moving overseas for a term or a year? (France or Spain)

(72 Posts)
Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 11:26:36

so it has long been a dream of mine to pack up and take the kids overseas to live for a while
It looks like we have the opportunity to do so and Im just looking for advice about practicalities

Choices would be Paris, elsewhere in France Barcelona or elsewhere in Spain

Im really looking for advice about practicalities,
I would want the kids to go to school, but I am worried that the schools finish really early in the summer in both countries so that summer term would be pointless.

I am also worried about the practical aspects, do I have to register for tax? or register with the authorities in some way? how do I organise paying bills (and not being liable for them when we move on?)


fraktion Sun 17-Feb-13 15:13:37

The summer term would probably be pointless, plus the children would have to jump straight into schemes of work in a completely foreign language. 6 weeks isn't enough to learn and have a meaningful positive impact on them.

If you want to access state education you will need to effectively live there. Bills isn't much of a problem if you speak the language. You just switch it into your name and give the meter reading and then revere he process when you want to leave. The language competency would be pretty key for me. Tax return you'll file when you leave the country.

Plus remember term dates are different in France to the Uk JS between regions. Our summer term starts the beginning of May and ends beginning of July (not Paris, the May date will be slightly different).

vamosbebe Sun 17-Feb-13 15:18:21

How old are your DC? Do they speak French/Spanish? Do you or DP speak French/Spanish?
Spanish schools (at least up Barcelona-way) finish before 23rd June until first week of September.

fussychica Sun 17-Feb-13 17:53:01

Southern Spain summer hols mid June to mid September. Registering for primary school is April prior to Sept start. Not every school will have vacancies - same as UK. We went in Spring and UK school kindly kept DS place open until Sept in case we didn't settle although as we did we told them we were staying before the UK school closed for summer. We were in Spain 8 years but not sure I'd go now as the education system is under alot of pressure due to the economic crisis there. DS now at UK Uni.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 18:49:31

thanks guys
do I speak the languages yes but my french is much better, however it was reading something someone else said on here about the Spanish property market that got me thinking about Spain

kids less so, all primary school age

I thought the summer term would not be the best TBH so will think carefully about dates again

frak yes would be state education I would be living there, I have vague ideas about having to register with local mayors office in France but I have no idea where I got that from

fussy sorry if it is a dumb question why would the finincial situation in Spain make you cautious?

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 19:12:01

France has 3 types of school I suppose you could say 1) the state system where indeed you contact the mairie and unless you can get special permission, your children go to the school desginated for where you live 2) the private but state subsidised system, most are Catholic or religious but not all, such as the bilingual ones and ones with international sections so you have fees which are nothing like school fees in the UK and where you are not tied to your address for residence, rather by whether there is actually a school place, finally 3) the private and non subsidised schools where school fees are indeed likely to be more like you'd pay in the UK, no inspection of such schools so beware and do homework there.

I would be planning school places and location a year ahead. I'd also think about the affect on your children's education to spend such a short time in another education system where they are not fluent in the language.

fussychica Sun 17-Feb-13 19:12:53

Lots of cuts in the health and education budgets and tough rules coming in for foreign residents. The cuts mean that hospitals/ schools are being under funded and class sizes rising - not good if your children don't speak the language. On the plus side it does mean that there are quite alot of cheap rentals available as many folks struggle to sell. We sold just before Christmas but took a big hit financially.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 19:33:20

thanks so much guys

natation I guess school type 2) would be next to impossible to get into?

perhaps a silly question but can I not just turn up then and get a place in school 1? what about spending some time in a nice Normandy village and just going to the local school?

fussy would I be classified as s foreign resident (not a silly question I hope: freedom of mobility rules around the EU, plus if you were Spanish coming here you arent really classified as foreign are you? are you?)

not too worried about the effects on the kids education, they are all bright and seem to be treading water in their state schools here which is one of the factors behind this decision I suppose

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 19:42:35

type 2) not at all, it depends on where you are living.

Well are your children French primary school age? It's age 6 by 31st December of the year you start on or near 1st September, so can be 2 years later than the UK. I certainly wouldn't just turn up in a village thinking you can just get a school place immediately. I'd be researching areas and school in the months before.

You have freedom of movement in the EU as an EU national, you do NOT have the freedom to be considered a resident of another EU country. Some EU countries require you to inform the authorities of your presence, if staying over 90 days, you'd be expected to show a means of income to be accepted as a resident. If you didn't get accepted as a resident, it could mean no access to schooling, health care etc, I'm not saying it will but it could.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 19:51:34

Yes age wise

wow I am surprised about the second bit I had always assumed freedom of movement included things like healthcare, schooling etc

it does in the UK doesnt it?

(Im obviously not saying you are wrong I am just surprised that there is no reciprocality, as I said I did have something from somewhere in my head about registering with the mayor!!)

