Living Abroad with Kids
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Our daughter, who's lived in England since 2007 and is married to a British guy, called us in a panic today, because she and her husband want to switch banks in Britain and were told/advised in the new bank's paperwork that she might have been obliged to file a tax return with the IRS all this time, even though she earned no money in the U.S. (Margaret read something about the possibility of a $10k fine, which is what caused the panic!) We have printed out an IRS form 8854 (Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement), which is enigmatic, to say the least, and are advising her to do the same and start filling it out. Does anyone among you have experience with this situation (or know a good source of information, other than calling the IRS, who probably haven't even been thinking about Margaret)? If so, would you please e-mail me, preferably soon? Thanks! (What we really want to know, of course, is whether there's any actual danger of a financial penalty for our daughter, if only so she'll calm down and start using her brain.)
Yes, Americans living abroad need to file US taxes, even if they don't earn much money. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/when-us-citizens-living-abroad-owe-us-tax.html If she moves back to the US and has a British bank account, then she must also report this. The US Govt is cracking down on foreign banks who have bank accounts held by Americans. The banks must file this with the US and the Americans must file it, too. http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Report-of-Foreign-Bank-and-Financial-Accounts-FBAR Mom 2
As a Swiss citizen who has been living in the US as a permanent resident for over 5 years, I can relate to your daughter's panic. I only found out last year that I was obliged to claim all my Swiss bank accounts. Had to do a NFFBAR last year (which I completed late because I was unaware of the requirement) and have started claiming my one Swiss account on IRS since this year. Before that, I didn't know the US required anything from me about foreign assets. I used to have a lot more money in my bank account but have been wiring to my US back account over the years, as international banking secrecy laws have become more and more stringent and bank fees outrageous. So now I am left with one Swiss bank account and your post just reminded me I have to file my NFFBAR. So far no one has come after me. I do file annual taxes in Switzerland and pay taxes on the meager interests I earn from my Swiss accounts. NFFBAR/IRS
Any advice from those who have may have moved overseas temporarily with family (specific to India where we are going, or not)? Question 1: How did you arrange temporary housing, transportation, health care, etc.? Question 2: Any recommendations on what to bring with in terms of baby supplies (car seat, pack n' play, etc.) for a 1-year old, or, on the other-hand, what you found you didn't actually need to bring... Thanks for your help! Maria
I've not relocated anywhere, however, we did visit Bangalore and Mysore for a total of 7 days during December of 2006. All the major brands of baby products are found there even in the small grocery stores. I actually liked the Huggies with Aloe Vera diapers that was only available in Asia and not North America. There's no law requiring the use of a car seat, since the majority of the population uses the autorickshaws to get around. Pretty much any product you can find at Target, you'll find there. This is based on the assumption that you are relocating to a large city.
My husband and I would like to live abroad with our kids ages 11, 9 and 9, for a year. He is an (agricultural) economist and I have lots of NGO experience with foundations and non-profits. Can anyone suggest where we might look for temporary jobs abroad? Do you know any good websites for this kind of job-seeking? Are there particular places you might recommend? We are interested in a Spanish or French-speaking country, but are open to many other places as well. Thanks! Melissa
Try the website eurobrussels.com. These are jobs mostly in the the EU, but it seems like that's what you are interested in. If it's the developing world, try http://www.developmentex.com/index.asp or idealist.com.
