Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Expats with young children, how did you do it?

Expats with young children, how did you do it?

May 12th, 2011, 09:02 PM
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 18
There are no restricitions in Spain, very eay to move here But employment very difficult unless you speak Spanish and then still very difficult. Many people come here thinking that they can live on almost nothing but the reality is you need to either be able to work over the internet or run your own business here and after going through this process I can tell you it's not easy. With children I would advise moving asap,our freind left it until her boy was 8 and it was too late for him in the local school (inldand Andalucia) but there are international schools on the coast but they are expensive, some aroun 1k euros per month per child. It would be much easier to move to an english speaking country for all of you. Saying all this 'gloom and doom', we (two middle aged women) moved here, didn't speak the language, rented for a few yrs, waited 2 yrs to get a licence to build our property, no experience of building or running a business here, no idea of the red tape involved, but we did it, it's not impossible but will give you a few extra grey hairs.
AndalucianSunshine is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 12:01 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 9,312

- For an American, it's almost impossible to find a first job here unless you are sponsored.
- The pay is great but it's an expensive country.
- You'll pay more than $2,500 for a 4-5 ROOM apartment (includes all rooms). Forget about finding a house unless you are rich, very patient,incredibly lucky or want to live very far away from everything.
- Day care is VERY expensive. So are private/international schools.
- Lots of English teachers here so there isn't a huge demand.
- It helps to know the local language but itsn't required.
- Go to Englishforum.ch for an incredible wealth of information and first hand experiences from expats here in Switzerland. Most are British but there are quite a few Americans sprinkled in, especially trailing spouses.
kleeblatt is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 01:17 AM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 158
We just moved to Munich with a 6 year old and a 1 year old. Husband got a job with a German firm. They paid for our moving expenses, will give me 3 months in language courses, and helped with our apt hunt/relocation agent/loan for an apt deposit. It is sufficient, but nothing more than that. No paid trips back to the states, no tuition assistance, etc.

Our oldest is planning to start in the local German elementary school in the Fall. It's been hard. We moved f rom California, and I've never experienced a winter until now. We have been here for 4 months. Time will tell what our experience will be like.
eluckhardt is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 01:19 AM
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 158

I don't mean to sound like we are suffering here. It's just new and different and challenging. Not necessarily bad.
eluckhardt is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 01:37 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 1,588
I think that if you choose to live in Europe, it might be better to do it because you have visited somewhere and think that living there might work, rather than it being a concept to live 'somewhere else' and then try and find the 'right' place.

A close friend moved to live in Italy for that reason. They enjoyed it, learning Italian helped but the bureaucracy is hellish. I've visited Italy a lot and love it, but nothing would tempt me to live there for that reason. Another British friend lived in Milan for 3 years. She had a lot of problems because her surname begins with the letter 'K' which doesn't exist in Italian. Every time she went to try and sort out papers etc. they could never find hers; sometimes it was in the J section, sometimes in L and sometimes somewhere else.
alihutch is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 04:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 261
Our family spent 14 months in Europe in 2004-2005 when our daughter was 11. This was basically a family sabbatical, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live abroad and experience different areas of Europe. Although I had a business career and perhaps could have developed an expat career if I had made some different choices, we went on a "sabbatical," what ended up to be a transition between two careers. We lived off savings. We rented our home in the US and I did a little remote consulting work with my former employer.

I had lived abroad as a child, in Australia, from ages 8 to almost 13. This was life-changing for me. Although our family traveled a lot, in Europe and the USA, I really wanted our daughter to have the experience of living in another country. We took her out of school for her fifth grade year, which was perfect timing. She was old enough that she'll always remember this time, but not so old that it complicated her social and academic adjustment back at home.

We wanted the experience of living in one place but also wanted to travel and see much more of Europe than we had been able to see on our vacation trips. We spent 6-1/2 months living in Provence in the off-season and our daughter went to the village school. We traveled in other areas of Europe, mostly using rentals of one to two weeks and based for a month in Tuscany. You can get an overview of our "grand tour" here: http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/kaydee/. We did pursue a visa through the French consulate; this is an important part of any extended trip to Europe.

