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Where is the best place in Europe to raise a family?

(90 Posts)
Jess850 Mon 09-Jul-12 10:04:54

Where in Europe is the best or a good place to raise/continue raising a Family of Boys. Current ages 3 mths, 6 yrs and 9 yrs. Just day dreaming during a feed and wondered your thoughts? A bit random but DH and I often wonder how here compares and what it is like living in the big wide World Europe.

Kladdkaka Mon 09-Jul-12 17:22:38

Any of the Scandinavian countries apparantly. I can certainly see why that would be the case here in Sweden.

laptopwieldingharpy Tue 10-Jul-12 03:54:57

The netherlands
Amsterdam consistently ranking as one of the cities with the best quality of life. We vied there 2005-2006 with a toddler and it was an overall much easier life than in central London. Very user friendly for a big cosmopolitan city.
I also lived in The Hague with my family when I was younger.
Great lifestyle for teens. The drugs etc... are really only your face if you seek them. Its all very outdoorsy and sporty.
Language is never a barrier, everyone speaks English and there are very good schools/top universities with english as medium of education. If you plan to settle of course, you might consider local schools for your youngest at least.

Jess850 Tue 10-Jul-12 09:20:31

Thanks for your replies. What are the family perks of Sweden? I have heard that childcare is better quality and value.

Kladdkaka Tue 10-Jul-12 10:37:24

Childcare is top notch and state funded right from age 1, parents have to make a small contribution.

Parents get paid time off work to take care of poorly children

Education is free. Totally free. All children get free school meals, buss passes, school calculators, free higher education etc.

Children have an outdoor life here, like the UK many years ago. They play out and roam around. Prams with babies still get left outside the front door/shop door because it's safe.

Because it's safe, schools are open, there are no fences around them, no buzzing in etc. Parents are free to (have the right to) walk into any class at any time to see how their taxes are being spent educating their children.

The pace of life is much slower and less stress full. Work/life balance is amazing. Swedes believe that life comes first, work comes second without a shadow of doubt. Slaving away and working long hours is not considered normal.

surroundedbyblondes Tue 10-Jul-12 19:45:04

Agree with everything klad said, Sweden is excellent in many ways but healthcare is poor. Very much grit your teeth and bear it on that level.

Also no childcare til 12 months so one partner is obliged to be home caring for kids. Suits many, but I know some who have felt stifled by this lack of choice.

Wherever you may live, having helpful and involved family/friends is extremely valuable when it comes to living with young children.

For me personally, Belgium ticked all the boxes in terms of affordable/quality childcare, good schools and healthcare.

ContinentalKat Tue 10-Jul-12 20:02:23

No personal experience, but the Netherlands are supposed to be the best country in Europe to bring up children.

We used to live in Switzerland when the children were very little, and strictly from a children's point of view it was fantastic. Great outdoors lifestyle, lots of freedom, independence and security, excellent healthcare. Not quite so great for parents, though.

AlpinePony Tue 10-Jul-12 20:06:25

Absolutely anywhere your heart is.

Your quality of life is not dictated by your postcode - but by the joy in your soul and the love in your family.

I live in The Netherlands and it's not windmills which make me happy.

Kladdkaka Tue 10-Jul-12 22:35:15

Agree with everything klad said, Sweden is excellent in many ways but healthcare is poor. Very much grit your teeth and bear it on that level.

Really? My experience is that it leaves the NHS in its dust. I have a life long disabling condition and have received more help and support in the past 4 years than in the previous 40 years in the UK and when my husband had a cancer scare, he was referred to a specialist, tested and given the all clear within 3 days. Although I do find them rather chemophobic. I was somewhat shock when I was given 2 paracetamol as pain relief following an operation.

rollingfog143 Tue 10-Jul-12 23:08:33


ContinentalKat Wed 11-Jul-12 07:50:38

I think you've nailed it, alpine smile

PetiteRaleuse Wed 11-Jul-12 07:57:55

I'm in France but commute to Luxembourg for work. If I could afford it would move to Lux. The only thing lacking is the sea. To make up for it there are lakes that you can swim in, lovely countryside and children are catered fir pretty much everywhere.

