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Making a change for a better life (with kids) - what, where, how?

(53 Posts)
bourbonmadness Mon 01-Feb-16 19:46:17

DH especially and I somewhat have always talked about having a change in lifestyle and not living in the Truman show for ever more. We have 2 small children (5, 4) and we are comfortable financially. My husband is well paid and I work part time, more for sanity than for the money (I have a profession). We live significantly below our means. We we want to move for better secondary schools in the next few years and could afford to add £200K+ cash to a property without having a mortgage (lucky I know) and look at regional 'better areas' and ponder. However, we are both like 'is this what we really want?' As my husband said he doesn't know whether he wants to buy into the 'middle class bullshit' iykwim.
My husband has intermitent ideas which range from the Ben Fogle series type - lets give up everything and live in rural France and spend some money we have not working and sustaining to applying for similar jobs as we do now in Aus. We contiplated similar before DC's but various options ended up falling through and it never came off.
I'm up for something and don't aspire to have a perfect identi-kit house full of feature walls, 'our family' type signs and kids kitted out in Joules hmm, but ultimately I am a realist and want the childrens needs to be met in terms of education etc and I'm aware the grass isn't always greener. Has anyone else has similar feelings, experiences that they could share? Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

Joopy Mon 01-Feb-16 22:23:34

What do you want from life? Why do you think rural France will make you happier? I've just returned from 10 years living abroad in a beautiful place but I am so much happier back in the UK.

bourbonmadness Mon 01-Feb-16 22:41:22

I like spending time with my family the most and enjoying really simple pleasues (which we are able to do a lot of at the moment even though we both work). However, we both feel it is so hum drum and perochial where we are the moment in suburbia where we're not part of anything and want a change and a personal challenge too as adults, as well as the wider family needs.

We also have longer term concerns about the future for young people in the UK and the current focus on acquiring stuff which is never used / play with and wonder whether elsewhere this might be different.

Although we haven't lived anywhere oustide the UK we have travelled a fair bit outside usual holiday resorts for periods of time and it seems that in, for example, many parts of Europe people seem less materialistic and more into enjoying the simpler things in life but maybe this is a figment of my imagination??!
The issue is whenever we pitch an idea together I ultimately bottle it as I get scared! My husband could potentially get a job overseas but I'd be concerned this we be the same as now once the novelty of a new place had worn off.

Laptopwieldingharpy Tue 02-Feb-16 00:14:37

Yes, it might be tge same as novelty wears off. And it might even be not as nice after all the upheaval.
Sounds like you have all your priorities aligned and i'm sure you would make a great life for yourself elsewhere but what's the point?
Just itchy feet? Why not go and see the world now for 3-4 years as the kids are still little?
Somewhere different and exciting where your DH can get a job. Live the adventure to the full without making definitive decisions about settling there? ( you say you are financially secure so this would not impact things too much. Keep your property and rent it out for now.)
Give yourself 2 years to realise you love and miss your life in Australia or move on to Europe.
There is a thread about "dream" destinations. Go have a look?
Asia is a good in between with tons of us doing just that!

Glastokitty Tue 02-Feb-16 00:55:27

Well I've moved countries a few times, looking for home I guess. I've loved all the places I've chosen to live and found different benefits in each place, but moving countries is expensive and stressful and not for everyone. And no one can tell if it will suit you or not, its inevitable a bit of a gamble, but then there are few certainties in life. In my opinion it was worth the gamble, my family have had a fun and exciting life, but there are costs too. We have left many friends behind (thank god for Skype and facebook) and we miss our families of course. But we have found a wonderful place to live and feel like we are on holiday every weekend, and we are all very happy, so for us it has been worth it. But I've also seen people lose fortunes and marriages trying to stay here, so only you can decide really.

PrimalLass Tue 02-Feb-16 07:04:10

I wonder if you really needed to insult half of Mumsnet or whether you could have just asked advice on moving abroad.

elQuintoConyo Tue 02-Feb-16 07:53:04

If you don't aspire to 'the identikit house feature walls Joules clothes' type of life, then don't do it, is isn't compulsory. We're more Ikea-inherited furniture/h&m/white walls/real artworks kinda people. Doesn't make us superior to anyone else and I'm sure there are more like us.

Living the Truman Show life sounds like a stealth boast.

I'd second Laptopweildingharpy and travel lots now, settling down when dc are secondary school age.

AgentProvocateur Tue 02-Feb-16 08:24:48

You say you're not part of anything where you are and you find it humdrum and parochial. What makes you think that you'd fit in better anywhere else? Even the most suburban area has things going on and interesting people, but you need to make the effort. You are disparaging towards other people, and this probably comes across in your everyday interactions.

