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I love that I’ve created a life where I can live anywhere in the world, but there are definitely advantages and disadvantages of living abroad.
While moving abroad might be the best decision you will ever make, there will no doubt be ups and downs.
Living abroad is both exciting and adventurous, but it also means leaving behind the comforts of home, like friends, family, and your favorite foods.
In this post, I will break down the pros and cons of living abroad to help prepare you if you’re considering a move!
Overview: Advantages and disadvantages of living abroad
|Language barriers||Make incredible memories|
|Dealing with bureaucracy||Discover new passions|
|Far away from friends and family||Step out of your comfort zone|
|Health and safety concerns||Find out who your friends are|
|Feeling lonely||Master communication|
|Missing things from home||Visit new destinations|
|Culture shop||Gain a global mindset|
|Expensive||Learn a language|
|Career setbacks||Sense of excitement|
|Loss of connection to home||Better life quality|
|Hard to find employment||Break from routine|
|It’s exhausting||Makes you independent|
|May be hard to stay long-term||Build a global network|
|Dealing with local customs||Networking|
Don’t forget health insurance!
Before you move abroad, one of the most important things is to protect yourself with health insurance.
I use and love SafetyWing, which is insurance made for digital nomads. It works in over 190 countries, so it covers you worldwide, no matter where you choose to call home.
Getting stuck with expensive medical bills can be a major disadvantage to living abroad, but you can minimize that risk by protecting yourself with travel insurance.
Disadvantages of Living Abroad
There are so many pros to living abroad, but before we get into those – let’s go over some of the cons of living abroad.
#1. Language barriers
Ok, so this might be an advantage if you love learning new languages and are a fast learner. But if you’re anything like me, you may find it hard to communicate with the locals beyond anything but going to the supermarket.
As soon as you have to do anything bureaucratic, rent an apartment, or sign up for the gym, it can feel extremely frustrating not knowing the language. It can be one of the hardest parts of living abroad!
How frustrating this is will depend on the English levels in the country and area you are moving to. For example, living in Spain or Portugal can be easy in the major cities with large expat groups like Lisbon and Tenerife, but it may be a challenge in a smaller town where fewer locals speak English.
#2. Visas and bureaucracy
One of the biggest cons to living abroad is dealing with the local bureaucracy, which is usually a world apart from what you are used to in your home country.
Depending on the country you are living in, you might have to go through extreme processes for small things. For example, in Portugal, I had to sign over 100 pages just to open a bank account!
It can be an extremely frustrating process, especially when combined with a foreign language. You often end up feeling like a ping-pong ball running from office to office, trying to figure out what’s going on!
Often, it is worth it to pay a lawyer or a professional to help with the paperwork if you find it too frustrating. Sometimes it is just worth the extra expense to get it done right and save your energy for something fun instead.
I recently paid a lawyer to help me get my temporary residency status in Mexico, and it was worth every penny.
#3. You are far from friends and family
While this can be a blessing for some that have a hard relationship with family and friends, many people find it difficult to be away from friends and family. Whether it is a parent, both parents, or one or several friends, most of us have at least one person that has been a rock in our life.
And while being far apart may seem easy with today’s technology and video calls available at all times, in real life, it can feel incredibly lonely not to have people who know you well. People that know how you feel just by a look at you and that can heal you with their hug.
Especially when you have to go through hard processes with language barriers on a day, you just feel generally down.
We all have those days, and trust me, they can feel a lot darker when you are in a new place, and everyone that truly knows you is far away. And maybe they are in a completely different time zone, so you can not call them when you want to because it is 3 AM on a worknight for them.
Moving abroad can put a strain on romantic relationships, friendships, and family ties, and it may take time to adjust to the distance.
#4. Health and Safety Concerns
Moving to a new country can come with some health and safety concerns, such as exposure to new diseases or viruses.
Three days after moving to Barbados, I was infected with dengue fever which left me bedridden for two weeks! It was an awful experience, and not having anyone around to take care of me made it even worse.
Fortunately, many diseases can be prevented by keeping your vaccinations up to date, which is why it’s so important to research the health and safety risks associated with your destination before you make the move.
#5. It can be hard to build a new community
Depending on your destination, it can be hard to get make new friends you feel close to. But not impossible. If you move to a destination with a thriving expat and digital nomad community, you can connect with the community before moving to start building relationships before you even get there.
