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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.

Something in the Water?

Our phone rings – “Hi, I’m moving to Holland soon…” and we’re only too happy to help! “I’m moving to Holland…” enquires are amongst our most numerous requests. But just what is it with tulip country that’s causing all sorts of British folks – young, old, graduate, retiree – to make the jump to the nation of windmills?

Fitting in
Relocating to Holland is arguably one of the safest options in terms of culture shock. Roughly 12% of the Amsterdam’s population is made up of expats, making the expat community in Holland one of the most prolific in Europe.

Culture
The façade of windmills, clogs and tulips belies a thriving contemporary culture. The Dutch are people who LOVE their festivals! Everything from flowers and windmills to cycling and the Dutch locales themselves are lovingly honoured with upbeat festivals throughout the year. Art and music festivals such as the wonderful “Festival aan de Werf” in Utrecht are well-run, safe and attracting more patrons every year.

Work and Study

Moving to the Netherlands for educational purposes is a huge trend amongst the UK’s high school and university graduates. Similarly, increasing numbers of jobseekers are finding the Dutch balance between work and play all too irresistible!

Travel
They say travel broadens the mind. The reality for most folks is that they don’t want to stray TOO far from home. Nobody says you HAVE to love the country you’re born too though – Just look at Anglophile Gwyneth Paltrow, tennis ace Greg Rusedski, literary father Ernest Hemmingway or fabulous fashion designer Tom Ford!

Scouting Ahead First? A Quick Guide to European Health Coverage

Moving to Germany, moving to Holland, or just moving down the road – scouting ahead and taking every step to happily conclude your decision to move is the right one is an obvious course to all folks considering a big move.

Moving to the next town? Pop over and take a look easily. Relocating to Germany? Well… you can’t exactly get here using local public transport! A trip to see your potential new abode is a great idea. However, a lot of our clients are a little unsure as to what healthcare provisions to make for their trip (Do we need health insurance? Are we covered in France? Germany? Luxemburg?)

From 2006, the traditional E111 form was gradually phased out of use and is no longer valid. Its replacement – the EHIC card (sometimes known as the EU Health Card) – is free, available via application form (online at www.ehic.org.uk or via the Post Office) and represents the new standard emergency health necessity for all those travelling in Europe. Every person (including children) should have their own card.  You MUST reapply for the EHIC card whether or not you still carry the E111 form.

EHIC cover is not a substitute for comprehensive travel insurance. Coverage doesn’t extend to repatriation or losses due to being the victim of a natural disaster or crime.  The card only entitles the bearer to free or low cost emergency healthcare within EEA (Europe Economic Area) countries.

So, moving to Holland? We heartily recommend a well-insured, safe research trip to all!

European Removal Experts Offer More Trips During Christmas Holidays

European Removal Experts, a London-based removals company serving clients moving to France, Italy and across the EU for domestic, business and educational purposes, are now offering more trips to and from prominent international cities in anticipation of the Christmas holidays.

To accommodate for the influx in people requiring part load deliveries for large gifts over Christmas, and for families moving to Switzerland, France, Germany and other countries during October, November and December, European Removal Experts has increased the amount of trips  going to and from Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Zurich and Paris.

These increased trips also include discounted offers, with up to 30% off part load and full load deliveries to and from these destinations. The vans used for these trips all have up to twenty cubic metres’ worth of space for furniture items, large possessions, and particularly delicate objects – all as part of our door-to-door service.

“As our company continues to grow and we are able to identify the particular requirements of our clients, we are more competently able to not only meet the demands of our customer base, but exceed them in every which way we can,” comments Christian Popovici of European Removal Experts. “As part of our belief in going to extra mile, we have prioritised the convenience of our customers once more by increasing and discounting trips to major cities Europe-wide, so sending items over the Christmas holidays can be as simple as any other day of the year.”