Plus kids growing up here learn several languages - I know plenty of people who speak four or five.

Lux city is small enough to feel compact but has everything you'd expect of a capital city culturally, sports, shopping etc etc.

natation Wed 11-Jul-12 08:24:28

Wherever you can get a job or support yourself financially would be a good place to consider living, then add on the support network / fitting in with locals. Many Brits have moved to France for a better life, only to find that running a gite in the middle of rural France in Winter was maybe not in reality like their dream of a better quality of life.

DilysPrice Wed 11-Jul-12 08:25:17

Mate of mine from Sweden was looking for a job. I said why don't you come to London? London is finest city on god's earth and given your skills you could earn £££££££££££££££.
He said that he couldn't because in return for that ££££ he'd have to work really long hours, whereas in Sweden work took a father's need to take his DCs to the dentist and go to their carol concert really seriously.

OTOH the other reason I suggested a move to London was that his Black American wife was having a very difficult time integrating into the community - if you're not living in a multi-cultural neighbourhood Sweden can be unwelcoming to foreigners, and the language is a sod - much tougher than Dutch for example (Den Haag's always struck me as a lovely place to live).

PetiteRaleuse Wed 11-Jul-12 10:10:12

When I said I would move to Lux if I could it would purely be for an easier commute. I love living in France.

gastrognome Wed 11-Jul-12 12:52:44

I love raising my girls here in Belgium (Brussels). We have a great quality of life, and it is very family friendly. Everything is quite small scale and there are lots of parks and outdoor activities for kids, plus affordable childcare and great summer holiday activities. And the food is excellent smile

Jess850 Wed 11-Jul-12 12:58:07

Thank you all for Your replies it's really interesting to read them. Of course there are Pros and Cons to everywhere - I would like to know what for each.
I have concerns for my Son's future here* but agree wholeheartedly that is about building a solid family unit wherever you are and having a network around you - not necessarily Family.
*I know other places have their serious problems too...
ContinentalKat Please can you expand on not so good for adults, that is interesting - My Mum is Swiss and couldn't wait to leave for her own reasons and although I have Cousins bringing up their Families there we are on friendly e-mail/letter terms not really in depth discussion terms (yet).
My DH loves Belgium - he is a Cycling Sport nut though and raced there in his Younger days now takes my eldest to see races there.
We do go all dreamy over France and would love to know more about it but I expect the reality of living there is quite different to visiting/holidaying. My Mum loves it too and she lived there for a while.
My Sister recently moved to Wales and lots of people seem to be upping sticks following there dreams, good on them I say grin

Jess850 Wed 11-Jul-12 12:59:20

*their! Grammar is the first thing to go with baby brain...

outnumberedbymen Wed 11-Jul-12 13:08:31

it depends on sooo many factors though doesnt it? and which factor you think is most important at the moment.

Just to give an example: me and dh were both born in Germany, but I went to live abroad quite early - first a high school year in the US at 16, them after finishing school in Germany I moved to the UK to stay....and never left.

we moved back to GErmany just before ds2 was born as my mum's health was deterioting. we always always assumed, and told everyone, that we will move back to an English speaking countrxy within the next few years.

fast forward 3.5 years, ds3 is nearly 2, and ds1 and ds2 have been diagnosed with Aspergers. the amount of support both them and myself at home get is incredible! by law they are entitled to a full time 1-1 at pre-school and later at school, they get whatever additional therapies they need (ds1 gets OT and play therapy), they go to social skills group which also includes horse riding, we have a thery dog in our home twice a week....I could go on. And having children with special needs shows how much I appreciate being able to see specialists without referrals and massive waiting lists.

quality of living is also quite high here in general, and we have decided that for our children the best place to grow up is right here! Once ds1 and ds2 have completed school we will re-assess and maybe, just maybe, we can then fulfill our own dream of emigrating - maybe Oz (may absolute dream) or Canada (dh's dream).

no-one ever expected us to stay in Germany. In fact, our children grow up bilingual because we always thought we'd be back in an English speaking country sooner rather than later. But I guess priorities just change depending on circumstances.

