I n f o r m a t i o n   f o r   n e w   f a m i l i e s

If you are new family to the school or are looking to move to Houston we hope the information is useful. However, if there is any information that you think should be included on this page or you have any recommendations you would like adding please do contact us.

C H A P T E R   1   -   O N   T H E   M A P

 

1.1.   G E O G R A P H Y

Houston is located in Texas, USA, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico at the east and the Rio Grande at the west and south. Total land area is 268,601 sq. miles.

 

The Houston metro area sprawls over 8,778 sq. miles in east Texas. Houston itself is 1,598 sq. 617 sq. miles., double the geographical size of New York City. Although it is about 81 km/50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, part of Houston's Harris County is on Galveston Bay. This location allows Houston to benefit from access to the Intracoastal Waterway, a 4,839 km/3,000 miles. U.S. shipping channel.

 

Houston's topography is mainly flat, at low elevation. Some areas of Harris County are subject to flooding, due to Houston's many lakes, rivers, and bayous that sometimes swell in heavy rains. Northern and eastern sections are more forested than other parts of the metro area. 

 

1.2.   C L I M A T E

Houston’s sunny climate and mild winters allow residents to enjoy recreational activities all year round. It is not uncommon to have Barbeques in January. Houston usually averages 19.7 days with low temperatures of 32ºF (0ºC) or less and 96.0 days with high temperatures of 90ºF (32ºC) or more. February is the coldest month of the year and August is the hottest month. Traditionally, the wettest month is June, with an average of 5.35 inches, and July ranks as the sunniest month. When the weather gets warmer, residents appreciate the ubiquity of air conditioning.

 

Normal maximum daily temperatures are:

  • Winter 66°F (19°C)
  • Summer 91°F (33°C)
  • Spring and autumn 79°F (26°C)

Normal minimum daily temperatures are:

  • Winter 44°F (7°C)
  • Summer 71°F (21°C)
  • Spring and autumn 57°F (14°C)

Since 1st January 1940, Houston has had only 13 measurable snowfalls.

 

Houston does have high humidity. The Annual average relative humidity is:

  • Midnight 86%
  • 6 a.m. 90%
  • Noon 59%
  • 6 p.m. 65%

Morning TV reports the quality of air expected (including pollen and spore counts in the air for allergy and hay fever sufferers) during the day and gives warnings during summer months if there is poor air quality. 

 

1.3.   G O V E R N M E N T   S T R U C T U R E

Houston has a Mayor-Council form of government. The city's elected officials, serving concurrent two year terms, are: the Mayor, the City Controller and the 14 members of City Council. The City Charter provides the constitutional framework within which city government operates. The city's Code of Ordinances contains the laws of the city.

 

In Houston, the city government’s 23,000 employees are spread throughout 500 buildings, but the core of local government is still located in the downtown Civic Centre and City Hall. The Mayor serves as the Executive Officer of the city. As the city's chief administrator and official representative, the Mayor is responsible for the general management of the city and for ensuring that all laws and ordinances are enforced. The ground floor of City Hall houses the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and its Visitors Center. For more on city government, visit www.houstontx.gov. 

 

1.4.   P O P U L A T I O N ,   D I V E R S I T Y   A N D   O T H E R S

Houston is the fourth largest city in the USA, with a population of 2.2 million people for the City, and 5.7 million for the greater metropolitan area and one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the US. Houston is very diverse. Approximately 50% of the city’s population is Caucasian, 12.3% of the population was born in a foreign country, 22% are of Hispanic heritage, around 20% are African-American, and around 4% are of Asian descent. The percentage of minority residents continues to grow annually.

 

Houston is part of a 10-county region consisting of Harris County, the nation’s third-most populous, and nine other counties including Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller.

 

Integral to Houston’s transportation system is the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, called METRO. METRO serves an area of 1,281 square miles and operates 28 Park and Ride routes. Downtown commuters are able to use the Metro Park and Ride system. These buses start early in the morning and finish mid-evening. There is a Metro Parking Depot in most areas. There is a free shuttle bus in the downtown area but Metro buses do not run all day - just peak times. METRO also operates a light-rail system between Downtown and the Medical Center district, however, the line is not very extensive. Plans are underway to expand the light-rail.

 

Approximately 30 taxicab companies offer local transportation. The City of Houston regulates cab fares. The average cost of a 3 km taxi journey within the city, including tip, is $ 8.00.

Houston is a large city spread over a considerable area. Due to the lack of an extensive public transport system, a car is essential for daily activities, including school drops and shopping.

 

Families find it more convenient to have two cars. Petrol (Gasoline) is relatively inexpensive and car prices are reasonable.

 

Houston is the place to be for people who love shopping. This is a favourite past time of its residents. There are factory outlets, discount stores, single shops and malls. Large department stores are the main stay in Houston such as local favourites: Dillard's, Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Macy‟s, Target, Wal Mart, JC Penny and Sears. Every chain store imaginable is also located in Houston such as Old Navy, Gap, Container Store, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and etc.

 

Houston is one of only four cities in the country with resident companies in all the four performing arts: ballet, opera, theatre and symphony. Houston has a full complement of art museums and critically acclaimed galleries. City and County Parks are in abundance with 400 parks and nature centres. There are numerous attractions to suit everyone from Johnson (NASA) Space Center to the many festivals that occur every month in and around Houston. The biggest attractions each year in Houston are the world famous Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (February/March) and the Renaissance Festival (October).

 

Houston is also a city that loves sports from university to professional and from interscholastic to personal. Houston's professional teams include three champion teams, The Houston Rockets (basketball) and The Houston Astros (baseball) and The Aeros (ice hockey). Houston also boasts an NFL team, The Texans, and a women’s professional basketball team, The Comets.

 

 

C H A P T E R   2   -   T H E N   A N D   N O W   ( C U L T U R A L   A S P E C T S)

2.1.   H I S T O R Y   A N D   L A N G U A G E

2.1.1.   H I S T O R Y

More than 150 years ago, Houston was little more than a muddy crossroads on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, with a population hovering near 3,000. The community had just weathered a devastating yellow fever epidemic that claimed the lives of hundreds of residents. The fledgling Republic of Texas was deeply concerned about the fate of the town. Some legislators were urging abandonment of the city named after the republic’s hero, Sam Houston.

 

Houston was founded by two brothers, Augustus and John Allen, who dreamed of establishing a city. In the process of achieving that dream, they succeeded in making Houston the capital of the Republic of Texas. The capital eventually was moved to Austin, leaving Houston to make it on its own merits. In 1840, to save the town, a group of Houston’s businessmen petitioned the Congress of the republic to grant a charter for a chamber of commerce to further Houston’s commercial interests.

 

During the next 157 years, the Houston Chamber of Commerce became a catalyst in the successful growth of Houston. Today, the Chamber is one arm of the Greater Houston Partnership. Within two years after it was chartered, Chamber leaders began lobbying for the seemingly preposterous idea of dredging Buffalo Bayou to create a port to the Gulf of Mexico. By the turn of the century, Houston had obtained funding from the U.S. government to deepen and widen the bayou. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill that appropriated $1 million to a group of die-hard Houston businessmen who wanted to finish digging the channel they envisioned. The project was named the Port of Houston.

 

In 1914, some 74 years after digging began; President Woodrow Wilson officially opened the Port of Houston. Buffalo Bayou had been transformed successfully into the Houston Ship Channel. As railroads linked Houston to the rest of Texas, the Port linked it to the world. Today, it is one of the world’s largest ports.

 

By the early 1900s, another industry had adopted Houston as its hometown. Many of the world’s largest oil fields had been discovered, and Houston became the oil capital. The oil boom fuelled Houston’s growth, which spilled into the real estate, banking and service sectors. By the ‘60s, Houston was a boomtown.

 

Since then, the city has developed into a diversified business centre, including such industries as banking and finance, aerospace and engineering, electronics and high technology, wholesale and retail trade, health care and related services, professional services, transportation and shipping, international commerce, real estate and development, manufacturing and distribution, and conventions and tourism. 

