Moving Abroad with a Family

During the past decade I moved frequently around. No matter to which city or country I moved, I never had trouble adjusting relatively easy again and again. My wife was the same, no troubles adjusting to the new environment even when she moved from China to Finland. So when we decided to move to Germany we did not think at all that it might be a bit different moving as a family abroad instead of a single person.

The thing is when you move alone to a new place there is not too much to consider. You basically have your stuff, perhaps some furniture but whatever you have to organize it is just for yourself. Not for anyone else. This is a bit different when moving abroad as a family. First of all you have out of nowhere extremely much things to take with. When we started to pack our things last summer we were overwhelmed by the amount we had. Clothes, kitchen stuff, furniture and all kind of other things. Even after we sold nearly all of our furniture or gave it away to some friends we still had just too much for the two cars we had available. The situation was a bit different when I moved from apartment to apartment back in the day. You know, one car was more than enough to move all my stuff, that’s all!

We even had stuff on top of the cars but still much was left behind in our cottage…


Once we arrived in Germany a bureaucratic procedure marathon started. There was first of all the issue of getting the residence permit for my wife. Getting this residence permit itself was relatively easy as we had been married already for a few years and because our son has the German nationality. But it still resulted into a challenge as the office was only opened for a few hours a day. Furthermore as I mentioned before Germany seems to have missed the beginning of the digital age thus everything created a huge paper mountain of work. All in all it took about six-weeks until my wife received her residence permit. Considering that we spent only about half hour in the office it is interesting to see how much time passes by until those papers can be processed/ receive a stamp!

Another thing when moving with a baby, much less space due to the baby seat!


Besides this residence permit there was the matter of registering both my wife and our little boy Nathan in this city. Then we needed a health insurance which was a whole other mess worth an entire blog post. In short form it required me to apply to unemployment benefit even though I was not eligible to receive it (both the staff and me knew it right from the beginning). In order that they could process the papers I needed to hand in tons of translations from all kind of documents which themselves cost a small fortune. But as we were anyways not eligible to receive this unemployment benefit we just wasted this money for nothing because in Germany “Ordnung muss sein” and thus could not get any health insurance, no matter what we tried. Only me getting a job rescued us as I finally could get all the needed insurances for us. In case one of us would have become suddenly ill we would have not been able to pay for it. One week after we got the family health insurance little Nathan got sick. Just  an ear infection and fever, nothing dramatic but it showed how important a health insurance is. All the treatment received without a health insurance would have cost us roughly 600 Euros! But thanks to the insurance we payed laughable 4 Euros…


What other troubles there are for a family? Usually in most country moving2families try to find a nice kindergarten which is nearby. Here in Germany it is slightly different. There are just too few kindergartens in this country resulting in huge waiting lists. We signed up Nathan already one year ago in one kindergarten here during our holidays. Few days ago I received a note mentioning that he is still on the waiting list on spot number 278. WHAT 278? Yeah, right…Because of this we signed him up at different kindergartens around the city in the hope that we might get a spot before he starts elementary school. I am not kidding!


I know I know, most things could have been handled better by actually preparing to move to this country as a family and not just with the experiences we had by moving around as a single person. But then again there are a few things which simply depend on the person handling your case for example at the health insurance or at the unemployment office. Why am I adding this? Well, after I finally got this job here I got to know that it is no problem to get a health insurance without a job or receiving unemployment benefit. You simply need to pay higher fees but it is also more work for the person filing your papers and thus they just pretend that it is not possible…


Right now I am just happy that my wife does not moving3want to have her parents here in Germany nor do they want to move later here. In every country in the European Union it is a hard process to be able to invite parents from the “Outside” to live with you. It is hard but possible. This can not be said about Germany. Only in rare cases you can do this for example if the home country is a war zone or similar bad things…or you just simply have very much money. However it would be also nice to have her parents here to live as a big family together. Right now only my parents have the joy to be with our Nathan every day, my in-laws only see him through some video chats.


