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Expats with young children, how did you do it?

Expats with young children, how did you do it?

May 10th, 2011, 01:05 PM
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Expats with young children, how did you do it?

We're not even close to moving anywhere as we've committed to be in Texas for a few more years. However, we're discussing, researching, saving, planning and hope to fulfill a common goal of living overseas at some point. Hubby said he'd choose Rome, while I'd choose Paris. Though we haven't been there yet, we'd both entertain London or its' countryside.

I'd always thought I'd prefer an island nation, but after three trips to Europe, I think there would be more than enuff opportunity (economically, socially, culturally, etc.) for both me and my husband. He'd likely be bored without museums, major sporting venues, etc. I'm a journalist and he is in IT, but has done quite well trading stock as sort of a hobby/back-up career choice.

By the time we move, we'll be a family of 3-4, including a 5-year-old (our first child is due in any day now) and a toddler (Lord-willing). We are very open to homeschooling, but having the option of enrolling children in public/private school would be okay, too.

Long story short, I'm curious to know the following:

1) How did you narrow your destination?

2) What made you go ahead and take the plunge?

3) What (employment, residential, financial) hurdles did you face, if any?

4) How did you prepare your little ones and how have they adjusted?

5) Did you know or learn another language before moving?

Feel free to share any other thoughts, advice, warnings, or reality-checks. ;-D

ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:15 PM
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Wonderful dream, but...

First reality check - you can't just up and move to another country. You have to have employment there or prove that you have enough money to be there for whatever period you're contemplating, and, depending on the country, you can face an enormous amount of paperwork/red tape.

I've never been an expat, per se, but I have owned a house in France for almost 20 years, and I would never recommend moving to a country where another language is spoken without being fluent, or close to it, in the language. Sure, people do it all the time...let me just say that watching and listening to them in the hardware store is really painful.

I also think three trips to Europe is rather paltry for making such a decision. If you do decide to follow through with this I would recommend you make SEVERAL trips to wherever you decide upon, and in all different seasons, so you can get to know the place better AND experience it in, say, January, which is markedly different from July.
StCirq is online now  
May 10th, 2011, 01:21 PM
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Yes! Thanks, StCirq, I love the reality check. That was one thing we realized in an earlier discussion - we can't just move without a purpose, work, education,etc. Any idea where to best find a country's requirements and or restrictions for residency? We're also in the figuring out what's best for us stage, i.e., Do we want to pursue full-time living abroad? Maybe just summers? Or, are we annual vacation-type folks.
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:23 PM
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Ok, I only moved from the UK to the Netherlands, but I did it with three young sons, aged 7,5 and just 3.
They all went to the local school/creche and settled in well, picking up the language a lot faster than we did. We had extra lessons in Dutch and worked hard at the language. I knew I was doing OK when I started dreaming in Dutch!
My husband was offered a job with a Dutch company and since he was increasingly unhappy in his job in the UK I agreed to the move. I gave up a lot to move here, and have never really settled here, even after 27 years.

Home schooling is not always an option. It depends on which country you end up in whether or not it is allowed. It isn't in the Netherlands for instance. English language schools tend to private and therefore expensive. In The Netherlands there are a few state schools which are bi-lingual, but mostly those are secondary schools. Kids learn English from a young age though.

Does either of you have an EU passport? If not being able to settle in the EU, unless being transferred here by a US company, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for you.
The recession is very real here still, and Italy is amongst the countries hardest hit. Germany, France, The Netherlands and the UK are doing better, but jobs are still scarce and priority goes to EU citizens. No way of knowing what the job situation will be like in 5 years, but the same rules will apply regarding citizenship and visas etc, as apply now.

Whilst IT mostly uses English you will find that a good knowledge of the local language is also essential, particularly in say France, less so maybe in The Netherlands, but still very useful, for getting a job, dealing with legalities, schools and your children (and their friends!) as they become fluent in the second language.
hetismij is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:28 PM
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Oh, one more thing. How frequently do you get to your home in France?
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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gives you the official info for the UK.
Nonconformist is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:33 PM
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Thanks, hetismij. Appreciate you sharing your first-hand experience. I do hope the economy is better all around by then. No, neither of us possess an EU passport. We've talked about pursuing employment prior to the move, and also about early retirement for my husband. I'll be a stay-at-home-mom for a while yet, with a little freelancing.
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:37 PM
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Thanks, Noncomformist!
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 01:39 PM
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The first 14 years I owned the home I went 3-4 times a year for a total of a couple of months or more each year. The past 3 years I've been only twice (but my kids are grown now, and it used to be long summer vacations in France for us every year, which isn't happening now so much).