 

2.1.2.   L A N G U A G E

American English is the most common language spoken in Texas and is noticeably different from British English, characterized both by spelling and pronunciation variations as well as use of different words. Due to the large number of Hispanic Americans living in Houston there is a strong “bi-lingual” feeling and Spanish is widely spoken.

 

2.1.3.   R E L I G I O N

Religion and faith play an important role in the life of Houston and its residents. Texas has been called the Bible belt, due to the number of churches, synagogues, temples and mosques in the area. Houston is home to one of the largest Baptist and United Methodist churches in the nation, and has huge congregations of Presbyterians, United Methodists and Catholics. Virtually every faith known to man is represented in Houston. As the region has become multi-ethnic, it has seen the addition of many religious groups. 

 

2.1.4.   C U L T U R A L   S E N S I T I V I T I E S   -   D O ' S   A N D   D O N T ' S

 

2.1.4.1.   D O ' S

Politeness: Americans are very open and direct in conversations. They expect that one asks questions if one do not understand. Personal privacy is highly regarded. In public, Americans usually come across as very polite. In shops, the customer service professional gives a friendly “how are you doing?” greeting and the cashier will invariably respond at the end of the transaction with “have a nice day”.

 

Friends: Americans give a different meaning to the word ‘friend’. A friend is anyone one has spoken to a few times. In other cultures, the term is ‘acquaintance’.

 

Status: The United States is not a classless society and status is as important as anywhere in the world, although Americans take pride in publicly downgrading the importance of status. A wife automatically carries the same status as her husband.

 

Way of life: Americans want almost everything “fast” and “easy”: drive through to get coffee, hamburger or cash. 

 

2.1.4.2.   D O N T ' S

Greeting: Body language and gestures often have a different meaning to those in Europe and elsewhere and it is easy for misunderstandings to occur. Depending on cultural background, one may kiss when being introduced - be it one, two or even three times on the cheek. In the US, a usual greeting will be verbal with “hi” or “pleased to meet you” and shaking hands.

 

Socializing: Most entertaining takes place away from home. One may be asked to come to a game or restaurant, but will rarely be invited to someone’s house except for very important occasions like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 

Law: Please be aware that different laws apply compared to those in one’s home country. For example it is unlawful for a child under the age of seven years to be left unattended in an automobile for longer than five minutes unless the child is accompanied by an individual age fourteen years or older. Another example: the minimum age to purchase alcohol is 21 years. 

 

2.1.5.   A L C O H O L   A N D   P U B L I C   D R I N K I N G

For liability reasons, alcohol is rarely served at business gatherings within the office complex. At business gatherings outside the office (i.e. restaurants), Americans generally will not order alcohol at lunch but will order alcohol at a dinner. Be aware that public drunkenness at any business gathering is frowned upon. Social drinking is completely acceptable and commonplace.

 

Smoking has become a minority habit and, in Houston, is banned in all commercial and public buildings, on public transport, restaurants and sports stadiums. Only bars without restaurants allow smoking inside. In social situations visitors should always ask permission before smoking.

 

For more information on cultural Do’s and Don’ts, Culture Shock USA – The South, A guide to Customs and Etiquette (ISBN 1-55868-246-5) is a good resource. 

 

2.1.6.   M U S E U M S   A N D   G A L L E R I E S

Houston shows its devotion to the arts through a full complement of art museums and critically acclaimed galleries. Located between Downtown and the Medical Center, Houston’s Museum District offers a range of museums, galleries, and art and cultural institutions including the city’s major museums. Usually it is possible to purchase a membership card for a year. A trip to a museum is a popular outing during the summer and on rainy days. 

Places of Worship in the Houston area

 

The Yellow Pages book provides a list of churches. Harris County has more than 2,000 churches alone! More information is available on the web www.yellowpages.com/Houston-TX/Churches-Places-of-Worship.

 

The following website provide information that may help newcomers find a place of worship in the Houston metro area too:

 

 

C H A P T E R   3   -   H O U S I N G

All types of housing are available in Houston. There are condominiums, apartments, town houses and single-family houses for lease in all price ranges. To research availability and pricing, see (Houston Area Real Estate) www.har.com.

 

In general, single-family homes are unfurnished and sometimes do not include appliances such as washing machines, dryers or refrigerators, but do have integrated ovens, stovetops and (sometimes) microwaves. Apartments come with all large appliances.

 

3.1.   L O C A T I O N

 

3.1.1   N E I G H B O U R H O O D S   A N D   C O M M U N I T I E S 

 

3.1.1.1.   I N N E R  L O O P

For those who want to live where the action is and who want to be part of the city's vibe, the place to live is in the Inner Loop, which is an area that includes the cities of Bellaire and West University, as well as those parts of Houston located Inside Loop 610.River Oaks/Central Houston. Here are a few popular residential areas in the inner loop. 

Bellaire (Inner Loop)

 

Known as the little city inside of Houston. The homes in Bellaire are a mixture of 1950s and 1960s two- and three-bedroom ranch styles and brand new Georgian brick and Mediterranean stucco mansions. The area is well known for Bellaire High School, which consistently graduates the highest numbers of National Merit Finalists in the country, in addition to regularly producing state champion baseball teams. 

 

3.1.1.1.1.   D O W N T O W N   H O U S T O N

For many, living and working downtown is the perfect combination. More are selecting this lifestyle as new high rises are completed. For those who enjoy the urban experience with close proximity to world-class dining, entertainment and sports, this is the perfect location. Another advantage – you can get to any place downtown by walking or transit and can comfortably leave your car in the garage. 

 

3.1.1.1.2.   G A L L E R I A / U P T O W N / P O S T   O A K

The Galleria area of Houston is a unique urban environment outside of downtown, yet still centrally located. This area combines a thriving business district, acclaimed retail stores, luxury hotels, condominium and apartment complexes and upscale residential neighborhoods with Houston’s natural beauty to create a vibrant community. Homes here are established and rental prices can be high. Post Oak includes some up-market high-rise apartments. This is an active urban center with a focus on national and international business. This area houses the high-rise offices and hotels, fine restaurants, and retail centers (such as the world-famous Galleria mall) and many interesting shops. 

 

3.1.1.1.3.   M E D I C A L   C E N T E R / R I C E   V I L L A G E

This area is one of the most vibrant and exciting in Houston, and is home to the world-famous Texas Medical Center and the renowned Rice University. Both of these institutions are next to Hermann Park and the Museum District. The new Metro Light Rail line connects this area to Reliant Center to the south and downtown Houston to the north. Rice University, located across the street from the Medical Center, is a prestigious nationally recognized institution, offering a distinguished faculty, low student-teacher ratio, and a high number of National Merit Scholars. 

 

3.1.1.1.4.   M E M O R I A L   P A R K / W A S H I N G TO N   A V E.

Memorial Park stretches from the west side of the northern edge of downtown to the West Loop. The area covers 5,081 acres with 7,944 properties and is served by the Houston Independent School District and three private schools. Memorial Park is considered one of the city’s primary environmental assets. Residential areas adjacent to Memorial Park are being redeveloped with high-end, single-family homes, high-rises, patio homes and three-story condos.

 

3.1.1.1.5.   R I V E R   O A K S

River Oaks, one of Houston’s most exclusive residential areas, comprises some 1,100 acres replete with stately white-columned mansions dating to the 1920s. The River Oaks Shopping Centre is one of the oldest shopping centres in Houston and houses many interesting shops and a Grocery Store. River Oaks also enjoys easy access to the Greenway Plaza business district, the Galleria area, Southwest Freeway, Loop 610, and the Museum District. 

 

3.1.1.1.6.   W E S T   U N I V E R S I T Y   P L A C E

Founded in 1917, the city of West University Place was named for its proximity to Rice University. The community underwent major redevelopment in the1980s. Neighborhoods are sprinkled with parks, and all streets are lined with scenic, aged trees. Located nearby is the Village, which has more than 360 stores, including 75 restaurants. The 16-block area has an eclectic mix of unique shops and designer boutiques.

 

 

3.1.1.2.   W E S T 

 

3.1.1.2.1.   M E M O R I A L / E L D R I D G E

This area has a wide range of housing types and ages. Lakes on Eldridge, located just minutes north of Houston’s Energy Corridor is one of the area’s finest custom home addresses. Home designs by award-winning custom builders complement the serene lakes and beautifully landscaped grounds with amenities enjoyed by residents with gated access. Nearby residents will find area schools, hospitals and major shopping centers.