Anyways I am happy what we have managed thus far. In July my wife’s German language course is ending after which she will get a B1 certificate, Nathan might even get his kindergarten spots one day and I will just have to pull through my job.


What are your experiences when moving abroad?

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40 thoughts on “Moving Abroad with a Family”

  1. I can relate to what you are saying. I moved to Taiwan with two suitcases and when we bought our house, it took us a couple of weeks to move our stuff (and the distance between our new home and where we were renting was only about 100 meters). It is amazing how much ‘stuff’ you can accumulate over the years!!

    Glad to hear everything is working our for you. Health care is very important when you have a child. Your job has been a benefit for you in more ways than one!

    1. Many of these things you accumulate are also sometimes useless…my colleague said that you should considering throwing away stuff when you move boxes full of stuff several times in your life without opening them 🙂

  2. That is great you have settled down in Germany. So competitive to get a spot in kindergarten there. If getting into school is the same deal then it will be another headache for you, but hopefully not. More money to get health insurance and they don’t they you…what in the world. Some people are just lazy.

    I never liked moving, to be honest. Hate the packing up bit, and when you ship your stuff in bulk it can take months for them to arrive. I also don’t adapt to new food very well, so that is a problem when I’m moving. I’m also the very observant kind so when it’s moving time, I observe a lot of the changes happening around me and sort of get sensory overload, and that makes me tired.

    1. I think it is good that I am rather stupid so I can just switch my brain off when we move so I don’t get into any situation to get sensory overload. Oh well, food can be tricky sometimes but so far I survived all the food without trouble but then again I must have a good stomach as I never got troubles in China due to the food…

      People can be really lazy. I really wonder why they all told me that it is impossible to get an insurance while it was possible. Appearently they do not even care at all what happens to us without those insurances. I even told them several times that we need one at least for the baby but no, not possible they said…

      1. LOL, Crazy. I wish I can switch my brain off like you, but it’s just not in my nature. That often leaves me very tired…and yet my mind will force myself to observe.

        “People can be really lazy.” Agree with you there. Not just lazy, but liars too. The people you dealt with don’t sound like they are new staff, sad. If they don’t go the extra mile to explain that you can get the insurance by paying more, they still get paid the same.

      2. The thing is, I have to deal with these kind of people all the time now…I am working at the sales management of my work places and well, there I see the numbers how good some sales people are doing and how terrible other (just to compare, one sales person gets nearly 60 insurance packages sold last year and the other one only 2….and they both were not sick the entire year)

      3. Sales…that’s one area I’ve sworn myself to not get work in, lol. It’s such a competitive area to work in, and the more sales you do the more commission you get and you usually have to put people’s concern aside to make the sale, at least in Australia. I don’t know if it’s like that in Germany, sounds like it works differently.

      4. The bank I am working for is apublic body and it is a fixed income… So there is also less competition. In any other bank the sales people are more competitive and really try to sell you everything but not in here :p

  3. I am so happy that I’ve either moved as a kid in the family (few responsibilities, yessss!) or alone as an adult. Our next move will be the first for me and my husband together. Although we don’t have a little one to deal with, we seem to have a lot of stuff already (and no storage space, argh!) so moving will be quite tough. Also, I want to get rid of a lot of the furniture I have (I just wanted cheap stuff “for now”ーthat was 4 years ago…^^;) which is no mean feat in Japan. I’m mostly worried about how to get things out of the apartmentーnarrow staircase and narrow doors… D: Oh well, it’ll be an adventure I guess? 😉

    1. Right now I am at a stage where I do not want to move ever again! But I know that I few years it will be time again when we need to expand our home…I feel sick already thinking of carrying these furnitures down three floors.

      Worst about moving is to actually pack everything and then figuring out a system on how to organize everything anew in the next apartment. Somehow that always takes the longest time

      1. I can imagine you’re quite done with the process!

        Yes, that’s definitely time-consumingーand stressful! Especially when you imagine it one way, but can’t seem to figure out to make it that perfect way and you end up stuck with unpacked boxes forever… T-T

  4. I wonder if other families have pooled together their needs and have created an informal playgroup of sorts. Perhaps it’s worth looking into? And isn’t it ironic that the word ‘kindergarten’ comes from German? What’s up with the shortage, Germany???

