Moving abroad is a life-changing experience that can broaden one’s horizons, challenge preconceived notions, and provide a unique perspective. As someone who has embarked on this exhilarating journey, I can attest to its transformative power. However, like any significant life decision, you must consider the pros and cons of living abroad before leaping into the unknown.
I first moved abroad when I was 26. After graduating from University, I needed to experience living in a foreign country. One afternoon while reading the classifieds in the local newspaper (yes, I’m that old), I saw an ad for English teaching positions in Japan. On a whim, I applied and got the job. Within six months, I had packed my bags and was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Fast forward to today, and I have lived abroad for almost 1/4 of my life, and while I love my life, I would be the last person to tell you it doesn’t have its challenges. From culture shock to language barriers and everything in between, living abroad is an incredible opportunity and a daunting responsibility.
In this article, I will share my experiences and insights, shedding light on the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad. Whether you are contemplating a temporary stay or a permanent relocation, this will help you weigh the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about whether living abroad is right for you.
Advantages of Living Abroad
Living abroad provides a wealth of opportunities for personal growth and exploration. You will experience different cultures, customs, languages, and ways of life that can be incredibly enlightening.
One of the most significant advantages of living abroad is the opportunity for cultural immersion. By experiencing daily life in the local culture, you’ll gain an appreciation for different customs, traditions, and ways of thinking. This exposure helps broaden your perspective and fosters personal growth.
Living in a foreign country can provide fresh job prospects that might not exist at home. Many multinational companies value employees with international experience as they bring diverse perspectives and skills. Additionally, working abroad allows you to develop a global network which could lead to future job opportunities or collaborations.
Many countries can help you save money. Take advantage of a lower cost of living or favorable exchange rates compared with your home currency. Digital Nomads often earn premium rates from their home country while spending far less on living expenses abroad.
- Languages: Living abroad provides an excellent opportunity for learning new languages through full-time language courses or immersing yourself among native speakers daily.
- Diverse Learning Experiences: Studying in a foreign country can expose you to new teaching methods, subjects, and academic environments that may not be available at home.
Living abroad challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and adapt to new situations. This process often leads to increased self-confidence, resilience, and independence. Moreover, living abroad provides an excellent opportunity to form connections with people from diverse backgrounds.
Living abroad offers a wealth of exciting experiences that you may not have the chance to enjoy in your home country. From new foods to exploring new landscapes, living abroad can be an adventure you’ll never forget.
By immersing yourself in the local culture and embracing new experiences, you’ll gain valuable skills that will benefit your career and personal life.
Disadvantages of Living Abroad
Before deciding to move overseas, weighing the potential downsides of living abroad is essential. Living abroad can be a great experience, but it has some disadvantages. Some drawbacks can take a toll on your well-being if you’re unprepared.
One common challenge faced by ex-pats is the language barrier. I have experienced this firsthand. Simple things like going to a restaurant become more complicated, and some things, while other things like opening a bank account, may only be next to impossible with a translator. While I have taken the time to learn Japanese, genuinely learning a new language takes a lifetime, and you will have to get used to being woefully ignorant about many things when living abroad.
Homesickness and Loneliness
Moving abroad can lead to homesickness. Combine this with local language barriers, and you may feel utterly alone in a new country. For introverts like myself, this can be a challenge. You must make a concerted effort to meet people and grow your network of new friends. Social media platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp can help to maintain relationships with loved ones back home. Join local clubs or attend events in your new community that interest you – this will help you find new friends in your new country.
Disconnection From Life At Home
The longer you are from home, the more life in your home country passes you by. This is one of the hardest things I have dealt with while living abroad. It ranges from simple things like maintaining your bank accounts to missing out on critical life events like weddings and relatives having kids. Staying connected in a new country takes time and effort that isn’t needed because it happens automatically when you live in the same country.
Difficulty Accessing Healthcare Services
- Inadequate healthcare infrastructure: In some countries, the quality of healthcare services may not be up to par with what you’re used to back home. This can make accessing essential medical care more challenging.
- Language barriers: As mentioned earlier, language barriers can also extend to healthcare settings, making it difficult for ex-pats to communicate their needs effectively with medical professionals.
Adjusting to a Different Work Culture
The work culture in your new country might differ significantly from what you’re accustomed to at home. For example, attitudes towards punctuality and workplace hierarchy can vary considerably between cultures. Keep an open mind and be willing to adapt.
