So Dubai, London, Paris or KL

(30 Posts)
Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 03:06:35

Hi all,

My husband, over the weekend, was offered a promotion with his work. He is in oil and gas and has been offered a senior role in either Dubai, London, Paris or Kuala Lumpur. We have done several expat postings previously (Scotland and Russia) and I have also lived in the US, so I am familiar with living overseas. However, for the last 3.5 years we have been back in our home town in Australia because we now have young children (a 3.5 year old and a 12 month old). I am a reasonably senior lawyer and have been with my company for this entire time in Australia, a role which I love. His company want to employ me and will offer me a role in whatever jurisdiction we choose.

Two issues: (1) I am very ambitious and so will be guided a little by the role they offer me. For example, they might offer me a senior position in Dubai but a less senior role in London, so we need to factor this into our decision making process as I don't want my career to take a step back.

(2) we are very very close with my parents and my PIL (particularly MIL) and they give us an enormous amount of assistance here with our kids. So moving away will be very very difficult. However, my parents and my MIL are very mobile and so we can imagine them spending months with us in whatever location we choose, but particularly London or Paris as my father is doing his phD and so could do a sabbatical type thing in those locations I think.

We need to find out more details on my role on offer (I have a call today with the relevant people), however I would love to know people's thoughts on life with small children as an expat in these places. I know London will be home for many on Mumsnet but we are Aussie so it will be expat for us.

We will get housing and schooling paid for in full by the company, so money is not a huge issue but obviously the housing will be limited. We will need a 4 bedroom place, located close to the relevant office.

Any thoughts, advice would be welcome? I am terrified of taking my children away from their home and their grandparents to be honest. But on the other hand, we are both very career driven and love living overseas, so we are quite excited.Oh and the move wouldn't be until December/January so we have time to plan and get schooling arranged etc.

Thanks!

lucidlady Mon 19-May-14 03:13:30

Whereabouts in London would the office be?

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 03:23:47

Office in London is in Marylebourne I think? I googled it and it's right in the centre sort of near Regeants Park? I am not very familiar with London although I have been quite a few times.

In Paris the office is in La Defence.

deXavia Mon 19-May-14 03:36:39

Sounds like a great opportunity. So in addition to all the role, package, tax, etc thoughts here are just some top of the head things to consider...
- London and Paris - more professional couples, in Dubai and KL you may find fewer mothers work - this can have an impact on social life for you and kids. (ie how do you meet other mothers, playdates where mothers take kids vs nannies - and yes I know it shouldn't matter but in some expat countries it does)
- Equally childcare in Dubai and KL will probably be more "helper" than "nanny" - no problems when kids are small and its more babysitting and ferrying to play dates etc but you may find this harder as they get older with homework etc. You can get western style Nannies but visas are harder and much more expensive.
- Schooling - even with a Jan start - your oldest is hitting prime last year of nursery/starting reception. Waiting lists can be long and challenging - either in Europe or at International Schools in Dubai or KL - definitely do some home work on this.
- London and Paris offer all the usual European city elements - both good like culture and bad like weather! Dubai and KL - hotter, more beach/swimming pool. Neither is better than the other but what kind of person are you and your family?
- Job wise - what if you don't love your DH's company? Would London and Paris offer more alternatives? What happens with work visas?

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 03:48:29

Thanks deXavia, all good advice.

I must admit, I am not that enthusiastic about KL or Dubai, particularly Dubai. I have been to Dubai quite a few times and I am not a fan. I know some people love it, but I just didn't love the feel of it. Plus I completely understand what are you saying about most of the mothers being expat trailing spouses and not working so I will be a little out of the loop. I also have two very good friends who live in London (one with a child the same age as my youngest) so again that is appealing.

Schooling - in London, I am assuming the state (local?) schools are pretty good? I am not fixed on my son attending a private school as if he was to stay here he would be going to the local government primary school. So is this possible in London rather than sending him to a private school? My daughter will go to nursery plus I think we would need a nanny to help which is what we have here (plus the grandparents!).

Weather wise - I prefer the weather of London or Paris. I am used to the heat (being Australian) but we at least have four distinct seasons here, not just heat all year long. Plus I prefer the culture of London or Paris.

Re my job - I am a lawyer so London or Dubai it would be reasonably easy for me to get a job. Paris, not so much because of the language. KL, probably also not that easy. I am reasonably confident I will like the company though as it won't be too disimilar from the work I do now - inhouse resources lawyer. But it's a good point.

To be honest, my heart is definitely saying London. Having lived in the UK for 3 years already (our son was born there) we are familiar with it, I think I still have a bank account set up there! But I am concerned about living in London with small children and not having the space and outdoors that we are used to here. We have a big backyard here with a pool and a cubby house etc and we spend most weekends in the backyard....

