Moving to England with kids - yay or nay?
April 18, 2016 5:10 AM   Subscribe

An old friend has asked my advice on moving to the UK from Denmark. I really struggle with what to tell her. Details inside.

My old friend Nicki has been in a LDR with an English man living on the south coast. She has begun contemplating making the move across. I have advised her to wait until the EU referendum in June as a Brexit would change how paperwork would need to be handled - but I'm also wondering about my own knee-jerk reaction.

Nicki has three children (two under 15) and works in the Danish health service. When she asked me for my tips on how to best navigate a move to the UK, my thoughts immediately went towards the changes the Tory government are making to education and the NHS. I understand Nicki's desire to be with the man she loves, but I find it really hard to make recommendations when I see her kids' chances at getting a good education significantly reduced (most of the Scandi expats I know who have kids have relocated to Scandinavia in recent years due to changes in education). I also wonder about Nicki's own job situation and how sound it would be for her to take a job within the NHS.

My knee-jerk reaction is that it would make far more sense for her boyfriend to relocate to Scandinavia - but am I painting things way too bleakly? For what it is worth, I moved to Scotland ten years ago (without kids) and I found the relocation quite hard, so maybe my own experience is tainting my view?
posted by kariebookish to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A lot would depend on what the English man does for a living. On the surface it would make more sense for him to move there, but, without knowing that information it's hard to answer this question.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:20 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll try not to threadsit, so I'll answer this one and then leave the thread to you guys!

I don't know the guy, but I think he is either a pilot or does something for a company where he travels a lot around Europe on a regular basis. I am not sure if he has any family commitments in the UK besides a son in his early 20s.
posted by kariebookish at 5:26 AM on April 18, 2016

Given a man with a grown-up child, and a woman with 3 kids under 15, it would seem much more sensible for the man to move to Denmark. Less traumatic for the kids and easier to deal with if the R goes sour once it stops being LD.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:31 AM on April 18, 2016 [33 favorites]

i'd say whoever can most easily get a job in the other place moves. getting a job is hard. getting one abroad doubly so (i have known people really sucked under by being in a foreign country with no job).

but i don't have kids, and people that do seem to prioritise them above all else, so....
posted by andrewcooke at 5:32 AM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd say no. Not for any of the reason you've mentioned, but because he has more mobility than she does, and because of that, he should move.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:36 AM on April 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think the difference in the education system (just the system, I don't have anything of value to say on differences in quality) is something she should really investigate. Particularly for those that are around 15, the English system of A-levels will be a timely consideration and how that relates or not to the Danish system may add a stressful complication for that child, particularly if they have plans for higher education in university.
posted by like_neon at 5:36 AM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't think people who are not familiar with the current war against the NHS and against education currently being waged by the Tories can fluently speak to this question as it is very, very context-specific.

A lot depends on the ages of the children and their plans for university. If they are of an age where their classmates will be gearing up for GCSEs, it will be a huge shock to transfer into an entirely test-driven curriculum. They will likely have no art and no music and in most schools, very little choice in their subjects. It will be entirely different than the educational system they are currently in. I only know about Danish education in the broadest terms, but I can only assume their UK classrooms will be more crowded, less well-funded, and have teachers who are infinitely more bitter about constantly doing more with less and then being pilloried for failing.

In terms of the NHS, this is only viable if she has 3 - 6 months of savings to live off while she waits for the hiring process for every post to grind through. And I'm not just being snarky there; that seems to have become the norm but there are people on MeFi who have gone through the process recently who perhaps can weigh in.

In short, I think she'd be giving up a vast amount of quality of life and theoretically subjecting her children to dimiminished standards and opportunities. However, a lot of this will be very post-code specific so I would suggest that as part of contemplating this move, she actually identify specific schools in a potential catchment area, examine their rating and go tour them.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:10 AM on April 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

I gave some serious thought to looking for work in Denmark a while back. What put me off was that I would basically have missed out on all the goodies that come from being raised and educated in a more progressive society but would be eligible to pay the tax commensurate with having come out the other end of that. The same thing would apply to bloke in this story and the reverse to the Danish lady, so some possible benefits there for her too. The complicating issue is that if she is raising kids then there are all sorts of benefit to being in Denmark for them, and thus really for the adults too, and not just till they are 18. What will the kids do for uni? Staying the in the UK means paying through the nose, while Danish HE is a lot more reasonable. They could go back to Denmark for it, but that might mean seeing a lot less of them.
posted by biffa at 6:15 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Isn't it almost impossible for foreign-born spouses to be settled in the UK right now? All of my UK expat friends are having difficult relocating to the UK with their foreign-born spouses because of strict visa laws.
posted by My Dad at 6:26 AM on April 18, 2016

Isn't it almost impossible for foreign-born spouses to be settled in the UK right now?

