Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Top 5 Countries for Expat Childcare in Europe

Moving abroad and uprooting your little angels is always a big decision and choosing the perfect country to spend your life in as an expat can be a tough task. One of the most important factors to consider before making the ‘big move’ as a family is the quality of life your kids will have there. Things to look into include general children’s healthcare, education and the cost of hiring a nanny. Hopefully this mini guide to Expat Childcare in Europe will help make the decision easier for you.
The top five European destinations for childcare according to our 2013 Expat Explorer survey were:

1. France
When it comes to childcare in particular France is in pole position for cost and quality. So, if you’re looking for help caring for your kids then France is your best-bet. French nurseries, public and private, are known for their strict standard of staff training, with a diploma in childcare a compulsory qualification. If you’re considering taking your career abroad and want somewhere with quality childcare then why not think about a future in France?

2. Spain
In Spain you can pick from nurseries (known as Guarderias or Casas de ninos) or pre-schools (Escuelas Infantiles) for your little ones. On top of this, students regularly go to Spain to study, which means private nannies or au pairs are also available. Moving to the Spanish land will guarantee you sunny-spells if you’re after somewhere warmer; we like to call this the swallow-effect!

Image source: Creative Common/Wikipedia

3. Germany
Germany is the champion when it comes to the Raising Children Abroad league table overall, making it the top destination for families, not only in Europe, but globally. It scores highly in terms of education quality and cost. However, moving to a new country can be daunting for a child, which is why most international schools in Germany provide special classes for non-native speakers. Usually, children learn and adapt quicker than their parents, so you shouldn’t worry about sending them to a German school.

4.  Belgium
In Belgium many of the English-speaking international schools offer programmes for pre-school aged children, and there are usually reductions available for parents that enrol more than one child in the same crèche. So, if you’re looking for a good reason to persuade the children it’s probably worth mentioning how Belgium is the land of chocolate, producing 220,000 tonnes of the sweet stuff per year! See our previous post on Belgium to find out more.

5. Italy
Our last stop on our 2013 European childcare guide for expats is the beautiful country of Italy. If you’re looking for somewhere where childcare costs are reasonable, without compromising quality, then Italian life could be for you. Filled with culture, there are many attractions that make for perfect family days out – why not see the sites of Rome or visit the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa? And if you and your family have a sense of adventure, there’s always skiing in the Alps!

Image source: Creative Common/Simple Wikipedia

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A literary picture of…Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of the world’s most affluent cities with lots of sights to see, shops to visit, and new food to try. It is also brimming with literary heritage – making the Scottish capital the perfect place for an expat with a love of culture to explore! We’ve already looked at Barcelona and Dublin through a literary lens – but here’s what Edinburgh has to offer:

Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The world famous Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, a great place to encounter original drama and comedy, and discover fresh new writing and performance talent. In August the city is flooded by tourists taking in the top shows.  Being an Edinburgh-based expat all year round will mean you don’t pay the earth for accommodation in the period and will know your way around when moving between festival venues.

Image Source: Creative Commons/ Festival Fringe Society

Burns Night
A tradition in Scotland for over 200 years, Burns Night celebrates the life and works of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns. The writer, also known as the Bard of Ayrshire, was part of the Romantic Movement and considered a key influential figure in Scottish literature. Celebrated on and around 25th of January, a traditional Burns Night affair consists of a meal followed by a recitation of Burns’ poetry. The menu for the evening includes the Scottish delicacy haggis (a savoury pudding containing sheep's offal), followed by some local whisky. The evening is a great way to have fun and make new friends for new expats in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Calling all book-worms! Edinburgh’s International Book Festival is said to be ‘the largest celebration of the written word’, and features over 800 authors from across the globe! The event takes place every August in conjunction with the Fringe Festival for two whole weeks. It celebrates the work of writers – from poets and novelists to historians and philosophers - in over 300 events. Hear from previous Nobel and Booker prize-winners this summer as they celebrate all things literary. 

Books set in Edinburgh
Probably the most well-known book set in the Scottish capital is writer Irvine Welsh’s first novel, Trainspotting. The gritty collection of short stories tells the tale of a group of locals and their life struggles.  Later made into a popular movie adaptation, Welsh’s classic explores the dark punk scene of 1980s Edinburgh. If you prefer books that make you think, then Ian Rankin’s collection of Inspector Rebus crime novels are set in and around the Scottish city. A great book for light-reading is One Day by David Nicholls; the modern novel follows the story of two lovers after meeting at Edinburgh University. 

Image source: Creative Commons/Kim Traynor

Other Cultural Highlights
It’s not only literature which Edinburgh has to offer when it comes to cultural highlights.  There’s also plenty for lovers of architecture - the Old Town is filled with character, from the winding alley-ways to the medieval skyline of Edinburgh Castle and, at over 200 years old, the misleadingly named ‘New’ Town features stunning neo-classical and Georgian buildings. And art lovers can also check out the National Portrait Gallery – one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings and home to over 3,000 paintings.