 

3.1.1.2.2.   K E L L I W O O D / C I N C O   R A N C H / N E W   K A T Y

The housing here is newer and more reasonably priced. 

 

 

3.1.1.3.   S O U T H W E S T

 

3.1.1.3.1.   S U G A R   L A N D / M I S S O U R I   C I T Y

Situated to the southwest of Houston, this is another popular residential area with excellent housing. Bear in mind that Hwy 59 is very busy during rush hours and commuting time can be very long unless one leaves before 6 a.m. or after 8.30 in the morning. In Sugar Land, Master planned communities and welcoming neighborhoods enhance home values and create a sense of belonging. The community offers outstanding schools, libraries, civic organizations and other resources that make Sugar Land a great place to work, live and raise a family. The city celebrates its 50th anniversary of incorporation in 2009 with many events planned throughout the year. The city’s name reflects its relationship with Imperial Sugar, a sugar refinery that still operates in the old business district. 

 

 

3.1.1.4.   N O R T H W E S T

 

3.1.1.4.1.   C O N C O R D   B R I D G E / B A R K E R   C Y P R E S S

A very new development, the nearest mall is Willowbrook. Roads can be busy but there is easy access to the Northwest Freeway (290).

 

 

3.1.1.5.   N O R T H

 

3.1.1.5.1   T H E   W O O D L A N D S

Established 35 years ago, The Woodlands is a 27,000-acre master planned community development by The Woodlands Operating Company and are are extremely attractive and self-contained. 

 

 

3.1.1.6.   N O R T H E A S T

 

3.1.1.6.1   K I N G S W O O D

Kingwood is 14,000 acres of beautiful homes, golf courses and wooded landscapes, located 22 miles northeast of downtown Houston. The densely-wooded Kingwood community is made up of several subdivisions that are connected by a few major thoroughfares. The suburb has all the amenities of a big city, and commercial centers are scattered throughout to meet the grocery, shopping, dining and other needs of its residents. Kingwood has one high school, one ninth grade school, three middle schools and nine elementary schools. Private education is also available from preschool through middle school. 

 

3.1.1.7.   B A Y   A R E A   H O U S T O N

 

3.1.1.7.1.   C L E A R   L A K E

Near to the coast and Galveston, this area with a small-town feel to it is popular with those employees who work downtown and like to sail. 

 

3.1.2.   R E N T I N G

Rental prices vary between residential areas and can be anything from $1000 to $5000 per month. They may be significantly higher in areas closer to downtown, the River Oaks or the Memorial areas.

 

The range of housing available for rent is from small apartments to very generously sized family homes. If considering renting a large or older house please realise that higher electricity costs are likely due to air conditioning usage throughout the year. Ask the realtor, the former owner, or the former tenant’s power provider what to expect monthly.

 

Many larger homes have private pools. Pools increase utility bills (water and electricity) but in this case most families with pools believe the additional cost (around $50 per month) is well worth the enjoyment received from the pool during the long hot summers.

 

Family homes grouped in a residential area (known as a subdivision) sometimes have a pool for the shared use of the area residents. The owner pays monthly or yearly charges (which is usually included in the rental price) for these facilities. Keep in mind that area pools are only open during the summer months i.e. May (weekends only), June till the end of August daily and September weekends only, and every day during the American summer holidays. 

 

3.1.3.   S T A F F / D O M E S T I C   H E L P

Domestic staff (cleaners, gardeners and nannies) is readily available in Houston. To find a cleaner, check publication boards at grocery stores and ask friends and neighbours. The latter will also be able to advise on current wage scale.

 

Alternatively, you can engage the services of cleaning companies weekly cleaning services. For general help in the garden, especially mowing grass, try to find one via neighbours. However, lawn maintenance is usually included in the rental price.

 

Names of babysitters (often teenagers) are to be found in neighbourhood magazines, school bulletins or through recommendations from neighbours. Nanny services can be found in the “Yellow Pages” or websites such as www.care.com and www.morningsidenannies.com.

 

 

4.   C H A P T E R   4   -   T H E   B A S I C S

 

4.1.   D R I V I N G   L I C E N S E

International Driving Permits are not valid for residents in Texas and by law one is required to obtain a local one within 90 days of arrival. A minimal fee is required. Aside from being a requirement for driving, this is a crucial source of identification in the U.S. It is routinely used to verify checks and bankcard use. One may check-in on a US flight with a driving license, no passport needed.

 

In principle, every resident must take a driving test within 90 days of arrival regardless of previous driving experience. One must have a Social Security Number (SSN) sitting for the test.

 

The application form requires a permanent address. Long queues are quite common. Practical tests are allocated on a first-come first-serve basis, so arrive as early as possible.

To pass the multiple choice written test, one must thoroughly read the Texas Drivers Handbook (tip: study the numbers, ages, distances, etc). The practical test can be done in a rental car, but make sure all the insurance paperwork is available and the horn, indicators and lights are in good working order. The practical test takes around 15 minutes only and usually poses no problems for experienced drivers. Read the Texas Specific Driving Habits carefully. 

 

 

4.2.   C O U N T R Y - S P E C I F I C   D R I V I N G   H A B I T S 

 

4.2.1.   R I G H T   T U R N S

Right on a red light is legal as long as the road is clear to do so, and as long as there is no sign indicating that this is not permitted at this junction. However, you must make a complete stop before turning right.

Stop signs

 

Junctions with a stop sign and a sign saying ALL WAY, 4 WAY or 3 WAY require all traffic to come to a complete stop when reaching the intersection. Vehicles then move on in the order that they reached the junction.

 

4.2.2.   B L I N K I N G   R E D   L I G H T S

If a set of lights fail they will all change to flashing red. The junction then operates like an ALL WAY or 4 WAY stop.

 

4.2.3.   S C H O O L S

The speed limit on roads adjacent to all schools is reduced to 20 mph during the hours of 7.15 a.m. to 8.45 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. The school zones are signposted and some have yellow lights, which flash during the times of reduced speed limit. The 20mph speed limit is strictly observed and enforced – police often patrol during these hours.

 

4.2.4.   S C H O O L   B U S E S

When picking up or off-loading children the bus will stop and display flashing red lights and a stop sign will pop-out on the driver‟s side. All other vehicles, on both sides of the road, must also stop and only proceed once the bus has moved off. No overtaking!

Police officers often assist with traffic control at busy intersections and even outside large offices at rush hour.

 

TIP: If the Police stop you for any reason - pull over, stop your engine, switch on the hazard lights and wait for the officer to come to you. DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR CAR. (The officer will take this as a sign of aggression.) Have your driving license and insurance papers ready. 

 

4.3.   C A R   I N S U R A N C E

Please be advised that when taking out a car insurance it may be beneficial to combine it with home or rental insurance to lower rates. Some insurance companies will not insure a person who does not have an established US credit history (i.e. a new arrived expatriate). A recommended agency that does provide service to expatriates is Prudential Merastar Insurance. Once a credit history is established (after approximately 6 months), most companies will provide service. For a listing of companies see 4.4.

 

It is the law in Texas for a vehicle to be insured with the minimum liability insurance against death. One must carry evidence of this insurance in the car in case one is stopped by the police or is in an accident, and it is required for the registration and vehicle inspection certificate to be issued.

 

For a higher premium one can purchase third party or comprehensive insurance, as well as a variety of extra benefits. Note that one must purchase car insurance (arrangements can be made by phone) before driving a new car away. Banks also require proof of insurance before the loan can be finalised.

 

Car insurance premiums are strongly influenced by:

  • A no-claims letter
  • The make and age of the car
  • The safety features of the car
  • Raise or lower the premium by choosing:
  • The level of deductible
  • Comprehensive cover, rather than third party, or minimum liability
  • Optional cover is available for towing, windscreen damage, rental car etc. 
  • Car registration

When purchasing a car one must ensure that the seller’s name is on the title papers and that the buyer signs the title papers. The vehicle is not registered until the title papers are processed by the Texas Department of Transport.