Good luck. BZ
Denmark has recently been voted ''best place to live'' and has a labor shortage. Many Danes speak English and are very helpful if you speak only a little Danish. The Danish language is really fascinating to learn and is similar to old English in many ways. During World War II, Danes all over Denmark risked their lives to smuggle almost all of their Jewish families into Sweden before Hitler could transport them to concentration camps in Germany. For more information on working in Denmark, go to: www.workindenmark.dk/Work
Have you checked out idealist.org? Good luck! anon
Hi my son (UC grad 07) is heading off to Europe- and would like to extend his travels by working in Italy, Sweden or Finland for awhile (hopefully where there is snowboarding avail.) Does anyone have info on getting a visa for this type of excursion, or any other words of wisdom? Thanks! Brenda
It's very difficult for Non EC folks (like Americans) to get a work visa in Italy, moreover, if you go on a vacation visa (the normal three months 'visa' that is automatic for most people), you can't get a work visa - Permesso di Soggiorno - unless you come back to the United States and apply for one with the Italian Consulate. It's possible that your son might find work under the table, but of course, that's illegal and it's unlikely that an Italian employer would stick his neck out for someone who wasn't family. Unless your son knows someone already in Italy (someone who would hire him or someone who can help with a work visa), I wouldn't be too optimistic about it. Don't know about other countries. janine
I'm a teacher and my husband and I would really like to move abroad for a few years within the next year or two. Our children will be 4 and 1. My question: how do we find jobs? I've looked on-line but there is sooooo much information. The UK and France are on the list but alson Latin America, South America and the Caribbean. I speak Spanish fluently but only a little French. looking for a change
I lived in the Netherlands for several years and most of my friends were teaching at an American school there. They found there jobs through job fairs in the US. None needed a foreign language (there is usually a pretty strong ex-pat community wherever you go -- though I would suggest learning the local language while there). Please contact me if you would like me to put you in touch with my friends. They can give you better insight. jan
Maybe it's a mid-life thing. Maybe it's just a dream that my husband and I have had for a long time. We're actually beginning to think about what it would be like to travel with our two kids for the better part of a year, and would love to learn from others who either took their kids on an extended trip abroad or did this themselves as kids/young teens. We're thinking about two years down the road, when our daughter would be in ninth grade and our son would be in seventh grade. We have a fairly poor public high school option, which is in part motivating this plan. We'd find someplace to stay long enough to enrol them in school, or perhaps just do an independent study curriculum. I'd really love to hear about pros, cons, how long to stay in one place, how long to be away. The kids are seasoned travelers but we've never undertaken on this large a scale. But I love the idea of further introducing them to the world before they leave for college, and this seems like the last and best way to do it. What should we know and what should we consider and what should we look out for and where should we begin? Many thanks, Lonely planet travelers
It sounds like a great idea but you should check with your children. They are of an age where they might ultimately resent being away from their friends and school for an extended period of time, despite the fabulous cultural advantages of living/travelling abroad. If money is not a huge concern, London would be my first choice.
I don't have any practical advice, since I've not done this (though I've definitely daydreamed about it). I read a great book about a Bay Area family that did exactly what you're thinking about. It's called ''One Year Off'' and here's the Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/One-Year-Off-Leaving-Children/dp/1885211651 . Also google ''one year off'' and there's at least one other site that helps people plan a year off. I hope you get some good input from other BPNers. Happy planning! Another world traveler
When I was in first grade, my family lived in India for the school year, followed by a few months in Scotland, while my father was on sabattical. My brother was in 4th grade and my sister in 8th. It was by far the best thing my parents did for us during our childhoods and has had a profound influence on the way we have all lived our lives since. My parents were both teachers and were given the school curriculum to teach us at home during the year. We all finished the full year's curriculum over the summer before we left, and spent the year learning by watching and living daily life in a completely foreign culture. My parents passed on an important lesson that education should not just take place in the classroom, but in living and experiencing the world.
My brother, sister and I have been active and adventurous travellers all our lives, and devoted our lives to engaging with the world by studying foreign languages and living abroad for extended periods. None of us or our parents believe we missed out on anything at all by missing that one year of school, and what we gained was so much more valuable. I highly recommend you to take your kids abroad - my husband and I plan to do the same when our son is older. My mother admits that it was a struggle to travel with three children with little access to clean water, worrying about malaria, etc, but she will be the first to tell you it was worth it. Especially for children growing up in the material comforts of the Bay Area, there is nothing more valuable than showing them how the rest of the world lives been there
My husband and I love the Bay Area, but we're getting itchy feet and we're thinking it might be time to move. We've always dreamed of living abroad, but it seemed too difficult, based on getting jobs/visas overseas.
Now, it seems we might have the perfect opportunity: My husband has been offered a job he could do remotely from anywhere as long as there's a DSL line. My job also could be fiddled with so I could do it remotely, at least part-time.
My question is as follows: We have a young son (he's 9 months old). If we moved sometime in the next year, is that a good/bad age to move overseas; would the whole experience of living abroad be lost on him if we only live there for a year or two? Any countries/areas better for young children than others? (I speak a little French, my husband, Spanish, although neither of us is at all fluent.) Thanks! Amy
I think it would be a good time to go, because your child won't be in school, or even preschool, yet. Once he has more of his own life, he might feel more homesick. We have taken extended trips with our now 14-month-old and it was fine. Her sense of security is still mostly tied to being with us. That said, she won't remember the countries she has visited, and had no notion that our time in various foreign cities was any different than, say, going to Santa Cruz. All she new is that we were somewhere different, with a different house, etc.