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 19:54:34

All the type 2 private "sous contrat" and 3 private and not under state subsisidy and usually not under French curriculum "hors contrat" can be searched for here.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 19:56:45

thanks again I do appreciate your advice

fraktion Sun 17-Feb-13 21:01:04

It definitely doesn't include healthcare in France.

'Nice Normandy village' school is about to get squeezed. We're losing (I think) 25 classes from our Normandy commune this September. There are no schools in some villages now. There's a maximum permitted travelling time that some areas really make the most of.

heather1 Sun 17-Feb-13 21:13:17

Hi I it also worth thinking about what the French and Spanish schools are like pastoraly and how the children are expected to interact. It may be very different from UK attitudes. Academically its great that your children are doing well but make sure they dont suffer socially - take it from one who knows. We were told "oh they will be fluent in 6 months" but its not always true. I am truly not wanting to put a dampner on your plans but dont just assume the children will slot happily into a whole new education system. I only have he Swiss perspective and there are many things I love about it but it is also quite dull, regimented and restrictive in many aspects of the work. Also dealing with your childrens social and academic issues in something other than your mother tongue it is a massive challange.

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 21:28:18

UK is one of only 3 countries in the 27 of the EU - the others being Denmark and Ireland - that have no internal border controls in the form of use of national identity cards. There is no obligatory registration of EU nationals who intend to settle for more than 90 days. It means the NHS has a rather difficult time in billing EU nationals who SHOULD pay for their non emergency treatment who are on holiday in the UK, as if you try to bill these people, they suddenly claim to be living in the UK. There are many EU nationals that come to the UK for example 39 weeks pregnant, to give birth in the UK, many non EU do this too! It's not to get British citizenship for the baby because they don't qualify on these grounds, it's because they get it for free here and don't have to pay for doing it in their home countries. Then a few days later, many return home.

As for education, no EU nationals cannot just walk into schools in the UK whilst on holiday either, they must be settled here, but in reality, without registration and internal controls, there is nothing to stop an EU national going to school here for a few weeks.

It's the UK's own fault and anyone who voted LibDem or Tory at the last elections that the plans for national IDs and the crackdown on health tourism to the UK as a result were all scrapped with a change of government, despite the millions invested already in the system, they even kept all payments from those who'd applied for the new national ID cards, quite shockingly too and quite immoral to bank that money into the Treasury.

Callthemidlife Sun 17-Feb-13 21:48:36

I know two primary school kids who spent an academic year in Spain and TBH it wasn't a great idea in retrospect. One child was ok academically (very bright boy who subsequently passed the 11+) but very homesick because he couldn't fit in with a any of the 'gangs' - by the time he'd learnt enough of the language to get by, he'd already been ostracised. For the other child it was a disaster. She never picked up the language and the additional support from the school was woeful - she lost a whole academic year, failed 11+ despite being very intelligent and as a direct result of missing all the maths topics for one year she never caught up on the fundamentals, and so has continued to fail at maths (despite being good at maths before she went).

Both children struggled most with the school hours - they were out of school very early in the afternoon (2.00?) but their mum didn't get home from work till 5.00 and the kids didn't have anything to do except hang out in the shopping arcade, being ignored by the cooler kids. There wasn't really 'anything else' to do.

I am sure that with planning and effort all the issues could have been overcome, but it will need some detailed input from parents - can they learn the language in weekend classes before they go? Becoming bilingual can be a huge advantage in future life but can also have a draining effect on other areas of literacy such as grammar and writing progress, so be prepared for this.

To counter all of the above, I do think that life experiences such as these can be really great for the right kids. I know that a certain TV chap decamps with all his children to the Alps every winter and enrols them in the same local schools every lent term before bringing them back every Easter. Sounds like a fab way to raise kids to me.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 21:53:30

True Heather and Frak
I am to some extent glossing over things like choosing schools, and the social side of things and slightly taking the attitude 'it is only for a short time so it doesnt matter'.
Admittedly that may not be the case at all

I have a good family friend who is French her grandkids have a father who speaks French to them all the time, lived in Paris and attended school for a year and she is very clear that they are far from fluent.

So how do I get healthcare in France then? Just looking for emergency stuff, appendicitis type things

ditto for Spain?

do you think an area of Spain with a lot of English speakers would be good (or really bad?)
where is such an area?

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 21:55:54

thanks call (like your name!!)

I would not be working so that is one thing

Just talking about it is getting me keener but I keep reminding myself that a wet winter in Normandy is pretty 'wet' grin

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 22:03:29

You can have access to the French health system, but you'll have to register yourself as a resident there and contribute to social security there to have more than emergency access or otherwise you pay for all medical bills in full. If you're not going to contribute to the French social security system, I'd be looking at a good private health insurance plan covering France. Can't help you for Spain.

School hours are very long in France too, that puts me off being there more than anything, but in a year we might have to be (to avoid returning to blighty).