 

Every vehicle has two stickers attached to its front windscreen:

  • Registration: this sticker has the month and year when it is due for renewal. Renewal notification is by mail approximately 6 weeks before the registration expires. Renewal fees may be sent in by mail or online.
  • Vehicle Inspection: the annual vehicle inspection is a mandatory requirement, usually after a car becomes two years old. The sticker shows two numbers indicating the month and the year when the inspection is due. Dealers, local garages and many petrol stations can perform the inspection.

“I just bought/sold a car. How do I transfer the title?” “I just moved to Texas. How do I register my vehicle?” “What does “Registration Purposes Only” mean?” “What should I do if my license plates are damaged or stolen, or I need to replace a windshield validation sticker?” or “How do I sell a vehicle that is registered and titled in my ex/late spouse‟s name?” “How do I register and title a motorcycle?” Answers to all these questions can be found on: www.dmv.org/tx-texas/ 

 

4.3.   B A N K I N G   A R R A N G E M E N T S

In order to open a bank account in the US one is required to show some form of picture ID (passport or driving license). Some financial institutions are unwilling to accept business if no prior credit history in the U.S. exists. It is recommended to bring financial information supporting previous credit history.

 

Bank branches are abundant as are ATM machines, although a charge of $2.50 per transaction is assessed if not using one‟s personal bank‟s ATM.

 

Be aware that it may take a few weeks to receive a credit card so it is recommended that one carries a card from a previous location for initial purchases. 

 

4.4.   I N S U R A N C E   A G E N C I E S

It is essential to compare insurance companies as the differences in premiums can amount to hundreds of dollars. Listed below are a few companies preferred by expatriates:

4.4.1. C O N T E N T S   I N S U R A N C E

Covering accidents and theft of belongings is relatively inexpensive and may be less expensive if using the same agent for both automobile and contents insurance. If renting, check what repairs on the house and appliances the renter may be liable for before signing the contract. Some owners have special insurance for the existing appliances and electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning systems, for which the renter may have to pay a call-out or repair excess. 

 

4.4.2. P E R S O N A L   L I A B I L I T Y   I N S U A N C E

It is recommended that when arranging household insurance, check that it also includes Personal Liability Insurance. 

 

4.5. E L E C T R I C I T Y   S Y S T E M

The voltage in the U.S. is 110-115 volts, so equipment made for 220/240 volts will not function properly, particularly high–powered appliances including stereo systems, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, etc.

 

Small kitchen appliances are extremely inexpensive in the US, (e.g. at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy). The TV system in the US is NTSC. PAL systems DO NOT work in the US. Multi systems, transformers etc. are available at http://www.eastwestintl.com/.

 

For expensive equipment, a surge resistant plug is needed to avoid voltage fluctuations affecting equipment. There are several electronics shops in Houston including Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s and CompUSA that carries such products.

 

Plugs are two flat pins or three pins (two flat and one round). 

 

4.6. S E T T I N G - U P   U T I L I T I E S

 

4.6.1.   TV ,   R A D I O   A N D   I N T E R N E T

 

4.6.1.1.   T E L E V I S I O N

All houses and apartments have cable connection. Contact a cable operator - Comcast www.comcast.com or AT&T to subscribe. Satellite systems are now competitively priced, broadcasting digital signals - Direct TV www.directtv.com. The terrestrial channels are available to anyone with an antenna, and they include all the network channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, UPN, Fox, Warner) and the Public Broadcasting Channel 8. Channel 8 regularly shows documentaries, quality children‟s programs and British programs - ITN news is at 12.30 p.m. For Dutch viewers BVN is available. 

 

4.6.1.2.   R A D I O

Tune in to FM 90.1 on weekday mornings between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for the BBC World Service news hour. AM 7.40 is the news and weather channel. Weather and traffic updates are every ten minutes. 

 

4.6.1.3.   I N T E R N E T   A C C E S S

Both AT&T and Comcast provide broadband in addition to the phone and TV services they provide.

 

4.6.2.   E L E C T R I C I T Y ,   G A S ,   W A T E R   A N D   T E L E P H O N E

Utilities should be arranged before one moves into the new residence (both family home & apartments). Most apartment complexes and some landlords provide contact numbers for the major utility companies. Most utility bills are paid monthly (water/sewage is paid quarterly) either by check, direct debit or over the courtesy counter at major grocery stores. Most companies have online payment systems. Also, most companies require a deposit, which will be refunded after a good record of payment, is established.

 

The utility provider may vary depending on the location of the house, but the following are the most commonly used (check with the landlord if renting, previous owner or builder if buying). 

 

4.6.2.1.   E L E C T R I C I T Y

This is usually the largest bill because of air-conditioning usage and can fluctuate from month to month by hundreds of dollars depending on the climate and personal comfort level. Arrangements can be made after a few months to receive a normalized bill, where average usage is estimated. Reliant also requires the highest deposit - around $200. Reliant Energy has an online payment service that combines electricity and gas.

 

4.6.2.2   G A S

Aside from water heating, gas is required for some ovens and stoves, and commonly for dryers. This bill is relatively low.

 

4.6.2.3.   W A T E R

City of Houston Public Works Department, contact via 713 371-1400. Water use is also highly variable, particularly depending on garden and possible swimming pool usage, but this bill is generally much lower than electricity and is billed quarterly.

 

4.6.2.4.   T E L E P H O N E

AT&T is the common carrier for both local and long distance – 1 800 222 0300.

 

All Houston numbers are prefixed with the numbers 713, 281 or 832 and always dial the full ten digits.

 

4.6.2.4.1.   L O N G   D I S T A N C E   T E L E P H O N E   C O M P A N I E S

  • AT&T 1-800-222-0300
  • MCI 1-800-950-5555
  • Sprint 1-800-877-7746
  • Telegroup 1-800-393-3000

Long distance and international phone calls are charged (including to some places within Texas), and operated by highly competitive independent companies; so international rates are often substantially discounted. Shop around for the best rates for personal usage. Compare 10-10 long distance rates via www.10-10phonerates.com or see www.1010228.com for discount long distance services without paying calling plan fees. 

 

4.6.2.4.2. M O B I L E   T E L E P H O N E   C O M P A N I E S

There are several companies offering an immense range of packages, deals, coverage, roll-over minutes, models, etc. It may be difficult to get a mobile phone contract without a social security number, so a pre-paid phone may be a good option in the interim.

 

4.6.   P U B L I C   T R A N S P O R T 

 

4.6.1.   B U S E S

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) runs a network of public buses in Houston. Since they tend to stay on main roads and don‟t have frequent running times, most expatriates do not use them. As mentioned earlier METRO‟s Park and Ride service to Downtown works well. 

 

4.6.2.   T R O L L E Y   ( T R A M )

A light rail now operates from downtown through the Texas Medical Center to the Reliant Center (US59 & Fannin).

 

4.6.3.   T A X I S

There are many cab companies listed in the Yellow Pages. Call ahead as waiting times can be quite long, especially during rush hour. The most commonly use taxi company. Check it out at http://www.yellowcabhouston.com / 713 236 1111. You can also get a fare estimate online.

 

 

C H A P T E R   5   -   H E A L T H C A R E

Unlike many countries, there is no national, government-funded universal health coverage in the U.S. Medical facilities are excellent but the cost of treatment and medical are extremely high. 

 

5.1.   E M E R G E N C I E S

The emergency phone number is 911, used for any kind of emergency – medical, fire, or crime. In case of emergency, it is important to determine the location of the closest hospital/facility.

 

5.2.   P H A R M A C I E S

Short-term and immediate prescriptions can be filled at any local pharmacy such as Walgreens or CVS. Most supermarkets also have pharmacies. Long term and maintenance medications can be ordered online. 

 

5.2.   P R O P H Y L A X I S

Although there are no immunizations required for entry to Houston, the common vaccinations are available. If your child is 6 years old or younger, you can also visit the following website to use the Instant Childhood Immunization Scheduler:

 

http://www2a.cdc.gov/nip/kidstuff/newscheduler_le/

 

for a complete list of recommended immunization.