About specific countries: think about Portugal. We were only there a week, but the people were so nice to babies! It was like traveling with a celebrity, she got so much attention. The facilities are not child-oriented, but everyone is happy to accommodate kids wherever you go.
Another possibility: Australia! It's exotic but also easy. You feel like you're really somewhere different when you see a kangaroo hopping by or a flock of cockatoos landing on a city building, but at the same time, it's not stressful. You'll be able to find groceries you want, playgrounds, a good doctor if you need one, etc., etc. The people are generally very friendly (the shared language helps), the cities are cleaner and more functional than they are here, and there are lots of fun things for kids to do. What toddler wouldn't love all the animals? jessica
Hi Amy, I moved to Germany with my family when I was 3 years old. We lived overseas for 8 years before returning to the US.
Though I can't speak about the difficulty of getting jobs/visas I can tell you that at 9 months old your son will probably not remember much of his experience, but as he ages he will. At 3 years old I have some vivid memories of our experience. I learned a little German which has stuck with me (I am now 36)and I consider Germany home in some ways.
If you can make it work my advice is to do it. It will be very enriching for all of you. I never have a straight forward answer when people ask ''where did you grow up'' but I like it that way. Hope this helps. Amelia
My family is going on sabbatical staring in June 2006 to the Geneva area. We have never gone on sabbatical before, and need advice about the following issues:
1. Health Insurance. What do families do about health insurance while on sabbatical? We could either select the (expensive) plans that cover you out-of-network? Did you find insurance in the country you were visiting?
2. Moving Overseas. Did you use a relocation company? Did you ship things?
3. Renting out your Berkeley house. Did you rent out your house in Berkeley while you were away? Did you use a realtor or rental agency? Karen
We rented our house for 9 mos while we were away. The only two places we got responses were craigslist and the UC Berkeley faculty housing--and fortunately those are both free. I also signed up for some other paid services but they did not work. We started listing our house in May for an August departure. Didn't end up renting it till August, which was stressful. Got lots of inquiries at the last minute. I also bought the Nolo press landlord guide and it was useful. Deborah
We (my husband, my 7 month old son, and myself) are considering moving to Switzerland. His work has positions worldwide and there may be an opportunity arrising for us. I am really worried about the transition for my son, it has taken us this far just to get his naps onto some sort of schedule and him adjusted to his bedtime. Does anyone have experience with taking there infant abroad and living there? Also can anyone tell me about there experience raising children (baby) in Switerzerland?
My advice is don't worry about the sleep. If your baby's seven months old, his nap and night time schedule will change a few more times before it's all said and done anyway. If the move is a good one, please don't let the sleep schedule stop you. He'll adjust. good luck! anon
Where would you go for 9 months or a year in order to introduce your children to life in another country and another language? It suddenly hit us that in 2005 we will be in a position to move abroad for year due to flexibility in our work (have laptop, can travel). It also struck us that our eldest will be 12, and the ''best to become bilingual before puberty'' door will soon be closing! We could leave as early as January 2005 (depending on the results of the election, we might be particularly motivated then) or go in June 2005. Either way we could be gone for 9 months or a year.
But where would we go? We do have friends abroad, but mostly in big cities (Paris, London, Berlin, Athens, Tokyo, Mexico City). Wouldn't it be less stressful, less expensive, and easier to meet people in a town than the city? But how would we meet people locally? A home exchange would be inexpensive, and would it help us integrate into a community?
Our kids (now ages 8 and 11) have had weekly Spanish instruction since kindergarten, but not in an immersion program so they don't truly speak Spanish yet. We would love to have them speak Spanish, but any language will do! My husband and I speak fluent French, and decent Spanish and Italian.
The girls have a good ear for language and have traveled with us to visit friends in France, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Germany; they are open to new experiences (and new flavors of ice cream!) but would miss their friends. Where can we go where we might have a chance of making friends (especially in today's political climate - who would welcome Americans? Quebec?)
I'd also like advice on schooling - I lived in France and attended a French lycie for a year as a teen, but at that point I'd already had 6 years of French, Spanish and German instruction, so I was fairly well prepared. Should we tutor the girls intensively here and then plop them into the local schools or try to enroll in an American school overseas with a mixture of instruction in English and the local language?