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 22:13:31

Blightly aint so bad

(says she posting on the internet about leaving it ha ha!)

so any idea how much social security is?

isw Sun 17-Feb-13 22:19:54

I have spent most of my life in Spain and have seen far far too many British kids dumped into Spanish state schools with little or no language skills. It puts a terrible pressure on the kids, their already over stretched teachers and their peers. Class sizes are getting bigger, our local school had 33 in the 5 year old class with one teacher, in a room for 25. There are massive cuts in education at the momemt.

I would think a term would be very difficult. Not long enough to settle but long enough to be homesick. If you move to an area where there are lots of expats they tend to stick together talking English and doing English things. The average Spanish child goes to bed between 10-12pm school from 8-2 or 3 a couple of hours off then extra activities my 2 year old had Physio at 7pm for example. Swimming at 6.

The Spanish school system is very different from the UK, very "old school" lots of grammar, dictations and sit down learning. Tests every 2 weeks. School books are bought by parents in September for the whole year. It is very very hard to get copies out of season. You also usually need to show vaccination books to register with a school as well as other documents.

In order to have access to schools etc you should be resident as each town gets it funding for the year by the number of residents. Under EU law all under 18s must be given emergency medical care but as residents you need to be paying into the system to get access to routine medical care, saying that private medical care is much cheaper than the UK.

Personally I wouldn't do it, what about going for an extended summer break and putting them into a local summer school. Same language/ cultural exchange but a much less formal environment. Our local area ha summer schools for the 3 month break in schools (about 100 euros a month), sports schools or beach schools.

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 22:42:41


I have spent a long time living in an English town 'invaded' by summer schools and I have a really low opinion of them, kids are just dumped and hang around with others speaking their home languages.
Surely primary school age is too young for Summer school too? I think so for ones like the ones I am thinking about (clumsy sentence sorry)

do you have more appropriate ones for little kids where you are isw?
Are you happy to pm me any info?

to be frank it the intense sun that most worries me about Spain,

ds is a red head grin

Southwest Sun 17-Feb-13 22:43:53

thanks so much guys you have given me lots to think about, I will study all your links again

I must head off to work now!!!
so no replies from me for a while sorry

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 23:08:30

4 to 8 day camps in deepest Belgian countryside from €120 to €250 for 4 to 13 year olds. My 7 year old is going there in a few weeks with her school for 5 days, it's a normal part of school life here from the age of 4 to 12 once a year or once every 2 years, holidays the same places run residential camps.

Here's another one next to the sea, for 3 to 15 year olds. My 7 year old might go here for a week in the Summer, so that I can work for a week.
Prices and dates only in French or Dutch

natation Sun 17-Feb-13 23:14:58

PS there are many day camps too near where we live, from €40 to €200 depending on what you want to do, some accessible to residents only (as subsidised) and some accessible to visitors.

Why not think about doing a Summer somewhere doing Summer schools and just enjoying the culture, if you like it, then do a longer stay.

tb Sun 17-Feb-13 23:15:36

The freedom of movement between EU member states is only on the grounds that you make no claim on social security in your first 5 years there. If you do, legally you are considered an economic migrant, and you will be returned home, pdq. Sarkozy did this with Romanian gypsies who were begging and they were repatriated.

The cut off date for UK citizens entering France and being able to affiliate to the 'cheap' CMU system to get a Carte Vitale was September 2007 - brought in by Sarkozy due to frauds by, among others, Belgians and Irish living in the SW having the capital to buy a new luxury car each year, but claiming they had no income....someone ratted on them. This cheap system for someone not getting healthcare through their job costs 10% of income.

It covers 70% of medical care - for the rest you either take out top insurance, or pay as and when. Dd had 10 days in hospital in 2009 - it cost €8,000 included nursing care, 1 blood test, 2 appts with the psychologist. Her medecines she took in from home. Had we not spent €2,000 a year on a top up policy, we'd have had a bill of €1,600.

The alternative is a 100% private policy. They are illegal for French citizens, so there isn't a market, so the few that exist are very expensive.

The E111 only covers you for a 3-month stay, and is for emergency care only. The extra costs, even for an emergency, can amount to €50/day.

In addition, if you leave the UK for France, intending to be there more than 3 months, your E111 doesn't count.

You may have some limited access to the French system ie get a Carte Vitale if you have an NI contribution record in the UK, but you will still have the top-up policy to fund.

For most medical costs, you have to pay out up-front and then reclaim the amounts back. Hospital accounts depts, the local Caisse Primaire de Maladie, your insurance top-up company can all be very slow to provide the paperwork. I had my gall-bladder removed in mid-November - had €60 per appt for the surgeon, anaesthetist, lung specialist and cardiologist before the operation, a surgeon's appt after the operation, a €150 top up fee to the surgeon and €140-worth of operation compression stockings (that they wouldn't let me wear) to fund up-front.

