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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?)


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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