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I was happy in the UK and dead against moving to New York. When my partner was made redundant, it felt like our only option.

Hannah Crown   

I was happy in the UK and dead against moving to New York. When my partner was made redundant, it felt like our only option.
  • Hannah Crown, a British mom, had just found her dream home in England when her husband lost his job.
  • Leaving London for New York City felt like the only option.

Two years ago, my partner and I were still living in a one-and-a-half-bedroom basement in London. The lack of space left guests having to tiptoe between a cot and a piano to find a bed in an underground coal hole. Our son, then aged one, had been born after several years of IVF. After having spent so long in the dark, we were all ready to move somewhere bright, clean, and green.

Finding the new house felt like turning over a new page. It was a former inn with a magnolia tree set in a paved courtyard. After the viewing, we stomped about in the woods while I dared to entertain thoughts of decorating a proper nursery with windows. We could even host our first multi-generational Christmas, something which had been impossible up until now. The new place would take all our resources, but we were hooked.

But this was 2022, and the economy was hitting the skids. Several months after our offer had been accepted, my partner was made redundant. His boss told him about a job opportunity across the pond.

"We can't move to New York. We can't do it to the grandparents — and we've just found our dream house," I told him. But for him, the writing was already on the wall. We held on until our mortgage deal expired and then reluctantly let the house go.

Leaving London for New York felt like the only option

After that, I had to admit, grudgingly, that going to New York seemed like the best option. I had been at my job in a magazine for nearly 10 years and was ready for a change. We wanted to create something new with a big move, so why not just go a bit further west than we'd intended?

I'd never been Stateside, so we took a reconnaissance trip, mixing opera and jazz with checking out neighborhoods and nurseries. When we got back, there was no longer any decision to make.

We had a busy summer getting visas, renovating, and finally renting out our flat in London. I resigned from my job. We said goodbyes to the grandparents, with plans to visit soon.

Despite being on a plane with an excitable two-year-old — it was his first transatlantic flight — I felt calmer than I had for the first time in months.

Settling in New York was complicated

When you move to the US from abroad, you typically have no recognized credit history, which makes it difficult to find an apartment without paying thousands for a third-party guarantor — and this is on top of thousands for a real-estate agent's commission.

We tried Craigslist. "Peter" had an amazing array of affordable apartments in New Jersey, but I don't think, after being asked for cash to secure a viewing, any of them were actually his.

We eventually moved into a furnished brownstone in Brooklyn with a backyard. With its fireplaces and wooden floors, it was strangely similar to our old flat in London — and no one asked us for a guarantor. We signed a one-year lease.

I set about exploring our new neighborhood, finding a nice nursery school, and trying to get work done during my son's naps. Trying to buy decent fresh bread for under $10 a loaf became a new challenge.

We'd done some research but didn't think hard enough about the cost of living over here. While inflation has fallen, grocery prices have remained high — the recommended monthly food budget for a family of four in the US has risen 27% since 2020, according to the USDA. Then I lost some work I'd lined up before we came due to freelance budgets being cut.

After six months in the city, I understand the appeal

On the upside, one thing the Big Apple does really well is fun. By the time Christmas arrived, we were ready for some: Santa at Macy's, the Rockettes at Radio City, a Christmas fairyland at Dyker Heights, free boat trips. We've taken the metro up the Hudson and a train to Long Island. With an IDNYC card we have been able to visit big museums and zoos for free.

I've found that when you know what to look for in this crazy place, you can find amazing opportunities. I miss my a cappella group in London, but I've joined an exciting competitive barbershop chorus, a highlight of which involves singing nerdily in a pub. The rest of the family is also doing well: my son loves his nursery, and my partner is enjoying his first experience working abroad. Slowly, it feels like things are opening up for all of us.

This experience has jolted us out of a lot of comfort zones. Despite London having crime levels that surpass New York, homelessness is something I've encountered a lot more in my current day-to-day life. The poverty in New York City is reported to have increased in recent years, bringing the total number of New Yorkers living in poverty to 2 million, according to a report from Robin Hood, an anti-poverty philanthropy.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable. It's also funny, exciting, exhausting, and stimulating in equal measure. I'm grateful for how lucky my family is to be going on this adventure at this time in our lives.

I've suggested to my partner that we stay until at least Christmas, as it feels like we've just got our keys to the city. At some point next year, we will go back to the UK and settle down, but in the meantime, I have gained both a (secondhand) breadmaker and the gift of perspective.

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