Sorry for the essay blush

PetiteRaleuse Wed 11-Jul-12 13:10:40

The reality of France is very different. I would only recommend someone moved here if:

- they already knwe conversational French and were willing to become fluent
- they worked out the finances of everything realistically
- had savings / were coming to a decent job
- understood that France is a foreign country and things are different here
- understood that the French are different people and are willing to try and 'get' them rather than frogbash
- understand that baked beans are more expensive because they are imported, and that most things they want to eat which are specific to an English diet are either unavailable or more expensive

Can you tell I have had enough of expats over here whining? grin

That said it is a great place to live if you are willing to really try and fit in, embrace the French way of living and not just be part of an expat clique. The locals are understandably, in some areas, resentful of expats coming and pushing property prices through the ceiling and then sitting there getting drunk on rosé and being loud and rude about everything French. I'm thinking in areas like the Dordogne and Charente, where some villages have become pretty much everything I hate about Little England.

I'm guessing though that my rant above would pretty much apply to people wanting to move to any country. Nothing against you OP - I think moving abroad for the right reasons is brave and a great experience. I just get annoyed with UK expats over here

ContinentalKat Thu 12-Jul-12 07:50:12

We really liked Switzerland and were breaking out of the "expat bubble", but it was hard work.
I don't think me and dh would ever truly felt at home there. All in all, the UK works better for us and we feel like we are part of the community here.

I also struggled with the 1950's life of women - SAHM, but not by choice. My life improved a lot when I started part-time work. I still remember the shock on the Swiss mums' faces when I announced on the playground that I had found a job. One of them asked me if my dh didn't earn enough...

ContinentalKat Thu 12-Jul-12 07:53:57

Petite, I know exactly where you are coming from!

My expat highlights from Switzerland are: Why can the girl on the supermarket check out not speak English?
Where's the green top milk? Why don't they do proper bread?

If you don't want to do things like the Swiss, French, whatever, then don't move to their country!!!!

surroundedbyblondes Thu 12-Jul-12 21:49:01

Glad to hear you got the help you needed klad. I'm certain it beats the UK, other friends of ours have said the same. Fortunately we have no really serious things that we have had to deal with, but the 'regular' type of things we take the kids to the gp for take an age over here, compared to having a first rate local gp where we used to live. Plus many of the over the counter meds we used to get in Belgium aren't available either. But I agree, these are all for more minor ailments.

Love the work-life balance here and the quality and cost of childcare after 1.

Miss the yummy Belgian food though. And living in a very multicultural place where multilingual families are normal and I'm nor stared at when I speak my own language with my kids, even though I am extremely committed to fitting in, and make efforts to learn and actively use the local language, facilities etc.

Kladdkaka Thu 12-Jul-12 21:52:24

Ah yes, over the counter medicines. The inlaws bring the suitcase full of lemsips and cough medicines when they visit. And talc, which you can't get as the Swedes seem to think it's the work of the devil.

nocluenoclueatall Thu 12-Jul-12 22:03:30

Still chuckling at Alpinepony's post. I think she's unwittingly nailed it... THE NETHERLANDS... where everyone's so damn chilled out and happy they actually question why everyone else isn't as happy as they are.

D'oh! It's because they don't live in the Netherlands.

Disclaimer: we live in the UK now and seriously wish we'd never left. Amsterdam especially is a wonderful place to bring up children, who enjoy a carefree freedom that UK kids could only dream of. Plus, healthcare is amazing and when the sun shines everyone sits outside with a lovely chilled glasses of wine, smiling at the boats passing by... [wails]

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