The needs of an expatriate family, especially one with small children, are dramatically different from that of a single expat or a couple. The same could be send for the differences between female and male expats, though they are not as numerous. There are so many areas that are impacted:
- Visas and Residency
- Housing and Furnishings
- Pollution (air, water, food safety, trash)
- Safety and Security
Healthcare and Safety
While a single healthy person might be concerned less with the healthcare available in a region or country, when it comes to small children (especially under 5) that becomes dramatically more important. Access to quality healthcare begins to take precedence. The same goes for safety (that causing an increasing demand for said healthcare).
While some families focus their efforts on homeschooling (or worldschooling, or unschooling) in some countries that is simply not possible, or extremely difficult. For example, in Greece, homeschooling is simply illegal except in the case of special needs children. In Thailand, homeschooling is possible, as there have been some brave and dedicated Thai people who have pioneered a path with the government. That said, all communication with the government is in Thai, and one needs a lot of information and help to successfully jump through the bureaucracy and achieve compliance.
Visas and Residency
Of course it is possible to hide out or simply avoid school for the children, as the local Thai government will possibly overlook foreign children, though when it comes time for renewing visas, that may not be the case. Another (fading) option is to keep bouncing back and forth from the border and stay long-term as a tourist. In terms of Greece, staying more than half a year incurs the need for residency registration, so that won't work, unless one truly wants to live in two or more places more-or-less permanently. For Thailand, as in many other places, work, marriage, or retirement are the main options. In some countries, such as Greece, Portugal, and more expensively Spain, one can invest in real estate and gain a long-term visa that way.
Visa and Residency Options
- Work and employment
- Possible to start own company and employ self, but this could be a time-consuming logistic and / or financial headache
- Marriage visa with local citizen
- Retirement visa
- Sometimes this is complicated as it requires regular transfers from a pension fund or foreign bank
- The amount required can also be fairly high, up to 2,000 EUR or similar per month per adult, or a lump sum needs to sit in a local bank, more or less permanently (Thailand)
- Real estate investment (the so-called golden visa)
- This can range from $100,000 USD to multiple millions of Euros epending on the country. Greece and Portugal are seen as the best options because of the lower price range (for Greece the minimum is 250,000 EUR but does not include various fees and taxes, which should be rounded up to 300,000 EUR) and includes the family option for dependents (and no residence requirement).
Housing and Furnishings
Comfortable and adequate housing for a family is a much more dramatic affair than roommates or studio dwelling for single folks. For our family of four, and because of work-from-home, this means a three-bedroom house, with all the amenities, including a fully-stocked kitchen, beds, desks, tables, toys, bookcases, computing devices, etc.
If one wants to maintain the investment and reap some of the benefits of a house in Greece, then one requires multiple locations. This can work out in terms of housing on two continents, where there the weather and tourism patterns are harmonious, such as Greece (May-October) and Thailand (November-April). However, this also means having possessions in two locations. Also, when it comes to Thailand, the month of May is exceptionally unpleasant. Add to that the school year in Greece runs from mid-September to mid-June.
Pollution (air, water, noise, light, food safety)
There are various contaminants which lead to increasingly unpleasant lifestyle:
- Air pollution -- pm10, pm2.5
- Water pollution -- swimming, fishing, drinking
- Noise pollution -- not only neighbors, traffic, and city noise, but animal noise (roosters, dogs)
- Light pollution -- never seeing the stars
- Food contamination -- food preparation cleanliness in markets, street vendors, restaurants
- Trash and refuse -- garbage improperly stored increases disease and vermin
Living in a high pollution area (especially air pollution, but also the others), makes one sensitive to these issues. The world with Covid-19 has learned how irritating the continual use of N95 masks can be, not to mention how ugly poor air quality actual is. It makes outdoor activities much less pleasurable, and athletic activities much more difficult, some of them nearly impossible (swimming, for example).
For trash and refuse this includes such annoyances as animal dung.
Safety and Security
Crime and safety precautions are important for families with small children, though may be less so for single people or couples. In particular, besides criminal activity (theft, burglary), there is unsafe driving, lack of safety features along streets or in buildings such as sidewalks in bad repair or nonexistent, lack of potholes in roads, unsafe stairs and lack of handrails, generally unsafe behavior of streetside construction (lack of cautionary flags or speed reduction around workers, lack of shields around workers welding next to the road, lack of safety gear such as boots, helmets, etc.). The safe or unsafe behavior of children and adolescents have an effect on other children.
Combine safety issues with security, which means one is not prey to scams, violence, and other depredations by humans, as well as that of wild or feral animals (stray dogs, poisonous snakes, etc.). Many places are safe in some ways and unsafe in others. It is usually a case of pick your poison.