    Glad that Nathan had the good sense to not get sick until AFTER you had insurance 😉

    1. It is ratty weird with the kindergarten situation here. In my youth they still had enough so I guess it is lack of funds and educated staff these days to maintain a high number of kindergartens. I mean they even put it onto the political agenda during the elections but nothing came around thus far

  5. Moved abroad quite a few times now. I usually sell everything and throw away the leftovers before going somewhere new. Whatever I choose to bring with me in my limited suitcase space on the plane, must be pretty damn special to make the cut. We just started over in our new countries. Yes, we love IKEA. Buying new furniture is cheaper and much nicer than rented furnitured apartments for a few years. I do suspect that our next international move will be a bit more complicated, since we have a little one on the way… But I am sure it will still include a trip to IKEA in our new homecountry :).

    1. Though we got rid of most of our furniture, actually all except the baby stuff, we had just too much. My beloved book collection is still at my parents cottage together with some other thing which will easily fill another carload. In the furniture now for this apartment we have invested too much money so I think nearly all will go with us when we move next time. Come to think of, I believe my office chair is still i the finnish apartment in the cellar. I believe we do could tell our tenant that she can use it :p

  6. It seems to be a world wide thing with the whole long list of being accepted into kindergartens! My mom’s one colleague had just found out she was pregnant and had already signed her child up for kindergarten… I couldn’t help but be confused 😛

    When I was a kid, it was the same thing, but my parents didn’t sign me up ever since they thought it was stupid xD. Yet I still managed to get into kindergarten with ease and got into one of the top private schools that also had a major waiting list lol.

    1. So it seems that this issues exists in multiple countries. I only knew about it so far from Germany. In Finland there so far always enough for all the children and each part of a town or city got several kindergartens, mostly connected to a primary school

  7. Wow! Yes indeed, bureaucracies can be a hassle….when frustrated please remember! Raising a family in China is much Much more difficult in way of these things 😉 I didn’t know it was so difficult to “enter” Germany. I’m actually very curious, under such a residency status, is your wife able to become employed or….how long after?
    PS….jaja alles in ordnung sein, and whilst in China I am frantically looking for the ordnung! 🙂

    1. Oh well, i dont want to even think about how much trouble it would be in China, I think I would go crazy 🙂

      Her current residence permit is for three years I believe and she is allowed to work. They said at the office that it will be no problem to extend the permit afterwards (but of course the paperwork…shudder)

  8. Germany seems to make thinks more difficult than necessary. I hope you will be able to get Nathan into a kindergarten before too long.

    When we moved to the Philippines, the experience was good in some ways and bad in others. On the bad side, we had to move a great distance only three weeks after our youngest was born, and we had three children, ages 3, 1, and 3 wks. Also on the bad side, there was a dock strike on the US west coast, so our household goods didn’t leave the United States for 5 months. In the meantime, we had only what we brought in our suitcases.

    On the good side: my husband already had a job, and the human resources dept. at his new job helped us with various official things. We also had medical insurance. Also, it’s customary to have maids in the Philippines, so we had household help.

    I enrolled the 3-year-old in a cooperative nursery school. Since the mothers took turns helping at the school, I didn’t have to wait for her to start.

    1. Five months without your goods that’s harsh. And here I was unhappy already that we had to wait two months for some furniture…

      I wonder if it’s still normal in the Philippines to have a maid these days

      1. Yes, it’s still normal to have a maid in the Philippines, both for foreigners and for Filipinos. Even middle-class Filipinos have maids. Although the GDP in the Philippines has been rising since 2009, so it’s becoming harder for people from Singapore and Hong Kong to hire a Filipino maid.