Most of my best friends I have met on the road, and the positive thing about meeting other expats is that they know exactly what you are going through.
They have already gone through or will be going through the same ups and downs of living abroad, which can make it easier to help you get through it.
One of the best ways to connect with locals and other expats is to join meetups in your interests. All this can be even more overwhelming if you are an introvert, but when you move abroad, you have to push yourself a little extra if you want to build a new community.
#6. You’ll miss things from home
Depending on where you move, it may be extremely different from your home country. For example, if you move from the United States to Thailand, you’ll probably end up craving American comfort foods. No matter how incredible Thai food is!
But even if you move to a western European country with a lot of similar food, there will be certain things you cannot get hold of.
Sometimes you can get surprised by the foods you miss.
It could be that one brand of raspberry jam that you hardly ever ate back home, but now you want it, and you cannot find it anywhere, or maybe the late-night takeaway from around the corner.
It can also be hard to send food, especially to the EU. So while you might get some food sent to you from home, customs might stop it.
But remember that the food is also one of the best things about moving abroad – you will try so many amazing new dishes!
#7. Culture shock
Culture shock is real. It’s the feeling of disorientation that comes from being in an unfamiliar culture, and it can be difficult to cope with.
Sometimes you expect it – for example, if you move from the United States to India, you can be assured that you’ll have to deal with a completely new culture that will likely be a shock for you.
But if you move from one country in Europe to another, you may still be surprised by how many cultural differences you will encounter.
For example, say you have lived in laid-back Spain for a year and then decide to move to Germany, where everyone expects you to be on time. It will take some time to readjust.
It usually takes a few months before the culture shock truly kicks in because, in the beginning, you will be in the “honeymoon phase.” Everything is exciting and new; you are getting to know a new place, new people, and maybe a new job.
But once this phase passes, you are left with the reality of living in a new country. You start to feel daily life and notice that it is so different from what you are used to. Your autopilot does not work in this new country.
This period can feel daunting, but if you know it is coming, you can prepare mentally and look for all the fantastic advantages of living abroad instead.
#8. It can be expensive
Moving is generally expensive and can be very expensive when you’re moving abroad. Between buying international flight tickets, putting deposits down, and furnishing new apartments. Plus, you’re likely to want to go out often and experience the new country you’re in, which can also add up quickly.
However, moving abroad can also put you in a financially advantageous situation if you relocate somewhere with living expenses cheaper than in your home country. For example, my costs of living in Mexico are significantly more affordable than they were in Toronto.
By moving to affordable destinations, this can actually be a massive advantage.
You can save money abroad by creating a free multi-currency account here
#9. Career setbacks
Moving abroad can come with career setbacks, such as having to start over in a new industry or facing a lower salary than you would have in your home country.
But sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith and leave behind something “safe” to find something better. Everyone thought I was crazy when I quit my 9-5 government job in Canada, but there’s not a day that goes by I regret it!
#10. Loss of connection to home
Living abroad can lead to a loss of connection to your home country and culture. Aside from the distancing of relationships, you may return to your home country feeling that you don’t belong at all anymore. This is what eventually happened to me and Canada.
But on the flip side, this means that you may have found somewhere better that feels more like home.
#11. Finding employment may be hard
Finding employment in a foreign country can be challenging. There may be cultural and language barriers to navigate and legal and visa requirements that can limit your employment options.
It also just may be a lousy job market. When I moved abroad for the first time to Dublin in 2009, the immigration officer asked me why I was entering the country. When I told him to work, he literally laughed in my face and stamped me in! I guess that’s what I get for moving during a global recession, but still, I made it work.
Now, the rise of remote work opportunities has made it much more feasible to work worldwide. By working remotely, you can live abroad in many countries without having a work visa. Many countries have introduced digital nomad visas for exactly this reason!
#12. It’s exhausting moving around
Packing up your old life and starting a new one is exhausting. Trust me; I’ve done it a hundred times. But as annoying as packing is, the trade-off is always worth it.
One way to minimize the annoyance of packing and moving is investing in quality luggage that’s easy to move around. These are my favorite carry-on suitcases for women, which are perfect for weekend trips from your new home.
This is the suitcase I’ve been traveling around the world with!
#13. It can be difficult to stay long-term
There are advantages and disadvantages to moving abroad, and for some people, it may be that they want to stay long-term in the country!