Our family's trip was life-changing for all three of us. Our daughter is graduating from high school next week and has been accepted at a top university. She is fluent in French and plans to major in languages and international studies.

I now teach international business at our leading state university and broadened my world view beyond Europe. I visited China last year and hope to go to India this year. The academic calendar enables us to continue to travel. My husband and I started a business six years ago that enables us to spend most of every summer in Europe. We have both pursued French language studies through immersion programs. The small village where we lived in 2004-2005 has become a second home, and the friendships we've made there have truly enriched our lives.

There are many ways to achieve international experiences, based on your interests, skills and resourcefulness. Staying longer in one place, especially settling into a daily lifestyle and building relationships, provides a much richer experience than moving around as a traveler. Whatever you end up doing, I promise you will not be the same. And you give a very important gift to your children which will be with them forever.

KathyWood is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 07:06 AM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 9,312
Nice story but one definitely needs the financial resources to live such a life. Also, I'd just like to stress that 6 months of school in France does not make one fluent.

Thanks for posting.
kleeblatt is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 09:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 843
I am reading all the comments and will reply more specifically later on, but I wanted to jump in and ask if someone could quantify 'considerable wealth' and some of the other financial references... Are we talking an ideal budget of $2,000 a month or $10,000 a month? $150k in assets or $500k? Seems as though if folks live in other countries and don't have considerable wealth, it would not be necessary for a visitor or potential immigrant to be seven-figure earners. Or, am I being completely naive here? Please share...
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 09:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,073
I think you're being a bit naive. You are planning to be an immigrant. Without a guaranteed well-paying job and considerable assets, no nation is going to open the doors and welcome you as anything but a tourist. It has nothing to do with what the wealth status of the bona fide citizens of other countries is - you're not a citizen; your status is going to be suspect. I have no idea what the financial requirements are. I imagine they vary from country to country, as will the costs to live there. Then there's the exchange rate - which doesn't augur in your favor right now, but can always change. You'd need to do research on the embassy sites of the countries that interest you.
StCirq is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,628
Okay, I can only give you an idea for France and it could change at anytime.

I think the threshold is very low, maybe an income of around $ 30k a year for two.

This is based on our experience and those of other Americans. Because my husband is UK passport holder, I did not have to apply for a visa prior to entering France. However, once here I pplied for a 10-year (hopefully rewable) carte de sejour.

For the carte, I had to provide evidence of healthcare coverage, income statements and birth and marriage certificates, etc. Because no one likes disclosing their financial details, we decided to disclose our projected Social Security payments and one other monthly pension payment plus attestation that we own our house here. We decided if that wasn't sufficient, we would disclose investments and savings. No one asked for more detail.

I don't believe this was because of my husband's status as I have US friends who have done the same. If you are initially planning to apply for a short-term visa, thy will want to see you have sufficient funds or income to support yourself for the amount of time you want to stay.

So, will repeat what I stated up front. This could change at any time plus it may vary by region. I don't remember seeing any guidelines on the French embassy website. BTW, assume nothing and even if you don't disclose all your details, be sure you have enough to live on. Even if the threshold is $30k, we spend more.

Depending on where you live in the States and where you choose to live in Europe, some things will be more costly and some things less. We pay much lower property tax than either NH or MO, the two states we lived in immediately prior to moving here. Our French income tax is lower but that is more a function of early retirement. Food is higher, wine is cheaper (yipee). Restaurants are cheaper but we are about as far from Paris as you can be and still be in France.

So, keep asking questions, define your goals, do mountains of research and be realistic.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 10:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 843
StCirq, I don't doubt 'proof' of financial ability and stability is necessary, I just wondered 'how much money are we talking here?' What's considerable to some is measly to others. I will dig into this more as it relates to specific countries.