      2. I think a maid would be also a great help for us here but then again we just have to deal with it and pull through as anyone else here 🙂

        It seems that the rising GDP is both good and bad for many people in the Philipines. Good as a risiing GDP usually also indicates how well a country is doing (though there are many things which you can argue about such as the increased difference between rich and poor) and a bad thing as the probably nearly traditional maid is becoming slowly a more luxurary additions to the household when it goes on like now

  9. Moving as a family definitely sounds a lot more difficult than moving solo. All of sudden you have a lot more belongings than before to worry about. Especially when you’re moving to another country. Paperwork sounds like a headache. XD
    Hope Nathan gets into kindergarten soon! I never thought getting into kindergarten could be that difficult either. D:

  10. It is indeed amazing how many things you “amass”. Like Constance, I moved to China with only a 23 kg. suitcase. A couple of months ago we moved into our new apartment in Suzhou and luckily C.’s cousin came to help us with a huge van, if we had moved only with our car we would have need to come and go at least 3 times…

    In Spain it is also very hard to get a kindergarden, I’m wondering if opening one would be a good business 😀

  11. Some of the areas in the big Canadian cities, are dealing with whether or not there is funding and enough classroom size to offer junior kindergarten which one can place a child there for half day 1 yr. earlier or full day kindergarten.

    Moving long distance with a baby would be enough of challenge and of course, sounds like no elevator where you are.

    I’ve moved 3 times in my life –of which last 2 times were over 1,000 km. away from the previous location. I’ve gotten more practical what I buy to keep for many years…..which means less stuff! Your situation is the opposite: having a child means accumulating more stuff for the next decade or so.

    1. So few times you moved I your whole life? You must be lucky! In the past seven years alone I moved five or six times 🙂
      Kindergartens seems to be an issues in any different counties from the comments I got thus far.

  12. Moving in another country is always stressful no matter if you are single or married… I’ve experienced it twice first when I moved to Italy and lived there for 8 years and second now when I came back in my home country Bulgaria. The problems I’ve been facing during these years of living abroad and respectively come back home have always been bureaucratic and frustrating. Every year there’s some new invented document making your life miserable. Regarding the health insurance here is a total mess. I just get to know that now there’s a new law that obliged every single person that has been living for more than 5 years abroad with Bulgarian citizenship to pay the amount of the years up tp now… in my case these are a loooot of money… Anyway glad to see that you and your family are doing fine in Germany :))

    1. That new law you got with the insurance is just insane! Those bureaucratic things are always a mess, especially when a country does not embrace the modern digital age and you got to run from one department to another with the same papers because they still need to put their stamp on it and of course no one ever heard of my case suddenly because information like this takes a month till it get to the next office…

      1. Yes… it’s really insane and this will force more young people to run away from this country. And especially Italy they have a lot of papers it feels like they don’t know what a PC is there .

    1. Germany is a bueaucratic nightmare! I just wish they will find out soon that there is a digital age which started years ago…don’t want to fight myself through stacks of important papers again

  13. You know, that in Germany there is a new law, that every family has the right to get a kindergarten place by law? You can sue the city government you live in, if you didn’t get a place. They can make it up to you by 1. paying for a private kindergarten place for your child, 2. paying for a nanny (Tagesmutter), 3. If your wife decides to stay at home to take care of the child by herself, she has the right to get “care money”, “Betreuungsgeld”, I think about 150 Euro per month. You should check that !

    1. I knew of several collegues so I know it is by law that every child should get a kindergarten spot. However things do not truelly work that way yet as there is even a limit for a nanny the governemt pays/ the city and a normal nanny costs more than triple that amount. Than this Betreuungsgeld, 150€ are rather laughable when you think how much money we lose by my wife not working. I just hope they get the kindergarten situation under control someday soon

  14. Oh, the Germans really are very strict regarding their System. I’ve had similar “adventures” with my daughter when we first moved in, but I must say ever since this has been done I haven’t had any problems here in Germany.

    1. So far we hadnt any further problems either but who knows what happens in the future. I am just happy that we managed everything after all those exhausting runs to the different offices 🙂

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