If you move abroad and fall completely in love with the country, you may want to consider becoming a permanent resident. But, unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
While some countries have a pathway to citizenship, many don’t. You may find yourself having to say goodbye to a place you love due to legal restrictions, which can be difficult.
When choosing where to move abroad, you may want to consider what places will allow you to stay long-term. Or try to find someone who will marry you while you’re there!
#14. Taxes are confusing
You’ll have to figure out how the taxes work in your new country and if you must notify your home country about earnings even after moving away. All of this can feel extremely overwhelming when you just want to enjoy a glass of vino!
As mentioned above, it’s often worth it just to pay someone to advise or help you. Because you don’t want the tax man coming after you!
#15. You may not agree with the local customs
When you’re living in a foreign country, you must adapt to the local rules and customs, and you may not always agree with them. Still, it’s important to be respectful and follow them so you don’t get in trouble.
For the most part, it’s a beautiful thing to experience another country’s culture and immerse yourself in it. You may end up taking some of their traditions back home with you!
Advantages of living abroad
#15. You’ll make incredible memories
Having new experiences with new friends in a foreign country are likely to be some of your life’s best memories. Despite all the disadvantages mentioned above, I wouldn’t trade the memories I’ve made abroad for anything.
From moving to Ireland on a solo trip for the first time, studying in New Zealand, and getting my first tattoo in Chiang Mai, I’ve had many life-changing experiences abroad.
#16. Discover new hobbies and passions
Living abroad can expose you to new hobbies and interests you may not even know you had! You’ll have the chance to try new activities and develop new passions, maybe even find a new career.
It was moving abroad that gave me my passion for hiking and the outdoors. In Canada, I was inside all the time because I hated the cold! But living in places like New Zealand helped me discover new interests that I still love today.
#17. You’ll step out of your comfort zone
One of the best advantages of living abroad is that you will have to deal with all the cons of moving abroad, which will make you a much stronger person. Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the best things you can do for personal development!
No, this is not just a clishé. It is actually real.
Handling all the hard times, new environments, language skills, solving problems alone without your normal support network, and trusting strangers, will make you a much stronger person. It will build you up to handle life challenges and adapt to new environments and situations much easier.
#18. Find out who your true friends are
Once you have lived abroad or traveled for a long period of time, you will realize who your real friends are back home.
The friends that thought would be there for you for life, may not actually be there for you when you get back. On the other hand, others that you have not talked to in months and thought you would lose as friends are the ones supporting you when you come back.
This might feel like a painful process, but it is also a good way to weed out the people that you grow apart from while using your energy on the people that will have your back.
#19. Learn to master communication
If you live in a country with a new language, you must communicate in some way. Yes, you might find it frustrating, but it can also be a positive thing.
If the locals you meet do not speak English well and you are still not getting the new language, you might have to use sign language and smiles.
You will be surprised by how far you can get with that and how many fun memories you will create with complete strangers – filled with laughter.
This is a universal skill you can use wherever you travel that will be extremely useful!
#20. You can easily travel to new places
If you are moving abroad from the U.S. or Canada to Europe or Southeast Asia, you will be so excited about how easy it is to travel to different countries compared to home.
Both train/bus travel and low-cost airlines will transport you across borders in no time, and you can easily expand your horizons beyond your new country.
Instead of just getting to visit one country, you’ll have the opportunity to visit dozens.
#21. Grow a global mindset
One of the best advantages of moving abroad is to experience how people from a country really are. You might get rid of biases and fears and gain a new perspective.
Meeting people from around the world with different cultural backgrounds makes you realize that we are all people, and we all dream of freedom and happiness.
You will grow your cultural awareness and adapt to different cultures easier, which is a valuable life skill. The culture shock you might get by moving abroad will also become your strength.
#22. You can learn a new language
Okay, so we talked about having to learn a new language as a disadvantage. But it can also be an extreme advantage!
If you studied a new language at school, you know how easy it is to forget it if you do not use it. But if you’re living in the country and hearing the language every day, it is so much easier to learn.
The most important thing to do is to get out of your comfort zone and try to speak the language and not be afraid of making mistakes (because we all make mistakes when we are learning.)
It is so easy to lean on English when the other person speaks the language. However, if you tell the other person that you want to practice their language, you will often be met with a positive attitude.