 

NB. If one does not want the vaccinations, one can obtain an Affidavit – Exemption from Immunizations for Reasons of Conscience from Texas Department of State Health Services. 

 

5.3.   C L I N I C A N D / O R   C H I L D R E N ' S   H O S P I T A L S

 

Texas Children’s Hospital

6621 Fannin St

Phone: 832-824-1000

www.texaschildrenshospital.org

 

Memorial Herman City Hospital

921 Gessner Rd, Houston

Phone: 713-242-3000

http://www.memorialhermann.org/

 

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital

9250 Pinecroft Drive, The Woodlands

Phone: 281-364-2300

http://www.memorialhermann.org/

 

The Methodist Hospital

Texas Medical Center

6565 Fannin St, Houston,

Phone: 713-790-3311

http://www.methodisthealth.com/

 

Ashford Pediatric Associates

14730 Barryknoll Houston, Texas 77079 281-496-9700 

 

5.3.   S P E C I A L I S T S

In the US, gynaecologists, paediatricians and dermatologists are all considered specialists. One may choose a Primary Care Physician [PCP] (family doctor) as the first point of contact. The PCP can refer the patient to a specialist if necessary or one may make an appointment directly with any specialist.

 

One is free to see an obstetrician/ gynaecologist/ dermatologist at any time.

 

Children can see either a paediatrician or a Primary Care Physician (family doctor), but it is more usual to see the paediatrician as the first point of contact.

 

Recommendations from families at the British School include:

Frostwood Pediatrics

Dr. Jan Davis. (Paediatrician)

902 Frostwood Drive #156

Houston

TX 77024

(713) 932-0045.

 

Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

Dr. Debra Cutler. (Paediatrician)

Multiple locations

Memorial Hermann, and Memorial City

Dr.Dorothy Lamping, Primary Care Physician

(713) 242-2222. 

 

5.4.   D E N T I S T S

Dentists like doctors in the US tend to specialize so children generally see a specialist paediatric dentist. Some recommendations from families at the British School are; 

Paediatric Dentists

Dr. Rita Cammarata

5252 Westchester Street

Houston

TX 77005

(713) 666-7884, www.kids-teeth.com 

Adult Dentists

 

5.5.   H E A L T H   A N D   S A F E T Y

5.4.1.   S E C U R I T Y

Safety and security measures that one should take in Houston are the same as ones that one would take in any other large city. Do not leave valuables in the car at any time. Be aware of one’s surroundings. Do not carry large amounts of cash. 

 

5.4.2.   F A U N A

Mosquitoes are most prominent in the late summer an early fall. West Nile disease has occurred here so it is advised to use insect repellent and citronella candles when outdoors.

Fire ants are common and can be extremely dangerous. They form ‘hills’  or mounds of soil with many tiny holes. Fire ant hills are easily recognizable but if one is disturbed, hundreds of ants will descend upon the intruder. Fire ant bites are extremely painful and in extreme cases can cause death. Termites are also common so it is advised that one protects wood homes and fences. Snakes are also common most of which are not poisonous but it is advised to seek help if one is unsure. It is recommended to have a pest control company service one’s home every three months to prevent outbreaks of ants, roaches and silverfish.

 

5.4.3.   P L A N T S

Some plants are poisonous in Texas. The more common poisonous plants are:

Wooded areas: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Moonseed, May apple and Mistletoe.

  • Moist areas: Water Hemlock
  • Fields: Buttercups, Nightshade, Poison Hemlock and Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple)
  • The Oleander and Wisteria, which can both be grown in the garden, are extremely poisonous. 

 

5.4.4.   A L L E R G I E S

Allergies usually appear in spring when everything is blooming (around end March) and because of the continuous warm weather, will continue until it cools off (September/October). The local news reports on mould spores, grass pollen and ragweed pollen in the air during the morning broadcast. Over the counter or prescribed medicines are readily available. 

 

5.4.5.   H A V I N G   A   B A B Y   I N    T H E   U S A

Expecting mothers can make an appointment directly with an obstetrician without consulting a PCP or family doctor. Hospital facilities depend on the chosen obstetrician. Midwife practice is another option. Midwives can practice in hospitals, clinics, health units, birth centres, or in private homes.

 

Midwives have varying levels of experience and styles. Some recommendations from expats are:

 

Nativiti Women's Health & Birth Center

26614 Oak Ridge Drive

The Woodlands

TX 77380

Tel: 281-296-2333

Fax: 281-419-7171

Contact: Melanie Dossey, CNM

Email: birthinfo@nativiti.com

Website: www.nativiti.com

 

Women’s Health and Birth Care/Woman’s Work

Pat Jones C.N.M.

2401 Rice Boulevard

Houston

Texas 77005

Tel: 713-529-5131

Fax: 713-529-9494

E-mail: birthcare@aol.com

Website: www.houstonnaturalbirth.com/

 

The Women's Specialists of Houston Nurse Midwives

St. Lukes Medical Tower

Texas Medical Center

6624 Fannin St.

Suite 1800

Houston

Texas 77030

Tel: (713)797-1144

Fax: (713)790-0739

Website: www.byregion.net/cgibin/users/profiles.pl?username=womenspecialists

 

A paediatrician must be selected before the baby is born. Birthing in the US is considered a medical condition. Pain relief or induced labour is common. If one prefers a more natural approach, a birth plan is recommended. A Doula can help in two ways: (1) labour coach, and (2) help with the baby when sent home.

 

Most hospitals stays after giving birth are 2 nights (max. 48 hrs.) and three nights (max. 72 hrs.) after a caesarean (c-section). Almost no instructions are supplied once sent home.

A child born in the US automatically receives American nationality. Birth certificates in Houston are obtained through the office of vital records. One can apply for a child's birth certificate in person, by fax or phone or (www.houstonbirthcertificate.com/), or by filling out an application for “copy of birth certificate” at the hospital. The birth certificate is usually ready for collection after 8 weeks at which time, the parents may apply for an American passport for the child. The parent may also contact his/her national consulate to see what steps must be taken. Usually legalization of the birth certificate is necessary.

 

One can apply for a US Passport for the child at the US Post Office, however; only certain post offices accept passport applications. One may be able to save time by making an appointment in advance, however not all offices take appointments. If a passport is urgently required, the process can be expedited for a fee.

 

For the steps to submitting a passport application for a minor under age 16, visit: www.travel.state.gov/passport/get/minors/minors_834.html

 

For passport office locations visit: the National Passport Information Center at www.travel.state.gov/passport/about/npic/npic_898.html.

 

Texas Children‟s Hospital

6621 Fannin St

Tel: 832-824-1000

Website: www.texaschildrenshospital.org

 

Memorial Herman City Hospital

921 Gessner Rd

Houston

Tel: 713-242-3000

Website: www.memorialhermann.org/

 

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital

9250 Pinecroft Drive

The Woodlands

Tel: 281-364-2300

Website: www.memorialhermann.org/

 

The Methodist Hospital

Texas Medical Center

6565 Fannin St.

Houston

Tel: 713-790-3311

Website: www.methodisthealth.com/

 

 

C H A P T E R   6   -   S H O P P I N G

 

6.1.   S U P E R M A R K E T S

There are a large number of supermarket chains (i.e. Kroger, HEB, Randalls, Whole Foods Market, Central Market) within Houston. Usually they are open from early in the morning until late in the evening, 7 days a week, with some even 24 hours. Supermarkets in Texas are not allowed to sell alcohol above a certain percentage, so you will find beer and wine, but nothing stronger. For all other alcohol you will need to go to a separate store (see Specialist Shops).

 

6.1.1.   B O N U S   C A R D S

Kroger and Randalls run bonus card systems whereby one receives a discount on certain goods. To apply for the (free) store card one needs a permanent address and telephone number. As they are not store credit cards they do not require a credit history or social security number.

