This isn’t going to be a thrifted fashion post.  There will be plenty of that soon, I promise.  Now that my family has arrived in Texas, I’m learning the hard way about the ins and outs of making such a big move.  I did dig around before the move to try and find some practical information to no avail.  Hence, here are some of my observations and experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with making a move from Canada to the US in 2017.

  • Pets – We were fortunately assigned a pet cargo specialist to make arrangements for our 100lb Bernese Mountain Dog to fly with us to Texas but…  YOU HAD ONE JOB!!  They provided us with the wrong time to have her at the airport.  We didn’t know that of course, so there was my hubby cabbing it around the Edmonton International Airport with the dog and her massive crate looking for the pet cargo drop off, only to be told she couldn’t get on the flight.  If not for her loving breeders nearby, we ALL would have missed our flights.  Luckily they answered their phone at 5 in the morning and rushed to the airport to get her, then brought her back the next day at the right time.  Meanwhile, my husband lost 20lbs sprinting through the airport and we narrowly made our flight.  The moral of the story is CALL FOR YOURSELF to verify all information – what time your pet needs to arrive and where and with what paperwork.  We needed her original rabies certificate and original international health certificate signed in blue ink.  I kid you not.  Now she’s here and doing just fine.  We let her out for short periods during the day then walk in the evening when it cools off and she lurves the AC just as much as the rest of us.  Annnnddd, she follows me around constantly, from room to room, all day long.  Hopefully that will stop once she realizes this is it, no more acreage, no more scary plane rides.
  • Cell phones – Before you leave Canada, set up your roaming plan to cover you for the first few days until you can get into a cell service provider in the US.  The good news is that there are great competitive rates in the US.  I used Wirefly to compare plans and choose my provider.  I liked that Wirefly prompted me to pay attention to data speeds – some networks slow down after 3G so “unlimited” data might as well be back to acreage internet!!  The bad news is that your existing Canadian device may not be compatible with all US networks.  I did not understand this so spent hours on the phone with Apple Support – probably at least 6 hours over a couple of days, hours on the phone with Telus, hours in the Sprint store, hours on the phone with Sprint.  I got conflicting information at every turn but ultimately I learned that my iPhone is only compatible with AT&T however their rates are just as pricey for what we need as buying a new phone and going with Sprint’s better package.  So that’s what we are going to do.  My advice: before you choose a cell service provider, go into your top 3 choices and test out their SIM cards so you know which one will work before making a decision.
  • Apple ID: Oh. My. Pain. In. The. Butt.  I first learned there would be a problem when I tried to change my payment method to a US card.  No go.  Again, I got conflicting information about what I needed to do to have my current Apple ID affiliated with the US iTunes and App stores.  What I now know is that you must cancel all subscriptions (i.e., to iTunes Match and Netflix), then you need someone from Apple to refund the remaining portion of your iTunes Match subscription in order for it to truly be cancelled.  I cancelled mine but my paid-for-upfront subscription did not conclude until January 2018 so I was unable to proceed and spoke to SIX different Apple Support people before one very helpful lady finally fixed the problem.  I was even told that I would need to disable my iCloud in order to proceed, which turned out to be erroneous information.  HOWEVER, in switching to US iTunes and App stores, I lost almost all my past purchases of music, movies and apps.  I wonder if they can be recovered but I’m not ready to spend another 3 hours on the phone with Apple to find out.  I will let you know when I do!
  • Vehicles – We knew ahead of time that our older Honda Odyssey would be cumbersome and costly to bring across the border.  We started the process when we were having difficulty selling the van in Canada, but we needed authorization letters from Honda US and again got conflicting information.  It would have cost a few thousand dollars to change it from km to miles and get it up to inspection standards so we decided to leave it behind with a good home!  My husband had a brand new truck that we also sold since vehicles are cheaper in the US.  We were offered help by my husband’s company to find a vehicle through select staff at select dealers.  This was in fact not helpful.  They did not abide by our price limits and did not do the digging for us…  So they didn’t get our business.  We looked on Autotrader and Craig’s List like regular mortals.  Word to the wise, just before you head out to see a vehicle, call and ensure it is still available, that is a non-smoking vehicle and that the AC works.  It might save you some driving.
