me a wedgie over the phone for good measure. 

I have a better handle now on what we’ll be paying, and have therefore upgraded our tax threat level from “severe” to “borrow from the parents”. 

Thankfully the good people at Deloitte will support us for the next 2 years as we prepare and file our returns. I’m just not sure at this point if that extends to emotional counselling too. 

Things we’ll miss about London – chapter 1

No. 1: aggressive pigeons. 

We’ll miss these little cuties, with their dirty grey bodies and mangled feet. 

Little-known fact: I can read their minds. This one’s saying: “I dare you. Take one more photo and I’ll do a fly-by shit in your lunch”.  

 

No. 2: tube sleepers. 

This lady, doing a good job of pretending to sleep, to avoid giving up her seat to a pregnant commuter. 

 

No. 3: posh pooch poop. 

You know you’re in a Royal Park when there’s a designated doggy dump area. You know you’re in every other part of London when the designated dump area is the whole bloody neighbourhood.  

 

Bye, bud. 

A few years ago we bought a little Buddha for our garden. He’s been a mainstay ever since, bringing a helping of zen and positive energy to our back yard. And all credit to him – he’s been largely ignored in that time, save for the birds flying overhead who have kindly gifted him the contents of their backsides. 

Yesterday, my sister agreed to adopt him while we’re away. The lucky guy gets an owner more devoted to the art of healthy living than we ever were, not to mention a London upgrade from zone 5 to 3. 

As I gave him away, Ava asked me where he was going. When I told her we couldn’t take him to California, she got visibly upset. It lasted all of 5 seconds, before she skipped off to have an argument with a dandelion instead. 

It struck me that there are things we attach ourselves to that we don’t even know about. Things in the back of a cupboard or on a shelf somewhere that give us comfort from just being there, even though we don’t pay them any attention. In our last few weeks here, I guess we should try to open our eyes to what those things are, and appreciate them while they’re still ours.

Woah, that was deep for a Sunday morning. Hollyoaks, anyone?

Flies. 

Deep breath. Four weeks from today is our leaving do. 

A few days later we should be boarding the plane, armed with a 10-hour toddler survival kit. If Alex packs it, there’ll be all kinds of activities, games and healthy snacks. If it’s me, chocolate, an iPad, travel-size whiskey and a sleeping pill. Only one of those is for me. 

Since the last post, I’ve done two near all-nighters to complete the epic visa application forms, we’ve booked our appointment at the Consulate, and just this morning our house was posted online on Zoopla. 

In the next week I have an appointment at the passport office, the pre-move shipment survey, and a follow-up tax consultation. 

The tasks on our to-do list are dropping like flies. The time is flying. And soon, we will be too. 

17. 

Update on the visa process – my immigration attorney has said I can now book an appointment at the Consulate in London.

I just checked the site and the average wait time for an appointment is 17 calendar days, which is a lot sooner than I thought. I had to check twice to make sure I didn’t miss a 0 at the end. I guess the US needs to balance its quota and bring in more people with dodgy teeth.

Before I can make the appointment, there’s just the small matter of completing a form the length of the internet. And then doing it again another 3 times for Alex and the girls. Oh, and to progress past the first page, I have to state my address in the US. Which I don’t have, because I need to get a visa first.

God only knows what they’ll ask for on the subsequent pages – a sample of Alex’s eyelash? Leftovers from the kids’ lunch? A video diary of my toilet habits?

If I ever make it past page one, I’ll let you know.

Peoplesick. 

We’re at the end of a great 10-day holiday in Portugal, but I have to admit, I’m ready to get back. We booked this trip before the prospect of the relocation came about. And ever since it did, that’s all we’ve focused on; the package, the conditions of the move, the US education and healthcare systems…big things that take thought, consideration and planning.

When the holiday finally came around, we were relieved to have something a little less scary to think about.  Since we’ve been here, the most detailed planning has gone into which water park to go to. And the most tactical decision we’ve made has been choosing which one of the daily toddler tantrums to play the ice cream card. We’ve only got this right on a couple of days.