MasterOfTheYoniverse Mon 19-May-14 05:29:17

I think its a no brainer. London.
Could KL lead to a posting in Singapore?

deXavia Mon 19-May-14 05:32:35

For me the joy of an overseas assignment is to live a bit differently so we swapped a house with a small garden near Clapham Park for an apartment on the 40th floor but we have a communal pool and loads of parks & Beaches near by. It was different to begin with - now I think we'd all moan about the stairs if we went home!
Sounds like London is the best bet - and where you're heart lies at the moment (I guess depending on role). London is great with small kids - especially to be blunt if you have money - and with the right package it could work. No there won't be a huge yard - unless you move out a long way but there are parks, markets, museums, history... (you can tell I can sometimes be a wee bit homesick)
Schools needs more homework based on where you would live and some people will swear by private schools but there are also great state schools. And I've been away for 5 years now so I'm not best placed to advise you - but many other MN's are and once you've narrow downed areas check out the local boards.

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 05:47:31

Thanks all. No the posting in KL won't lead to Singers, because there is no office in Singapore. The Asia headquarters is in KL. The thing with my DH 's company is if you want to progress you have to do regular postings so this will be one of a few postings I think. Ultimately though my heart lies in Australia so I can't see us being away for more than 5 years. I could be wrong though.

I need to see what roles they are proposing for me in each location. I am desparately hoping Paris or London are the best roles rather than Dubai. They have already identified that the role in KL may be too junior for me so I think we will discount that. So realistically I think it will come down to Dubai, London or Paris. If it's Dubai, I am going to be reluctant to accept it, despite some people loving it. I just don't think I can live there...

deXavia Mon 19-May-14 05:53:46

I've been to Dubai for work - so not living - and have to say I agree. I know some people love it and frankly we live in Asia in an expat bubble anyway so you'd think it would be no different - but I couldn't imagine living there.
Having said that a word to the wise - if you decide its going to be Dubai - don't post on MN - it can get very heated on the Dubai threads!!!

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 05:55:48

Thanks deXavia. I am glad I am not the only one who thinks that about Dubai. I just need something more authentic. I would rather just stay living here to be honest than move to Dubai.

skinmysunshine Mon 19-May-14 05:58:58

I'm not an expat but do find London fantastic with kids.

As deXavia said there is a lot to do in terms of parks, museums etc but even in things like clubs and activities there is so much choice. Also we have found it really easy to build up a network of good friends with similar age DCs who we and the children socialise with.

On schools there is a real mix in terms of quality with state schools and the good ones are all over-subscribed so catchments are very small. If you can get a place right next to the school you want your DS to attend you won't have any problems but it can be difficult .

As your office would be Marylebone you're really central so you could live pretty much anywhere without too many problems.

Good luck whatever you decide.

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 06:08:55

Thanks skinmysunshine. It's good to know. The problem I have is all the Australians we know who live in London always return home to Australia once they have children and there is this idea that you can't raise children in London. That Australia is infinitely better for raising children. I am not sure I agree. To be honest, all children need is some nice parks and a few child friendly cafes and then museums etc. to keep them interested. That's all we do with our kids on the weekends.

Thanks for the information re schools. I know schooling is included in any package over the age of 4. I just would prefer a good government school rather than private if possible just for more balance. However, I am basing this on my experience here in Australia where the majority of people send their kids to the local state schools because they are generally good (particularly in our catchment area) and private schools are ridiculously expensive. Particularly for primary schools. High school we would go private but at primary school level, the local government schools here are more than adequate. However, I guess we can decide when we get there.

Of course this may all be a moot point, depending on how my call goes today and what they have in mind for me. My DH is very very keen on London though.

Paris - I think sounds lovely but I suspect it will be really hard in the day-to-day type things. Having lived in Russia for 2 years (which I hated) I can imagine the actual difficulties you would experience.

mummytime Mon 19-May-14 06:25:41

State schools in London are fine.
The problem is there is a huge pressure on school places so it can be very hard to find a school place at a school you want and which is close by (the LA do have to find you a place though). I would ask for an educational consultant to be included in the package if you are coming to London (the two I know of are: GABITAS trust and the Good Schools Guide).

Emmylooagain Mon 19-May-14 06:35:38

Oooh good advice Mummytime. I didn't even know such things existed. Generally we get a "relocation consultant" who do everything for you but that's good to know there are specific education requirements.

Bonsoir Mon 19-May-14 08:31:17

Aussies find Paris very difficult, IME.

ifink Mon 19-May-14 08:39:01

Hi Emmylooagain, just wanted to say that London, as much as I love Oz, is still a fab place for children especially if you'll be able to afford a rental property with some outside space. We are in oz now and left a very lovely family friendly area (NW) (my DH worked in Marylebone too) but as others have said, state school places can be a nightmare...there is a real shortage in most boroughs so it's probably best to have a back up plan on private options if you cannot get into a preferred or even any state school whee you want to live.