One of the biggest challenges of moving abroad is culture shock. Adjusting to a new way of life can be difficult, and you may experience feelings of isolation, homesickness, or frustration as you navigate a new culture.
Living abroad can also be expensive, particularly if you’re moving to a new country with a higher cost of living than your home country. You’ll need to consider expenses such as housing, food, transportation, and travel insurance, which can add up quickly.
While living abroad offers numerous benefits, acknowledging the challenges of moving to a new country is essential.
Cost of Living Abroad
One of the most significant factors to consider when planning to live abroad is the cost of living. The affordability of a given country can significantly impact your overall experience and lifestyle while living there.
Affordable Countries for Ex-pats
Certain countries are renowned for their economic lifestyle, appealing to ex-pats seeking to make the most of their resources. For example, Southeast Asian nations like Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia offer affordable housing, food, and transportation costs compared to Western countries. Similarly, Latin American destinations such as Mexico or Colombia also provide a more frugal lifestyle with lower expenses on everyday items.
Expensive Countries for Ex-pats
In contrast, some popular ex-pat destinations have higher price tags due to increased demand or limited resources. Cities like London or Paris may be enticing because they offer rich cultural experiences. However, these locations often have high rent prices, and general expenses on daily necessities such as groceries or public transportation can add up quickly.
Finding Accurate Cost Of Living Information Online
- Expatistan: This website provides an interactive tool that allows users to compare the cost of living between two cities worldwide by inputting various expense categories such as housing, food transportation, etc., giving you a comprehensive overview.
- Numbeo: Numbeo is a crowd-sourced database that provides up-to-date information on city cost of living worldwide. Users can access data on various aspects, such as rent prices, groceries, and transportation costs.
In addition to these resources, it’s also essential to consider factors like currency exchange rates and inflation when calculating your budget for living abroad. While some countries may have lower overall expenses than others, you should weigh these against factors such as quality of life or job opportunities.
Cost Of Living And Remote Work Opportunities
If you plan to work remotely, freelance, or run an online business, choosing a new country with a low cost of living can significantly impact your financial situation. You can maximize your earnings and enjoy greater financial freedom by earning an income from clients from higher-income countries while residing in more affordable locations.
Living overseas can be a rewarding adventure, yet it’s essential to consider the expense of living in your chosen spot before settling on any choices. Finding work abroad may present its own set of challenges and opportunities that should be considered carefully.
Finding Work Abroad
Finding work abroad can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also requires careful planning and preparation. When finding a job in a new country, it is vital to study the local labor market, comply with visa regulations and adjust your CV to attract foreign recruiters.
Researching Job Opportunities
The first step in finding work abroad is researching potential job opportunities that align with your skills and interests. Websites like GoAbroad, Just Landed Jobs, or Remote.co are great resources for discovering jobs worldwide. Additionally, consider joining an ex-pat community online, where you can connect with others who have found employment overseas.
Navigating Visa Requirements
To legally work in a new country, you will likely need a specific type of visa, depending on your nationality and the nature of your employment. Research the visa requirements for each country by visiting their government websites or consulting with immigration experts before applying for jobs.
- Tourist visas: These visas typically do not allow individuals to engage in paid employment while visiting a foreign country.
- Work permits: A valid work permit may be required if you plan to work temporarily or permanently within a nation’s borders.
- Sponsorship: Many countries require that companies sponsor employees’ visas as part of their hiring process; securing a job offer from an employer willing to support your application is essential.
- Digital Nomad Visa: This type of visa is designed for remote workers and offers various benefits, such as flexible terms for residency.
Adapting Your Resume and Job Applications
Tailor your resume and job applications to the specific requirements of each position to increase your chances of finding work abroad. This may involve:
- Formatting: Different countries have different expectations for resume formatting; research local standards or consult with a professional in the field.
- Languages: If you’re applying for jobs in a country where English is not the primary language, consider translating your resume into that language or including relevant language skills in your application.
- Cultural nuances: Familiarize yourself with cultural norms related to employment practices, such as using appropriate titles when addressing potential employers or understanding how specific qualifications are perceived within that country. (a resume in Japan is very different from a Western-style resume)
Exploring working abroad can be a rewarding experience that provides opportunities for growth and advancement in one’s career and a great way to learn a new language. By researching job markets, navigating visa requirements, and adapting your application materials accordingly, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on this exciting journey.