But now we’ve had this break, we can’t wait to take our finger off the pause button and hit play again. Chase up the visa process, get our house on the rental market, shortlist schools, etc.

Earlier today Alex asked me if I think I’ll get homesick when we’re in the US. Instinctively I said no. Of course I’m going to miss the people I love and care most about, and home happens to be where they are. But I’m not patriotic, proud of or fiercely loyal to London, or the UK.

I’ve always figured that for many people, being homesick goes beyond missing the people they’ve left behind – it’s the familiar sights, sounds and smells, that make it unmistakably their home. I can’t ever remember being away for so long that I longed to get back. I lived in France for a year when I was at University but I was too pissed on cheap wine most of the time to reflect on my innermost feelings.

So I reckon that I’ll miss people but not home. That would make me peoplesick, not homesick. Are the two mutually exclusive? I doubt it, but it makes me feel better to think I may suffer from a mutated strand of homesickness that only affects a small minority. And I just made it up, so my rules apply.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has made a big move and experienced peoplesickness, or the more common strand of homesickness. It would be good to have some of your recommended rescue remedies at hand, as and when the symptoms creep in.

Finding the right frequency.  

I think I’m turning into Carrie Bradshaw.

One of the things I need to figure out is the compatibility of UK appliances in the US. Alex wants to bring some things out with us. We’ve heard that you can get some converters that allow you to use your gadgets out there, but we’ve not got round to finding out.

Instead I’ve found my mind wandering, questioning our own compatibility over there, how or if we’ll ever fit in, how long it will take us to find our feet, etc. It’s amazing how easy it is to take the most boring tasks on your to-do list and turn them into a profound, symbolic representation of your state of being. That, right there, is why I don’t get shit done.

Everyone we’ve told about our move asks us how long we’ll be there. But it’s much harder when our closest family and friends ask, because it’s a loaded question. We feel accountable for taking away their friends, kids, siblings and grandchildren. We feel bad so it puts us on the defence. Instinctively we want to say something comforting, but at the same time we don’t want to water down how excited we are about going.

The short answer is: we don’t know. Will we be there just a few years? 10? Forever?

I can’t help but wonder.

Domino.

A couple of weeks ago the immigration lawyers initiated the visa application process. I had to fill in a questionnaire which was pretty straight forward, only pausing briefly on this one teaser: 

Do you intend to, or have you ever engaged in terrorist activity or practised genocide on home soil or abroad?

Now, if I did have such plans, I’m pretty sure the last people I’d confide in would be the authorities. But rest assured, I have no such intention. I make no promises for the kids though. At the age of 4, Ava has already mastered the dark art of blackmail, while Daisy has a penchant for explosive tantrums in the most public places. 

Everything rests on the visa. I’m told I’ll have the paperwork within 2 weeks, which will enable me to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate, who then give me the visa after a few days. 

A guy at work had to wait 6 weeks for his visa appointment. But he’s smarter than me and he has a great beard, so I suspect they fast tracked his application. I’m not convinced the U.S. is rushing to bring in a Brit with a receding hairline, bad teeth and mediocre sporting aptitude. 

When we get the visa, the dominoes start to fall; we book the flights, confirm our accommodation, reserve our rental car, line up school visits…

But for now, I’ll just grow a beard and wait. 

I understand tax!

Said nobody, ever.

Yesterday I had a call with a Deloitte consultant to take me through the UK tax exit process. He spoke for an hour and a half, and even found time to make jokes during the call to lighten the mood. Dude, this is tax we’re talking about. The only way you’re going to lighten the mood is if you tell me I don’t have to pay any.

In the next 7 weeks I have to complete a NRL1Y, give Deloitte my UTR, sign a 64-8 and submit a SA1 as a precaution. That way I can get a 0T. Simples.

For those of you who, like me, have no idea what that means – here’s the gist:

I will pay tax. Some of it will be in the UK, some more will be in the US. How much exactly? Don’t know, but it’s somewhere between “a lot” and “a shit load”.