Your experience and opinions welcome! =Don't Want to Raise Monocultural Monoglots!=
In 1990 we took our four children (3,7,10, 13) to Paris for nine months. It was easily the greatest adventure we have ever had. I found a two bedroom flat in downtown St. Germain-en- laye which is on the RER(like BART). Our youngest went to a public nursery school, our next two went to the local public schools and our oldest went to a public high school which had a private english language section for which we paid tuition. She had English and History in English and the rest of her classes were in french. The youngest and the oldest had a great school experience. Not so great for the middle two. It is true that kids pick up languages. But it is also true it takes a few months and just as they were getting it under their belt we came home. However, they still had a good time. Every vacation we traveled somewhere and on Wednesday afternoon, which they had off, we went into Paris to do tourist things. Even in a big city, people responded in a most friendly way to a family with little kids. I didn't speak French and my husband wasn't that great so we too studied--at the Alliance Francaise. He went in the morning and was home for the kids two hour (!) lunch--maybe it wasn't quite two hours but it was a long lunch--and I went in the afternoon. Go for it! It was a GREAT adventure. Janet
I don't have any personal experience with this but regarding schools: I used to work with someone whose family moved to France for a year when she was 8 or 9. The family moved to a non-city area (countryside or suburbia, I'm not sure) for a year. She said she was placed in the 1st grade and had a wonderful time! She knew the year was ''just for fun'', and did not feel bad about being with the younger kids. She told funny stories of having a tiny desk, however. Upshot is she now speaks French fluently and has returned to France regularly ever since (her parents bought a villa in France at some point in her late teens.) P.S. - this person was already bilingual as she grew up in a Spanish and English household. anon
what a fabulous parent you are! first of all, i want to support you for no monomono children to adult human beings.. and to remember, that the US and her people are not popular outside of TX (meow) these days. our godchild (an almost scarily brilliant/intuitive child--scary in a good way) and his mom moved to florence italy approx 20 months ago--he will be 5 in december 04...it was the best thing for godchild--this darling one who easily could have become ''pukingly precocious'' (his mom's words) moved into a wonderfully supportive environment of a catholic school where so few of the kids are roman catholic--most are expat children as ''christian'' is. he is the youngest; he had to learn to communicate almost immediately, using words if necessary. he's had at least one of us, his extended family of castro uncles and aunts and his papa visited monthly for the first year they were there--so that he could make the transition. he LOVES museums and old churches and so he has an entire city and country full of both. his mom, fiona, did MUCH research before moving--first she chose places she wanted to live or had always wanted to live and then researched schools, expat community, work and live laws, etc etc...and she wanted to return to school herself. fiona went online and talked with parents in places she, then Xan, wanted to live. chat rooms were a HUGE help, she said, particularly when she was working on intro italian--her 'other' language was french but had not been used other than menus for 20 years.. i'm inclined to say that how others in your new country respond to you will be your own personalities and willingness to throw yourself into the culture and get to know shopkeepers and folks in the neighborhood...fiona did NOT want to live anywhere near any US american ''compound''--she chose an apartment near xan's school, near markets-chemists-kid friendly coffee shops, etc. they went over twice before moving and began a daily consistent circuit of walking and sidewalk cafe visiting, shopping, so that people would get to know them by sight, name, then story. (waiters in their favorite restaurants, shops etc now drop everything to pick xan up, hug, and kiss him. he became a celebrity of sorts initially--now he's just one of the family. that consistency of friendly faces on daily walks worked for them! read autobios and stories of people who went ''abroad''....talk to people, etc etc...where are you happiest? country or city? i'm such an urban dweller and so are fiona and xan, but for 9 months, i'd want to soak up as much ''culture'' as possible--fiona and xan escape to assissi and the surrounding umbrian countryside for breaks from the ''big city'' and take the train to rome for truly mad hustle bustle.... and remember most places in the world dont live frenetic US time..why on earth would you want to come back? we, my husband and i, are looking to get the hell out of this country asap! but i am convinced i was born an expat...our children, now grown, are much more conservative than we (our failure as liberals! och!) and they are looking to move out of the country. in the past two years we've