About employment - without a European passport, your chances of being hired overseas are very, very slim unless an American company sponsors you. I have no idea what the income requirements are, and I'm sure they differ from country to country, but you can pretty much be sure any country is going to want to be very certain you can support yourselves.

I would imagine the government websites for each country will have the legal residency requirements (in the respective languages).
StCirq is online now  
May 10th, 2011, 02:10 PM
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We did not choose to move overseas but were sent by my husband's company. We lived in Australia, South Africa and Germany. Our kids were 8 & 10 when we moved. We spent a total of 8 years over seas. It was probably one of the best experiences our kids had, and they would agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. The first 6 months were difficult for me, but it got better and I adapted very well. Kids and husband had no problems.Yours will be young enough to put them in local schools. I think that would be better than home schooling especially if living abroad. If you can work out the details, I'd certainly recommend it, but it's considerably more difficult without company sponsorship.
historytraveler is online now  
May 10th, 2011, 02:41 PM
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As said above your dreams are challenges. I have lived and worked in Europe and have related some of the experience at http://tinyurl.com/4xv9xmo. Getting a job with an American company and getting transferred is the key. Trying to do it by yourself is really too much.
spaarne is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 08:18 PM
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I'm afraid you're going to find it almost impossible to do this unless you've already got a great deal of money.

Europe is overcrowded.

Britain France and Italy are legally barred from controlling immigration from poorer EU countries, and under strong pressure to accept a growing number of asylum seekers and relatives of existing migrants from poor countries. Large corporations and the academic industry constantly lobby for the ability to import smart staff from other rich countries like Japan or the US. And a significant proportion of the rich world still – absurdly – can claim citizenship of an EU country, though they have no real connection with, or interest in, anywhere in Europe

That leaves virtually zero scope for allowing permanent immigration for people from other rich countries who haven't got themselves a passport from a European country. This has nothing to the economy: you can create economic growth, but you can't create space.

A number of single Americans find ways round this. But their methods are rarely suitable for a young family.

There's no such thing as sponsorship, as many Americans understand it. A European business may offer a non-European a job only if the business can demonstrate it has failed to find a suitably qualified person anywhere in Europe, or if it's transferring internally. Such a non-European may live here only as long as he remains employed in that job: lose the job and home you go. You may not apply for another job without returning home and starting all over again.

A similar principle applies to intracompany transfers. You don't need to work for a US company to get one (businesses like BP or HSBC temporarily import far more non-Europeans than Citibank or Ford) – but your permission to live here last exactly as long as your job. BP's got no interest in subsidising people's lifestyle choices: your assignment to London is almost always a temporary part of your career progression. Joining a major multinational company isn't going to get you an enjoyable five years in the Cotswolds: it'll give you two years in a London suburb before being moved off for another two years in Kazakhstan.

There are some other exceptions, like being a minister of religion or deciding to bring a significant amount of money here (though what looks "significant" to many isn't going to buy a house).

Now rules change (even though population pressures don't). But there's really no point in worrying about homeschooling or anything else until you've thoroughly investigated the legality and practicality of importing young children into a country that's simply run out of space for any new people.

You'll probably get Pollyannaish advice on this forum about "following your dreams". As you read these fatheaded extracts from airport self-help books, ask yourself just one question. How many of these people have succeeded, in today's climate of rapidly growing Western European populations, in moving a young family to Britain or France or Italy for a significant period of time without already having the appropriate citizenship?
flanneruk is offline  
May 10th, 2011, 09:25 PM
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There remain countries in Europe where the requirements are much less stringent and come down, basically, to how much money you make. Look at Denmark and Sweden, specifically.

If you are professionals, and willing to try someplace a bit more exotic, consider Singapore.

In general, though, short of having significant personal assets, you should focus, first, on finding an employer, as the effort to get a residency card without an offer of employment is much more difficult.
travelgourmet is online now  
May 10th, 2011, 10:58 PM
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Can't believe I failed to mention Switzerland. Depending upon the canton, work permits can be easy to find and the taxes can be favorable, depending upon your circumstances - Zug would meet both criteria. It is expensive, though.