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2014 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link here and using the hashtag #EESurvey14.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Easter around the world

 Picture source: Flickr / willowgardeners

Easter, like most holidays, is associated with different traditions depending on your country. While it is principally a Christian religious holiday, it is also a festival to welcome the arrival of Spring, and so is celebrated all around the world. While you will might well have your own routines that you have been loyal to since childhood (eating your own body weight in chocolate springs to mind), if you’re an expat living in another country, why not embrace the local culture and celebrate like they do, or at least combine the traditions of your home and host country, to create a truly fusion Easter holiday.

In this blog post, we take a look at some of the Easter traditions from around the world that you could get involved in.
Picture source: Flickr / vintagehalloweencollector

Sweden: The witching hour

During the Easter weekend in Sweden, young girls dress up as witches, don old clothes and headscarves, and knock on the doors of their neighbours, exchanging drawings for sweets and treats. This tradition is said to have come from the belief that witches would fly from the German mountains to cavort with Satan on the Thursday before Easter. As such, many Swedes light bonfires and set of fireworks in an effort to scare them away. 

Picture source: Flickr / polunsky

Poland: Grab your ‘water’ pistol

There are several interesting ways that the Polish celebrate Easter. Other than the traditional painting of eggs, as well as the custom to carve butter into the shape of a lamb (this also happens in Russia by the way), they also like to have huge community water fights. This idea of ‘wet Monday’ came from the original tradition of spraying women with perfumed water, but has developed into the now customary street-wide water fights, including both men and women. 

Picture source: Wikimedia Commons / RuED

France: The sound of silence

Bells are one of the main symbols of Easter in France. On Good Friday and Easter Saturday, the church bells across the country are silenced, and children are often told that the bells are not ringing because they have flown to Rome to see the pope. Luckily, the bells manage to get back in time to ring on Easter Sunday.

Picture source: The Palm Beach Post / Gary Coronado

Peru: Little Donkey, Little Donkey

As is the case in a lot of South American countries, on Palm Sunday a large statue of Jesus on a donkey is carried through the streets before being taken into the church for the Palm Sunday service.

 Picture source: Flickr / gmaerten

Germany: Out with the old

In Germany, Easter is about saying goodbye to the old. As such, Germans like to celebrate the arrival of a new season by burning the remnants of their Christmas trees, as symbols of the winter season.

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2014 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link here and using the hashtag #EESurvey14.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Are you an expat mum or dad? We want to hear from you!

Starting a new life abroad is a big decision and the stakes are even higher when making the move involves bringing a family with you. Expat parents have their children’s happiness, education and well-being to consider when planning their new lives.

Image Source: creative.commons/keyfoster

“Who will my child’s friends be? Will he or she struggle to fit in or understand the local language? How do I go about arranging schooling or understanding healthcare here?” are just some of the questions running through a parent’s mind when considering the prospect of moving abroad.

Expat life can seem difficult, as much as exciting, when you have dependents to consider. That’s why we are inviting expat parents to participate in this year’s Expat Explorer survey and share with us their experiences of raising a family in another country.

On Monday, we launched the seventh annual Expat Explorer survey which is the largest global survey of expats. In 2013, over 7,000 people took part with the findings helping us form league tables looking at different areas of expat life, including the best places for expat families in the Raising Children Abroad league table.

On the interactive tool, parents can compare countries in terms of childcare, education, and children’s wellbeing and social lives. Last year’s results revealed that:

If you’re an expat raising children abroad then we want to hear from you! All you need to do is go to https://start.yougov.com/refer/vNn4rjMbNSFHZT to take part and share your knowledge. The survey takes around 15 minutes to complete and will help others to really understand what expat life is like for you and your family.

Once you’ve completed the survey help us spread the word to fellow expat parents and friends by sharing the link https://start.yougov.com/refer/vNn4rjMbNSFHZT and using the hash tag #EESurvey14.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

What is the best way to keep track of your expat experience?

During your time living and working abroad so many exciting things happen: whether that’s celebrating your first Thanksgiving away from home, buying your Christmas tree during the summer, or eating spicy curries or sauerkraut und schnitzel for the first time. Maybe you are craving air conditioning, instead of putting on the heating on, or getting used to the fast pace of big city life. In other words, a lot of new things happen when you become an expat. But how do you keep up with all these changes and retain your memories, especially if your time as an expat will be short-lived? Here are our tips on tracking your expat life.

Creative Commons/Antara
Keep digital records
If you are savvy with digital media and social platforms, a great way to keep track of your past is by setting up a blog. This can be private if it’s for personal perusal only, or you can make it public to let family and friends back home share your experiences. Adding photographs and videos will make it into a real and interactive piece of art, which will continue to remind and inspire you.