Cathinjoetown, that helps a lot, to hear first-hand accounts of what worked for folks who've made the transition. Thanks! I believe we do have assets enough to live abroad, just depends on locale of course. My OP mentioned large cities, like Rome and Paris, but we are more than open to the outskirts or countryside. I completely understand things will be different, if and when we're ready for a more permanent or long-term move. We shall see.
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 261
"6 months of school in France does not make one fluent..."

I totally agree! But that time in school as an 11 year old provided a foundation and a desire to continue to learn. Add on six years of French studies back at home + 1-2 months a in France every year... it all adds up. Children also learn much more quickly than adults, I think.

KathyWood is offline  
May 13th, 2011, 01:48 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 2,911
Foreign languages -- kids soak it up like a sponge. My 5 year old daughter was in German kindergarten in Aschaffenburg for a year. When we returned to California she would not speak English until we enrolled her in a summer school. We tried to keep her German going at a local German school on Saturday mornings but that fizzled.
spaarne is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 03:44 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 1,233
"I don't doubt 'proof' of financial ability and stability is necessary, I just wondered 'how much money are we talking here?' What's considerable to some is measly to others. I will dig into this more as it relates to specific countries."

In the UK I believe it's £1m as an "investor" (i.e. if you're not planning on getting an employer to sponsor you), or having £50,000 or 200,000 (depending on source) to invest in a business plus money for personal maintenance.

They only really want people who will bring in money to the country. Possibly other places are more welcoming to those wuth fewer assets.
Nonconformist is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 03:46 AM
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 1

I wanted to add my two cents... I know you've gotten a lot of realistic and practical information here, but I'm a firm believer in following your dreams (perhaps I'm the Polly-Anna type that one of the posters mentioned). So I wanted to encourage you—you only live once and it's a short ride, so why not at least go for it? It's true, it's not easy, but it is feasible.

We moved to Paris last year, and next month will mark a year.

1) How did you narrow your destination?
I was much more open to the U.K. because of the language barrier. But my husband had studied in Tours, in the Loire Valley, and as many of the posters have said, had felt his soul at home in France. He had some clients here in Paris, and had made some deep connections in his industry and was offered a position in Paris. My husband and I went out for a date, looked at each other and said, "We'd be crazy not to do this, right?"

2) What made you go ahead and take the plunge?
The feeling that we'd kick ourselves in 10 years had we not embarked on the adventure. Our daughter was turning 5 and graduating from preschool. Our parents are young enough that they don't need us close by and were excited to have a base in Europe. We felt the horizon opening up.

3) What (employment, residential, financial) hurdles did you face, if any?
Employment for my husband's job is what gave us the security to do this. I do think it would be nearly impossible otherwise—for immigration reasons, financial stability, and having a network of people to interact with. I do think that moving abroad can be a very isolating experience, a consideration to be aware of.

Residential: Apartments in Paris are very expensive, and in renting, owners like to see your dossier including an employment contract and other information about who you are.

Other hurdles had mostly to do with the language. I studied at the Alliance Française for six months prior to our move (but only 1x/week for 3 hours at a time), and found that my competence wasn't enough for even a simple interaction with the butcher. After moving, I went to language school for four months, four hours a day every day, and I'm finally competent enough to be able to deal with everyday needs over the phone. Once you decide on the country I would really suggest learning the language, because you learn so much about a country's history and culture through it as well.

4) How did you prepare your little ones and how have they adjusted?
She was originally very thrilled about the move; she loved it the few times we had brought her here, and also knew that all of her friends were going to be in different schools as they started kindergarten. But the adjustment took much longer and was more difficult than expected, even though we enrolled her in an international school. Now, she LOVES her school and her new friends and is well-adjusted... but the first few months were not easy.

