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 brainwashedlearn 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!