Moving to a foreign country with small kids - is this a crazy idea? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 10:43 AM - Thread Starter
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For a very long time, I have wanted to move to another country just to experience something different. Now I have two small kids and this dream is looking like it's going to be a looooooooong way off. DH says he would be willing to work toward doing it now, which I honestly think might be easier than waiting until we are both tied to careers, community, and a house. Right now we are pretty mobile, we're renting, and DH isn't very established in his job (but has a great resume, none the less). 


Here's the deal. My kids are 4 and 2. We'd like to be able to live someplace for about 3-4 years. Is it a really bad idea, developmentally speaking, to do this to my kids? Will they be able to handle that big of a transition when they are older, like 8 and 10? If anyone has any experience with the learning a new language/culture part and the making friends and not feeling isolated in a foreign country part, I would love to hear your experiences. I know there are a few ex-pat mamas here.


I think DH and I both have good skills to take somewhere else, so I'm not really worried about that. I have been studying spanish for a few years now. I'm not fluent, but I think I could be pretty quickly. I was considering getting TESOL certified before I had babies - there is no reason I couldn't do that now. DH is a computer engineer - there are a lot of up-and-coming tech companies in central and south america, but his job prospects would be much better in Asia.


What countries should we consider/not consider? I am really drawn to both Costa Rica and Argentina, and maybe Spain, but I would be open to other ideas as well. DH thinks he could do better in China or India, but both of us are really fascinated with Bhutan (not that there are many job prospects for either of us there). 


If this is something you have done, what advice would you have for us? What things would you liked to have known before hand? What would you take with you/not take with you? What has it been like with children?


Be honest, I want to know if this is really a crazy idea.


ETA: Forgot to mention that we're in the US. 

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#2 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 11:16 AM
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I think kids of any age are pretty resilient to stuff like moving, even internationally. It might be initially stressful, but it's unlikely to be traumatic. At 2 and 4, they'd be in a better position for language acquisition than at 8 and 10.

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#3 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 11:25 AM
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I think it would be perfect fine. Many many many military families move every 3-6 years all over the U.S. and internationally with children of all ages, and they aren't traumatized in any way.


I don't really have advice on where to move really though since I've not lived outside the U.S.

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#4 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 11:37 AM
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Also: if you want to PM me I can tell you about living in India (Bangalore, specifically, where there are lots of tech jobs).

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#5 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 03:29 PM
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We up and moved from the U.S. to Thailand when DD1 was 19 months old. We lived there about a year and a half, had DD2 while we were there, and came home when DD1 was almost 3 years old and Dd2 was six months old.


There were good days and bad days, like anywhere else. We'd both spend significant amounts of time there before, which helped. DH had studied the language prior to moving there and became quite fluent. I can still have a short conversation as long as you are asking me about my kids :). DD1 seemed nonplussed at first, but of course adapted so fast - she spoke the language, ate the food, acted like a Thai 2-year-old in almost every way.


We came home because the laws were changing and making it more difficult to be licensed as a teacher, and because we wanted to get started on building some financial security. We made a comfortable living THERE - we ate out, had a maid a couple days a week, owned a car. But we made $1200 a month combined, and we were just never going to save significant amounts of money.


As for a social life, I sometimes felt like we weren't able to connect with other teachers at our schools because we were the only ones who were married with kids. Most of the teachers were single. We taught at a bilingual, private elementary school the first year, I taught college after DD2 was born (more flexible schedule). We were very lucky to have excellent coworkers though, both Thai and foreign, they were fun to talk to at work even if we didn't do much socializing on the weekends. We also had chatty neighbors who didn't seem bothered much by my lack of language ability. We are also members of a church that had a congregation where we lived, and made friends there. And really, neither of us are highly social people, so we were pretty content to hang out together.


I think one of the hardest things for me was losing my hobbies. I love to read, but had a hard time finding books in English. I love to bake, but didn't have an oven. I had a hard time finding ingredients for things I wanted to cook. I spend most of the first year there pregnant and really, really sick. I couldn't sew because I didn't have my sewing machine. Things like that.


All that said, it was an amazing, unique experience and I am very glad we did it. I learned a lot about myself, about DH, and our marriage. DH's resume has been enhanced by having experience abroad - one of the people who interviewed him for his current position had also lvied abroad, in Prague, and viewed it as a sign of adaptability and cultural sensitivity.


Anyway, sorry to write a book. Feel free to PM me.

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#6 of 12 Old 04-20-2011, 11:45 PM
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growing up i met a lot of 'foreign' kids in higher elementary or middle school.


i have met kids who have moved when they were 2 6 10. very diverse cultures. drastic changes. picture east west, developing and developed country. i have met them in their home country after the stint. 


i tell you IMR something is different about these kids. really. because of my special circumstances i come across these kids. 


to me those were the kids that stood out. in the sense that they asked unique, deep thougth out questions. of course not all were pleasant experiences (like having to deal with corporal punishment in grade 6) but it definitely gave these kids different perspective in life. 


today esp. that 10 year old - now a strapping adult is grateful for his two years in mexico in a small village where he went to local school. he feels that is the best thing that happened to him, and made him realise his own worth more than anything else has. 


i remember what an impact it had on dd at age 9 months and age 3 1/2. it was more of a shock coming back to the US and losing that connection with people you had in asia. 

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#7 of 12 Old 04-21-2011, 07:08 AM
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We too have contemplated taking DS to another land. He is 2. I don't want to do it yet though because I want him to remember it more. We would only stay a year or so probably.

