Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ten tips for NRI parents visiting Europe

Children working and living abroad is a common phenomena in the lives of today’s Indian parents. They feel thrilled whenever they are asked by their children to visit them but somehow it takes them many years to accept the invitation. The negative notion of being old, long plane journeys, cold weather, and unknown land always comes in between their strong will to see the places where their children are living. When it is the question of visiting children living in Europe, fear for an unknown language (except in U.K) is another negative add-on. Here are few tips which can provide a comfort level to the NRI parents who are planning to visit Europe especially for the first time.

Break the inertia
Think about the 100 watt brilliance that used to glow in your children’s face when you went to watch them doing a stage performance or receiving a prize in school or college annual functions. You will find it much easier now to come out of all kinds of negative feelings and take the decision of traveling to your children. Isn’t it a great that you have the golden opportunity to visit a continent which is rich in history, natural beauty and variety?

Collect Information
The process of going to European countries is a bit different from going to USA. Every European country has different regulations for providing tourist visas or visas against invitation. To apply for visa against invitation is the best option for you when you are going to visit your children residing in Europe. Unfortunately most of the travel agents in India don’t have very clear idea about preparing this kind of visas. The best way is to discuss with your children about all the essential official proceedings to get a travel visa. You can also get information by phoning, mailing or going to the embassy of that country which you are going to visit. In general Europe can be divided into two zones;
a) Schengen countries- The countries fall in this group are Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway. If you are going to visit any of these countries then apply for Schengen visa and you can travel all these countries without further official hassle.
b) Non Schengen countries- Visa’s for visiting UK, Switzerland and east European countries like Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia etc are needed to be done from the embassies of the respective countries situated in India.

Choose the right time
Europe is at its best from the month of April to September. Weather is perfect. It is green and flowery all around. Days are longer, all tourist places are open and mountain railways are functioning where you can get snow too.

Consult your Doctor and make a good medical insurance
If you are having a chronic problem like high blood pressure, Diabetes or osteoporoses then bring enough medication along with the prescription. Do get a good medical insurance either from India or ask your children to get it done from the country they are living which will cover the costs doctor’s visit and any emergency situation. Medical treatments are very expensive in Europe and can cost huge if good medical insurances are not made.

Good shoes, Spectacles, hair dyes and proper clothing
Unlike in India no rickshaws or auto services are available in Europe to travel short distances. You need to walk a lot in the tourist places, shopping malls and market squares and good pairs of covered shoes are must. Spectacles are very expensive here so it is better to have two of them for your visit. The typical black hair color is not common amongst Europeans and so it is difficult to get hair dye of that color so either be adventurous and get a blond look or bring your own stock of black hair dye. Proper warm clothing is an essential to bring even if you are traveling in summer because summer in Europe is very much like winter in India. Mothers please don’t bring all those heavily embroidered silk saris which you wear in special occasions in India. Easy to wash light silks or synthetic saris are all right and for a change consider packing some nice fitting salwar suits. Don’t increase the weight of your luggage by putting huge amount of food items which can be taken away at the custom checking in airport.

Be alert but not nervous
Yes, it is an emotional time when you are going abroad for the first time. The hustle and bustle of International airport, late night travel schedule, the long process of check-in and getting boarding cards may make you nervous and tired. Just try to be calm and follow the signboards properly and listen to the announcements carefully. Don’t feel shy to ask for any information to the airport personnel. After everything is over buy a cup of Tee/Coffee and relish the feeling that after few hours you will be in Europe. Carry your mobile phone if possible and be little alert about occurrence of any strange situations.

Be prepare for a different lifestyle
The way and style of living in Europe is quite different from that of India. To simplify the household chores there are many machines but no maids. Offer a helping hand to your children with their daily activities and child care. Don’t ever convert the prices of food items into Indian rupees; you will never be able to eat anything then. Understand the rigorous working schedule of your children and try not to complain against it. Make a backup plan for the free times you will get when your children and grandchildren will be away for their work / school. Revive your long lost hobbies like painting, preparing handicrafts, gardening or accomplish the dream of writing an autobiography or a children’s story book. Learn new things like using internet, photography or a new language. Public transport in Europe is excellent and you can always try to explore the local region, its cuisine, culture and people. A basic knowledge of local language and local map will prove an extreme help to you.

Express your views while planning the trips
There are plenty of tourist attractions in Europe. In order to optimize between time, money and physical strengths of each family member it needs a very good planning when you take a tour in Europe. Give a list of priorities of what you will like to visit in Europe that will help them in their planning. Do tell them your physical limits so that once you are off no body feels burdened.

Switzerland is not the only place to visit in Europe
Bollywood has carved a dream world called Switzerland in the mind of Indians. It is a beautiful country of Europe and no doubt on it but it is not all of Europe. There are many places in Europe which are as beautiful and far less expensive. Once you are in Europe do enjoy the flavor of villages, small rivers, churches and palaces along with great cities like Paris, Berlin or London.

Stop being parents for a while
You are doing the job of being parent for so long now. For the period of your visit to your children just be friends with them. Forget those strict rules and restrictions you always posed on your child and also stop treating them like 5 year old children. Try to understand their views and opinions even if you find them far different from yours. Become a part of their life and you will never feel how the time flew during your stay in Europe.
Published in http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles_various/NRI-Parents.asp

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