Family Health Care

Expat mum Clare Taylor gives us her tips for keeping your family healthy abroad

When an expat family moves abroad for the first time, as ours did to Moscow 3 years ago, there are many things going through your mind. An issue that is often top of the list is leaving behind your children’s local healthcare providers.

Whilst we know we can’t cover every eventuality, it’s human nature to want to protect your family. This is even more pronounced in a new, and possibly hostile environment – especially if it’s somewhere you may not speak the language very well (if at all).

I remember those days of feeling like a rabbit in the headlights, not knowing how to find out about local doctors, dentists & hospitals, and which were best for expats. So when I was given the chance to write a guest post for the Expat Family Health site, I started to think about what my advice would be for people in that situation, people looking to keep their family healthy abroad. The first thought that came to mind was this:

Don’t panic! And the second? It’s that old Girl Guide/Scout chestnut: Always Be Prepared. (If you can manage the second, the first is usually not a problem).

Remember though, there are limits. Before you rush off and add ‘fully functioning ambulance and crash unit’ to your inventory for the forthcoming move, take a breath.

How can expat mums “be prepared” abroad?

Being prepared can be as simple as making sure you have an adequate supply of what you consider to be the essentials for a basic first aid kit. At least enough to last until you’ve found out where to buy replacements for them in your new neighbourhood. I found spare batteries for my digital thermometer to be useful too.

It means asking local contacts for healthcare recommendations and adding the numbers to your mobile. It means finding out how the local emergency services work; how long they normally take to arrive.

For example, given the traffic in Moscow it may be quicker to get your own transport to hospital rather than waiting for an ambulance that might never arrive. Will they even take you to an English-speaking hospital when they get there? If not, think about how you will deal with that. We’re fortunate that my husband speaks excellent Russian, so a dash to hospital a few months ago with one of my sons to deal with the results of a sledging accident was far less intimidating than it might have been. It’s one thing to be dealing with doctors in a foreign land, but dealing with them in a language you don’t understand is a different ball-game altogether.

And my last piece of advice? You’re unlikely to be the first expat family to arrive at your destination; others will have blazed a trail for you, so never be afraid to ask for help and the benefit of your local peers’ experiences.


Clare Taylor has been living with her family in Moscow, Russia, since the beginning of 2010, and is a writer, copy-editor, and blogger (at ‘The Potty Diaries‘ and for The Moscow Times Online with ‘Diaries of a Moscow Mum’).  She likes chocolate, does not deal well with negativity, and believes wholeheartedly that there is no bad weather in Moscow; only bad wardrobe choices.