Maybe instead of thinking about moving abroad (which sounds like a pipe dream, considering neither of you have worked overseas before) you should open your mind a bit and make your own excitement here.

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Tue 02-Feb-16 08:32:42

People in "other parts of Europe" aren't materialistic like the Brits maybe because they are deep in the longest recession since forever and can barely put food on their tables?

You are comfortably off- which obviously is a plus point. But bear in mind that where I am, (south east Europe) a 2 bedroom flat on the 3rd floor of our building is on sale at 750,000 euro. That might be nothing to someone selling a Fulham pad, but add phenomenal taxes, and everything here (apart from fruit and veg in season) costing at least double what it does in the UK, and your savings will soon be eaten into.

I suggest you watch some of those programmes where the dream goes wrong before upping sticks.

It really is not all "driving over lemons and having parrots in the garden and being force fed homemade pasta by toothless yet friendly locals"

And unless you are going to Paris, Germany or Scandinavia, you'll be hard pushed to find a "better" education system.

I put the "better" like that because I am in a country whose education system is slated by, well, almost everyone, everywhere, including the people who live here. And I have nothing but praise for it. It depends on your attitude to schools, very much so. And reading the MN angsty school threads I really would not advise anyone to move here without a hell of a lot of research, lots of holidays in the place and chucking the rose tinteds away.

jenpetronus Tue 02-Feb-16 09:44:53

Just to put a bit of balance on things, I am in rural France and have been for 14 years, so have been through the "grass is greener, I want to go home" things many times. But.....we're still here. And on balance, overally, we're really happy. DS's have both had opportunities and education (so far, I'm getting a bit anxoius for DS1) way beyond anything we could have afforded or offered them in the UK (DS1 will go skiing for the 1st week of half term next week - all ski passes/food/accommodation/tuition etc - €150 shock)

However, there are loads of challenges and stuff to deal with that wouldn't suit everyone. I think as others have said you need to re-examine your reasons and be honest with yourselves and each other about what you want.

It can work. But it often doesn't!

MyFriendsCallMeOh Tue 02-Feb-16 14:07:51

You may find that the best education is in materialistic middle class communities...... Rural France does not hide a whole bunch of award winning schools hmm

mrsnec Tue 02-Feb-16 14:35:42

We're in southern Europe.

Close to a popular resort but rural. A house like ours which is a traditional 3 bed bungalow on a large plot will set you back 100k or you can rent for 250 a month. We have budget supermarkets like the UK and lower energy bills and decent international schools with transport from the village.

That's the plus side. We didn't get the sense of community we wanted. I feel you kind of get forced to socialise with people you wouldn't normally just because you have the ex-pat thing in common and locals aren't as hospitable as they like to think they are.

I have never found work here and had a failed business venture and it took dh 6 years to establish his business. If you both need to work then it is best to have something lined up.

I got pregnant soon after my business failed and by that point the business was just about established enough for me to be a sahm. I don't have any friends here with babies the same age but I love that kids still play out in the street here and people leave their front doors open it just feels like a good place to bring up a family. I've not been back to the UK since but dh does often mention it.

Moving cost us an absolute fortune. I know lots of people who moved back some after not very long at all and it seems like such a waste. I hate the idea of going back and having to start again but we hated where we lived in the UK so anywhere would be better than there and if we went back we'd be in rented accommodation in entry level jobs the wrong side of 35. Not ideal.

Emms86 Tue 02-Feb-16 15:45:17

I'm really not sure that's the case-this certainly hasn't offended me anyway 🤔

LadyCassandra Wed 03-Feb-16 02:45:17

We moved overseas. We weren't on a particularly high income in the UK, and (probably stupidly) moved from the North West to the equivalent of London, price wise. So we live in a shoebox that costs more to rent than my sister's 4 bedroom house (as my DM kindly shares with us on a regular basis). It sounds like you would fit in here, we are the poor people around here, the town is full of middle class English and South African families who wanted a change from the classic British middle class lifestyle, but essentially live the same life in the sun.
Same shit different weather.
Personally we are very happy here, but we lived in a shithole in the UK and DH's family are pretty crazy, so we feel we made the right decision, and after 6 years this is definitely home.
Good luck with whatever you decide, just remember location doesn't change much!

guihailin Wed 03-Feb-16 04:28:08

It was Alain de Botton who wrote about longing for the holiday then discovering with shock as he lay on the beach that he was the same man with the same worries !

Several things on your post to help you for way forward:

1. Homelife need not be Truman show humdrum no matter where you live - London, or any capital city. Your home deco and philosophy can be what you want, no matter your neighbours or income. Facebook founder lives in a bungalow, simply. Look at Japan and Danish influence for non-clutter home. Holidays can be super adventurous. You can excel and live a worldwide lifestyle wherever you are.

