In my previous article “How To Meet People You Don’t Know” I was talking how to overcome your fears about networking with strangers and strategies to meet new friends in general.
In this article, I would like to be more specific and give some tips on meeting people before you move abroad focusing on getting information about schools . In many cases expats don’t have time to visit the schools physically, so my message to new expats is: educate yourself as much as possible before putting your destiny in the hands of relocation companies or real estate agents who do not necessarily understand what is best for you as a foreigner.
If you Google : Living in or moving to your “destination” you will get tons of general information from history, population, climate, visas, school systems, real estate, studying and so on which is great but easily overwhelming and sometimes very subjective.
I know the feeling : you have everything you need right in front of you on the internet but you don’t know what fits YOUR NEEDS ! So you want to talk to real people and make personal contacts living in the places of your choice.
How To Choose A Place To Live With Children? Searching criteria about schools and neighborhoods that match your needs is the first thing you will need.
Here some questions you may ask yourself:
- Do you want a public or a private school ?
- Looking for International Baccalaureate programs PYP, MYP or IB ?Those programs are recognized around the world and ensure adaptability and mobility for IB students.
- Are you looking for a competitive or caring environment?
- Do you have kids with learning disability or ADHD ?
- Is the ratio student teacher important for you? for example in France 30 kids for 1 teacher is the norm
- What about the languages ?
- Do you want a religious school ?
- Do you need extended day care if you work ?
- Can you find your children’s favorite sports and after-school activities nearby ?
- Do you need school bus?
- What is the maximum time you want to spend on commute ?
- Do you need public transportation?
- How close is the nearest International airport?
- How long do you plan to stay ?
- Do you want to buy or rent a house or apartment?
- What is the average home sale prices ? Even if you don’t buy you will pay local taxes and living in a $1 million average sale district will cost you more than a 400,00 but may have better schools.
- How much are the local taxes ?
Before contacting anybody I suggest you put everything that you want and that you don’t want as well as an “I don’t know” in specific lists.
Even if you want your children in private international schools, learn about the public school systems as in most cases your address will determine which schools you can go . This is the case in France and US for example. It is wise to live in a sector that has best rating public schools in case you need to become locals and cannot afford the high fee of an international school. On top of that, you want your kids to play with local kids and make sure you have a nice environment that suits your lifestyle
Once you have located the school districts look at homes that you can afford and are available for rent or to buy so you have your list ready to contact people living in the towns you think are a good fit for you.
You can get information directly from people living in your destination by posting questions on expat forums. I suggest you visit “expat expert” , Robin Pascoe’s website and look at her list of Links : http://www.expatexpert.com/ . Do not hesitate to engage in personal conversations from people living in your target area who write a blog, post on Twitter, Facebook , Linkedin, Viadeo or Internations.org.
Here some information about school systems I have experimented with my son now in 3rd grade (CE2):
Schools In France: http://www.french-school-expat-guide.com
Schools In Japan: Since most people who are first moving with family do not speak the local language, putting your child in a local Japanese school might not be possible. For young children however, if you cannot afford international schools and if you are working, I know a lot of foreigners who put their children in local Japanese public daycare/preschools called Hoikuen. If you are students with kids, some universities have on campus nursery schools. You also need to check the enrollment procedures in your district(Ward). For older kids starting elementary schools and above, you might check with your embassy resources about education.
Schools and neighborhoods in the USA: It is amazing how much information is available as free public statistics: you can compare schools and towns based on People, Cost of Living, Economy, Ethnicity, Housing, Health, Crime, Climate,
Education, Transportation, Religion, Voting etc.
Compare places to live: