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Family of 4 considering living abroad for 1 or 2 years. Advice?

Family of 4 considering living abroad for 1 or 2 years. Advice?

Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:05 AM
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Family of 4 considering living abroad for 1 or 2 years. Advice?

Background

My wife and I are in our early 30's and have two small children. We currently live in the US, and because of our unique income earning situation, have the ability to live anywhere with reasonable internet connection.

We view our current situation as an opportunity to explore a few parts of the world, before our children really start to set down roots somewhere. Our end game is to move back to the US where all our family and friends live, but want to have some great experiences before the opportunity goes away.

Initial Plans

When we first thought of this, we started kicking around the idea of starting in Europe. My wife has traveled quite a few times through Europe, and we feel it would be a good spot to transition in the beginning. Neither of us speak any other languages, and it could give us a good taste of other cultures before trying something a little more "adventurous."

Budget

We would be able to shed nearly all of our financial obligations in the US, and put most of our belongings in storage for a few hundred dollars per month. Ideally we want to spend somewhere around $2000 a month total on living expenses. Renting a house or apartment in the neighborhood of $500 a month is what we were thinking.

Goals

It may sound counter intuitive, but we want to save money. We currently spend nearly $5000 a month just on living expenses in the US, and feel we can do a lot better somewhere else, and experience different cultures in the process. We are thinking a smaller town that has very low cost of living, but has public transit that can get us to major cities and then allow us to visit other parts of the area/countryside/continent.

Saving money is certainly not the driving force behind this, but we are thinking we would be able to. Please correct me if I am wrong on this.

I would be working 4-5 days a week (from the house) and then the other days we could travel or hangout. We could also take extended trips to other locations as long as I have my laptop.

Location

Since we were thinking Europe would be a good starting point, we have been looking at France as a decent central location. But this is really where we are looking for advice. We are open to anything, and would really like other people's input. Once we have an area nailed down, then we could dive further into investigating that specific region.

After Europe, we do not really know. We have considered South America and South Africa, but there is no particular reason we have thought of those. We really are not that worldly in our travels, so any advice here would be great.

Security

Security is paramount, since we have two small children that will be with us. My wife will be spending a lot of time by herself with them, so being able to travel freely and securely is a must.

Transportation

We would prefer to avoid getting a car, since we are tied to them in the US. It would also help to lower our costs.

Housing

A house is preferable, but a condo or apartment is doable. We would need at least 3 rooms, preferably 4.

Timing

We would be leaving the US next summer (around July). The beauty of not having anything holding us down is we could always return if we did not like it, or up and move somewhere else.

Schooling

This one we still need to work out, but our oldest would be in their second year of preschool starting next year. If possible, enrolling them in a local school would be great, but we can work around that if its not a possibility.

Visas

I run my own company, but I am not sure I could actually get a work visa in that situation. I assume we would have to be on a short term travel visa in most places which could complicate things. Truth is, I have never had a visa before so I do not know much about them.

Conclusion

What I would really appreciate is some input from others who may have experience in this, or know of areas that we should look into. Plus anything I may have overlooked. Thank you for your time.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:07 AM
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google "Schengen."
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:12 AM
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Thanks. So if I am reading this right regarding the Schengen Area, we can stay for 3 months without applying for a visa, but anything longer than that will require a visa.

Is it difficult to get a visa for say, six months? What kind of reasons would allow you to stay longer?
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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No clue, I just hated that you wrote that lengthy question but cannot stay past three months without a visa. It probably varies a lot according to the country and its employment situation--and it's tough all over.
It cannot be that easy, or a lot of us would be doing it!
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:26 AM
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If the visa proves to be difficult, the other idea we had is hopping from location to location whenever our max stay time expires. So stay in the Schengen area for three months, go the the UK for three months, and then off to other locations. Sort of a live abroad, extended vacation hybrid.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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[$500 a month to rent an apartment?? Not likely in major cities.]

Do you speak any other languages?

Will you have your own medical insurance?

Do you have savings?

These are some of the things you need to think about; others will know more about the specifics.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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90 days as tourists.. more than that you need a visa and to get one.. proving enough financial wealth to cover your living expenses for the allotted time.. proof of medical insurance for the entire family and background checks. Start the visa process now for the country you plan to live in. It takes a long time.
Once a resident you also need to declare taxes in that country as well as your home country.

apts. for $500 in a nice, safe neighborhood would be hard to find outside of a village which may not be very near any airport, if that is important.

You might also want to look into schooling. If they go to public school it will be free but total Spanish/ French/ Italian or whatever, immersion. Private schools with more of an English base will be close to 600-800E/month ( in Spain, for example).

Do not fantasize living in Europe if you do not speak any of the language where you will live. it can be quite a challenge.

I highly suggest hiring a relocation consultant once you have clear where you would like to go. it can save you money, headaches and tears.

Coming for a trial 90 days is not a bad idea.. but I do not think you will be saving much money living in Europe over the States. Probably comparable to if you downsized there to a smaller town/ house/ condo the same as you might have to do over here.

Good luck. Lots of people are doing this. But it can be a challenge.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:30 AM
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deally we want to spend somewhere around $2000 a month total on living expenses. Renting a house or apartment in the neighborhood of $500 a month is what we were thinking.


I doubt that it will be possible in France and any country north of it. I think that as a minimum you will have to take the U.S. median income for a family of four to live in Europe.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:32 AM
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Your first step is to ask for a long term visa. The conditions for obtaining one will determine if this is a total fantasy or not.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:42 AM
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You might check out some of the ExPat sites where people share their stories about the ups and downs of living abroad and also the process of making it happen.

