Posted by Oliver Meredew on January 28th, 2016.
If you’re looking for a change of scene but have a family to consider, our look at five of the best places in Europe for family living could help you narrow down your search.
Mainland Europe is an exceptionally diverse place and it’s worth taking a look at the variety of choices out there when it comes to moving abroad with those you hold dear.
Additionally, if you’re already a citizen of the European Union, you won’t need visas to move to any of the countries on this list as they’re all part of the Schengen area. This means that you’ve immediately managed to dodge the usual fuss that comes with picking your way through the often vast and complicated procedure of finding and applying for the right kind of visa.
Without further ado, let’s get to first country on the list, a close continental neighbour to the UK – Belgium.
As the oft-forgotten nation sandwiched between France, Germany, the Netherlands and equally-obscure Luxembourg, Belgium represents a sometimes-complicated, always cultured slice of the grand European pie.
To start off on an explanatory note, the country is effectively split into the Flemish northern half and the Walloon-based southern half. While two sides of the same coin, these separate halves can sometimes feel like microstates in themselves, given the media and educational divides that exist.
Despite this, however, the country is a diverse mix of natives and newcomers, and has a distinct focus on childcare at a national level. The nation’s educational system has consistently ranked among the top in the world and even at a pre-school level, highly rated crèches can help your child along the long path to a good educational experience.
Although Belgium has three official languages (Dutch, French and German), Dutch is the most prominently spoken and represents the de facto language in many parts of the country. Not to worry if you’re feeling hesitant about taking on a new tongue – Belgium has a large expat community and many other languages are also present besides the ‘top 3’.
For the next country on the list, we’ll be swinging northeast a bit to cross over the border into the Netherlands. Renowned for its flatness and contributions to the art world, the Netherlands have evolved in the present day to be a highly cultured, cosmopolitan country that has plenty to offer growing families in terms of support.
In addition to being all-around inclusive to natives, new visitors, Dutch speakers and those still getting to grips with the language, the Dutch government offers a particularly notable measure of support for those living or working in the country with young families.
This is the ‘Dutch Childcare Act’, or ‘Kinderdagverblijf’, which spreads the costs involved with childcare between the parents, their employers and the government for children up to 12 years of age. In addition, a childcare allowance exists for working parents in the country, which can help to cut costs dramatically.
Outside of its family-friendly policies, the Netherlands offer a stable, UK-esque environment for the newly arrived, with regular seasons, niche shops, frequent celebrations and supportively low unemployment rates.
Heading east once again, we find ourselves in Germany, one of the largest countries in the European Union. Germany adopts the sometimes comfortable, sometimes less so position of being the largest economy within the Eurozone and by extension, the greatest contributor to region’s economy.
Exporting is high but despite the national industriousness for which the nation is famed, the government still has room to offer a great deal of support for families. In addition to boasting a world class schooling system, Germany also offers a parental allowance, or ‘Elterngeld’, that is granted to parents of babies within the first 12-14 months after their birth. In addition to providing a helping hand to working parents, Elterngeld also provides additional financial support if you already have children depending on whether you meet certain criteria.
Expats from the UK are commonplace in the country and the online community of Toytown is full of long-time and freshly arrived residents happy to make you feel welcome.
A word of warning to those without steady employment, however, as Germany’s cost of living is considered to be higher than in surrounding countries. For the larger price tag, however, moving your family to Germany can see your family enjoy a high quality continental lifestyle. Additionally, taking the time to learn the language can facilitate ease of access to the next two countries on the list.
Heading south past the Czech Republic, we cross the border into Austria, a country renowned for its composers and delicious and intricate culinary inventions.
On the family side of things, the country has repeatedly ranked highly on quality of living indexes and like Germany offers a range of subsidisation programs for childcare. Generally ending in ‘geld’, these schemes can range from a steady payment to parents every month from their being born to turning 16, as well as a payment plan that goes directly to mothers for up to two years after giving birth.
Parental leave is also an aspect of Austria’s governmental programs, which can serve as a welcome buffer between the typical gaps in a child’s upbringing that take place between going to work and catching up on the off-hours.
Permanent residence in the country is acquired via registration, although the only actual requirements for EU citizens is proof of employment or adequate funding to support your nearest and dearest.
Germany is the official language of Austria although a number of international schools also exist to cater for parents who wish to bring their children up in linguistic ‘homes away from home’. Outside of these institutions, the country is well known for its numerous public parks, efficient public transport and many fascinating museums.
Moving across the map to the west, we reach the last but certainly not least country on the list, Switzerland – with the southern half of the country taken up by the breath-taking Swiss Alps and the northern capital of Bern offering world-class service in multiple areas.
While not actually a member of the EU, Switzerland is nonetheless part of the free-travel Schengen Area, which means that moving to the country from within the EU is still a relatively painless process.
Education is heavily invested in by the government and virtually promises to set your children up with a bright future in store, although as with Germany, the price tag is a little in the exclusive range. This is balanced out by top of the chart incomes compared to the rest of the world and an internationally renowned healthcare service.
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