 

6.2.   M A R K E T S

Farmers Market at 2216 Airline Drive, Houston 77009, 713-863-1240, daily from 6 a.m. till 8.30 p.m., mainly fruits and vegetables. Urban Harvest Farmers Market operates weekly on Saturday morning from 8am-noon at 3000 Richmond @ Eastside, and in a number of other newer locations. urbanharvest.org/farmmarket/farmmarket.html 

 

6.3.   G E N E R A L   S T O R E S

Target and Walmart are the two best known stores offering everything from clothing, to groceries, small appliances, DVDs, and more, at very reasonable prices. They can be very useful when you first arrive, and seem to be buying everything but the kitchen sink!

 

6.4.   D E P A R T M E N T   S T O R E S

A full range of household items, clothes and jewellery can be found in Macy’s, Dillards, Kohls, Nordstrom and others. Shops in Houston are open 7 days a week from 10.00-21.00 except on Sunday when they open from 12:00 – 19:00. The main shopping mall is the Galleria, located at 5085 Westheimer, but others situated around the city are;

  • Memorial City Mall (serving the Westside, Energy Corridor and Katy)
  • West Oaks Mall (serving the Westside, Energy Corridor and Katy
  • First Colony Mall (serving Sugarland)
  • Baybrook Mall (serving Clear Lake)
  • Woodlands Mall (serving The Woodlands)

All have a similar range of smaller stores (The Gap, Banana Republic, Gymboree, for example) and are anchored by one or two department stores. 

 

6.5.   S P E C I A L I S T   S H O P S

  • Office equipment: Office Depot, Office Max and Staples.
  • Wine, beer, liquor and delicatessen: Specs.
  • Butcher: 1023 Dairy Ashford, 281-558-6328; Adam (halal meat).
  • Children’s shoes: Stride Rite.
  • Pharmacy: Walgreens and CVS.
  • Home Stores (building supplies and DIY): Home Depot and Lowes.
  • Kitchen Supplies: Sur La Table or Williams Sonoma.
  • Furniture: Ikea, The Roomstore, Gallery Furniture, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, Z Gallerie.
  • Outdoor Supplies: REI, Academy and Whole Earth Provisions.
  • Sporting Goods: Academy and Sports Authority. 

6.6.   E X P A T   S H O P S 

 

The Little Dutch Girl

Old Town

Spring

 

British Isles store

The epicentre of Anglophilia (from chocolate digestives to Wedgewood china)

2366 Rice Blvd

Tel: 713-522-6868

Website: www.britishislesstore.com

 

Phoenicia

Grocery store selling Arabic, Polish, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch and Greek foods.

located at Westheimer between Dairy Ashford and Kirkwood, and downtown at 1001 Austin

 

Cost Plus

Several locations

Sells a variety of international products, from Indonesian spices to Swiss chocolate.

 

Fiesta

Several locations

Hispanic/Asian/European food

Hong Kong Food Market

Bellaire, 11205 Bellaire Boulevard, 281-575-7886

 

Ranch 99 (A chinese supermarket chain)

1005 Blalock Road

Houston

TX 77055

Tel: (713) 932-8899 

 

6.7.   F A C T O R Y   O U T  L E T S

There are 2 major factory outlet malls in Houston: Katy Mills, west Houston along the I-10 and the Houston Premium Outlets in Cypress, about 30 miles from the city on Highway 290. 

Mail order

 

In the U.S. it is possible to order almost anything by mail order over the Internet from books/CDs/DVDs, computer equipment, electronics to clothes. Nearly every shop has an online ordering system (e.g. www.amazon.com). 

 

6.8.   U N I T E D   S T A T E S   P O S T A L   S E R V I C E   ( S T A M P S )

Opening times of the Post Office of the United States Postal Service are usually Monday through Friday between 08.30 -16.00 hrs and Saturday morning from 09.30-11.30 hrs. As well as the official Post Offices, other outlets such as UPS stores and Mail Boxes Etc sell stamps and provide shipping services.

 

US Postal Service Mailboxes are blue and are located at all Post Offices and in many shopping strips. They are usually emptied once a day, usually at 18.00 hours except Saturday. Check the sign indicating collection time.

 

In the US, mail can be both sent and received from one’s personal letter box. Place the letter in one’s personal letter box (usually located outside of the house next to the street curb) and raise the red flag located on the outside. This indicates to the postman that there is mail for him/her to collect. Apartment complexes usually have a communal outgoing letter box. Make sure a return address has been printed on the top left-hand side of the envelope and that correct postage is attached. For any postal service related matters visit: www.usps.com.

 

7.   C H I L D R E N

 

7.1.   C H I L D C A R E

Houston provides an abundance of day-care facilities although the nature, standards and cost of these vary widely. All places require the child’s medical certification and immunization records.

 

The main types of day-care in Houston are:

Drop-in centres

These are cheap and convenient for a few hours of day care, but have limits on the total time they can keep the child at one visit and/or over a weekly period.

 

Mother’s Day Out centres

Initiated as play groups run by parents at Methodist churches, these have expanded into a network of centres, usually with childcare professionals. These are for children from 18 months until 5 years. This is a relatively inexpensive service. Registration is usually in February.

 

Full Day care centres

These offer full-day day care, as well as before and after school care, with trained carers from infancy to Kindergarten (age 5). Day Care centres run semi-structured programs combining pre-school education with playtime.

 

Nannies

Nanny agencies can be found in the “Yellow Pages”. You can also register online with websites such as www.care.com, www.gonannies.com or www.morningsidenannies.com to search for a suitable nanny.

 

Babysitters

Private babysitter: It is recommended that you ask locally (school, neighbours, etc.) for a reliable babysitter and current rates. Babysitters are often teenagers. Angel Sitters is a babysitting agency that is used by some families from the British School, and can be helpful when you have just arrived and don’t know any young people in your neighbourhood. www.angelsitters.com

 

 

7.2.   P R E S C H O O L   A C T I V I T I E S

 

Dairy Ashford Roller Rink

They have a toddler session on a Friday morning, when you can take along skates, little bikes (without pedals) and skooters, or hire skates.

1820 S Dairy Ashford St

Houston

Tel: (281) 493-5651

Website: www.skatedarr.com. 

 

Monkey Joes

A children’s indoor play centre, with bouncy castles galore.

12523 Westheimer Rd

Houston

TX 77077

Tel:(281) 497-5637

 

Noah’s Ark Pool

Has a great shallow pool for the littler kids.

10570 Westpark Drive

TX 77042 

 

 

7.3.   O U T   O F   S C H O O L   A C T I V I T I E S

 

7.3.   G Y M N A S T I C S

 

Discover Gymnastics

747 North Shepherd Drive #400

Houston

TX 77007

Tel: (713) 680-0045

Website: www.discovergymnastics.com

 

Starz Gymnastics

10516 Katy Freeway

Houston

TX 77043

Tel: (713) 464-1996

Website: www.starsgymtx.com

 

Houston Gymnastics Academy

5804 South Rice Avenue

Houston

TX 77081

Tel: (713) 668-6001

Website: www.houstongymnastics.com

 

Champion Gymnastics Academy

2004 South Mason Road

Katy

TX 77450

Tel: (281) 392-3577

Website: www.champgym.com

 

Biron Gymnastics

1322 S Dairy Ashford St.

Houston

TX 77077

Tel: (281) 497-6666

Website: www.birongym.com

 

The Little Gym

Multiple locations

website:www.thelittlegym.com 

 

7.3.   S W I M M I N G

Lesson for younger children are available at the following locations:

 

SwimJim Texas

1100 Wilcrest

Houston

Tel: (713)784-1777

Website: www.swimjim.com

 

The All-American Swim School

1351 S. Mason

Katy

Tel: (832)225-1415

 

Dads Club Swim Team

1006 Voss Road

Houston

TX 77055

Tel: (713) 461-8577

Website: www.dadsclub-swimteam.com

 

Houston Swim Club

8307 Augustine Drive

Houston

TX 77036

Tel: (713) 774-7946

Website: www.houstonswimclub.com

 

Saint Street Swim

2717 Saint Street

Houston

TX 77027

Tel: (713) 626-7946

Website: www.saintstreetswim.com

 

Memorial Athletics and Aquatics

14690 Memorial Drive

Houston

TX

Tel: (281) 497-7570

Website: www.fitmac.com

 

For older children wanting to swim competitively, the following are some local swim teams:

 

West Houston Aquatic Team

Website: whatswimclub.org

 

Dads Club Swim Team

1006 Voss Road

Houston

TX 77055

Tel: (713) 461-8577

Website: www.dadsclub-swimteam.com

 

Houston Swim Club

8307 Augustine Drive

Houston

TX 77036

Tel: (713) 774-7946

Website: www.houstonswimclub.com

 

Katy Swim Team

Website: www.katyaquatics.org  

 

7.4.   B A S E B A L L

Baseball for younger children (7 and under generally) is available at the YMCA, but for those 7 and older it is played through the Little League of America. Children are separated into leagues by zipcode so it is necessary to find out the boundary maps for your area. Some local teams include:

 

Post Oak Little League

Covers River Oaks, Galleria, Tanglewood.