2. Simplest way to introduce controlled risk is for your DH to get an International secondment. That can add alot of spice without much risk.

3. Up sticks to France is a big risk and one many families regret. It's like Tarzan/Jane swinging from a branch and then realizing the next branch isn't there. This seems to be bit less so with Skandinavia or Netherlands in particular. But there are success stories everywhere; just it may be tough to realise just how it is not to have a monthly wage.

4. Within the UK, try Wales or East Anglia.

5. Or go wild and anywhere (Barbados? Thailand? Umbria?) but be prepared to let your children board at 11+ for them to have an excellent, stable education whilst you fancy foot it wink

MaryRobinson Wed 03-Feb-16 05:02:03

You know, ultimately we live inside our heads. And no matter where you are in the world there will be bills in the letter box and shopping to do and parents evening. (Trust me). Unless you are in holiday you just can't get away from the humdrum stuff. Also known as same shit/shinier bucket syndrome.

I would question why you can't have the life you want where you are. Really ask yourselves that? If you want a rural place why don't you have it? If you are bored bored bored how have you ended up spending your time with boring people or doing stuff that bores you. Really your husband has bought wholesale into the Middle Class Bullshit (as opposed to what?).

But if you wanted a change and were thinking ahead about schools I would move to a city/place that has excellent international schools like Geneva/Singapore/New York. I love France, but it is for holidays, if you think rural life would be great.... Think through your daily life. What will you do for 12 hours a day, and will les rustiques enhance your life in a way that your neighbours in Blighty can't (btw, the answe is No!)

Glastokitty Wed 03-Feb-16 05:45:56

While I agree in part with the idea that we all live inside our heads, and if you emigrate you still have to do all the humdrum bits of life, so same shit shinier bucket, this isn't an entirely complete picture. Personally speaking my life is measurably better for having moved, and the weather is a big part of that. I no longer dread the winter and wonder if I had a touch of SAD. My depression is gone too. And I know from talking with many emigrants they feel the same. You wouldn't go through all the stress and upheaval if you didn't think it was going to be better in the new country! Of course for some people they find that for them, it isn't better at all, and they go home. It is always going to be partly a very expensive and stressful gamble, and no amount of holidays or research trips can mitigate that.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Wed 03-Feb-16 07:19:36

Do you speak any languages other than English fluently?

Living your life in a language that doesn't come automatically to you, even if you "get by" in the language is psychologically hard. You never quite belong or feel properly part of things. Every time you open your mouth in front of new people they ask where you are from, you never lose your accent unless you learn the language from a native speaker as a child. You always feel a little bit thick as you are so much less able to articulate complex concepts spontaneously the way you can in your native tongue.

At first you have a big adrenalin rush and will to make it work, to learn the language, to fit in - then winter hits (or just the 6 month dip) and you hate it and are angry with everyone, then you feel better after several months and make a big effort again - that cycle repeats for about 5 years, if your move is permanent/ very long term, then finally you are settled and wouldn't move back to the UK because visits show you that if you did you wouldn't feel at home, and you know your kids consider your new country home and wouldn't have the same freedoms and opportunities... but you will always be a stranger everywhere now, not quite at home anywhere for all you have a job and friends and a house and your kids are part of the local community...

It'll be great for your kids to grow up bilingual but you might end up feeling peripheral, and they might get bored as teens in a rural location and you'll worry about them accepting lifts with friends who might potentially have a drink while out, or you'll have to become their taxi service, or ban them from having a social life. You might want to try the UK again in 10 years but know it would be deeply selfish to uproot your teens at that point and take them to a country and education system that is your home and comfort zone not theirs.

I couldn't bring my kids up in the UK now - I like the freedom they have in rural Germany and the fact they are fully bilingual. There are lots of things I don't like about the UK that would really rankle if we moved back, but also lots of things I don't really like here. I do think on balance life here is better, however I also know that I am stuck here whatever I think, til the youngest is through school unless I want to be a total selfish arse and uproot them from the only home they remember.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Wed 03-Feb-16 07:26:21

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark I find rural German kids noticeably less materialistic than British kids and the German economy is in better shape than the British one - I disagree that the materialism is necessarily directly related to the current national economy.

jenpetronus Wed 03-Feb-16 08:49:57

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne has summed it up perfectly, and much more eloquently than I could!

Letsnotaskforthemoon Wed 03-Feb-16 10:03:24

I also second what Schwabischeweihsnachtskanne said and especially the language stuff - german does that too you grin.

