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Thinking of moving abroad for a couple of years for the 'experience' - your ideas/thoughts

(18 Posts)
crazyhead Mon 04-Jul-16 17:15:48

Hello there,

Me and my husband are considering moving overseas for a couple of years for the experience. (of living someone new - we've been in London forever - and travelling that area).

We're not sure where yet, though an obvious opportunity would be a two year secondment to the US (Maryland) through his work, which would ensure we retained enough annual leave to travel.

We thought about Asia (Singapore or Hong Kong) but worry about work life balance. Switzerland also possible.

I could stay with the kids, work or potentially do an MA.

I'd love your thoughts as I haven't done this before and have many questions. Our kids are 2 and 4 and the oldest is due to start at school in the autumn. I've lived in Europe for a year as a student and loved it. I guess timing wise we're thinking now because I'm getting frustrated with my job, the kids are young, I am absolutely gutted about Brexit and it feels like a good time not to be in the UK.

We'd just rent our London house out.

Has anyone done similar? Did you have a good time and what made it good? Any thoughts about the age of the kids and how it would affect them? And any thoughts about great places to go?

mumhum Mon 04-Jul-16 18:39:22

Currently in Switzerland and loving it. DH offered opportunity when I was on second maternity leave. DC 5 and 1. DC1 had done one term of reception in UK and settled very quickly in international school. DC2 just started nursery. They are having such a great time, learning and exploring. We can drive to 5 different countries in 3 hours.

I am currently not working but my residence permit allows me to do so (important for me). I also already spoke German which really helps with settling in and making friends.

Cost of living is high but we are lucky with an expat package. We also do most of our shopping in nearby Germany which is much cheaper. UK house rented out ehich covers mortgage.

Any questions, please do ask away!

BertieBotts Mon 04-Jul-16 18:51:02

Absolutely 100% do it if you can!

Just be aware you might end up not wanting to go home shock

Iflyaway Mon 04-Jul-16 19:06:24

If you have the possibility, go for it!

And it sounds like a few places are possible for you, so that is great.

From the other side, I grew up in an expat family, in 3 countries. It is fab, lots of different world, cultural and educational experiences. Speak 4 languages now! smile And at your kids' ages it goes by osmosis....

crazyhead Mon 04-Jul-16 22:01:23

Thanks so much for your replies. I speak fluent German and ok French, so that would help with Switzerland.

How do you get to know people if you aren't working with young kids? Through mummy networks or signing up to cultural stuff and study?

Mumhum - where are you in Switzerland? I guess Zurich would be the most obvious for us.

We really like skiing so that's a bonus in Switzerland or some parts of the US we are looking at

KeyserSophie Tue 05-Jul-16 09:36:16

Re Hong Kong, the issue will be schools. You can theoretically use the local public system (Cantonese medium) but that requires a huge commitment on your behalf in terms of communication with the school and acceptance of a very different schooling style, and also, children in local system don't start full day school till age 6. There are obviously also a tonne of international schools which start at 4/5 depending on curriculum, but they are expensive and oversubscribed. The plus is that children only legally need to be in school from age 6 so he could do another year of pre-school.

Life/work balance is actually very good as pretty much everyone has "help" so weekends and evenings are very much your own. The city is very green with easy access to beaches and trails.

Expat packages are much rarer now, reflecting the fact that most companies can hire locally for most positions. Not sure what you and DH do, but do your sums - taxes are low but rents are astronomical, as are groceries etc.

It's probably not the place to be if you're bored of separatist politics though. The reabsorption of HK into China is ever so slightly contentious.

mumhum Tue 05-Jul-16 12:43:34

I am in Schaffhausen, near Zurich. I have made friends via DC1 in international school and DC2 english speaking playgroup. Plus DH's work have social events. Expat community very friendly as we are all in the same boat, transient so open to new friendships. I also have some local friends by meeting neighbours.

Skiing is only a few hours drive and we have always found good childcare on the slopes too. In the summer there are loads of hiking trails, cycle paths and beaches on the Rhine. Lots of outdoor pools too. Every neighbourhood also has a good playground so we take a picnic out lots of days.

Switzerland is very expensive (health insurance, school fees, petrol, groceries) so an expat package is a huge advantage. However there were already cuts to these before Brexit. But local schools have good reputations and I know friends with children very happy there so it can be done.

We are very happy here and hope to stay for at least 5 years.