 

Memorial Ashford Little League

Coves south of I-10 from approximately Gessner to Highway 6.

 

Spring Branch Little League

Covers the Memorial Villages, Spring Branch and west to Eldridge Parkway (north of I-10).

 

7.5.   T E N N I S

 

Westside Tennis

1200 Wilcrest Drive

Houston

TX 77042

Tel: (713) 783-1620

Website: www.westsidetennisandfitness.com

 

Westheimer Indoor Tennis

3035 Crossview Drive

Houston

TX 77063

Tel: (713) 784-4010

Website: www.westheimerindoor.net

 

There are also a number of courts located at various parks around the city that the City of Houston owns. Court fees are very reasonable $4.00 an hour and there is usually plenty of availability. Memorial Park Tennis Center has 18 courts.

 

7.5.   R U G B Y

 

Katy Rugby Club

Website: www.Katyrugbyclub.com 

 

7.6.   O T H E R   A C T I V I T I E S

 

Houston Ballet Academy

Website: www.houstonballet.org/Academy/Main_School_Division 

 

Art Classes

The Glassel School for Art at the Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent Junior School, offering after school art programs. More information can be found at www.mfah.org/visit/glassell-junior-school

 

Theatre Programs

Kids theater workshops are available at the following locations:

 

Main Street Theater

4617 Montrose Boulevard

Houston

TX 77006

Tel: (713) 524-9196

Website: www.mainstreettheater.com

 

HITS Theatre

311 West 18th Street

Houston

TX 77008

Tel: (713) 861-7408

Website: www.hitstheater.org 

 

7.7.   L I B R A R I E S

Public libraries are located throughout Houston and books are on loan at no charge. To find a library, visit www.hcpl.net. To borrow books, one must obtain a Library Card. To apply for a Library Card, bring address verification such as an electricity or water bill and drivers license.

Many area libraries also offer mums and preschoolers Storytime sessions.

 

Blue Willow Book Store, 14532 Memorial Drive, also has a storytime session on Thursday mornings at 10am.

Website: www.bluewillowbookshop.com 

 

7.8.   M U M S   S O C I A L   C L U B S

 

The Australia and New Zealand Club of Texas

Organise weekly playgroup and other events for mums in the area. You do not need to be an Australian or a New Zealander to join the group.

Website: www.tanzot.org

 

Moms International

An American based group organizing local playgroups by area.

Website: www.momsclub.org

 

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International

An American based group organizing local playgroups by area.

Website: www.mops.com  

 

7.9.   C H I L D R E N ' S   B I R T H D A Y   P A R T I E S

The following are a list of locations that host children’s birthday parties:

 

Pump It Up

7620 Katy Freeway

Houston

TX 77024

Tel: (713) 686-7867

Website: www.pumpitupparty.com

 

Sky High Sports

Multiple locations

Website: www.hou.jumpskyhigh.com

 

The Mad Potter

Multiple locations

Website: www.themadpotter.com

 

Rollerskating

1820 S Dairy Ashford St

Houston

Tel: (281) 493-5651

Website: www.skatedarr.com

 

Ice-skating

Memorial City Mall

Website: www.skatememorialcity.com

 

Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

4501 Woodway Drive

Houston

TX 77024

Tel: (713) 681-8433

Website: www.houstonarboretum.org

 

Children’s Museum of Houston

1500 Binz Street

Houston

TX 77004

Tel: (713) 522-1138

Website: www.cmhouston.org

 

C H A P T E R   8   -   L E I S U R E   T I M E

Leisure Learning (www.llu.com) is an adult leisure learning facility that offers a huge variety of courses from language, cooking and writing, to computer and trade classes. Their course catalogue is produced monthly and is available free in grocery stores and bookshops, as well as online.

 

Craft classes are held at large Arts and Crafts stores such as Michael’s and Hobby Lobby

Cooking lessons are offered by Rice Epicurean, Sur la Table and Central Market.

 

Many public schools run adult evening classes during term. Check with the local school system.

 

8.9.   L O C A L   ( A N D   O T H E R )   L A N G U A G E   E D U C A T I O N

 

8.9.1.   E N G L I S H   L A N G U A G E   C O U R S E S / I N S T I T U T E S

 

Houston Community College System

Tel: 713-718-2000

Website: www.hccs.edu

 

Rice University (ELS Language Center)

Website: www.scs.rice.edu/fl

Tel: 713-348-4803 

 

Bilingual Education Institute

Website: www.bei.edu/

Tel: 713-789-4555 

 

8.9.2.   L O C A L   O P P O R T U N I T I E S   F O R   A D U L T   E D U C A T I O N

 

8.9.2.1.   U N I V E R S I T I E S

 

University of Houston

Website: www.uh.edu

Tel: 713-743-2255 

 

Rice University

Website: www.rice.edu

Tel: 713-348-4723 

 

University of St. Thomas

Website:www.stthom.edu

Tel: 713-522-7911 

 

Houston Baptist University

Website: www.hbu.edu

Tel: 281-649-3000 

 

Houston Community College System

Website: www.hccs.edu

Tel: 713-718-2000 

 

San Jacinto College

Website: www.sjcd.edu

Tel: 281-998-6150 

 

North Harris-Montgomery Colleges

Website: www.lonestar.edu

Tel: 832-813-6500 

 

8.9.3   V O L U N T A R Y   W O R K

There are endless voluntary work opportunities in Houston. Volunteer Houston (www.volunteerhouston.org) is a fantastic website that matches personal criteria and skills with available volunteer positions.

 

Organisations that seek volunteers include: 

 

The American Red Cross

Website: www.redcross.org 

 

Houston Society for Protection/Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)

Website: www.spcahouston.org

 

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Website: www.mdanderson.org 

 

Houston Area Women’s Center

Website: www.hawc.org 

 

DePelchin Children’s Center

Website: www.depelchin.org 

 

Children’s Museum of Houston

Website: www.cmhouston.org 

 

Houston Museum of Natural Sciences

Website: www.hmns.org 

 

Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Website: www.mfah.org 

 

Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition

Website: www.twrc-houston.org 

 

8.9.4.   A R T S   A N D   C R A F T S

The following craft stores stock a good selection of tools and supplies for a wide variety of arts and crafts:

  • Hobby Lobby
  • Michaels
  • Garden Ridge
  • Texas Art & Supply 

 

8.9.5.   C L U B S / A S S O C I A T I O N S

 

Glencairn Arts and Crafts Guild

Tel: 281-550-5264

Website: www.katychamber.com/Community/ClubsOrganizations/tabid/92/Default.aspx 

 

West Houston Quilt Guild

Tel:  281-859-4602

Website: www.whqg.org/ 

 

Houston Writers League

Tel: 512-499-8914

Website: www.writersleague.org

 

Pride of Texas Decorative Artists

Tel: 713-975-3550

Webste: www.decorativeartistsoftexas.com

 

CRAAL Cinco Ranch Area Art league

Tel: 281-392-5924 

 

8.9.6.  S P O R T S

Americans are enthusiastic sports players and sports watchers. Basketball, baseball and football are particularly popular. Tickets for sport games can be ordered at www.ticketmaster.com or www.tickets4houston.com.

 

The local professional sports teams are the Houston Texans (American Football), The Houston Astros (Baseball), The Houston Rockets (Basketball), the Houston Dynamos (Soccer), and the Houston Aeros (Ice-Hockey).