  • Social Security Number – thank goodness my hubby had his visa processed in April and got his US social security number then because we needed it to get our cell phone service activated!!!  You also need it to get your US driver’s license.  As for the spouse, well, don’t forget to take your marriage license along with your passport to the social security card office.  Or you’ll have to make two trips.  And you might get caught in a torrential downpour.  Or maybe that was just me. 😛  I did learn that immigration processed my visa with my middle name as part of my first name.  That means that on any official docs I’m hereby known as “Nicole Eve”.  Please say that with your best Texas drawl.
  • Driver’s license – You need your social security number to get your license switched to Texas so I haven’t crossed that hurtle yet.
  • Banking – We are fortunate that my hubby’s huge international company has its own employees’ credit union.  I am not sure how it would go otherwise but I do know that your credit history does not follow you to the US.  I also know that when we went into the bank to have me added to the account, the bank manager addressed me in third person to my husband (insert angry emoji) until I piped up and said I could complete my own forms.  Thank you very much SIR.  I am waiting on getting a credit card and then I will make transactions and pay them off promptly in order to build my US credit rating.  It should be no prob since I spend my days unpacking and my nights online shopping.
  • Schools – I can only speak for the Houston area but, unlike in Canada, quality of schools varies widely.  When we started house hunting in March, we quickly learned that you first look at the ratings of the neighbourhood schools, then you look at the property taxes, and THEN you decide if you want to look at the house.  We quickly narrowed our search to look only in Katy because the school district is renowned for its high quality.  Time will tell if that is the case compared to our Canadian schools.  The school calendar varies across districts but expect to start earlier and end earlier.  My poor kids lose two weeks of summer this year, but they won’t be complaining when they finish in May next year!  As for registering, there is first online registration and in August we take their birth certificates, immunization records and most recent report cards into the school to finalize registration.  In Texas, children must be 5 by August 1st in order to start kindergarten which is significantly different from Canada where the cut off is March 1st.  This means we have to make a decision for my October baby who started K when he was 4 and has been taking French Immersion for the past 7 years!  The school will not “make” him repeat a grade but I know from research that children older in their cohorts do significantly better, not to mention he hasn’t had schooling in English…  We plan to talk to the school and go from there.  Stay tuned.  And if you’re planning to move, make sure your child’s immunization records are up-to-date.  They don’t mess around in Texas.
  • Helmets – though helmets are optional for Texans riding scooters, bikes and motorbikes, THEY ARE NOT OPTIONAL FOR MY FAMILY.  No helmet, no wheels.  I could care less if you are hot or if you look different.  Your brain will thank me for it.
  • The Heat – back in my Alberta town, there are heat warnings for temperatures 15 degrees below what it is in Texas!!!  Nothing can really prepare you for the humid heat where 33 Celsius feels like 44.  My husband and I decided ahead of time that we would not complain about the heat.  Every time we go outside, we make a positive comment (“this heat feels so nice, just like a relaxing sauna”) with the hopes that our kids – and us – will be brainwashed learn to have a positive attitude toward the heat.  Prepare to stay air-conditioned indoors or in the pool most of the time and don’t plan to get around by walking.  Maybe we can do so once we acclimatize but for now, it would be the sweltering end of these Canadians!  I haven’t seen many kids playing outside in the neighbourhood during the day yet.  Apparently they venture out once the temps are more reasonable so I’m looking forward to that.  As for heat + humidity + hair and makeup??  Well, I’ve already given up.  I’m embracing a more “natural” look.  (Sunglasses and sun hats are my BFFs right now.)  I should also share that the heat is noticeably tiring.  Except for UII (Unpacking-Induced Insomnia), I’m in bed a good hour earlier than my usual.
  • Bevvies – It’s no secret that you can buy beer and wine in the grocery stores in the US!  Yayyyyy!  However, it is oddly hard to find plain old club soda.  So we bought a Soda Stream for about thirty bucks with a Kroeger’s membership.  Problem solved.
  • Eating out – I had heard that it is “so cheap” to eat out in the US.  We are certainly not finding that to be the case.  My boys order from the adult menu and sure sure, I could have them share an entrée but would it be worth the fight?  (I want burritos, well I want tacos blah blah blah)  It’s always fun to explore local restaurants but I will plan to do most of the cooking at home.  Unless I’m missing something???