spent a lot of time in ireland (both the republic and the 6 counties), amsterdam, panama, costa rica, and wales..we'd move to any of those places tomorrow... if you are interested in tropical, visit panama. the bocas area is so near really cool costa rica, the island of bocas is booming, and the people are marvelous (beware banana plantation chemicals)....just on the other side of bocas and also south of costa rica is the chiriqui province with a fabulous area of cool mountains...i adore costa rica......no huge rip roaring cultural amenities like museums, etc but the people are so incredible and there are a number of indigenous cultures, too, of course. if you'd like i am happy to share email info of friends and family we have in panama and florence...our panama friends have older children--they moved when the girls were jr high age; one returned to berkeley--the other is becoming panamanian! as the US was in panama for so long, the people understand the difference between ''us'' and the US government''....they've seen us and US at our worst (and our best)... those civilised, semi-socialist, cool countries have THE quality of living-- norway, iceland, sweden, etc etc. i found i have an almost intuitive understanding of dutch. the people in amsterdam are very worried about the US--we still get emails from folks from our favorite shops and restaraurants who send us the news we will never here in the censored US.... my husband went to florence on the day the US declared war--US folks were pouring out of france--no service in restaurants, cabs, etc...he stayed for a month and went to daily protests and demonstrations at embassies etc. young germans on holiday stopped and talked with him as they had with me months before about their concern for what is happening here--''too much like us, before WW2''... we are connected to the GTU and if i were thinking of going to latin america anywhere, i'd be interviewing the franciscans and jesuits for connections...actually anywhere in the world for franciscans and jebs ireland, scotland, wales--and those gorgeous places like cornwall--are not an anti US as is london. we've two friends studying theology at oxford and the response to them in the past year has been confrontational about US, england, the 2nd iraqi war..very very good for these two young people to struggle with all that.....both have traveled outside london and love ireland and wales...i mean there is always gaelic as 2nd, third language.....west of ireland and other gaelic speaking communities are fascinating as indigenous cultures of people who look ''white''..... i don't know if i've helped you any at all. please feel free to email me personally if you'd like. good luck and happy travelling..start getting those visas and shots ASAP, particularly work visas....do you have any pets that will need care? if you are even thinking of planning to take with you, pay attention to the quarantine laws. oonie
My family went to live in Guanajuato, Mexico, for many of the reasons you sited. Plus it is not too far away in miles, so we could have returned to the Bay Area easily if needed (though we didn't) and is a beautiful small city/large town with an interesting community. We were also able to find housing, a school for our kids (ages 4 and 9 at the time) and a language school for us - all fairly easily. We wanted to go for a year but could only take half that amount of time off of work - so that's what we did. We did this about a year and a half ago and we hope to do the same thing again in a few years. I'm happy to tell you more and answer any questions. I could go on and on here, but it would be way too long. So feel free to call or email. Amy
Hello! I am in the middle of my year abroad with my family. We picked Spain, because I am from here and my family lives here. My children are much younger than yours (5 and 3), and they integrated wonderfully. The oldest goes to a public school, where the language is not Spanish, but the local Catalan, and he understood every word of it in three weeks.
Although both children understood Spanish perfectly when we arrived, the oldest had forgotten how to speak it (the 3 year old was not talking much when we arrived), and it was great to listen to them speaking perfect Spanish just two months after we arrived. Although we are in Mallorca, I just returned from a trip to Sevilla, and I think that it must be the most wonderful town to live in. Small, manageable, great parks, short ride to wonderful nature (Sierra de Grazalema), beautiful river, delicious tapas and most of all the people, who are happy, open, and kind. Check it out!
We rented our home in Berkeley to cover our mortgage, and this worked out very well for us. Happy in Spain
How great that you are able to go away for a year now! I highly reccomend chosing a Spanish-speaking country. I lived in Spain for years, and became fluent in Spanish without giving it much forethought, and it has become a HUGE advantage in my work life. The cutting-edge in getting a job or into a new careeer, has often been my fluency in Spanish. Spanish is the primary second language in the US, and by the time your kids grow up, more than half of Californians will be of Spanish-speaking descent.
