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Which Countries Speak Your Language?

For some, a move abroad is both exciting and scary. Over time you will almost certainly find yourself becoming bi-lingual, if not multi-lingual. But for those who speak only their native tongue before they move, the idea of finding themselves unable to communicate at all with those around them can be quite daunting.

So if you are looking to move abroad, it is worth knowing which European countries are most likely to be able to help you out and speak your language whilst you are still struggling with theirs.

Moving to Germany may be the best idea for those not wanting to find themselves lost for words in their new home. Surprisingly, Germany has almost the same number of English speakers as Britain itself, with 59% of its population fluent in English. Moving to Germany therefore means that more than every other person you meet will be able to speak your language and in turn help you to learn theirs.

Moving to Holland is also a great move for those who want to experience a new country but don’t want to feel completely cut off from the English language. Moving to Holland, you will find a massive 87% of people able to speak English. With a much lower population than Germany that means that there aren’t as many English speakers, but a much higher percentage, meaning that almost everyone you meet will be able to help you out if you are struggling with their language.

Belgium and France also have huge numbers of English speaking residents, so you really are spoilt for choice.

Understanding Foreign Culture

If you are looking to move abroad, then it is worthwhile taking some time to understand the culture of that country before you go. Doing so is not just about trying to fit in and not cause offence, but more importantly it is about understanding why certain customs exist and discovering what makes the place you are moving to so unique.

It will also help you to understand how their culture allows them to overcome problems that people living in the country might face, whether they be political, religious, environmental or educational. Understanding the culture will help you fit in, yes, but it will also help you make the most of your new life abroad right from the very start, as well as understanding the great aspects that give life there its true character.

For instance, for those moving to Belgium understanding its cuisine is very important. Whilst moving to Belgium offers one a chance to live amongst one of the most verbose nations in Europe, and one where language barriers will rarely be a problem, they are very passionate about food and certain things may easily offend when you are eating out.

For those moving to Holland, it is wise to remember that appearance is very important to the Dutch, with cleanliness being imperative and modesty an important asset. Shows of wealth or bragging will not find you in favour with the Dutch.

So whether you are moving to Holland or the furthest tip of Spain, take a while to understand the culture and you will find your new home much more inviting and rewarding.

Shopper’s Solace: The Most Stylish Cities in Europe

Moving to Europe – for some of us at least – HAS to mean… shopping!

Paris, France
Moving to France? Head for Paris – You know you want to! As the home of Haute Couture, Paris is one of the most chic cities in Europe. Renowned stores along the Rue du Fauborg and Champs Elysees attract label-seekers like moths to a flame! But it’s not all couture, flea markets and vintage fairs are the soul of Paris. When relocating to France who knows what you’ll find – vintage Chanel, classic Halston or an antique Chesterfield that’s fits perfectly into your new French living space!

Barcelona, Spain

Of course Milan is a style capital, but if its art and beatnik chic you seek, a trip to Barcelona should be on the cards! The designer names are all there, nestled sweetly amongst the jostling array of markets and bargain vintage stalls!

Zurich, Switzerland
An unexpected gem, Zurich’s central square plays host to some lavish brands! The elegant Bahnhofstrasse is certainly one of the most stylish and gracefully designed shopping streets in Europe. And don’t forget a little bad-weather indulgence in the sumptuous and labyrinthine ShopVille underground shopping centre.

Amsterdam, Holland
A city of quirky uniqueness and shopping curiosities! Moving to Holland? Make Amsterdam one of your first excursions. The Dutch love to mix and match their markets, meaning you’re likely to find a bit of everything!

Ok, so shopping trips aren’t for everyone. But for those amongst us who love nothing more than a day whiled away window shopping, Europe is more than satisfactory!

Top Pick: Flower Festivals of Europe

Moving to mainland Europe could afford you the fantastic ability to mix easily with the diverse and thrilling cultures of our sister nations. For the green-fingered amongst you, here’s our top pick of European flower festivals and shows on the schedule for 2011:

1.    International Violet Meeting (Toulouse)
Moving to France? During February Toulouse plays host to visitors from around the globe, mutually intent on celebrating the cute violet flower! This free festival resides at the Place du Capitole, and includes a nail-biting violet contest, exhibitions, lectures, food markets and – of course – plant stalls!