In general, the rise of substantial contribution tests has increased the demand for skilled professionals in Switzerland and other tax havens, so jobs may be a bit easier to find, depending upon your qualifications.
travelgourmet is online now  
May 11th, 2011, 12:38 AM
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Things may have changed in Germany but it used to be pretty easy for non EU to get residency permits, especially in IT, provided you have a skill or expertise in a particular application.

I know many Aussies, kiwi's and Americans who got a job over the phone, arrived in Germany and then applied for the permit while they were working. All the companies had to do was provide a company headed letter with their job description, the applicant had to show they had medical insurance and 2 weeks later, sorted

I don't think you need to be fluent in a language before you go, Japanese are an example of this, most can rarely speak any of the language, wherever they have been sent
Geordie is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 01:13 AM
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Norway is also a good option to look at - they have a thriving economy and a shortage of people. Only downside to Norway is the weather - but the scenery, schooling, people all more than make up for that!

Geordie - things have changed. There is not the shortage of skilled IT people there was. Plenty of home grown talent nowadays, and smaller IT departments in many companies, mean there is a surplus of young enthusiastic ITers looking for jobs.

In certain areas there is still a shortage - technical ITers for instance, and in quality, but even then not such a shortage that it would be easy for a non EU citizen to get a job.
hetismij is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 04:21 AM
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A European business may offer a non-European a job only if the business can demonstrate it has failed to find a suitably qualified person anywhere in Europe, or if it's transferring internally.

Not true.

Such a non-European may live here only as long as he remains employed in that job: lose the job and home you go. You may not apply for another job without returning home and starting all over again.

Not true.

today's climate of rapidly growing Western European populations

Not true.

You have posted much of the same before, and honestly, it is frustrating that you keep repeating the same incorrect statements. While your statements MAY be true for the UK (though only within the past year), they do not apply to the entirety of the EU, much less the entirety of Europe. Certainly, getting a residence permit is not easy, but it is not the impossibility that you make it seem.
travelgourmet is online now  
May 11th, 2011, 07:59 AM
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Wow! Thanks y'all. You've given lots of food for thought. We should visit and consider a couple countries that may have less stringent requirements... Denmark and Switzerland have popped up in prior discussions...

How much wealth are we talking? Enuff to purchase a home? Is that $500,000+ or more?

We could certainly look for employment with international companies, and hope for a relo but I think we'd first attempt to find local employ (where feasible) or perhaps remain self-employed here and scale back the plan to part-time Eurpean life rather than full-time.

If the latter, I presume purchasing a place might not be the best option? We could rent for the few months we're there?
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 08:20 AM
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I do know that in Switzerland it is getting much harder for North Americans to get work permits. The company must first prove they have looked for a Swiss person first.

It is still possible, but not easy. It also depends on the kind of work you do.

Also, it is very difficult for Americans to get banking accounts in Switzerland right now as well.

The best way to head over would be to get a position with a company here in the US who will send you overseas. (My husband's company is drastically reducing overseas assignments as they are just too expensive.)

Be sure you get a trailing spouse work permit.

Once there, you can consider the long-term plan.

Not sure what your goal is ultimately but I would try this on for a few years first. Not every ex-pat loves the experience. We did, but lots of our friends wanted to head home after a few years.

I def would not purchase a home somewhere until you had some experience in that country first. (I wouldn't even do that if moving temp. to a new state.)

Best wishes.

We moved our girls at 12 and 16. It was a great experience. We stayed 4 years and now are all living back in the US. Both girls have aspirations to live overseas as adults at least for some time.

gruezi is offline  
May 11th, 2011, 08:58 AM
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Finding local employ is practically infeasible, unless you consider singing on the sidewalks local employ. And if you tell some European government you're planning to remain self-employed in the USA, you should be prepared to hand over pay stubs showing that that local US employment pays you a pretty penny, plus proof of other assets.

Buying a house right off the bat would be daft, IMO. I'd rent for quite awhile before I bought (particularly at the exchange rate right now).

I think scaling back to a part-time plan makes the most sense, particularly as you really have minimal European experience at this point.
StCirq is online now  

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