Yes, you're right... It has become mighty difficult for a foreign-born spouse with a non-EU passport and a (UK) marriage partner earning less than XX,000 pounds per annum to settle in the UK.

However, according to the OP, the person in question is Danish and therefore an EU citizen so that particular infelicitous visa law does not apply.

Also, where does it say in the OP's question that the couple involved are married to each other?
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:56 AM on April 18, 2016

a Brexit would change how paperwork would need to be handled

A Brexit vote would start a lengthy negotiation period with the EU. It doesn't change things the day after.

DarlingBri: I think she'd be giving up a vast amount of quality of life and theoretically subjecting her children to diminished standards and opportunities.

I have to agree with this. While Denmark has a centre-right government with a strong right-populist anti-immigrant element, in the UK she and her family would be the immigrants at a time when xenophobia is the order of the day. (Yes, [white] Scandi-EU citizens are probably playing UK Immigration at the easiest difficulty level, but they still get repercussions from policy decisions aimed at Those Immigrants You Know The Ones.)

South coast of England means housing pressure, potentially long commutes with iffy transport options, Ukippery, the middle-class bloodsport of Finding The Right School, extreme pressure on teachers and the NHS along with stealthy privatisation in both (in schools, via the academy system), and council funding stripped down to the bone, even in true blue Tory areas. Higher education involves inflated tuition fees. I also wouldn't fancy the idea of navigating GCSEs and A-levels without much of the exam-specific preparation of English secondary education.
posted by holgate at 7:26 AM on April 18, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm also going to say that uprooting teenagers is REALLY dicey. They have their friends, they have their schools, they're in their element. Taking them to a different country is really selfish, especially with no social support system,

I've been in an LDR, and I get that it's not easy, but when you have kids, they come first.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

When my husband & I were resolving a similar issue way back before we were married the final choice came down to who could make the move with the least effect on their life. In our case it came down to he had a career he loved, I had a job that paid the bills that I was meh about even though at the time I earned almost twice as much as him. I had a family that loves to travel, his hate travelling, so I moved to the US.

She has 3 teenagers at a critical point in their schooling, he has one adult child & a job that actually involves travelling. He should move to her unless he's got some other reason not to. If things go wrong he's the least disturbed by having to move back & his job & life transfer a lot easier.

Now if he's not willing to discuss the move, or if he's insisting she move without even entertaining the idea of his own relocation, it would be a huge red flag for me. If he's not willing to consider her childrens best interests (ie staying in the life they know) again that's a red flag.
posted by wwax at 9:04 AM on April 18, 2016 [16 favorites]

It really depends on their economy.
Some of my friends with kids have moved to Scandinavia, Germany (or even the Balkans!!) because of the extreme cost of education in England. In all of Scandinavia, education is free ages 6-25, and in Denmark there are generous state grants for HE.
Others, with enough money to pay for education find the UK more comfortable, because in spite of all, it is overall less xenophobic than Denmark.

Concerning her job - a health-care friend from Denmark transferred to Britain and had very a very good experience, both career-wise and educationally. But that is more than a decade ago.
posted by mumimor at 11:21 AM on April 18, 2016

The average British school's perspective on things like "discipline" etc. struck me as very different from what we're used to from Scandinavia. Your friend might want to look into that carefully, targeting specific schools in the area she's planning to move to, well before subjecting her offspring to completed facts.

The UK south coast climate is warmer and on average less rainy than for instance Copenhagen, which could be important--and there is much more light during the winter. On the other hand, Danish public life is less hectic by far. The percentage of content faces one can see in Copenhagen is astounding--and in Southampton, everyone wears a frown, or so it seems...
All this stuff does really count; in practice it's your daily life that breaks your back, and not so much what one government or the other does or doesn't do.
posted by Namlit at 11:39 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is anecdata, I am not in the NHS but have friends who are or were, I don't have children in the education system but have friends who do - it's much better if your friend stays in Denmark, morale in the NHS and school system is very low, and changing schools is difficult enough, changing education systems more so; especially if the man travels as much for work as I infer, then a home is very much a base rather than somewhere you are for the majority of time.
posted by DancingYear at 1:34 PM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know several people who have moved from the UK to Denmark for a better family life. I think she would be moving in the wrong direction!
posted by KateViolet at 1:47 PM on April 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Thank you everybody. I'll contact my old friend with some of the very concrete issues she might face (education, NHS, housing, and Ukippery specifically). I haven't seen her in almost 20 years and I don't know the guy, so I feel it's not my place to offer relationship advice.
posted by kariebookish at 5:55 AM on April 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was a single mother of three for many years and as much as I might have had better opportunities in both personal and professional areas of my life if I had moved us all somewhere new I did not. My kids had decent schools and a community and I did not want them to lose that. I would urge your friend to wait until her children are through with secondary school before she considers moving anywhere. At that point they can choose to live on their own in their home community, or choose to live anywhere else.
posted by mareli at 5:58 AM on April 20, 2016

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