2.    Holland Flowers Festival (Zwaagdjik-Oost)
From 23rd-27th February, The Greenery venue is decked out with Holland’s premier flower festival! And it’s not all tulips, shows include daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths, crocuses and irises – to name but a few. Moving to Holland in February? Make the festival your first big cultural event! The companion lifestyle fair is almost as popular at the festival itself (another reason for moving to Holland in February!)

3.    Past and Present Vegetables (Saint-Jean de Beauregard, France)
Who says flowers should get all the attention? Relocating to France with a little organic veggie cultivation in mind? September sees the arrival of this quaint show, set in the stunning grounds of the chateau Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard. Although the chateau hosts various festivals throughout the year, this one achieves notoriety amongst amateurs and professionals alike (we suspect it to be something to do with the superb lunches and afternoon teas on offer!)

Serious About Cycling: The Dutch Love Affair with Bikes

The Dutch do any number of things magnificently (probably why you’re so intent on moving to Holland!) – celebrate festivals, define tulips, nurture a thriving contemporary culture… and ride bicycles!

Moving to Holland – particularly a city like Amsterdam – is likely to mean you getting in touch with your inner-child and politely explaining to them that you’ll, once again, need those childhood skills of bicycle balance!

Landscape
If you’re considering moving to the Netherlands, you probably already know this – Holland the FLAT. Perfect for low-effort cycling!

Safety
Traffic flow tends to be completely tailored to accommodate cyclists. Cycle paths “Fietspads” are generally well marked, extremely well maintained, numerous and include provisions such as distance markers (in km) and stoplights. It’s worth keeping an eye out for mopeds, as some cycle paths allow them. Usually bicycles have the right of way over pedestrians.

Cycle helmets aren’t a legal requirement in Holland (yet), and for the most part folks prefer life without them. Since very little cycling takes place on the main road, safety standards are much higher.

Social Conscience
The lovely ANWB (Dutch Automobile Association) have developed a lovely habit of supplying free bike repair emergency kits in numerous places around the country. They can be found everywhere from bike parking facilities, campsites, restaurants, tourist offices and museums to schools, police stations and libraries!

Easy Frugality
No fuel bills, no tedious parking permits, low environmental impact – a move to Holland sounds brilliant!

Crime
Bicycle theft is common in Holland, however violence is not. A replacement bike will set you back roughly £20-£60

Speed Demon: Take Care on Germany’s Autobahn Roads

Moving to Germany can mean a huge plethora of thrilling new opportunities for every traveller. The kids might think moving to Germany will mean less school (German students generally only attend in the morning), teenage girls might become light-headed at the prospect of relocating to Germany to find… German teenage boys! But there’s one thing Dads, Granddads, sons, brothers and mates are thinking when the subject of moving to Germany is raised… AUTOBAHN!

Germany’s Autobahns are super-highways not dissimilar to our own UK motorways. Access to Autobahn roads is legally prohibited for vehicles unable to reach and obtain a speed of 37mph (60 km/h) The advised upper speed limit is about 80mph (130km/h), however there is no legal limit in place.

Foreigners can often get carried away at the suggestion of NO SPEED LIMIT, meaning crashes and collisions are more common amongst non-native drivers.

We’ve gathered these helpful tips from our drivers and clients –

•    Be careful when entering and exiting the Autobahn. There are often sharp bends at access points!

•    Don’t panic when people flash their lights at you; it’s often simply a polite notification that they’re approaching at high speed.

•    Let go of the element of competition – it really IS NOT A RACE!

•    Be wary of road surfaces. Some Autobahns are poorly maintained and can be dangerous when sensible driver restraint and caution is not employed.

•    Never dawdle in the left (overtaking) lane; the Autobahnpolizei (Autobahn Police) won’t hesitate to issue a fine with your name on it!

Driving Wild: European Driving Guide

So, you’re moving to France, well you’ll want to keep the car’s log book on hand if you want to avoid a hefty fine upon involvement in a traffic accident or offence! Moving to Germany? Do you know what the upper speed limit of the Autobahn is? There isn’t one! Moving to Holland? Did you know that a red triangle light at a roundabout means roundabout traffic has right of way? Only if the light is OUT does traffic entering the roundabout have right of way. Europe is a patchwork of different (and continually changing!) traffic laws, guidelines and protocols.

The legal side of foreign driving – particularly when crossing multiple borders – is rarely simple. However, for the most part, prudence, rationality, patience and airing on the side of caution will get you far.

