Posted: Sep 8, 2015
From Canada to the Cayman Islands, and Sweden to Spain, here are our pick of the best places to bring up a family abroad.
If you are fed up with paying a high premium to live in a good catchment area, or forking out for private school fees, why not think outside the envelope and raise your family overseas? Depending on your work circumstances, it can be a more viable option than you probably realise. It is also a good way to raise children who are confident, outgoing and multi-lingual, too.
Here are 20 worldwide destinations where, if you moved there or your work took you there, you could not just have quality time as a family, but be confident that your children could get a decent education and make some interesting friends..
Ever dreamed of sending your son to Harrow? Then try Harrow Beijing for size. The school’s Eastern outpost has become increasingly popular. Life in the bustling Chinese capital would not suit everyone but, if your work takes you there, don’t under-estimate it as a family-friendly environment. The monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in an upmarket residential complex would be around £1,500.
Britain has close historic ties with Cyprus, and that is reflected in the education system. There are plenty of English-speaking schools on the island and, although you will probably have to pay school fees, they are much lower than in Britain. It is also a great place to grow up, with low crime rates, year-round sun and some friendly neighbourhoods. Limassol on the south coast, where you can pick up a nice three-bedroom villa and pool for around £500,000, stands out as a vibrant, fun-loving town.
People tend to love or hate Dubai, but if you fall in the former category, it can be a gloriously cosmopolitan environment to raise a family, with some good international schools. The property market has picked up after a rocky period and, if you feel like splashing out, you can buy a four-bedroom villa on the famous Palm Jumeirah for around £2 million.
Berlin property prices are less crazy than central London – you can buy a three-bedroom house in the popular district of Wilmersdorf for about £650,000. The transport system is first-class, there is a wealth of open spaces and the schools enjoy a high reputation.
Compact capital cities tend to suit families better than vast ones, and Prague is one of the most appealing in Europe, with pleasingly low property prices – around £250,000 for a large apartment within 20 minutes of the historic centre. It is a really fun city, with plenty to appeal to teenagers as well as younger children, and there is a good selection of international schools. The leafy suburb of Vinohrady is particularly popular with expat families.
Just imagine a childhood in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, steeped in history, rich in culture. Whether you favour the International Baccalaureate or British GCSEs, you should find a school to suit your child. Property prices are not cheap, but pretty reasonable by London standards. You can get a three-bedroom family home in the sought-after residential neighbourhood of Parioli for around £1.5 million.
14. Hong Kong
In league tables of the world’s best schools, Hong Kong always features prominently. Hong Kong fizzes with life and there is plenty for children, both in the classroom and outside school hours. Property prices are steep. You would have to pay around £1.5 million for a three-bedroom apartment in West Kowloon – but how can you put a price on growing up in one of the world’s great cities?
If the sun and sea help to make a happy childhood, then Portugal could be the answer, particularly when you consider the beaches, the great food and the dependable schools. It is a relaxed, genial country, with a culture of outdoor living. Lisbon is far more manageably sized than most European capitals, and you can pick up a family-sized home in a popular suburb for between £400,000 and £500,000.
12. St Lucia
The St Lucia International School is one of the best in the Caribbean, underscoring the fact that there is far more to this delightful island than tourism. If you are looking to raise a family here, it is best to live in the more populated north of the island, where you could hope to get a family-sized villa on the prestigious Cap Estate for around £800,000..
11. Cape Town
There is a clutch of decent international schools in Cape Town, serving an increasingly cosmopolitan community. And the energetic outdoor lifestyle enjoyed by children growing up in South Africa – everything from trekking to surfing – makes life even more exciting. You can get a family home in a popular suburb such as Camps Bay for about £450,000.
If you think your child might end up as a doctor, Grenada makes an interesting left-field option. It is not just a lovely little island, the Caribbean at its best, but boasts a well-regarded medical school with a truly international intake. Property prices compare very favourably with Barbados. There are some stunning family-sized villas priced at around £750,000.
Brussels is rich in culture, history and heritage. Do you want children who are (a) insular or (b) outgoing, cosmopolitan and multi-lingual? The political centre of Europe is a true cultural melting-pot, where your child will share a classroom with bright kids from across the continent. There are some great family-friendly suburbs, too, e.g. Rixensat, where you can expect to pay around £400,000 for a family home.
If you dream of having bi-lingual children, who also have a trans-Atlantic perspective on the world, Montreal could be a brilliant choice. The biggest city in French-speaking Canada has some fabulous family-friendly areas, e.g. West Island, where you might have to pay around for £500,000 for a reasonably sized family home. You would also have the great Canadian outdoors on your doorstep. Just think of those family camping trip...
7. Cayman Islands
Your children will probably be snorkelling while they are still in nappies, and they could look forward to an enviably stress-free childhood in the Cayman Islands, a prosperous British enclave in the Caribbean. There is a sizeable international community, many employed in the financial sector, and a well-regarded international school. Property prices are steep, inevitably, but you can buy a four-bedroom house and pool for around £1.5 million.
For more than 50 years, Singapore’s economic success has been underpinned by the excellence of its education system, from nursery through to university. The climate is punishing, but there is a vibrant international community and never any shortage of things to do. Property prices in Singapore are currently falling, which might make it prudent to rent. House prices are not cheap: a family-sized apartment in a good area will set you back around £1 million.
If you are more attracted to the International Baccalaureate than English GCSEs, why not go the whole hog and immerse your young ones in the French education system? The quality of schools varies from area to area, but the general standard is high and the French are world experts at giving the young an appreciation of the good things in life. Paris can be a bit expensive, but shop around in the provinces and you should be able to find a good family-sized home in a pretty area – the ever-popular Dordogne or the wonderful Gers, to the south – for £300,000 or less.
They take education seriously in Sweden, which is renowned for its first-class schools. They also know how to build environmentally friendly communities. Property prices in Stockholm are well above the national average, but away from the capital, you can pick up a family home in a good area for around £200,000. The university city of Uppsala, less than an hour from Stockholm, is particularly appealing.
Spain has long been a magnet for Brits approaching retirement. But it also has lots to offer young families, who are looking to move overseas. Spain offers large, but not over-large cities such as Barcelona, Valencia and Seville. You might pay around £250,000 for a three-bedroom property in a good area. They are great places to spend a happy childhood.
If you played outdoors a lot in your childhood, and would like your children to do the same, then Australia is the perfect location. Whether your kids prefer the beach or the cricket pitch, they will spend a healthy proportion of their childhood in the open air. They will also get a solid English-based education. Of the two biggest cities, Melbourne, offers better value than Sydney – around £300,000 for a good three-bedroom house in the eastern suburbs.
1. New Zealand
Brits who move to New Zealand are often heard heaping praise on the country’s excellent schools and family-friendly neighbourhoods. It is a palpably less stressed-out country than Britain, with a relaxed pace of life, close-knit communities, low crime rates and a wide range of outdoor activities all year round. Competitive property prices are another obvious magnet. You can pick up well-situated family homes with a bit of land for around £250,000.
The only risk with some of these destinations is that your kids will have such a good time that they might skimp on their homework. But they will certainly have a memorable time overseas..
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