Before moving abroad, consider health insurance and coverage needed to stay healthy while living overseas. Countries have different healthcare systems and insurance requirements, so it’s essential to research the available options and select a plan that provides the best coverage.
Bank Account Abroad
When living abroad, you will need to make some banking decisions. Will you open a bank account in your new country, or should you consider an international bank account?
International Drivers License
An international driver’s license can make all the difference for your work-life balance in a different country. An international license uses your license in your home country as the foundation. It translates it into other languages to make it easier for you to drive anywhere in the world.
As an ex-pat, you must stay current on the tax laws of both your home and host countries. You may need to file taxes in both countries depending on where you live and your situation details. Failing to comply with each country’s tax laws could lead to costly penalties or fines.
Keep a credit card for emergencies. Credit cards are a secure option to carry when traveling as long as you pay off your balance in full each month.
Moving abroad does not mean life in your home country stops. Keep an eye on your credit rating and pay your bills regularly.
Managing your finances is one of those things that you can lose focus on after moving abroad. You should continue to save and organize your finances even after starting a new life in a new country.
Adapting to a New Culture
Experiencing life in a foreign country can be thrilling, but adjusting to unfamiliar customs and forming meaningful relationships can be challenging. One of the most significant hurdles you may face is adapting to a new culture and making meaningful connections with locals while living abroad. Here are some tips on overcoming cultural differences and immersing yourself in your new home.
Learn the Language
The first step towards cultural immersion is learning the local language. Demonstrating your dedication to language learning is a crucial step toward cultural immersion. Various resources are available for language learning, such as online courses, apps, or even enrolling in classes at a nearby language school.
Participate in Local Events
Taking part in local events is another excellent way to adapt to your host country’s culture. Attend festivals, markets, concerts, or any other activities that interest you – not only will this expose you to different aspects of their lifestyle, and provide opportunities for meeting people who share similar interests.
Make New Friends with Locals
- Befriend locals by joining clubs or organizations related to your hobbies or interests.
- Ask coworkers if they’d like to grab lunch together after work.
- Find housing where locals live rather than ex-pat communities.
Maintaining friendships back home is essential; however, forming relationships with those from your host country allows you insight into the local culture beyond what tourists typically see during short trips.
Educate Yourself on Local Customs and Etiquette
Understanding the local customs and etiquette can help avoid unintentionally offending someone or feeling out of place. Researching these aspects before your move will make it easier to adapt once you arrive, but continue learning as you experience living abroad firsthand.
Be Open-Minded and Embrace Change
Culture shock is standard when living in an unfamiliar country; however, it can be managed more efficiently with a positive outlook and willingness to adapt. Be prepared for culture shock – this is normal when experiencing life in a foreign country. However, embracing change with curiosity rather than resistance makes overcoming culture shock more manageable, allowing you to enjoy your time as you live abroad.
Why is Living Abroad Beneficial?
Despite the challenges, living abroad can be a highly beneficial experience. It can help you develop new skills, gain a broader perspective, and provide unique travel experiences.
Is it Worth Living Abroad?
Living abroad is worth it for many people, depending on their personal and professional goals. The experience can lead to significant growth, new opportunities, and a broader worldview. However, it also requires flexibility and resilience in dealing with challenges such as cultural differences or homesickness. It is essential to weigh these factors before deciding to move abroad.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad?
The advantages of living abroad include gaining a broader perspective, developing new skills, and having unique travel experiences. The potential drawbacks of living abroad include homesickness, feeling isolated, and struggling to adapt to a new culture. Additionally, you may have to face challenging bureaucracy and other cultural differences.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to living abroad. The advantages of living abroad, such as cultural enrichment, local language acquisition, and professional growth, should be weighed against potential difficulties like homesickness or unfamiliarity with local systems.
It’s essential to carefully research living costs in your desired location and explore job opportunities before moving abroad. Consider how you plan to make money while abroad. Will you work locally? Or do you plan to do some form of remote work?
Remember returning home after living abroad can also be a difficult adjustment. People often experience reverse culture shock or become enthralled with living abroad and look back on it with rose-colored glasses. There are pros and cons of living anywhere in the world. If you take the opportunity to live abroad, you will develop a new global perspective of the world and may appreciate your own country even more.