Going abroad as a family is both an exciting adventure and a potential source of stress. The responsibilities associated with a family expatriation are much heavier than those that accompany a solo departure.
In order to choose the best places to live abroad as a family, it is necessary to take into account different criteria.
The choice of the destination should not be taken lightly, as it concerns the whole family.
Good preparation is essential for a successful family expatriation.
Moving Abroad with a Family: a Collective Adventure
A way to strengthen the parent-child bond
Moving abroad with a family is an experience with great moments of joy, but also some hardships. To face these difficulties and obstacles, nothing beats a family that pulls together.
Thanks to these shared moments, as well as the many memories they build up on the spot, the expat family generally comes out of their stay abroad even more united than before.
Moving abroad with a family also facilitates the integration of parents: having children makes it easier to make contact with other adults, both at school and in the neighborhood.
It is a good way to quickly create new relationships.
Going abroad as a family gives you the chance to create unique and unforgettable memories together:
- First steps in school
- Discovery of landscapes
- Discovery of a new culture
- Discovering a new way of life
- New activities
The advantages of expatriation for children
Going abroad as a family is a real adventure and to be able to experience it at least once in a lifetime is a privilege.
It is a wonderful opportunity for children to make new friends among locals and expatriates, to discover a new culture and a new environment.
A family expatriation is of course a great opportunity for children, regardless of their age.
By moving abroad, they develop :
- Their ability to adapt to a new environment and a new way of life
- Their social skills, as they have to make new friends and break out of their cultural habits
- Their curiosity and open-mindedness through excursions, meetings, and discoveries on site.
These qualities are a real bonus for the future, both academically, personally, and professionally.
If the expatriation takes place in a non-English-speaking country, it allows for the natural learning of a new language through daily immersion. Children can acquire an almost impeccable accent, especially since they learn faster than adults.
The advantage of expatriation as a family for parents
An expatriation with a family also facilitates the integration of the parents. Having children makes it easier to make contact with other parents, at school, but also in the neighborhood.
A family expatriation is therefore a good way to:
- Quickly create new relationships on the spot
- Take your bearings
- Develop a network and a community.
How to Find the Best Places to Move Abroad with Family?
Criteria to take into account when choosing where to expat as a family
During an expatriation, it is not always possible to choose a destination, since it is sometimes a professional expatriation.
However, when it is possible to choose a destination, it is important to ask yourself the right questions to know where to expatriate with your family.
It is important to consider the issue of work-life balance. It would be a shame not to have time to devote to your children because of long working hours or underestimated transportation time.
Going abroad as a family is a good idea, but you might as well take advantage of it to discover things together.
The cost of living, as well as the offer of leisure activities available, are also factors to take into account:
- A country where salaries are high does not always guarantee that you will be able to do many activities with your family if they are too expensive
- On the other hand, a country where life is not expensive may be disappointing in terms of activities for children and may be more attractive to the retired public.
The quality of life at the destination is also an important criterion. Some countries are better known than others for their livable atmosphere, and some are known for having a friendlier population than others.
Your desires and the activities you like to do are also to be taken into consideration.
The distance from your country of origin is not the main criterion to keep in mind when choosing where to expatriate with your family, but it is still important. The further away the destination is, the more complicated it is to organize regular reunions with family members who have remained in your country.
Finally, the health care system and the health or climatic risks should not be neglected when considering where to expatriate with your family. The risk is indeed increased when leaving with children, especially if they are very young.
A Selection of the Best Countries for Expat Families
The well-being of the family is one of the priorities when parents decide to expatriate as a family. The development of the children is often a key factor in choosing a destination.
To be sure that the whole family finds a satisfactory living environment and leisure offer, it is rather advisable to stay close to the big cities.
Not surprisingly, the northern European countries, renowned for their quality of life, are the best countries to move to with your family.
Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark
These countries offer many advantages that make them ideal destinations for families to move to:
- Advantageous family policies
- Large amount of vacation time
- Safety and security
- Access to nature
- Quality education system
- Health care
- The living environment
- The cultural offer.