 

Other sports offered are: billiards, bowling, cycling, mountain biking rowing, water sports, rugby, skating, soccer, swimming, tennis, fishing, golf and square dancing. Tennis courts and a swimming pools are usually found in most subdivisions.

 

All YMCA’s offer a wide range of sporting activities and classes for children as well as adults.

Check www.houstonsport.com for basketball, golf, hockey, motor sport and tennis.

 

www.houstonet.com/sports/sports.html is a web site on windsurfing and the Houston Yacht Club.

 

8.9.7.  E V E N T S

The best way to find events happening in the local area is to check www.houstonpress.com for a calendar.

 

  • Some major ones that happen annually include;
  • The Houston Marathon (January)
  • Livestock Show and Rodeo (March)
  • Independence Day – fireworks (4th July)
  • Thanksgiving Day Parade (November)

 

8.9.7.  S O C I A L   C L U B S   &   O R G A N I S A T I O N S

There is a vast choice of clubs, associations and international communities in Houston.

 

International Connections of Houston

Organizes presentations for people living in Houston on an international assignment or have lived in other countries.

Website: www.internationalconnectionshouston.org 

 

The United Nations Association International Choir

Is always looking for new talent! They put on several performances during the year that are very well attended. 

 

Memorial Area Newcomers Club

Website: www.newcomersclub.com/Texas 

 

Welcome Wagon Club of Katy

Tel: 281-395-9804 

 

Katy Area Ladies Club

Tel: 281-579-1296 

 

Katy Christian Women’s Club

Tel: 281-693-2842 

 

Dutch Coffee Morning

Is held monthly

Email: nl_koffie_houston@yahoo.com 

 

8.9.8.  H A I R D R E S S E R S   &   D A Y   S P A S

Recommended Hair Salons from parents at the British School include the following:

 

Shine in the Heights

518 East 11th Street

Houston

TX 77008

Tel: (713) 864-1977

Website: www.shineintheheights.com 

 

Toni and Guy

Memorial City Mall

Tel: 713-461-5444.

(Leia comes highly recommended as a stylist) 

 

Beautique Hairsalon and Day Spa

Multiple locations

Website: www.beautique.cc/home.htm 

 

Urban Retreat Day Spa

2034 West Gray Street

Houston

TX 77019

Tel: (713) 523-2300 

 

TGF Haircutters

Multiple locations

Cheap and cheerful walk in hairdressers, perfect for small children and husbands who are not too fussy 

 

Supercuts

Multiple locations.

Similar to TGF

 

C H A P T E R   9   -   N I G H T L I F E

9.1.  R E S T A U R A N T S   A N D   N I G H T L I F E

The international atmosphere of Houston is reflected in the many different types of restaurants including (but not limited to) French, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Greek and Chinese. Most restaurants are child friendly and will have high chairs and a children’s menu available.

 

Restaurants and nightlife in Houston: www.citysearch.com

 

A reliable dining guide is the ZAGATSURVEY (www.zagat.com), a booklet mentioning a listing of Houston restaurants with ratings for food, decor, service and cost. Also www.b4-u-eat.com

 

Some recommended restaurants from parents at the British School include: 

 

Hillstone

4848 Kirby Drive

Houston

TX 77098

Tel: (713) 529-2385 

 

Lupe Tortillas

Multiple locations

Website: www.lupetortillas.com 

 

Pappas Group of Restaurants

Pappas Steakhouse, Pappasitos (Mexican), Pappadeaux (seafood)

Website: www.pappas.com 

 

Landrys Restaurant Group

 

The Grotto (Italian)

 

McCormick and Schmick (seafood)

 

The Rainforest Café (American)

 

Brenner’s Steakhouse, www.landrysinc.com

 

Backstreet Café

1103 South Shepherd Drive

Houston

TX 77019

Tel: (713) 521-2239

Website: www.backstreetcafe.net 

 

Banana Leaf (Malaysian)

9896 Bellaire Blvd

Houston

TX

Website: www.bananaleafhouston.com 

 

Thai House

1531 Eldridge Parkway #100

Houston

TX

Website: www.thaihouseeldridge.com

 

Catalina’s Coffee House

2201 Washington Avenue

Houston

TX 77007

Website: www.catalinacoffeeshop.com 

 

9.2.  T H E A T E R S   &   P E R F O R M I N G   A R T S

 

Opera in the Heights

Website:  www.operaintheheights.org 

 

Houston Symphony

Website:  www.houstonsymphony.org

 

Houston Ballet

Website: www.houstonballet.org

 

Houston Grand Opera

Website: www.houstongrandopera.org 

 

Alley Theatre

Website: www.alleytheatre.org 

 

Society for the Performing Arts

Website: www.spahouston.org 

 

Da Camera of Houston (Chamber music & Jazz Concerts)

Website: www.dacamera.com 

 

9.3.  C I N E M A S   /   M O V I E   T H E A T E R S

Most cinemas show Hollywood movies. The two largest cinema chains are Cinemark, www.cinemark.com and AMC, www.MovieWatcher.com or houston.mrmovietimes.com.

 

Tickets may be booked online for any movie theater through www.fandango.com . More unusual choices are being screened at the River Oaks and Greenway theatres, www.LandmarkTheatres.com, at the Rice Media Center and the Angelika Film Center, www.Angelikafilmcenter.com. Also the Museum of Fine Arts offers a variety of international films www.mfah.org/films

 

9.4.  N I G H T   C L U B S

Night Clubs are located throughout Houston. See www.citysearch.com for more information. 

 

9.5.  T R A V E L

 

9.5.1.   T O   A N D   F R O M   T H E   U S A

All resident aliens with a valid visa will have been fingerprinted and photographed when entering the country and the I-94 stamped. It is advised that one check that the I-94 is filled out correctly before leaving the airport as mistakes do occur. The same procedure will apply for every entry into the country. 

 

9.5.2.   E X C U S I O N S ,   T O U R S   A N D   D A Y   T R I P S

Some excellent day trips in/from Houston:

 

Underground tunnel system

In downtown Houston 

 

Discovery Green

Water play area in summer and ice skating rink in winter 

 

Children’s Museum of Houston

1500 Binz Street

Houston

TX 77004

Tel: (713) 522-1138

Website: www.cmhouston.org 

 

Johnson NASA Space Center 

 

Bayou Bend Collection in Memorial Park

part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Family Sundays operate once a month and allow free entrance to the house and gardens and kids activities. 

 

Houston Zoo, and a picnic at Hermann Park

6200 Hermann Park Drive

Houston

TX 77030

(713) 533-6500

Website: www.houstonzoo.org 

 

Houston Museum of Natural Science with its Cockrell Butterfly Center 

 

George Ranch in Richmond 

 

Battleship Texas, and the San Jacinto Monument 

 

Galveston Island, Moody Gardens, and the historic Strand District 

 

Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park.

 

There is a lot more to Texas than Houston. Texas offers excellent outdoor excursion like the Hill Country near Austin, Big Bend National Park, kayaking the San Marcos River and White Sands. If one prefers city travels, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas are all within 4 hours drive from Houston.

 

For more information on travel with the State of  Texas, the Texas Travel Guide may be ordered online for free at www.traveltex.com

 

Members of the State Park System or the National Park System enjoy free entry to parks. State Parks within 4 hours drive from Houston are:

  • Pedernales Falls
  • Bastrop State Park
  • Krause Springs
  • Inks Lake State Park.

New Braunfels, Gruene and San Marcos offer fantastic tubing adventures down sparkling rivers.

 

State parks website: www.tpwd.state.tx.us

 

NB. The Texas State Park Pass costs $70 for one year, and is available at all state parks.

 

National Parks website: www.nps.gov

 

NB. The National Park Pass costs $50. It provides admission to any National Park in the US and is valid for a year. It can be bought online:

 

https://cms.ser.nps.gov/tuin/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm

 

Excellent guide books include:

  • Insider’s Guide: Shifra Stein’s Day Trips from Houston
  • A Falcon Guide: Scenic Driving Texas
Do you have an idea for a project within the school. Why not apply for PTSA funding and see if you can make it happen.

Do you have an idea for a project within the school. Why not apply for PTSA funding and see if you can make it happen.

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