Say in total €600 worth - and it took to mid-Jan to get it all back. Our income isn't high enough to pay tax....

There are sites that can give you more detail on the system in France - it's complicated, and can be really expensive if you don't have the right top-up policy.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 09:13:21

If you wanted to spend some time in France, why don't you get a gîte for the whole summer in a nice holiday destination where there aren't many foreigners and send your DC to local windsurfing/sailing/swimming camps?

Greythorne Mon 18-Feb-13 09:19:49

I think you are being very naive, sadly. Even without the difficulties of getting healthcare coverage, a mutuelle to cover health costs not covered by the state, finding a school with space for your DC for one term etc., the education system in France is in many ways diametrically opposed to the UK system. The system here has its pros and cons, of course, but it is really only over the long term that DC benefit from the pros. I imagine that thrown into the deep end with poor language skills and absolutely no clue of how the system works here could be very damaging for a child.

I would not put my DC through it in a million years.

Umlauf Mon 18-Feb-13 09:20:36

I live in Northern Spain southwest and DH is a redhead, the climate is only a few degrees warmer than back home. The schools here are excellent (Basque Country) and there is a strong focus on social interaction.

You have access to free healthcare as long as one family member is working so paying social securit tax afaik and it's really good, I'm pregnant so trusting it completely ATM! With regards to the language it's not too difficult to learn by assimilation but may take longer than a term to get the full benefit, how about a year? Children pick it up much faster though.

We've been here since September with no Spanish beforehand and we get by conversationally now! I do think its a fantastic experience for children and am rooting for you!

Greythorne Mon 18-Feb-13 09:22:01

Also, the difference in the two systems is wht many, many expat families who know they will be in Frabce for just two or three years pay for private hors contrat schools which follow the British curriculum because it is just not worth the hassle of uprooting DC and dumping them into the French system for a "short" time, even when "short" time means two or three years.

The benefit they would experience in a term would be negligible and the downsides could be huge.

fraktion Mon 18-Feb-13 09:53:30

As an idea of how French healthcare works I moved and started working in Sept 08, Jan 09 I went to do the paperwork with my 3 months of payslips to get access to a temporary social security number which showed I was entitled to the 70% reimbursement (still paying up front). Jan 10 I got a permanent social security number so could get a mutuelle. Feb 11 - 2 months before giving birth to DS - they finally stopped making me pay up front. On Friday, 4 years after we started the rigmarole, I got the form to apply for a carte vitale.

Admittedly we moved 4 times, including to a DOM and back, but we've paid put possibly thousands in medical care and the majority of that non-emergency.

If you're not working they won't give you anything, and even then for the first 3 months the French system doesn't cover you unless you have paperwork from the UK system.

An extended holiday with lots of clubs in the local language sounds a much better plan.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 17:45:16

Thanks again guys
Sorry I can't name check everyone I am in a coffee shop

Bonsoir I think I want more from it than just being on holiday (although not knocking the idea !

Um we would not be working I figUre jobs in Spain are hard to come by

Any idea what making no claim On social security means?

Clearly we don't have the same rules in the UK but does it include school emergency healthcare?
What about child benefits and tax credits? Is there such a thing?

Thanks thinking about it is making me really keen!!

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:05:29

We do indeed theoretically have the same rules in the UK, in practice because the UK has no internal controls and a benefits system wide open to abuse, it makes it look as those anyone can come to the UK and sponge off the state because in reality it happens and happens sometimes on a huge scale. Millions lost every year to made-up children to claim UK child benefit and tax credits.

I don't think in France you get access to child benefit without contributing to social security.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 18:06:05

In France you won't get anything out of the social security system if you have never paid anything into it. Children do, however, have the right (and the obligation) to attend school if they are resident in France.

Bonsoir Mon 18-Feb-13 18:07:07

Basically, if you want more from it than being on holiday, you will need to pay up!

peterpie Mon 18-Feb-13 18:10:40

Hello Southwest

I have lived in Madrid for 6 years. What you have to bear in mind about Spain is that there are many regional differences so a lot depends on where you go. In Barcelona for example all schools teach in Catalan so you have two languages to consider, the same goes with schools in Valencia and the Basque country.

Not all schools finish at 2pm, again depending on where you go you may find schools have a split day whereby they have lessons 9-1pm a 2 hour lunch break and then lessons again from 3 until 4.30 or even 5pm.

As somebody mentioned up thread school applications are made in April to start in September and the school year is a calendar one Jan thru to Dec so depending when your DC were born they could be up to a full year behind or infront iyswim. DS1 is December born and so the youngest in his class. I only have experience of the 1st year Primary so far, but it´s true that I find it to be quite an old-fashioned system compared to the UK. Lots of copying and dictation and homework already and DS is only 6. This could be a disadvantage for somebody who is new to Spanish.