We moved because of husbands work and this is the second european country we have been in. Going down this route if you can is the easiest route for you especially if you can be in the coccoon of expat life and by that I mean the company helping with housing, children's schooling, getting you settled etc.
I would say, why wouldn't you give that a go? Rent your house out and see how it goes.

However.... there is always a aber...... Your husband will be fine, life will not change much for him, he will still go to work and his day to day life will maybe be more interesting (new job etc), the children will probably be ok, new experiences etc. Then there is the sahm. I have found trying to get work here very difficult, language just not fluent, germans are obssessed with the correct training and qualifications.
So almost five yrs here and it is only now that I feel I have a reasonable life for myself, not fantastic but decent enough. I haven't gone down the whole expat scene so don't have masses of friends (more acquaintances) but that's ok as i have my hobbies and stuff.

The kids love it here and hopefully we will stay - husband is not so settled as language skills are very poor and he feels a fish out of water. So he will want to move and we all hope the company does not have any other job for him.

I too do not miss day to day life in the UK (though put me in a British supermarket and I am in heaven) though I had no family of my own and few ties. if you and your children have extended family near you and you have a support network then that in itself is really valuable. Having a "home" is not to be underestimated.

So my advice, give the overseas work posting a go if you can.

I understand the "is this it?" feeling - though as most people have said day to day life must be lived wherever you are.

Being content where you are - that is the key. if ony someone could bottle that feeling - i would be one of the first to buy.......

mrsnec Wed 03-Feb-16 11:44:47

Yes I agree with pp too but I have all the home comforts I could possibly wish for.

Language wise I've learned the alphabet so I can read it but not speak it but there are lots of different nationalities here anyway so you could try speaking the language and often you are speaking with someone who speaks a third language. I do wish I could communicate better with my neighbours and having dd was terrifying being in theatre and not being able to understand a word so I know to make more of an effort.

I think if you choose the country it takes careful consideration. Dh wanted to go to the states at first but we were going to have to pay for flights to an interview then more to check out the area and I said no because it was too much of a risk when we were rennovating our UK house. And he wasn't even qualified for the job he was going for anyway so taking a massive risk.

We came here as a compromise because he's an only child and his parents retired here because they couldn't get in anywhere else. Dh still regrets us not trying the states.

I think you get the same problems everywhere too with a few different ones chucked in!

Corruption and ridiculous bureaucracy are my biggest issues here. But I would have found things that bothered me in the us too. The politics and not being able to walk everywhere probably.

sayatidaknama Wed 03-Feb-16 13:30:43

"it seems that in, for example, many parts of Europe people seem less materialistic and more into enjoying the simpler things in life but maybe this is a figment of my imagination??!"

I can tell you that yes it is definitely a figment of your imagination. Nice idea but don't let all the wholesome media images you see of rural France lead you to believe it is much different to UK. Same shit different language imo.

"My husband could potentially get a job overseas but I'd be concerned this we be the same as now once the novelty of a new place had worn off."

Living abroad can be great but don't be misled into thinking it is the answer to all your utopian desires. Yes the novelty does wear off, winter sets in and, as I said previously, the same shit happens that you get back home. It can be harder, it can be better, just best not to be deluded in your approach to it.

mrsmortis Thu 04-Feb-16 14:18:48

Living in a new place is great. You get lots of new things to explore and do etc. But that doesn't make it easy. I've lived in 7 cities in 3 countries outside the UK since I graduated and I love it. But you have to be willing to deal with the downsides too.

First off, living somewhere where you don't speak that language is tough. I studied German to degree level but my first few weeks in country I fell into bed as soon as I walked in from work. It takes that much extra brain power. Even after several months it is still hard. And my DH only has GCSE to fall back on so anything above basic communication is hard for him and it makes him very isolated.

And think about distance too. When I was living on the west coast of the US my mum was hospitalised with suspected melengitus. I was a 12 hour flight away. What would you do in that situation?

In a lot of places you have to accept that you are going to be apart of the expat community, not the local one, for many years after arriving. is that what you are looking for?

I don't want it to seem like there is nothing positive to be gained. But don't underestimate the sacrifices that could be involved too.

SpoiltMardyCow Thu 04-Feb-16 14:46:17

I have lived half my life in the UK and half outside of it.

In my opinion, the lifestyle outside the UK is better in so many ways: affordable housing, access to leisure, better weather, not as much stress for high-school kids over exams ....BUT...

I still miss the UK because it's home and I love pubs and fields and the BBC radio.

Living abroad is great but is no salve for missing your own culture, sense of humour and just your own people. You always feel a stranger when you're abroad.

There is no right answer. We could all sell up and live in a mansion in rural India and live like princesses. But would you really want that life? I don't think so.

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