I agree that a small town would be much better than a city. I think either Spain or Latin America (I particularly love Mexico) would be great. Mexico would be much cheaper (the Euro is a bit expensive right now.) Spain and Mexico are very different, but both Mexicans and Spaniards are super- welcoming and friendly. My experience all over the world is that even though they hate ''America'', they welcome individual US citizens with open arms. Karen
Hi There! What a well-traveled family you are! My husband and I have researched the issue as well and found a wonderful place in central Mexico -- San Miguel de Allende. The climate is gorgeous. So is the landscape and the people are very friendly. There are several private bi-lingual schools (Engl-Span.) that are cheap in comparison to U.S. There's a nice library, great arts, good language schools, beautiful colonial town. Small (ab 80,000) Minus: blockbuster, lots of us expats. Good luck! barbara
Not real advice, just a few thoughts. I moved from Argentina to the US when I was 12, so I guess this could be seen as reverse observations :)
-Kids in some other countries grow up faster than in the US. In Argentina by 12 you are pretty independent: you go to school, shopping, the movies, cafes, with your friends, no longer your parents. By 13, you are going to be going to dance-parties and discos (and discos don't open until midnight). So you need to ask yourself if you are ready to let your baby grow up so quickly all of the sudden. If you're not, you may want to go to a country where this doesn't happen (or wait a couple of years).
-Spanish is a very easy language to learn and one that anyone can pick up in a couple of months in a language program in Latin America. I'd go for another language. My personal preferences would be French or Arabic, just based on the number of different countries where the languages are spoken.
-In chosing a town vs. a city, consider whether the town will have a school that will be able to accomodate your children's language issues. Main cities usually have ''American'' schools, where the children of foreigners go. Whether you chose this route will depend greatly on which country you chose to go to.
-There is generally more fun stuff to do in cities as well.
-In my experience, as a semi-American married to an American, people everywhere are able to differentiate Americans from the American government. They saw the anti-war demonstrations on TV too :) anon
It was funny and kind of exciting reading your e-mail because I just returned with my daughter, who is 12, from two months in Mexico!
I took her out of her charter school, in Santa Cruz and flew down to spend a few months experiencing the culture of Mexico. We went to the Yukatan, Oaxaca City, where we rented an apartment and studied spanish a bit...but decided having a free schedule was more interesting for us. We took a luxury bus to the coast,(which is essential for over-night bus trips), visited the coast of Oaxaca and then took another bus over to Chiapas.
I loved Chiapas, it was such an incredible place and I would highly recommend San Cristobal de las Casas. Its very safe and Chiapas is the most diverse state in Mexico. If I did this trip again I would head also to Guatemala, to study-the reason I would recommend big cities to study in is that you have more options, you can rent an apartment though a language school, for super cheap, take guitar lessons, art classes, and have a diverse crowd passing though. My brother in law is in Guatemala right now, studying in a city bordering Chiapas, he then took a sail boat through Belize, which is a haven of islands, wonderful for snorkling. There is lush jungle between all these states, beautiful jungle, filled with howler monkeys, epiphytes, and tall jungle trees. I did a unit on the jungle with my daughter Ayeen, studying the ecosystems, animals, plants, and the preservation of these areas.
So, you have my vote, we had an incredible time, the bus systems down in Mexico is excellent, I felt very safe, there are lots of European tourists, internet cafes, cool restaurants, tour groups that take you into the jungle, horseback-riding, and best of all your in another country, experiencing a culture different than this country; I really hear you with wanting to get out, this (what I easily label as a facist administration) is making us fed up as well...
I would also like to ask you for more into regarding your European travels, our family is interested in travelling to France, I am a young mom who is now finishing up my undergrad work and want to take the family abroad with me, live in Spain for six months, possibly more...any tips? We are staying with the grandparents in San Lorenzo and would love to hook up with your family! peace, Hania Hania
Taking your kids to live abroad is a great idea! Here's a warning, though -- you might like it too much! In 2000 I took early retirement from UCB and moved to Costa Rica with my two kids, then 12 and 9. I figured on two years abroad, because I didn't think one would be long enough to give us the adventure and experience and language exposure I was looking for. I was right; four years later, we're still here, and have no plans to come back.
In terms of where to go, if you're a city person, go for a city and all its culture and things to do, and you'll meet people. I was really weary of city life, so we moved to a small town in the cloud forest, and we met people here. You meet people abroad the same way you meet people anywhere -- through your interests, through getting out of the house, and especially in Latin America, through your kids.
My kids are in a private school where about 25% of their instruction is in Spanish and the rest in English. This has let them stay at grade level while still learning Spanish. They got Spanish tutoring for the first couple years, as they came here knowing none, but now they're holding their own in classes and social situations in either language. (About 80% of their classmates are Costa Rican.) My kids would certainly have learned Spanish faster in an immersion situation, but probably would have lost ground academically; more verbal kids might be able to do it, but it's harder the older they are. The public schools here are not all that great -- overcrowded, underfunded.