If you apply for a school place outside the official period you are likely to be offered the school that has places whether it´s one of your choices or not, it may not even be near to your house. Just to be clear, I am talking about Spanish state schools, I can´t talk for the private ones, I know they have a different criteria.

As you know already, Summers are very hot and dry (up to 40 in Central Spain and the South) and even in the North of Spain Summers get far hotter than what we are used to in the UK, much more than just a few degrees hmm If you don´t like the heat it can be unbearable and it can be hard to find things to do with small children. I speak from bitter experience.

There are plenty of Summer camps even for small children, in fact in my experience most parents send their children to these sorts of activities in the Summer from a very young age. I don´t have any personal experience though.

Good Luck. Honestly...I think it can be very hard to break into Spain, I have struggled and I live in a big city. In my experience Spanish people tend to stick with the friendships they have had for years,and rely on their family more, most people work very long hours and the parks are usually deserted during the day. As already mentioned, times in Spain are tough at the moment and the mood is fairly low, I am not here out of choice.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:11:53

Can I just be clear I'm not looking to either place to support me financially , I would like to be sure I'm not going to be billed thousands if one of the dcs breaks a leg

Do we really have such controls in the uk? I am not aware of ever being asked to prove residency or entitlement when I enrolled anyone at school or nursery. I don't remember anything on a child benefit form or when going to A and E or any suggestion that EU residents are not entitled to healthcare

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:13:20

Here's how you defraud the UK system. Set up fake company, with employees from an EU country where it's hard to make background checks, eg Lithuania. Use real identities of Lithuanians, open bank accounts using these real identities (paying the person to travel to the UK, if they don't actually live here to start this up). The fake company gives a fake contract to the real Lithuanian, working the minimum number of hours and minimum wage in order to qualify to working tax credits. Start a claim for working tax / child tax credits and child benefit (children of EU nationals are not obliged to live in the UK, only in the EU and exist, in reality their identities and existence cannot usually be checked). Lithuanian person starts getting working tax credits / child tax credits and child benefit, all paid into the UK bank account. A direct debit is set up to withdraw all these benefits and pay them to the person running the scheme.

It's been done and is probably still happening.

Great apologies to Lithuanians reading this, first nationality that came into my head.

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:14:27

Thanks Peter 6 years is a long time to spend somewhere you don't want to be sad

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:17:29

Tbh natation from what I've seen in my limited experience you can just come here for a holiday stay with family or friends are you're away

peterpie Mon 18-Feb-13 18:18:39

It sure is South, I try not to think about it for the most part sad

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:21:14

The reason why I have referred back to the UK in case you are all overseas is that there is a lot in the papers about whether people will come here from various places when the rules change later this year or next.

Accompanied by the usual 'don't you dare
Try and bring inI rules from the EU' 'we have freedom of movement' etc etc

Sorry my coffee shop has closed need to go back to work
Thanks again

Southwest Mon 18-Feb-13 18:22:16

Sorry random punctuation on escalator and autocorrect is going crazy

Thanks all

natation Mon 18-Feb-13 18:34:02

The UK papers are referring to Bulgarian and Romanians who get full EU freedom of movement status soon. Honestly, so many have already come and set up genuinely or using fake self-employed status in the UK that I don't think that many more will come. The vast majority of those who will come will not be coming for benefit fraud. As explained already, they don't even need to be present in the UK to defraud our benefits system for the type of fraud described. Up till now Bulgarians and Romanians have had only limited EU freedom of movement rights throughout the EU25. The biggest "mistake" if you could call it that was to give the EU10 freedom of movement from 2004 when most of the EU countries restricted their full rights, meaning the UK is now rather overpopulated.

The UK's main problem is the fact that it has no internal controls, leaving our benefits system open to abuse like no other EU countries and also the fact that the NHS is free at source, meaning rarely do they actually bill those who are not entitled to use it for free.

You break your leg where I live in the EU and everyone gets billed and then has to apply for refunds through their health insurer. If you haven't a health insurance, then you cannot claim a refund. Try and claim child benefit where I live and you need to prove you're working or have paid social security in the previous 12 months and now unemployed.

fraktion Mon 18-Feb-13 19:31:57

Ditto France - break your leg, pay the bill if you don't have a carte vitale. Even if you're covered and have a mutuelle you still have to settle the bill before you leave if you don't have the card.

As for residency in the UK the checks are pitiful. Emergency treatment in the UK is free, over that and they'll ask if you're resident but if you lie and say you are and have some kind of proof of address no matter how flimsy it's fine. If you have a non-foreign sounding name they don't even ask. They enquire more closely if you don't speak the language.

Booboostoo Mon 18-Feb-13 21:50:02

I only know about France and the short answer is that it is very complicated and it seems an odd thing to do to get mixed up in it all for questionable benefits.