FWIW, I have heard great things about Thailand. My friend is living in Thailand now with her 3 year old and she has nothing but great things to say about the Thais and how family and child centered the culture appears. She also lived in South Korea and Italy within the past two years and didn't enjoy those places as much as Thailand. She is on MDC, you could pm her if you want to talk about little kids and living abroad. They are unschooling. PM me if you want her mdc name.

When I was a young teenager my parents took my brother and me to Puerto Rico for a year. We went to local public school, made friends, learned the language. I was 13- past what people consider the "prime" window for language acquisition, but I did just fine and actually I am fluent in Spanish to this day. By about 4 months into school I was considered bilingual by my teachers and they started making me take my tests in Spanish instead of having the English teacher translate everything for me. My brother was fairly fluent at 10 but when we came back to the states his grade level didn't offer Spanish and he lost it.

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#8 of 12 Old 04-21-2011, 11:36 AM
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We've done it more than once.  The issue is not with the kids... they adapt.  You adapt.  The issue is how you move and work abroad legally.  Do you realize how hard it is to find a job abroad?  It's next to impossible unless you have a job that ships you over.  If you haven't considered that, I would address that first.

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#9 of 12 Old 04-21-2011, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by velochic View Post

We've done it more than once.  The issue is not with the kids... they adapt.  You adapt.  The issue is how you move and work abroad legally.  Do you realize how hard it is to find a job abroad?  It's next to impossible unless you have a job that ships you over.  If you haven't considered that, I would address that first.

THANK YOU for pointing out this little fact!  In virtually every country, immigration laws are getting tougher, not worrying about which country to choose and which your children would like best is a moot point for the vast majority of North Americans.  Unless you have dual citizenship somewhere, or are independently wealthy, I suppose. 

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#10 of 12 Old 04-23-2011, 08:01 AM
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Which is I guess the majority of the reason my parents chose Puerto Rico for our little experiment. Since it is a part of the US we didn't have to worry about that at all.

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#11 of 12 Old 04-23-2011, 08:50 AM
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children are resilient and will adapt .... but it also depends on each individual child


DD1 was fine, age 6, took to the new country and language without problem& returning to mother tongue schooling system only took a few months of adaptation


DS was just 4 , with a suspected delay in mother tongue acquisition ....but the move made sense for DH, within his company, they HAD to take us back after our 2 or 3 year stint abroad, we spoke the local language etc ..... so there really was no reason to refuse the move, especially as the new language was DH mother tongue etc .... (so it would help for the kids to learn it and the in-laws to become less nervous about my "foreign-ness" .... although I do speak their language, they assumed quite a few things that were un-true about how we would raise our children, without asking of course ... but that's another subject, just a bit sore to me ...)

so it took DS ages litterally to accept to speak the new language,(which we had been speaking ourselves in former country, as our own private-adult talk-convenient secret way of communicating ...) ... we knew he could understand quite a lot of it but he wouldn't talk .... and you cannot really force someone to speak a language they don't want to speak !!!!!

DS finally jumped in after at least 8 months.... but then very quickly forgot his/my mother tongue .... as if his brain couldn't process two languages at the same time (and he was telling me " it's hard" ....)


fast forward 3 years after the first move, we move back to previous place, meet up with old friends etc .... and DS cannot utter a single word in his former language= mother tongue .... for at least 2 months, then with schooling it gradually came back very slowly over the whole school year

with speech therapy for about a year because a few of the sounds he used to be able to utter, had simply vanished and he just couldn't work out how to utter them by himself (= he would speak his former mother tongue... like a foreigner ...), now all is good for his mother tongue .... spelling is not great though (he doesn't read as much as DD1 unfortunately ...)


after about 18 months being back, I realise that he's no longer willing to speak his second language and start homeschooling (just for that language, he goes to regular local school otherwise) ... now, he can speak a little of his second language, he has a foreign accent when he speaks his second language (which he didn't have during the last 2 years of our stay abroad ...)


I still don't regret us moving abroad, am just so sorry for DS that it wasn't so easy for him

for some children it will be easy, for some children it will be hard, you cannot know in advance how it will be for each individual child


I too missed my sewing machine (battling with that and other electronic pieces which might work in one country and not the other, even with an adaptator or an bigger volt changing thingy ...)

I also very much missed having access to some ressources which I know are available where I live now (free group discussions with a psychologist or two about parenting issues for exemple ...)


but there are positive points in any situation ...

just make sure before you leave that you have an "out of here quick" plan B which you can count on just in case ....




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#12 of 12 Old 04-26-2011, 12:30 AM
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I highly recommend it. I grew up in the military and the only "bad" thing that came of it is my all-consuming love of travel winky.gif


I agree with a PP that says travel and exposure to other countries makes children different from their peers, but in a good way. When I was 8-10, we had a neighbor who was French. She and my mom were best friends, and I asked her "weird" questions; what food they ate there, what school was like, what they did for fun, what language she thought in since she was bilingual, etc. She told my mom that it was so bizarre (in a good way), because an eight year old child was so genuinely interested in other cultures while adults couldn't have cared less except to make a snide remark about France. Traveling, living different places, exposing kids to all sorts of people is just so beneficial and I'm so thankful my parents did. Now that I'm an adult and my close friends are all "normal" people who grew up in one place and only took vacations to Florida, I see the benefits even more. I've always viewed life, the world and people so much differently, and I'm glad for it. 

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