5) Did you know or learn another language before moving?
I studied before coming as I mentioned, but I need to study more... I grew up bilingual in English and Japanese and had studied Spanish growing up, but French was a whole different story. I'm a journalist, and without language competency I can't work. So I'm building up my language skills and hope to soon start filing stories for the U.S. media.

Don't give up your dreams! It's not easy, but it's possible.
emilytaguchi is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 09:47 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 843
Nonconformist - What if you just wanna live off your own resources for a year or two?

Thanks, Emily. You are so fortunate to be living in Paris. I wish Fodors had an inbox feature, I'd send you my email address 'cause I'd love to know more, especially from another writer's perspective. Anywho, thanks so much for sharing your experience! Congrats on your one-year in Paris anniversary!
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 10:10 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,417
I confess that I haven't bothered to read a lot of this thread, but it seems to be mostly about high end big city living. That covers about 5-10% of most of the countries.

I saw that my grandparents' house (in which my mother grew up) was for sale in the village in Lorraine a few months ago. Two bedrooms, big living room, dining room, bath, WC and fantastic cellar for storing wine and all of the items canned from the big garden -- and a garage for 2 cars. The price was 67,000€ "negotiable". It's a very nice house in a nice village. I even made a photo report about the village last year and you can see the house in it (now sold): http://tinyurl.com/batilly

I just want to point out that life in France is not necessarily expensive - there is a large dynamic city only 30 kilometers away -- Metz -- with a large international community, it is directly on the A4 autoroute and in easy reach of the TGV-Est high speed rail line (1h30 to Paris and less than an hour to Luxembourg, Nancy or Strasbourg).

So if you want a completely different life than "big city life," it is absolutely possible, and areas such as that give residency permits much more easily than the big cities (they want to attract qualified expats, as it adds to their glory).

Since you have several years to prepare your idea, there are many such areas to investigate.
kerouac is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 10:18 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 1,233
"Nonconformist - What if you just wanna live off your own resources for a year or two?"

Well, I'm not an expert but as far as I can see from the official government website I linked to upthread, that's only possible for a maximum of six months.
Nonconformist is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 12:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 843
Kerouac, How nice that you were able to compile all this info. I glanced through the link, but will go deeper. Just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement and inspiration.

Yes, Nonconformist. Now, I remember reading that when you posted the other day. Thanks.
ChicagoDallasGirl is offline  
May 14th, 2011, 02:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,657
We investigated the possibility of moving to France for a year or so...and as further "investigation" last Fall, spent a month in a friend's flat in Languedoc-Roussillon. We contacted several long-term rental agents and viewed, probably about a dozen different possible places in the region. We did this in the month of November. It was a perfect time to make such an excursion, because - well, it wasn't the heavenly tourist seasons when people usually fall in love with someplace.

I think we've decided that we were drawn to the right region...it was our third trip where we'd explored the area, but the other times were only for about 3 days each. And we were tremendously fortunate to have a friend with a place we could use as a base (particulary during a time of year when neither they nor their adult children were interested in being there!). We will go back again and spend perhaps a month in one of our "target" towns (which we now have identified) and continue our investigations. One of the difficult issues is how one can get a car for longer than 3 months at a time that doesn't cost more per month than the rental of a house! It would be great to be able to buy a used car at the start of a year and sell it when you plan to leave, but that appears to be quite a challenge.

I suggest you use your vacations for the next couple of years to pinpoint WHERE you want to move eventually, and to determine exactly what your requirements are. Find a region that is thriving (And I have to say, I was pleased with the vitality of even the little villages we visited in the L-R region.) There were young families who obviously were employed and a vibrant every-day life apparent even in the odd month of November. Try to stay in one place for a minimum of 2 weeks...longer if you can...and see what it's like once you get past the cute market days, etc. Figure out what it's going to cost to heat a place over the winter, etc. Also, consider what the place will be like in the throws of tourist season -- I know my friend says she would never brave their cute little seaside location over June, July and August as it is chock-a-block with vacationers from all over the world.
uhoh_busted is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:40 AM.