If you live for more than 6 months a year in France you will be considered a resident here for tax purposes. Any income you have in France will be taxed accordingly but foreign income (as long as it's not remitted to France) is not taxed by France for the first 5 years (after which double taxation agreements apply between France and some countries).

You will only get public health care coverage (at around 70% for most things)
- if you are salaried by a French company or
- if you are self-employed and pay French social contributions, or
- your or your partner are salaried by a UK company

Otherwise you have to take out full private health cover which is available but costs about 6k euros per person per year for basic coverage.

The only other option is for the UK to pay for your healthcare. To even consider your eligibility for this you need to have NI contributions for the tax year before the one you go to France. Provided you do, they look at your NI contributions for the past 3 years and then give you a maximum of 2.5 years coverage.

The French require you to show health coverage of one form or another when you become resident.

You are supposed to notify the mairie when you become resident.

You need ID and the equivalent of NI number when you try to do pretty much anything having to do with children, e.g. enroll them with a childminder, creche or school, for public and semi-public institutions. Truly private schools are rare especially outside of the large cities.

School hours are very different from the UK with most children opting to return home for lunch between 12 and 2 and most schools (at least primaries) closed on a Wednesday, so extra childcare is a consideration for many families.

Simple things can take ages, e.g. if you want a mobile, even a pay as you go, you need ID, proof of address and a special letter from your (French) bank proving you have an account with them.

frenchfancy Tue 19-Feb-13 07:16:11

I'm struggling to understand why anyone would want to put their children through this. The first year in a new country is hard and lonely but you get through it knowing it is going to get better. One or 2 terms gives you all the hard work with none of the reward. French teachers have got enough on their plate without having to deal with children who don't speak the language just because the parents think it will be fun. If ypu have to move for work then fine, but otherwise you are just being selfish.

I'm sorry to be blunt but that is how I would feel if you turned up in our village. We have lovely teachers who work hard, they don't need the extra workload.

Bonsoir Tue 19-Feb-13 08:02:07

At my DD's school in Paris there are, every year, a few families that arrive and enroll on a similar basis to the one that the OP is proposing. But DD's school has a special "immersion" programme for such DC, so they are not in mainstream classes but in smaller classes where they do intensive French with other such children, and pay a different fee. The parents are all financially independent sorts, looking for a fun way to spend a year and enrich their DCs' lives. They don't always find it as fun as all that and their DCs often fall behind academically.

frenchfancy Tue 19-Feb-13 08:47:14

And that is in Paris where they can manage it. Small village schools simply don't have those resources.

Bonsoir Tue 19-Feb-13 09:30:38

No, and it would be perfectly well within the rights of village families to be very unwelcoming to a foreign family who wanted to use the local school for an extended holiday.

Portofino Tue 19-Feb-13 10:15:14

I think you would be mad to do it. As someone who made a more permanent move, it took me at least 2 years to settle down. I cannot overemphasise enough how much it really is same shit, different country. An extended holiday is one thing. Negotiating schools, healthcare, insurance, bills, etc etc in another language can be a bloody nightmare.

Even simple things like going to the chemists, or having your hair cut takes on a whole other level of complexity. And people tend to be more conservative and have a network of family and (very) old friends. It can take AGES before you get to know people on a more than superficial level. I have only lasted this long without cracking up as there is a wide expat community in Brussels.

We have stayed on several gite complexes with English owners in recent years. Whilst on the surface it looks like they live the dream, every one of them talked about how hard it was, at least in the early years and how hard and long the winters are still.....

ZZZenAgain Wed 20-Feb-13 10:54:20

I am not sure if a term would achieve much. It might be nice to take a term out of school and live in Frnace for that time if you taught them at home, kept up the schoolwork a bit and got private French tutors in for the dc and sent them out to various sports,, dance or artwork activities which take place in French. That might work. I am not sure about the situation in France wrt home education but if it is just for a term, it should work out. I seem to recall that HE dc in France are obliged to sit tests at the end of the year but that need not concern you if you are leaving before then. If you then went back year after year on holiday, you would have a good base for their French acquisition.

I met a man who put his dc in local schools here for 1 year. He was an academic spending a year working abroad. The dc did not speak the language and I am not sure whether he prepared them beforehand with language lessons. The dc did not enjoy the experience and did not acquire the local language to the extent that they could speak fluently or indeed I presume write well. It was just too difficult to follow lessons in a foreign language and they were too old to simply pick it up in the school context. The dc were 9, 13 and 15. Since he really wanted them to pick up the language, he also did not enrol them for any of the expat English language groups/activities but wanted them fully immersed in the local language. This meant the dc were lonely.The father did pick up the language very well in that year because he insisted on speaking to everyone only in the local language (including his own dc who simply stopped speaking to him!). For the dc it was tough. We are in the Czech Republic.