The following website has some general information and also links to forums run by ExPats in specific countries. (Look under subheading of "Living abroad.")

http://www.transitionsabroad.com/
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:46 AM
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The more we look into it, the more we realize a $500 housing budget may not be feasible for Europe. It is certainly not all we can afford, but we will probably need to increase that if we want to be serious.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 12:12 PM
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With the budget you propose, you would be better off looking for something in SE Asia or Central America. Even then, you need to prove you have the means to support yourselves and that you will not be working in the local economy.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 12:21 PM
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You cannot legally work, even for your own company, on a Schengen visa.
You need to sort out visas.
Your children may legally be required to attend a school. You need to decide whether that will be the local school or an international school, which will cost money.
If your children attend a local school you need to learn the language, fast.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 12:26 PM
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Read this- this is why you won't find an apartment for rent at $500 - at least not in Paris.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-0...-15-years.html
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 12:47 PM
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Most people in the world can't afford to live in Paris! I have a hard time seeing how Paris rents are relevant.

Why don't you wait until next week and see if it is possible to move to Scotland?

Seriously, since you have kids but you don't speak any foreign languages, I think you might want to live in a country where you speak the same language as your children's doctor and babysitter. I moved to Europe and if I were on a tight budget I would consider Portugal (I live in Italy) but to the extent I am taking risks with my health needs or my future needs, I am taking them solely for myself, as an adult. You are responsible for your kids, so you need to consider that.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 12:50 PM
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It seems you have worked out this dream scenario w/o the tiniest bit of research. All the detail you listed, but apparently you had no notion of Schengen (or UK) immigration requirements, or what realistic rental real estate prices are.

Rural villages w/ properties that might fit in your budget will generally not have train stations or easy access to big cities or airports (If they did they would be in 'commuter belts' or popular ex-pat areas and therefore prices would be much higher). So almost by definition a village with very inexpensive accommodations will not be a place your family can 'travel around' w/o a car.

It looks like you have though of all the things you want -- w/ no thought about what is required or actually doable.

And I agree w/ kathie -- a lower cost part of the world might fit your needs better.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 01:23 PM
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You cannot legally work, even for your own company, on a Schengen visa.

This is not true. You cannot earn income in the Schengen zone with a non working visitor's visa but as long as any work you do is done elsewhere and you are paid elsewhere, you can still qualify for a non working visa and live in France. I have known consultants and even flight crews who live in France but are paid in the US and are therefore not technically working in France.

The problems I see are not necessarily visas, as long as you otherwise qualify for them. Your budget is unrealistically low and your idea about living in some village means you will live isolated and out of contact with others, particularly if you do not speak French. Living in a small town without a car can be very difficult. Have you checked into home exchange programs. The advantage is that with an exchange you might be able to save expenses and you might have a built in network of friends, those of your exchange partner, when you arrive.

If you understand the problems you will encounter and are still willing to attempt a foreign stay, you should commit to two years in France, it will take you one year just to adjust and become comfortable with your new home. If it sounds too daunting, you might consider locations in the UK where there will be minimal language obstacles.

Anyway you approach your goal, living in a foreign country can be a rich and rewarding experience for the whole family.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 02:40 PM
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I would probably look into Belgium as a possible location for obtaining a visa, as it is a little liberal with the self-employed / freelancers and visas. Brussels also has a large number of expat communities, including English-speaking, so there would be a lot of support. However, you need French in Brussels - no way around it. And Flemish in Antwerp.

I would suggest that if you decided that Belgium is for you - and for many it might not be - that you might at least travel there to do a reconnoissance visit first and maybe look into housing. Due to the large number of people working short-term there, there are plenty of options with fully-furnished apartments and so forth. You at least need to see the country you have chosen to see if you like it, and to see whether your business would flourish there or not. The Belgian embassy or consulate has literature on moving to Belgium and what you need to know on a basic level.

The entire family would probably also need to start learning French to have at least a foothold into the community. And would the children attend international schools, bilingual schools, or just normal schools? Lots to think about, and the literature may help organise some of your thinking.

Good luck, whichever country you pick. It's not impossible, just needs a lot of organising and patience, and be prepared for it perhaps to be a tough journey when you get there.

Lavandula
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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>

By a lot.

Cost of living in Europe at a level to which you are accustomed, even with less amenities than in the US, is generally higher than the comparable arrangement in the US. There are tons of cost of living calculators, some of which are accurate and many of which are crap.

Fact is, if you want to live inexpensively and stretch your currency, you're better off living in Central America (Belize, Costa Rica, MAYBE parts of Nicaragua but NOT Honduras) and possibly places in South America (Chile, parts of Ecuador or Peru or Colombia, NOT Paraguay, Bolivia or [worst of all] Venezuela).

Electricity and food costs are generally higher (electricity is much more expensive) in Europe and if you actually live in a small town or village you WILL need a vehicle, which means welcome to the world of the $8/gallon fuel cost (to say nothing of tolls, vignettes or other charges).

France is a sizable country and "central location" as you used it is meaningless - what do you want to be central to? All of Europe? France does not qualify. Western Europe?

>

No, you would need a work visa unless you really want to be peripatetic. And that's not necessarily the best choice with small hobbits.

There are ton(ne)s of expat sites and you should start googling. Fact is, you have plenty of time to make your move. But you need a lot more information than what you have and that time will go quickly.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 03:43 PM
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However, you need French in Brussels - no way around it.

My French friends who worked in Brussels thought it safer to speak English to Belgians they did not know because of the Flemish antagonism toward the Walloons.
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