expat families

It can take more than six months for expats to settle in a new country

by Ray Clancy on May 10, 2017

Despite the benefits of raising a family abroad, parents and children alike take time to settle into their new home, but many find it can bring them closer together as a family, according to new research.

Moving abroad is daunting and some people find it easier to settle than others, but overall most adults (67%) say it takes more than six months, the data from the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey shows.

Expat Family


Some 48% of parents say their children take longer than six months to feel at home in their new country, with 25% saying they take more than a year. Parents find the adjustment even more difficult, with 67% taking longer than six months to feel at home and 49% taking more than a year.

Settling into life abroad comes with special challenges, especially for children leaving friends and school behind. Parents of older children aged 11 to 16 say settling into a new school is particularly difficult, with 55% highlighting it as a major hurdle.

Parents report that missing family and friends is the biggest challenge for children across all ages. Half of expat parents say missing friends and family is one of their children’s top three challenges, while 36% said making new friends and 30% understanding a new language.

One of the best ways to support children is to encourage them to see the difficulties along the way as well as the challenges, according to Kate Berger, a child and adolescent psychologist and founder of the Expat Kids Club.

‘This shows you believe in them, and helps in developing confidence and resourcefulness. Your children will also be watching how you handle difficulties, so lead by example, and show that you’re willing to talk openly about your own issues,’ she explained.

The research also highlights that raising a family abroad can present financial problems for parents. Some 62% of expat parents found the overall cost of raising children abroad more expensive than at home, with 58% saying the cost of childcare in particular is more expensive.

In the long term, however, this may be money well spent as the majority of parents say life as an expat has had a positive effect on their family life and child’s lifestyle with 60% saying their children’s overall quality of life is better as a result of the move, while 27% rated it the same.

For 46% of expat parents moving abroad brought them closer to their children, with only 14% saying it did not, while 48% say that life abroad has brought them closer to their partner, with just 16% saying it did not.

The research suggests that the experience of growing up abroad also helps the wellbeing and development of children. Some 49% say their children’s health and wellbeing benefited by moving abroad, while 69% found that their children were open to new cultures and experiences and 45% say that their child is a more well-rounded and confident individual.

Whether it is learning the local language or becoming more confident, children appear to benefit from expat life. This is reflected in their improved wellbeing, quality of life and openness to new cultures,’ said Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat.

‘Moving abroad can be a momentous challenge for the whole family to overcome whether it is making friends or adjusting to the new culture. Many expat parents tell us that they’ve sometimes found it challenging to settle quickly, with two thirds taking more than six months to feel at home, and nearly a quarter finding it difficult to form new friendships of their own,’ he added.


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