The major disadvantage is that learning the language can be complicated. But many locals know English.
Note that Sweden is often at the top of the list of the happiest nations in the world.
French and German-speaking, Switzerland is always present in the rankings of the most favorable countries for a family expatriation.
Switzerland is appreciated by expatriates for :
- Its security
- Its quality of life
- Its educational system
- Its natural spaces
- Its cultural offer.
Basel has even been named the most child-friendly city in the world by UNICEF.
Germany has many attractions that make it a popular country for expatriates.
Modern and safe cities offer a wide range of leisure activities to suit the whole expat family.
Moreover, the large green spaces present even within urban areas seduce expatriate families.
English and French-speaking, Canada offers a healthy environment and a quality of life recognized by those who wonder where to expatriate with their family.
However, this country is less advantageous than the Nordic countries in terms of working hours and vacations.
Also note that in recent years the country is a victim of its own success and places are in high demand.
The land of the Maoris is also very popular with expatriate families. The security that reigns there as well as the contact with the great outdoors make it an ideal destination to raise your children.
In full economic growth, Malaysia, and especially Kuala Lumpur, is a preferred destination for expatriates with children.
The cost of living remains very affordable, there is no lack of activities and expatriates are very child-friendly.
Costa Rica and its pura vida are a top destination for expatriate families. Breathtaking flora and fauna, tranquility and quality of medical care are among the arguments that expat families praise.
Although suffering from the image of a dangerous country, Mexico attracts more and more expatriate families.
The country offers a pleasant living environment with a good balance between work and family life. Mexicans are also very welcoming and families with children are well integrated.
Moving Abroad with a Family Is Not Something You Can Improvise
Expatriation with a family is first and foremost an upheaval
An expatriation with a family cannot be improvised. Indeed, one must not neglect the psychological aspect of this upheaval:
- Separation from friends and family
- New way of life
- New language
- New reference points to build.
An expatriation can be very distressing for children, simply at the idea of changing their emotional and educational environment.
Communicating with them on the concrete consequences of this departure as well as on the changes to come is therefore essential.
It is important to talk to the children about the positive aspects of expatriation, to awaken their desire to leave. On the other hand, it is important to also communicate about the negative aspects that expatriation may entail.
To prepare children for this change of life, it is important to involve them in the organization of the departure, to inform them about the destination and make them curious about the new life that awaits them.
A family expatriation must also be prepared on the administrative level. Among the points to anticipate are the children’s schooling and health coverage.
Important steps to take when moving abroad with your family
Moving abroad with your family must be prepared in advance: improvisation is a source of stress, mistakes and oversights.
Like any move, expatriation with your family requires organization. It is advisable to create a checklist that will take into account all the steps to be taken before departure and upon arrival:
- Sort out your belongings
- Cancel your subscriptions
- Contact an international moving company
- Notify the authorities of your change of address
- Find accommodation in the new country of residence
Immigration procedures should not be neglected, especially with children. Do not wait until the last moment to apply for visas when necessary. Do not wait to renew the passports of all family members if they are missing or if some are about to expire.
In addition to the usual documents that must be packed in your suitcase, living abroad with your family requires you to add everything that is essential for the follow-up of your children:
- Birth certificates
- Transcripts of grades
- Health records
- Medical exams
Children’s Schooling: Not to Be Neglected When Moving Abroad With a Family
Where to send your children to school when you move as a family?
Schooling is a point to consider very early on when you decide to live abroad as a family.
All countries have their own school system and not all are the same. The quality of education, the curriculum, the organization of classes, and the workload can vary greatly from one country to another.
It is sometimes necessary to enroll your children in private schools, which has a cost that should not be overlooked in the family budget.
There are several options available to parents to educate their expatriate children: correspondence courses, local schools, homeschooling, or international schools.
Here is an overview of the different possibilities.
To make your choice, it is important to learn about each option and discuss it with your child in order to choose the educational system that best suits him or her.