I have seen a video about an American family whose parents sent them to a private school in Russia for Russian speakers. They were there for 2 years I think and it gives you an idea of how the experience is for dc. I will see if I can find the video and link to it. The youngest dc found it easiest to get used to Russian. Of course his classes were the least demanding too since content was limited and the correct choice of nuance and grammar was less important at his stage of learning. It is really not so easy for dc as we are sometimes led to believe. They do not simply pick it up, they work at it. When you are past reception age, you don't tend to have friendships with dc if you cannot talk to them.

ZZZenAgain Wed 20-Feb-13 10:57:43

fluent by the end

My Ukrainian friend's ds took a year to become fluent in German while attending German primary school, arriving aged 12. It set him back academically but he did manage to get into a high achieving school and acquire his A level equivalent. He knew though that he was there to stay and had to get to grips with it.

Bonsoir Wed 20-Feb-13 11:01:25

In France there are schools with special "adaptation" or "immersion" classes that aim to make non-French speaking DC sufficiently fluent within a year that they can then join mainstream classes. My DD's school offers this, but there are others. TBH, it is difficult even for the DC who go through the immersion system (and the classes are tiny, the teachers highly experienced and the whole thing utterly supportive) and the difficulties tend to carry on for years. DC who have been through immersion often need extra tutoring for several years.

Umlauf Wed 20-Feb-13 11:12:45

I am really surprised by some of the responses but it is really interesting to read different opinions. I live in a researchers residence in the Basque Country, and my apartment block is full of researchers and their families who are here for anything from 6months to 3 years. All their DC are at Spanish schools and some are even contending with the dual language system (some schools teach in Basque and Spanish). Being children they have mostly picked the language up enough to socialise happily by the end of the first term. Many other Spanish children who move here face the same thing with the Basque language so schools are well equipped to deal with it. Socialising is considered instrumental to child development and the teachers place a huge focus on ensuring DCs are integrating, it counts as a subject all my itself (something like key social skills) and so they are hot on it. A lot of the private schools here also teach some subjects in English as well to encourage learning English. We are in a big city and It sounds really different in France from what other posters have said though so I can't speak for everywhere.

In terms of the practicalities for you, It would be very hard doing it without working and having access to healthcare that way, so perhaps the extended summer holiday with home schooling is a far better idea, obv with the appropriate insurance. And it really depends how old your DCs are.

Also, don't tar all summer camps with the same brush! They run excellent Spanish'n'surf camps here for children which are incredibly popular and successful. IME children tend to learn language better when they have a real reason or need for it.

Lots to think about!

Bonsoir Wed 20-Feb-13 11:14:11

Spanish is a much easier language to learn the basics of than French.

Umlauf Wed 20-Feb-13 11:16:53

Maybe the OP should consider Spain over France then, if she's considering either.

I would agree with that point OP, I've picked up conversation Spanish much quicker (as an adult) than I did French as a child. If that affects your decision at all!

natation Wed 20-Feb-13 12:26:01

Moving for a year only with children under the age of 8 (to make immersion more feasible) CAN be done. However, choosing some random Normandy village and decamping there and hoping the school will have places and will cope just like that is not really a good plan.

We actually live at the moment in Brussels and moving here for just one year and putting young children in a local French school is feasible only 1) if you as a parent accept from the beginning that you and your children must work within the current choice of education system here and trying to get it to fit what you'd like of an education system will end in miserable failure, 2) if you choose an area which offers much after-school life and a social life for the parents too 3) if you choose a school used to a high turnover of children arriving without French and leaving again after a few years and 4) you have a child whose temperament is flexible to this massive change. If the plan in Brussels was lacking in any of these points, you could have the most miserable of a year. Oh and the only way you can access the local schools here is to register your presence at the commune, several communes give non Belgians a hard time who arrive without work and refused completely to register you, you might be given a 6 months trial period if you have no job, if you have lots of savings, you might just might persuade a commune official to register you normally.

natation Wed 20-Feb-13 12:33:03

ZZZenagain, that Moscow school might be where our 2 youngest might end up if they are allowed in a year's time. They do have the advantage that their dad is fluent Russian (not mother tongue level mind you). The other alternative is AAS which is major expat enclave.

ZZZenAgain Wed 20-Feb-13 13:52:56

I think it would be quite difficult to choose a school in Moscow. If we went, I really don't know where I would send dd. The younger your dc are, the easier immersion will be for them of course. At that particular school the fees are not negligible. He writes that it cost $10,000 p.a. per dc in 2007 and, as you saw, the facilities are nothing great. I realise now that they did actually stay for 4 years and not just two.

natation Wed 20-Feb-13 14:11:55

AAS fees would be around €55k per year for our children, so NHS would be I reckon just over half the cost, our children would be category 1 for AAS and paid for anyway (like nearly all children there). I don't know if NHS is approved though for paying fees, our children would not be allowed in a local school because of security risks, lycée francais doesn't look great in Moscow, BISM on past experience of children there is not a great choice compared to AAS. Let's hope it's not Moscow! But if it is, the fees are paid and dad being fluent gives us a bit of advantage.

