Seven golden rules for moving abroad with children

Starting a new life abroad is daunting at any age. And for children, who might not have a say in the big move, there is lots of excitement and anxiety about the new place they will soon call home.

Seven golden rules for moving abroad with children
Photo: maximkabbDepositphotos

Here’s what you need to know in advance of your move plus some tips to get the kids fired up to pack their bags.

Do your homework

Making a move overseas with your family in tow is a huge commitment. Be sure to know just what you are letting yourself in for by doing your homework. HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey is a good place to start as it ranks countries based on economics, experience and family. The leading European countries ranked are Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

Find out how AXA’s health plans can help protect your family overseas

Discover the benefits for expat families

Another useful survey is the Family Life Index, which ranks 45 countries according to childcare and education options. Sweden, Denmark and Norway all feature in the top five for family life. For example, in Sweden, there are 480 days of paid parental leave as well as compensation by the social services system if you need to take a day off work to look after your child if they are ill.  The Family Life Index also ranked the three Scandinavian countries, as well as France, Spain and Germany, for having affordable childcare and education.

Look after your health

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With so much to sort out when you move, figuring out how the healthcare system works in your newly-adopted home might not be at the top of your list. But if you’ve got children, it’s worth doing your research. The Nordic countries, as well as France, are famed for their state-subsidised health systems where children get treated for free. Communication is vital when your child is ill, but finding a doctor who speaks English may not always be possible. As with most of AXA’s global health plans, you can use the virtual doctor service to speak to a medic in your own language around the clock over the phone or via video call.

Make them feel involved

Whatever your reason for moving abroad, whether it’s for a new job or simply for a change of scenery, making your children feel involved in the process is vital. Show them pictures of their new surroundings and emphasise the positives. Take a virtual tour on Google Maps and point out some of the landmarks and fun places to discover.

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Photo: Sai De Silva/Unsplash

Learn funny new words

Let’s face it, grasping a new language as an adult is not easy. Fortunately, children are fast learners and numerous scientific studies have shown that children who learn two languages have a higher IQ. Apps such as Babbel and Memrise make language learning enjoyable for the whole family. And of course, there are lots of amusing words to have a chuckle at (like the Swedish word for speed bumps).

Plan new ‘firsts’

Wherever you and your family pitch up, there are going to be lots of new places to check out. Planning activities and new ‘firsts’ like a trip to a football match or concert will help the transition process. And of course there will be lots of restaurants to sample the local cuisine so garner their interest by suggesting a quirky local dish. Anyone for German classic Toast Hawaii?

Retain stability

Children thrive on routines and maintaining them will make it easier for them to adapt to their new country. So carry on with the Friday evening trip to the sweet shop and pick up a few new strange looking local treats, make time for Saturday morning family breakfasts along with movie Sundays. Whilst your surroundings may have been altered, children will respond well to the change if familiar family life is retained.  

With AXA’s global health cover, you and your family are protected at every stage of expat life. Find out more about how AXA’s international health insurance can help you live the expat life you’d always hoped for.

Presented by AXA.

AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited. Registered in Ireland number 630468. Registered Office: Wolfe Tone House, Wolfe Tone Street, Dublin 1. AXA Global Healthcare (EU) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

The government passes on the costs for ambulances, but the compulsory health insurance might cover the payments - in some very specific cases.

Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Austria has a health system with compulsory health insurance for its citizens, similar to many of its neighbouring countries. Everyone is insured, either by their employer, themselves, or, in some cases, by the state.

However, the insurance models can get complicated and the “who pays for what” question can result in some costly responses. In the case of an emergency, when an ambulance is called, the professional rescue is made by the government ambulances and rescue service.

The costs are then paid for by the health insurance fund, with 75 per cent of Austrians covered by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK).

Can the health insurance companies refuse? 

The health insurance companies refuse to cover the costs for four main reasons, according to the City of Vienna: when the person is not insured at the time of the rescue operation, when there is no “medical emergency”, in cases of alcohol or drug abuse, and in case the person is found dead when the emergency services arrive.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

The exceptions are not without controversy, and patient lawyer Sigrid Pilz criticises the “lack of love in the procedure”, according to statements she has given in Austrian media.

There is also very little clarity on what qualifies as a “medical emergency”, and the health insurer says that it will cover costs when the insured person is “unable to talk and cannot use public transport due to their physical or mental condition, even with an accompanying person”.

“Only medical reasons count”, according to the ÖGK website.

Air rescue in Austria

Another significant exception to the insurance coverage concerns air rescue. The ÖGK says that it will cover the costs of domestic transport by aircraft if the patient is in danger of death, and the urgency calls for air transport. Additionally, the medical necessity must be proven by a doctor and recognised by the ÖGK.

The insurance company highlights that this does not include “accidents in the practice of sport and tourism on the mountain” – a not so rare occurrence in the Alpine country.

On its website, ÖGK reiterates that it “recommends taking appropriate precautions. Otherwise, an emergency can quickly become a big financial problem”.

The “appropriate precautions”, according to expert lawyers, would include hiring private insurance.

How much does it cost to call an ambulance?

The fees for emergency rescue are set by the municipal council in Austria. In Vienna, there is a lump payment of €709 for any use of the public rescue service – even if both assistance and transport have been deemed unnecessary.

There is also a €30 fee for each kilometre driven if the assistance is needed outside the city limits.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How freelancers in Austria can pay four times less in social insurance

The fee is valid from the moment an ambulance leaves its station. In practical terms, this means that if somebody faints on the street and a third person calls the ambulance in concern, emergency service will come. Even if the patient wakes up well and does not require assistance, they will receive a €709 bill.

There are several cases of people who called an ambulance after foot injuries, or due to high fever, for example, and as they were not considered “severe enough”, received the payment request.

It is worth mentioning that there are also ways to waive or reduce the fee, including in cases of low income or after direct negotiation with the insurance company.

It is not difficult to find examples, especially among immigrant groups and Austrian media.

In one case, shared on social media, Irina B. was a student in Vienna when she got sick with a high fever and dry cough – before the coronavirus pandemic. She decided to call the emergency ambulance and received a quick checkup at home and the recommendation to “drink a lot of tea”.

“On the day after, I went to my doctor, and he gave me treatment recommendations. I almost forgot about this story, but four months later I received a letter asking me to pay around € 700”, she wrote.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s new rules around sick leave for employees?

She decided to go to the main insurance office with her doctor’s sick note. The ÖGK representative told her to call the general health line 1450 in cases such as hers in the future and waived the payment.

“He said it was my first penalty, and I also suppose the certificate from my doctor really helped”, Irina said.

What should you do to avoid the high ambulance costs?

The best way to avoid ambulance costs is to call the Austrian health line at 1450. The health workers are trained to give advice on the phone.

They can quickly assess whether you need an ambulance or not – they can also call for you immediately.

The health line can also give medical advice if there is no emergency and call a doctor to your house if necessary.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s ‘tick vaccine’ and should you take it?

Whenever travelling, even inside Austria, primarily if you practise winter sports, it is worth considering private insurance with air rescue coverage.

Costs for helicopter rescues could add up to thousands of euros. The compulsory insurers will not cover in most cases.