Monday, 12 March 2012

At Home Abroad Series: A (Un)Settling Comparison?

Source: Creative Commons/ noticelj
For many expat parents, how their children will fare in a new country is one of the top worries that they come across when taking the plunge. In fact, one in five (19%) expats in the Expat Explorer Survey 2011 class it as the number one worry when moving abroad. But who finds it easier to adapt to a new life: parent or child? And who settles in faster?

Parents’ worries may be largely unfounded as two-fifths (39%) of expats answering the same question deem ‘Re-establishing a social life’ as one of their own biggest concerns; a hint that there is something to be said for the adaptability of children over adults.

Whilst moving, adults shift their ‘grown-up’ ties, burdens and worries merely to a new geographical location. Although it is stressful for all concerned, children just don’t have the same logistical or emotional worries, let alone the overall awareness of the magnitude of their impending situation, and so it is easy to see why they can usually fit right in very quickly.

The 2011 survey found that 38% of expats felt that their children had settled in quicker than they had, with only 8% disagreeing. Two-thirds (65%) of children are learning a new language; a skill which comes easier to younger minds, and is also a barrier for adults regarding their social interaction.

Source: Creative Commons/ Roger’s Wife
Furthermore, 60% of children have adapted well to their new home, according to the survey, with only one in ten (11%) finding it hard to accept the initial move. These statistics are obviously music to the ears of parents of current or potential expat children, yet it cannot be ignored that parents seem to be having to catch up with the increased social satisfaction of their children, in a country where they might actually take a lot longer to feel at home.

Maybe harmonious relations can only be produced by approaching the prospect of becoming an expatriate alongside your children and seeing it as a journey taken undoubtedly together, despite the different emotions and experiences along the way. Let your children teach you whilst you are doing everything you can to help them in their new lives, and you will both find it hard to fail at enjoying the adventure. 

Here are a few tips and links directed at child expats and their experiences; we would love to hear your own family’s stories.

  • Adventuring Maya is a blog written through the eyes of a three year old, by her mother as an expat in India
  • An expat blog on activities for women moving to Saudi Arabia, aimed at social integration and settling in, and most of the suggestions are child-friendly
  • Here is a site full of books about expatriation, including a good few that are targeted at children to help them understand their experiences, and also theoretical books for parents
  • Expatlogue is a blog from an Expat in Canada on how to move children as smoothly as possible, with a link to her full article
  • An American expat blogger bringing up children in the UK blogs here, including this one on how to throw a children’s birthday party. Birthday parties may be a good way to learn about the culture of the host country, or to show children’s peers about your own culture
  • For those looking to move to India, here is some information regarding relocating children, before, during and after the move



  1. Great post! I'm enjoying browsing the list of blogs at the end.

    We're about to move our 5 year old (again, this time to Hong Kong) and she's very relaxed about it all. She was under the (mis)impression that we'd have to collect our drinking water from the river. And she was completely fine with that (in fact I'm made a comic in her honor: ).

    I'm in complete awe of her ability to "just get on with it" and will be watching her for lessons!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing! What a lovely cartoon, and a very resilient little girl by the sound of it.
      Keep an eye on our blog as there will be more on this subject later in the week.


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