I've also taken Spanish classes from local women off and on since I got here, and the chance to ask questions of and learn about local customs and history during our conversation practice has been as valuable as the language instruction. We're in a fairly international community -- Costa Ricans, North Americans, South Americans, Europeans -- and I've felt no anti-American sentiment. (Well, except maybe from other U.S. expats.) Hope this helps! Jane
Personally, I don't think there's anyplace better for kids than Japan! I lived there for a year after college, and have returned several times, and it is easily the safest place I have ever been (personal belongings left in the open remain untouched, doors are always unlocked, strangers are always willing to help others, etc.) Children are treated by all as if they are a special treasure and are welcome everywhere and indulged by everyone. For elementary school, I would absolutely use a Japanese public school. However, I would hesitate to use them for children over 10 because that is when the famous Japanese academic pressures begin to mount. I'd be happy to answer any questions. It's not as expensive as everyone thinks outside of the big cities! (So long as you don't try to live as we do in America and do as the Japanese do..) Good luck! Stacey
Every fall I get this itch to move to Mexico for a year. After reading on this listserve and then investigating the kindergarten issues in our district, I really feel like taking that academic year with my child to learn a new language and experience a different culture. Several things hold me back: I don't speak Spanish, I've never been to Mexico, I'm a single mom, and I'm a worrier.
I'm sure there are a lot of you who have taken a year off. How did you decide where you wanted to live? What did you do about health insurance? What did you do with your car? How did you handle having someone live in your home? What did you worry about before you made the decision? I have this notion, hopefully not too far-fetched, that I could telecommute part-time in my current job and earn enough to live on. (Cost of living is less in Mexico, right?)
1. Are there any good books to read on how to prepare for a year abroad? 2. Do you know of any good places to live in Mexico that are safe, likely to have Mac computer support, language immersion classes and English speaking pediatricians? 3. Any general advice to share?
I am presently living abroad for one year, although my situation is very different: I am in Spain, where I have lots of family (I was born and raised here), and I speak the language. I have moved here with my husband and two small children (4 and 2).
But here are some things we did:
We rented our house in Berkeley to cover our mortgage. This took a lot of planning beforehand. We posted ads starting nine months in advance. It was tricky, because we were not vacating the house until a date far in the future, but finally we found someone that we trust and like. We entered an agreement 2+ months before we left. These tenants agreed to give us a non-refundable deposit of two months rent. In this way, we prevented the scenario where the tenants would change their minds shortly before we left, when we had already bought our plane tickets. When they moved in (the same day we were leaving the country), that deposit became the rental deposit and last month. We were lucky that they wanted the place furnished, so we only had to put our belongings in boxes and move them to the attic.
If you leave near campus, make sure to place your ad with UC Housing. They have many overseas professors coming for sabbaticals. If you are flexible, you could work your schedule around that. We had a nice family from Norway who wanted to rent. But they were returning to Norway two months before we were returning from Spain, so that did not work for us.
I telecommute full time. All I need is my laptop, a DSL connection, a printer and a scanner. I am not sure where in Mexico you are thinking of, but in my experience any medium sized town will have Internet access. I think you would be better off going to a town popular with other foreigners that are also telecommuting, because those are more likely to have the services you are looking for. Check out Ajijic, near Guadalajara, or San Miguel Allende.
I have found that health insurance is much more affordable in Spain (and I would say ANYWHERE outside of the US, where the situation is shameless). I get all my family covered with a very good plan for less than a third of what we would pay in the US.
I have a Mac as well, and for now I have had no need for support, but I know it is available to me (my cousin owns the only Apple authorized technical service in town!). Again, I think if you end up in a place with a community of expatriates you will find resources easily.
If you decide to go, I can give you ideas on how to take care of your banking, your mail, etc. etc.