ZZZenAgain Wed 20-Feb-13 14:21:02

I think it will be a major help having at least one parent able to converse fluently with the staff in Russian. BISM were the problems related to the behavour of pupils? This is something that would concern me because from what I have seen the behaviour of some of the dc of wealthy Russian families isn't something I would like my dd to emulate.

natation Wed 20-Feb-13 14:38:29

Are you in moscow ZZZenAgain, well you must have some connection to have written that!!!! I'm not actually sure BISM would be on the approved list now due to security concerns related to its intake, my info is a couple of years out of date, but the intake would worry me a bit yes. Then AAS is not somewhere you send your children to integrate, it's very American, not sure we'd fit in there, but the sports facilities are a major pull and the fact that being the odd one out and not choosing AAS might be hard. More than anything, I'd like the children to know Russian is the community language and not everyone in Moscow has the privileges they would indeed have living there.

ZZZenAgain Wed 20-Feb-13 14:45:43

we go there quite a bit and of course I am generalising here but I am doing it on the basis of my experience with these dc from very wealthy families. It just isn't good for character if you grow up with the constant doting attention of 2-3 nannies at your beck and call, day and night and all the rest of it. (Actually I don't understand why any dc needs 3 nannies, surely they would argue with each other all the time?)It leads to a lot of problems. I don't think this would be an issue at that school on the link I provided but it would be at some schools.

fraktion Wed 20-Feb-13 16:01:53

The nanny hierarchy in Russian families is fascinating. They usually have 2 Russian nannies who are on call 24/7 in shifts and then an EMT nanny/governess who is nominally in charge but in reality rarely talks to the local nannies.

Bonsoir Wed 20-Feb-13 16:14:35

There is a Russian (Muscovite) family in my apartment building in Paris and I can attest to the two-nanny, 24/7 scenario. The children go to DD's bilingual (English-French) school. The mother says her children's Russian isn't very good though - the nannies are Ukrainian and apparently their Russian isn't very good!

natation Wed 20-Feb-13 16:50:50

What is worse, being at school with ultra-rich Russians who arrive at school in armoured blacked-our cars and their 2 nannies or ultra-rich children of multi-national executives whose children live in the expat bubble and have never graced the Mosco metro, never mind a dirty rotten trolley-bus and whose Russian would not even be at paca paca / spasibo level? Nothing financially or materially in common with either group. The NHS sort of school with its run-down buildings seem quite appealing to me.

I do know a Russian family who is chief exec of a large Russian oil company, funny they only have one nanny and spouse who actually works in a beauty salon, they are almost semi-normal hey in comparison.

Fleecy Wed 20-Feb-13 20:13:00

OP we were planning to move to Valencia this summer but have decided to stay in the UK. Spain is not in a good way - you're right in thinking you'd struggle to find work. But if you don't work you don't have access to healthcare at all, although your children would be given emergency treatment.

In the province of Valencia, pharmacies haven't been paid since May last year and many have stopped ordering in more drugs so you might struggle to get a prescription filled. The schools have seen major cutbacks and, as someone else said, you don't get a choice as to where your DC would go. You'd have to register at the town hall as a resident before you could enrol them for school and they'd have to undergo a medical.

Plus, Valencia has it's own language so most schools teach some lessons in Valenciano and others in Castilian.

I'm really not sure it's possible to do it for a term - perhaps for a year but you'd probably want to go for an international school. It's about half the price of private school here but still £££ if you're taking a break from work.

Dvushka Thu 21-Feb-13 10:14:55

We did exactly what you are thinking of doing OP. We're now in our second year of school here in Paris and the kids really enjoy it. We did do a fair amount of research and decide to send them to a private school 'under contract' which has a special adaptation programme for children with limited or no knowledge of french. After the first year, they were good enough to go right into regular french classes and are doing well academically. They haven't had problems making friends or adapting to the different system here. We're considering staying another year even.

It does depend on the kids/family - I do know of people who've left after one year because the kids weren't adjusting well. It's difficult to say until you try. My kids were also 5 and 8yrs when we arrived so young enough.

The school might still take kids into the adaptation programme (I know of some last year who arrived in Jan/Feb) but only if they have space. In any case, now would be the time to apply for Sept. and the price is reasonable compared to private school in the UK. PM me if you want more info on the school.

natation Thu 21-Feb-13 15:00:26

Well the OP said she was looking to do between a term to a year abroad, so if you have children in their 2nd year of school in France, it's not the same is it?

Dvushka Thu 21-Feb-13 17:56:15

okay.... We originally were only going to stay one year, decided to stay another. The kids enjoyed their first year too and it would have been fine if we had decided to go back to the UK after that. No harm done.

Southwest Fri 22-Feb-13 23:17:59

Thanks guys, all opinions/info appreciated

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