As a UK citizen, your UK driving license covers all EC/EEA countries. It’s worth noting that the age limits of a country override UK age limits. If you’re seventeen-year-old UK driving license holder, wave goodbye to driving until you reach eighteen in Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Finland, Luxemburg, Belgium, Malta and Portugal!

To drive in a non-EC/EAA country, purchase an IDP (International Driving Permit) for £5.50; applications are available at the Post Office. Most IDPs are valid for a year and are non-renewable from abroad. After one year applicants must sit the native driving test of their domicile country.

Familiarising yourself with local traffic protocols and etiquette will take a little time and patience. Our advice? Be cautious, be polite, be diligent.

A Voyage of Discovery: Living Abroad

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  (Mark Twain)

Making the jump from whimsical daydream to bold reality can be more than a little daunting for the best of us, especially when such actions involve travel; perhaps uprooting a young family, and moving to Germany, moving to Belgium, moving to Egypt, moving to Japan – anywhere away from home! Here are few pros and cons we picked up from previous clients moving to Belgium, Spain, and our other noted destinations.

Pros
•    Excitement! When travelling, the thrill of the new is something beautiful. It can’t be replicated, can’t be found through books, and can’t completely be explained verbally.
•    The UK is going nowhere. So, perhaps relocating to Germany was wrong for your family. So what? Count your blessings, pack up, head home and settle back into a life you now KNOW you want.
•    Difference. As Mark Twain professed above, travel and new cultural experiences go a long way to expanding the mind, soul and that little font of knowledge within. Children’s brains particularly are truly great information sponges!

Cons
•    Fitting in. Taking the first step isn’t the only hard part! It can take months – years even – for an expat to feel truly settled.
•    Homesickness. Time heals all wounds? Suddenly you forget how tedious the British drizzle was – “I miss the dull weather/late trains/familiar road signs etc!”
•    Loneliness. Expat communities are common throughout most of the world, however being apart from trusted supports back home can be heart-wrenching.

International or Dutch: Education in Holland

Moving to Germany your options are pretty simple, however moving to Holland will have you tearing your hair out at the complexity of the Dutch education system! The simple fact (one of the only simple things about education in the Netherlands!) is that education of Holland is all about providing students of all ages with a broad choice of learning, commitment and qualification options.

So, when moving to Holland, what are you legal obligations in terms of children’s education? Under Dutch law, children from ALL nationalities residing in Holland are required to attend school between the ages of five and eighteen years.

International schooling is available at both private and public schools throughout Holland. Both are mostly free, “Private” usually more accurately means “Specialist”. Since 1917, equal state funding has been available to all types of school (e.g. those with particular religious conviction, subject focus, education ideologies etc), increasing the number of privately run establishments significantly.

Choosing the right school for your brood depends on a number of factors; amongst them are length of stay, children’s ages, financial situation, location and study aims. For example, if relocating to Holland with very young children, assimilation into a Dutch-speaking public or private school could help them settle. Older children could reconcile with the move more effectively through education at an International School.

Specific International Special Schools are rare, and entry is usually via referral. However, some international, and many public and private schools, provide Special Needs teachers. Dutch education places great emphasis on educating students with special needs in mainstream schools.

Quick Guide: The German School System

Moving to Germany might be fine for you, but are you concerned about providing your children with the best education? Before you consider removals to Germany, take a look through our quick guide to German education:

Kindergarten
As in the UK, non-compulsory but can be a great place to introduce your littlest monsters to German language.

Grundschule (Primary Education)

Spanning four years (ages 6-10), Grundschule is made up of basic education (reading, writing, maths and general knowledge) which occasionally includes the introduction of a second language (generally English) Upon completion of Grundschule, students are recommended for the most suitable type of high school (Gymnasium, Realschule, Hauptschule and Förderschule)

Gymnasium

Educates top-level students with the intention of entering university level education. Passing the final exam (Abitur) is a real accolade and necessary in order to enter university. Other types of school do not offer the Abitur exam.

Realschule
A varied range of subjects combined to cater for intermediary students.

Hauptschule

Designed to afford students a vocational education. German society places great emphasis on apprenticeships and vocational study.

Förderschule
Similar to Special Needs school establishments in the UK, offering tailored facilities for those with unique needs.

NOTE: Graduates of Realschule and Hauptschule can still attend university upon attendance and exam undertaking at Berufsoberschule (Upper Vocational School)

International School
Upon relocating to Germany, many UK natives send their children to one of the numerous and highly accomplished International Schools. Native language lessons are a benefit (German lessons are included), as is the exposure to other international student’s cultures.