Another good option is to look for local language swap groups. At these, you’ll speak English for a set time for the other person to improve their English conversation skills, and then swap to the local language so that you can practice your conversational skills.
#23. Sense of excitement and adventure
Moving abroad is a big change. It’s an adventure of a lifetime that fills you with a sense of excitement and anticipation.
You’ll be embarking on a new chapter in your life, and there’s no better feeling in the world than that.
#24. Higher quality of life
Moving to a new country can sometimes mean an increase in your life quality, with better healthcare, education, or lifestyle opportunities.
While Canada is generally considered a country with a higher quality of life, I find myself much happier living in climates like the Caribbean or Mexico, where there’s more sunshine and opportunities to be outdoors in the sea.
#25. It gives you a break from routine
Moving abroad can be a refreshing change from the familiarity and routine of home life. You’ll have the chance to challenge yourself and try new things, which can be energizing and inspiring.
In the times that I’ve felt stuck in life, moving abroad has always helped.
#26. It makes you more independent
Moving abroad can be a great opportunity to become more independent and self-reliant.
You’ll be navigating a new culture and environment on your own, which can help you develop new skills and strengths. Having to overcome problems and challenges will build up your confidence and make you a more independent person.
#27. Build a global network of friends
When you move abroad, you have the chance to build new relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. This can be a great way to expand your social network and create a global network of friends.
I’m so grateful for the network of friends I have around the world now. It’s rare that I show up in a destination without knowing someone, and that’s a beautiful feeling.
#28. Improved health and wellness
In some countries, there may be better access to healthcare, healthier food options, and a culture that prioritizes wellness. Starting a new life in such an environment can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health – it’s certainly been the case for me!
In Canada (especially during the winter), I tend to hibernate and do minimal physical exercise. But while living abroad in places like Bali, I’m outside all the time exploring the amazing nature.
#29. Help create a new sense of identity
Moving abroad can lead to a new sense of identity as you adapt to new cultural norms and values. This can be a chance to redefine yourself and your place in the world.
When I moved abroad for the first time at 19 to Dublin, I was on the verge of failing out of university because I was studying something that wasn’t aligned with me.
It was my time abroad that made me realize my true passions, and by taking that gap year abroad, I ended up switching majors and graduating on the dean’s list.
Living abroad can provide networking opportunities that may not have been available in your home country. You’ll have the chance to meet people from different industries and backgrounds, which can lead to new job opportunities and collaborations.
Plus, gaining international experience working in different cultures and environments can be attractive to employers and may lead to new job opportunities.
FAQ: Advantages and disadvantages of living abroad
What are the advantages of living abroad?
Living abroad can offer many advantages, such as cultural enrichment, language skills, career opportunities, personal growth, adventure, networking, and more.
What are the disadvantages of living abroad?
While there are many advantages to living abroad, there are also some disadvantages to consider. These can include feelings of homesickness and loneliness, as well as difficulties in adapting to a new culture, language, and environment. It may be challenging to navigate unfamiliar social norms and customs, and you may encounter cultural misunderstandings or barriers.
What are the pros and cons of living and working abroad?
Living and working abroad can have both pros and cons. On one hand, it can provide opportunities for personal and professional growth, cultural enrichment, language acquisition, and travel. It can provide opportunities for career advancement, exposure to new industries and markets, and the chance to develop a global network. On the other side, living and working abroad can be challenging and lonely, especially if you do not have a support system in place. You may encounter cultural barriers and have difficulty adapting to a new environment, which can cause stress and anxiety.
What are the advantage and disadvantages of leaving your country to live or study abroad?
Living or studying abroad can offer advantages such as cultural enrichment, language acquisition, personal growth, and career opportunities. However, it can also pose challenges such as culture shock, homesickness, financial strain, and legal and annoying bureaucracy.
Final thoughts on the pros and cons of living abroad
As you can see, there are a lot of advantages and disadvantages of living abroad, and most of the cons can actually be pros if you look at them in a new light.
Living in a different country will only make you a stronger and more versatile person to handle what life has in store for you. Still, it’s important to be aware of the potential disadvantages, such as homesickness, cultural differences, and financial challenges.
Weigh the pros and cons if you’re considering moving abroad, but I am positive that moving abroad at least once in your life is one of the best things you can do.
With the right mindset and preparation, it can be an exciting and fulfilling adventure that broadens your horizons and enriches your life.