Good luck to you! Having fun in Spain
Hi, I recently moved to Norway to join my family after two years and a half of separation. My wife is Norwegian and my daughter is American, unfortunately things are not going well here. First of all, I came to help her with the responsabilities of our four year old daughter who is brain damaged and needs a lot of help with her developing. Luckily she is walking, understands Norwegian words but she can not talk.Therefore SIGN LANGUAGE is our bridge of comunication between our daughter and us. Last Tuesday after an argue my wife told me to leave the house and she wants me to find a new place to leave because I do not things like she wants me to do and I also take a lot of her time to help me to settle down in this country where I do not have anybody else but my family and my wife's family.She also said she is NOT IN LOVE with me becuse I am 10 pounds overweight and I do not dress up like Norwegian guys.I do not speak Norwegian plus I do not have much money to move out and it is quite difficult to find a job here if you do not speak the language!! I do not what to do but if I should go back to the US where I had a good job but I know I will miss my daughter so much that I creates a lot of pain in me when I do not see her.On the other hand I do not want to be this MISERABLE for the rest of my life.I have a permit to stay here in Norway until May 2003 so I really need to think about it very carefully! I will appreciatte your sugestions and if you need more information of my situation I will be happy to provide you guys and thanks for giving me the option of talking to someone about my situation. Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon!
It sounds like during the 2 1/2 years you have been seperated from your wife you have grown apart. She may be upset that you were out of their lives for that long and she had to take care of your daughter by herself. You could either move out and try and get a job there(learn Norwegian)and continue to visit with your daughter. Hopefully, your wife will get over whatever issues she has right now. OR come back to the US, get a better job, send money for your daughter and scheduled visits as often as possible. MOVE ON BB
It sounds like you are experiencing a crisis, but this may be just a temporary setback. Don't give up! It's very hard to adjust to a new country, and it doesn't sound like you have much support. But it will get better. You will learn the language, and you will be able to be more help for your wife. And she may have spoken rashly when she said she didn't love you. If she was being honest, then maybe you won't be together, but you should be there for your daughter, and she should help you do that. Keep trying. vm
Dear Dad, Unfortunately I think you are going to need to turn to the massive and complex Norwegian bureaucracy in order to inform yourself about your rights and your daughter's. This will be easiest if you have a friend who speaks Norwegian and is familiar with the Norwegian system. If not, it will still be possible to pursue information, but it will be more difficult. You didn't say where you are living. It would perhaps be easiest to either 1) approach a lawyer, preferably one who has dealt with immigrant as well as family issues or 2) go to the communal (county) government offices that deal with child welfare and family issues. If you are in Oslo, for instance, the name of the county is Oslo kommune, and there is a department called Barn og familievern. They deal with family and child welfare (in the broader sense) issues. There is also a big government website, http://norge.no.emne/emne.asp, which gives a list of various emne (subjects) covered by the government at various levels. You should look on the list for Barn og familievern (child and family welfare), Familie, foreldre og barn (Family, parents, and children), and innvandere (immigrants). I think that the communal level offices would be the best place to start, however. Children (even, I think, those who do not hold Norwegian citizenship) have lots of protection and rights in Norway, and so it would be important to inform yourself about these and about your ongoing status in the country and as a parent. Good luck! Linda
You are in a very difficult situation. It is really hard to be in a country where you know only a few people and don't know the language or the customs or even where to go to get some help. I commend you for trying to make it work out for your daughter's sake. I hope your wife will be willing to go to marriage counseling with you; if not, you could go for counseling by yourself.
What you need is a friend, or a person who can advocate for you with your wife and also help you navigate your way in Norwegian society. Perhaps you will find help through your posting in this e-tree; or perhaps you will find this through counseling.
Other things you can do are to immerse yourself in learning Norwegian, and adapt yourself to the ways people do things there. You will have to do this on your own because it seems that your wife doesn't want to do it with you. If your wife is unhappy because of how you take care of or interact with your daughter, think about what might be valid about her criticisms and what you can do better. Her comments about your appearance seem trivial and possibly cover up some deeper unhappiness with you and your relationship with her.
I'm sorry you are having such a sad and difficult time. I hope you get the help you need. Louise
We are exploring the possibility of going to Pisa, Italy or Zurich, Switzerland on sabbatical in about 2 years. We would live in Europe for one year. We have two pets -- a dog (Golden Retriever/Lab mix, about 5 yrs old) and a cat (about 12 yrs old). Both are rescue animals and our home is there ''forever home''. I don't want to leave them behind. But, I'm wondering is it feasible to take to take a cat and a dog with us to Europe? Does having pets make it more difficult to find housing over there? What have other people done? Thank you. Anon
If your animals are fairly calm by nature you can take them with you. We moved two cats to France (via Switzerland) following the instructions of the airline (TWA or United) in 1991. Since we were renting a house there was no real problem having the cats. They need to be certified in good health before leaving the US, and the airline has someone check them before releasing them to you. Heather