HercShipwright Mon 19-May-14 08:49:28

London is a great place to bring up kids. There's also a huge expat Australian professional community - it's not just gap year students. The language issue won't be one, and I know several Australian lawyers working in my field, so it's possible that your qualifications may be recognised.

Slipshodsibyl Mon 19-May-14 11:05:23

I've brought up children in three of those locations (not Paris so cannot comment on that). Out of those three, go for London, without any hesitation. Life will be easier there and schools better, provided your package is good enough. If schools are paid for, then go for independent as days are longer which helps if you work and holidays are longer to enable visiting family etc.

it will also be easier to find a very good school place in London than in any of the other locations.

There will simply be a greater choice in everything for you in London. I guess Paris might share many of these advantages but you would need to learn to speak good French which would eventually be an advantage, but will slow things up to begin with.

roundandround51 Mon 19-May-14 11:08:25

KL and Dubai would obviously be much shorter flights from home which may be a factor.

I suppose it very much depends on what you want from this. If you are happy to live in an expat bubble with minimal culture, Dubai may be an option. KL has its own political climate challenges.

I have lived in London and Paris and in my opinion Paris is just not worth it, its beautiful but I prefer to admire its beauty from afar. London is just far more accessible, interesting and rewarding. The weather is a shocker though - I went from Sydney to London and I did find the change from sunny, healthy, outdoorsy life to drab Autumnal London quite depressing

unobtanium Mon 19-May-14 14:41:20

If you choose Paris then you are giving your DCs the gift of a second language, especially if you go for bilingual schools. And that second language makes the acquisition of the third that much easier.

You'll get more of a cultural mix in Paris. Offices at la Défense, you could live intra muros or head for some of the leafy suburbs out west. Both options are well supplied for international schools of all types.

Yes Bonsoir, not all Aussies love Paris, but what they tend to find the hardest will be present in London too (long wet winter, endless grey skies, slightly "uptight" people maybe?...), and OP has said she knows and loves London. Unless there are other niggles you are thinking of which are shared by lots of Aussies?

Paris is certainly no consolation prize if London doesn't work out.

unobtanium Mon 19-May-14 14:42:00

Oops and by that I mean that Paris would be just as good!

Bonsoir Mon 19-May-14 15:15:27

I wasn't thinking of the weather. IME Aussies find French schools a lot more challenging than the British or Americans do (I have seen some scary failures by Aussie DC to adapt) and the Parisian code bound culture excessively tedious.

fatowl Mon 19-May-14 15:16:08

I'm in KL if you want any specifics, though it sounds like you've ruled it out. Lots of Aussies here. Short(ish) hop to Perth, my dh is also oil and gas and here is there every few weeks

LillianGish Tue 20-May-14 10:04:23

London is great if you are on expat terms - we are about to leave after seven years. DH and I (both British) joke that we could never have afforded to live here without an ex-pat package. Housing and schools are the biggest headache for locals, but as an expat these are taken care of - presumably your firm will pay for private schools if the state ones don't measure up. To be honest at reception/primary level that shouldn't be such a problem - not sure how long you will be here.
I have also lived in Paris and am about to return there (though not on ex-pat terms sadly!). My dcs both started school in Paris and loved it - so much so that we've stayed in the French system. As Bonsoir rightly points out it is not perfect, but we have found it's rigidity and inflexibility is actually an advantage if you are moving around. You can move from one country to another, start a new school the following week and find everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet (well not literally of course because a hymn sheet is the last thing you would find in a French school!). And there are French schools everywhere. Your children would be just the right age to start in the French system and if you really really hate it (or they do) you could easily slot them back into an English speaking school later down the line - something that would not be possible the other way round.

guihailin Tue 20-May-14 12:47:54

I would compare the 4 jobs for you and choose the best one because all 4 cities would be a great secondment, and if you are in your late 30s/40s then now is the time to lean in with your career and drive it forward.

I've been a working parent in all, except Dubai.

Paris is the easiest of them to be a working mother. This is because bright, qualified women are expected to have a career, and this makes the whole set up more comfortable for 101 reasons.

In Paris, the children can go to EAB Monceau (or Petit Cours du Rocher) and you can rent around Parc Monceau, so easy trip Line 1 + Line 2 to La Defense. Think Paris markets, little cafe/bars, boulangeries... You can spend weekends in the Oise of the Impressionists, in Burgandy, Eurostar to London, easy TGV around the country...

If you choose London, choose Private Education for your children because that is such quality (see Good Schools Guide) and will make up for the bad weather and public transport!

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