BertieBotts Tue 05-Jul-16 14:37:53

Zurich is apparently the most expensive city to live in the world if that is a concern. We are in Germany and the cost of living is a bit cheaper than the UK. We're on the French border which is quite fun. And not far from proper mountains. There are also some smaller mountains near here people go skiing etc.

LIZS Tue 05-Jul-16 14:43:05

We spent 4 years in Zurich. Ime international schools are not geared up to provide a smooth transition in UK system. Ds "missed" year 2 and had a lot of ground to make up on our return in year 3 to cover the basics despite our best efforts. It is also a transient population so friends come and go.

eurochick Tue 05-Jul-16 14:45:23

Maryland would be amazing. As would Singapore. Friends who have lived in Switzerland have been rather underwhelmed by the experience and I have to say it doesn't massively appeal to me after spending a few weeks working there.

mumhum Tue 05-Jul-16 15:09:15

Life in the real Switzerland, not in the expat bubble, is great in my experience. Helps if you speak the local language.

ShanghaiDiva Tue 05-Jul-16 15:10:17

I used to live in Switzerland (near Zug) - and I found it incredibly boring and dull - although I was 19 at the time!
If you want to save some cash consider local schools, particularly if you speak German. Ds was in Kindergarten in Germany and local school in Austria for grades one and two. Not the most stimulating educational experience but a good solid foundation in German, maths etc and we supplemented this with English teaching at home and some more advance maths. This is straightforward as there is only school in the morning. Ds moved to a British curriculum school in year 4 and the transition was smooth.
Would take Singapore over Zurich any day, but it is very expensive.
Maryland sounds good - my brother used to live in Bowie and it was great being so close to DC - loads of fab museums.
My kids have been overseas their whole lives (3 countries) and have adapted well to cultural differences. The difficulty with learning new languages is maintaining them once you leave. Ds did take German AS level when he was 15 (he left Austria when he was 8) but it was, at times, a painful process to encourage him to continue.

mumhum Tue 05-Jul-16 15:32:05

Yes the Swiss can be a conservative bunch. As to the expense, you learn to find the bargains, shop smart (get a PO box in Germany/France for Amazon deliveries etc.), shop in Germany/France. I used to live in London and it is no more expensive.

DC's international school do the IB curriculum and primary very similar to UK (jolly phonices and ORT in reception for example). DC had also been on several trips in reception, he loved going in the school minibus. They also play out whatever the weather, in full rain or snow suits, no wet playtimes stuck indoors here.

Cannot compare to Singapore as never been, sounds great too.

metimeisforwimps Tue 05-Jul-16 15:39:52

I've lived in other countries and while I am extremely British my life has been made richer by the experience, and it's also opened up new ideas for me, and in a way I feel I've been given more choices in how I do things because of that. I can't see anything to recommend against really.
The only downside I can see is that the age your DC are they may not remember much of it when they are older, but on the flip side if you waited until they were older it would be more disruptive to their education.

mumhum Tue 05-Jul-16 15:43:27

Children here also encouraged to be independent from an early age - you see 4 year olds walking home from Kindergarten alone. A very safe place, hardly any crime. Our 18 yr old babysitter happily walks home alone at midnight.

crazyhead Wed 06-Jul-16 09:52:46

Thanks for all of your massively helpful thoughts! Husband works in finance and I work in corp comms - I might just study for a bit though. So I'm sure thanks to DH's income we'd get by financially in most places, but the ex pat package is a good point, which pushes us a bit towards Maryland. Also, we'd get some income from renting out our London property.

Keyser Sophie - good point about Hong Kong and separatist politics....Please, no more, I can't take any more! Obviously if we went to the US I could be making a seamless transition from Boris/Gove/Leadsom to Trump....oi gevalt

Xmasbaby11 Wed 06-Jul-16 19:14:24

I've lived in Hong Kong and loved it! It was pre kids but my cousin had a family there and they had a fantastic lifestyle. It's a beautiful place and really exciting! A very busy city and long working hours which I loved as a twenty something - like with anything it depends what you like.

PinkBallerina Thu 07-Jul-16 17:34:11

My kids love Switzerland. We leave school at 11.30am on a wednesday and by 12 we are on the ski slopes. Or the outdoor water parks. Or up in the mountains. Or swimming in the lakes. Depending on the season. It is great for children. The local schools are excellent, they provided us with free language lessons and DC are now fluent and working on their 3rd and 4th languages, which they find a breeze because once you have one foreign language it easy to pick up others, or so they tell me

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