Certain factors are also taken into account when making this choice:
- The duration of the expatriation
- The country or countries of expatriation
- Your child’s age at the time of departure
- Your child’s level of education
- Your ability to maintain French outside of school
- The budget you have available.
These elements will help you select the best type of school for your expatriate child.
Choosing a School Abroad for Your Child
Opting for a local school
Educating a child in a local school during an expatriation with a family usually means that he or she will have to master or acquire a certain level of language before leaving.
This is usually not a problem for younger children who learn very quickly. On the other hand, it can be very destabilizing for older children, for whom the fact that they are going to live abroad far from their friends and landmarks is already a difficulty in itself.
International schools and high schools are another alternative: in these excellent establishments, courses are generally given in English. This opens many doors for further study.
The major disadvantage of these schools is that the waiting lists can be very long and the annual cost of enrollment can run into thousands of Euros.
Note that some expatriate families choose to go through distance learning or home schooling.
Another thing: many countries do not have a kindergarten. In this case, it is necessary to provide childcare for the youngest children.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Local and International Schools
|Local School||International School|
|Advantages||– Integration and rapid immersion in the culture of the host country|
– Rapid learning of the local language
|– Excellent command of English by the children|
– Excellent level of instruction
|Disadvantages||– The equivalence of levels is not systematic with the UK or US|
– Slower learning of English (especially for the youngest)
– Reintegration more difficult in the country of origin
|– Expensive registration|
– Waiting lists can be very long
Taking Care of the Health of the Whole Expat Family
What health coverage is required to live abroad as a family?
Health coverage is an essential point to consider before leaving.
Whatever the solution, you must be sure that all family members are well covered upon arrival in the country of expatriation for:
- Routine visits
- Long-term treatments
- Unexpected events.
- Local health coverage and its limits.
Expatriates, except seconded workers, depend on the local health insurance plan of their destination country. It is often the employer who takes care of the affiliation process.
Local health insurance plans or insurance provided by employers are not always sufficient in terms of coverage and reimbursement. Moreover, they do not cover repatriation, which is an essential benefit when a family goes abroad.
In addition, these local plans only cover care in public institutions. In some countries, public health care facilities are saturated or under-equipped. It is, therefore, necessary to turn to the private sector.
This is why it is almost always advisable to take out an international health insurance policy when expatriating with your family.
1st dollar insurance: the solution preferred by expat families
To take care of their health during their expatriation, families most often consider subscribing to a contract called “1st euro” (or “1st dollar”) with a company specializing in international insurance.
The 1st dollar insurance covers the insured and his/her beneficiaries anywhere in the world, including his country of origin. This is very useful for occasional returns home, for example during children’s vacations.
These insurances offer an excellent quality-price ratio since health expenses are reimbursed from the first dollar spent.
The management of the contract and the procedures of these insurances (subscription, reimbursements, etc.) are done entirely in English, independently of the compulsory local insurance plan. This is very comfortable when it comes to managing your own health expenses and those of your family.
This type of contract allows you to benefit from good reimbursements for routine care and hospitalizations anywhere in the world, but also offers advantages such as
- Third-party payment in partner establishments
- Repatriation insurance
- English-speaking assistance
- Practical services
- Remote management of the contract and procedures, for a simple and fast care of the whole family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Expatriating as a family will be an enriching experience, with great moments of joy. Moreover, the integration will be easier: having children makes it easier to make contact with other adults, at school and in the neighborhood.
Expatriation has many advantages for children. They will be enriched with qualities that they will use for life: adaptability, sociability, curiosity, open-mindedness, learning a foreign language, and much more.
An expatriation with your family is not a long, quiet river. It is important to know beforehand the disadvantages that can sometimes be difficult to manage: separation and distance from family members, new culture and language, new points of reference to build, and a new lifestyle.
Among the many steps to prepare for a family expatriation, two points are of crucial importance:
– The preparation of the children’s schooling
– Health coverage for the whole family.