The more old-fashioned way how to remember the things you are going through is to create a keepsake box or personal treasury. You can collect tickets to events, photos, stones and shells, even everyday objects. It all depends on where you pass your new life. You could even include notes reminding your future self of each object’s significance. And if you’re super dedicated keeping a daily or weekly diary or journal will see you following the example of many famous expats!

Include the kids
If you’ve made the move abroad with your family, a great way to keep track of your experiences collectively is to create a ‘memory jar’. Place the jar in the kitchen and encourage both children and adults to post notes in it describing things they enjoy about life abroad. You can transform the notes into a great scrap book or family memory album. 

If you’ve made the move abroad, we want to hear from you! The 2014 Expat Explorer survey is now open! Take 15 minutes to help fellow expats by letting us know your views on life abroad and spread the word to expat family and friends by sharing the link here and using the hashtag #EESurvey14.

Monday, 7 April 2014

2014 Expat Explorer survey opens today – Calling all expats to share your views on life abroad!

To all our followers and readers of Expat Explorer, we are delighted to announce that today we open the 2014 Expat Explorer survey. This is the seventh year of Expat Explorer and we would like you to take part and share your views on living and working in another country.

You can simply go to https://start.yougov.com/refer/vNn4rjMbNSFHZT to take part in the largest global survey of expats.   The survey takes around 15 minutes to complete and will help us to really understand what expat life is like for you, your friends and family. 

Last year over 7,000 expats took part. The findings helped us to form league tables for Expat Economics (looking at expat finances), Expat Experience (looking at expat quality of life), and Raising Children Abroad (revealing the best places for expat families).

The 2013 results are available on our interactive tool, allowing current and potential expats to compare countries side by side to help prepare for moving abroad.

Last year’s survey found that Asia was a top destination for Expat Experience, with Thailand leading the way for expat lifestyle. If you want to read more on the 2013 findings, you can find them here:

Whether you’re a career-driven expat, expat spouse, expat parent or expat retiree, we want to hear from you! Here’s what you can do to make this the best and biggest Expat Explorer survey yet:

  1. Take the 2014survey: https://start.yougov.com/refer/vNn4rjMbNSFHZT
  2. Spread the word to expat friends, family and colleagues, by sharing the link https://start.yougov.com/refer/vNn4rjMbNSFHZT and using the hash tag #EESurvey14

Friday, 4 April 2014

Tips for long distance grandparents

Being a grandparent is one of the most exciting experiences that there is - perhaps beyond having your own children – but what happens if you’re living a long way away from your grandchildren?

Whether you’re a grandparent who has retired abroad, or if your own children have moved their family overseas, the prospect of hundreds or thousands of miles separation can be daunting. Although it can leave many grandparents feeling as though they’re missing out on important times in their grandchildren’s lives, the good news is that it’s never been easier to stay in touch.

Living in different countries, time zones or continents doesn’t need to affect the bond between you and your grandchildren. Here are a few of our tips, practical and fun, for long distance grandparents:

Get online

Video calling and conferencing isn’t just for the office; for many expats it’s a lifeline which keeps them connected to life at home while they’re off discovering pastures new. Different time zones can be frustrating, so it’s well worth arranging specific times for video calls – the services for them are often free, and are very easy to use.

If you’re not social media savvy already, you’re missing out! It’s a great way to stay in touch and share photos and videos and you can go the extra mile by making digital communication fun as well as practical. What about reading a bedtime story, playing games such as I Spy or helping with homework via video call?

The brilliant thing about this technology is that you’re not bound to sitting still with it. If your family are living abroad, ask the children to take you on a tour of their new home – also a nice idea if you’ve made the move yourself.  Play online games with your grandkids – they might not be able to visit you every day but you can still be an important and exciting part of their lives.

Rediscover the letter

With so much communication done through email, it’s rare to receive an actual letter these days - and this is particularly true for younger people and children. Where emails are so easily overlooked or lost amidst online spam, there’s something lovely and old fashioned about receiving a personal letter, which can be kept by your grandchildren as a memento for the years to come. Adding personal touches like small drawings, stickers, confetti or even some small token like a pressed flower – anything that makes opening the letter a more exciting experience. 

Image source: Creative Commons / Paul Simpson

Send them a taste of your new home

If you’re looking for a more unique way to maintain the connection, why not send your family a taste of your new home? Although you might be slightly limited in the type of food you can realistically post abroad, there are bound to be more travel-friendly foods available locally – think small and package them up carefully to help them go the distance!


Visits from the grandchildren will always be lovely even when you’re living at home, but if you’re living abroad and they come to stay, it’s even more of an opportunity – not only to spend quality time together, but to open their eyes to cultures and ideas they might never have experienced. Being able to arrange visits for longer periods of time is another possible perk, as you can forge stronger relationships together during this time. 



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