There are more adventures to come for this expat – things like the PTA and HOA (Home Owners’ Association) and who knows what else!  I haven’t been wearing any blog-worthy outfits and haven’t been thrifting except for about half an hour last weekend, so I’m basically suffering immensely.  Hopefully we will have TWO vehicles soon and I’ll get this house unpacked and finally, finally get back to the usual scheduled programming!  Meanwhile, find me on Instagram sharing random part of this adventure on IG story!  And please do comment if you have Texas wisdom to share or burning questions about making a big move like this!!

As always, thanks for sticking with me!

I suppose I *could* get used to this…

18 Comments

  1. Susanne Stroud Reply

    Great advice. I know what you are saying about the heat. When I lived in the Dominican Republic it was hot too. I couldn’t figure out why people wore jeans. I was dressed in the lightest clothes I could find.

    • I’ve already had people tell me they can spot the Canadians b/c we are at the beach and in shorts most of “winter”. Luckily I have a *few* dresses to tide me over. 😉

  2. Rebecca Aiken Reply

    Oh my goodness, didn’t know you moved !!! We are going to miss you. Hope you have a wonderful adventure and from here on out get your family settled in with ease. Hugs!

    Rebecca

    • Thanks so much! I guess you’ve been just a little busy 😉 and might have missed my news. I miss everyone back home too but feel pretty blessed to be here!! Hope all is well with your little family!!

  3. I lived in Houston over 20 yrs and in Ontario 30 years. I sympathize with your having to endure summer heat. It’s horrific. However, you will definitely enjoy the winters there.

    • I feel most sorry for our dog!!! What a shocker to go from a big shady acreage to this!!! But we have AC and a pool so we will survive!! Can’t wait for October to roll around and not have any snow!!

  4. I’ve been a longtime reader of your blog, but don’t comment much (and I should!) Welcome to the US! This post was really interesting to read as a lifelong US resident. I hadn’t really thought about how crazy our bureaucracy can be from a non-citizen standpoint (even as a citizen it can be a little ridiculous). Hope the rest of the transition is less frustrating 🙂

    • Thanks for reading Kathryn!! And thanks for your warm welcome! Dealing with all these logistics is my least favourite part of the move but all in all, I feel very blessed to be here and have a beautiful home and lots of friendly neighbours! Once we get settled in, (and I can go thrifting!!) I think we are going to love it here!

  5. Corry Schmidt Reply

    After being here 20 years, I still find the summer stifling! Winter, or the other months from October till April are manageable! Spend the summers inside or in the pool!! We had all the same problems and paper work drama with 2 girls in high school. You choose a good area to live in. Be security minded! Keep doors locked, cars included in driveways. Theft is a real problem. The heat can really be a problem for the dog feet. Ours burned his pads one summer from the hot cement sidewalk. If you want any information, feel free to message me. Michelle Engelbert is my daughter-in-law.

    • Thanks for connecting Corry! I love Michelle – she’s so talented at her job, it was my privilege to work with her and I will miss her!!! She was so kind in giving me a list of Texas tips!! I didn’t think about the sidewalks being hot for dogs – all the neighbourhood kids ride their bikes and scooters over barefoot!! It seems wrong to stay inside in July and August but we have been enjoying the AC a fair amount and feel incredibly blessed to have a pool in our backyard. We feel like we are on vacation! I hope getting the kids registered in school won’t be too cumbersome. The local moms have been helpful in giving me the low down! I’ll see how it all goes then blog part two! Thanks for the offer to help! I might just take you up on it one of these days!!

  6. Yes Nicole, I have heard the same about the School picking before the house picking from other Edmontonian friends we have that moved to Houston. Enjoy the heat

  7. The sauna part has me cracking up!! You’re doing great & embracing it with a smile! Can’t wait to see your Texas home!

    • You know better than anyone what these hot Rowans are like in the Texas heat!! But we are surviving and it will be wonderful around about November!! Can’t wait for y’all (!) to visit!

  8. Wow! As a US native, I am so sorry for the headache of paperwork and frustration you have had to go through. You give a good tip by saying always call to verify for yourself! That is something I found to be true! Welcome to the States and I know it will get easier as the dust settles. Many of my family members have left San Diego to live in Arizona and Texas, so there has to be something good about living out there! Enjoy the pool and the AC this summer. It sounds like you’ve got it made! Looking forward to future posts. 🙂

    • Thanks for the warm welcome!! These are just niggling logistics that are a pain but overall, yes indeed, we are abundantly blessed here!! I still feel like I’m on vacation!

  9. I have to echo those who have said that it’s so interesting to read about U.S. stuff from this perspective! For example, the library card. I don’t recall if you need a photo ID to get a library card in Illinois but I do know you have to be able to prove you live in the city where the library is located (because property taxes pay for the libraries).

    As for club soda, it’s usually located near the hard liquor as it’s considered a mixer 🙂 Not sure if you’re looked there yet. I tend to find it near the tonic water. But, we have a Soda Stream, too, so I rarely buy it anymore.

    Finally, your comment about eating out being cheap is interesting. I know that in Chicago (where I live) it’s is NOT cheap to eat out. It’s at least $15 per person for dinners. However, it definitely varies from city to city. Maybe the people who told you that were eating fast food or in small towns!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m pretty happy with the soda stream. We did find some small bottles of club soda but I like to drink just plain sparkling water so that didn’t cut it. Our taxes back in Canada fund the libraries too! Anyway, it will all get sorted out! Living and learning!

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