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Many people dream of living in a different country and being able to travel and experience new things every single weekend. While that’s definitely possible—assuming your bank account allows for it—not everything about living abroad in amazing. There are advantages and disadvantages of living abroad that we’re going to explore to see if moving abroad is right for you!
Before diving into all the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad, we want to state that this is an overview of some living abroad pros and cons, and not an end all be all list.
If you do move abroad, each country will have its own list of pros and cons of living there and might vary a little.
Now, let’s get started with the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad by looking at the bad side of it first.
6 Disadvantages of Living Abroad
1. Missing Family and Friends
This disadvantage of moving abroad might be super obvious because you will be living in a different country than your family and friends back home, and you will miss them.
There is simply no getting over the fact that you will not be able to be around them for every get together, celebration, or holiday.
Flights home are not always cheap, or even possible, depending on where you are living abroad.
While living abroad, you will make new friends and create a new community (see: one of the advantages of living abroad below), but it will understandably not be the same as friends and family you have known forever back home.
Feeling homesick is unavoidable, and it is something that will happen to you if you chose to live abroad. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult parts and biggest cons of living abroad, but at least with technology you are only a simple video call away to make seeing family easier.
This is an aspect of life we often take for granted when living in a country where we have citizenship. You don’t have to go an apply for a visa, do the exact paperwork residency card, and deal with all the little details of bureaucracy just to legally live somewhere.
The process of getting all of this done in a foreign country, and perhaps one where you don’t even speak the language, can be incredibly overwhelming and time consuming.
Honestly, it can make you feel like you just want to give up at times because it’s so tedious.
We definitely felt like this when we had to apply for our visas to move to Spain, and again, once we got to Spain to get our residency card…
Once you get through this major disadvantage of living abroad and you finish all the paperwork to get set up living there, you can relax a little bit. Until of course, you have to renew your paperwork…
3. Language Barrier
Depending on where you are living abroad, there may or may not be a language barrier for you. However, chances are that there will be.
Even if you are moving to a country that speaks the same language as you, there will undoubtedly be some small language differences that make it challenging for you. This could even include that you use different words or have a different accent, and it’s more difficult to fit in.
If you do not speak the language at all, it will make living abroad more difficult, which is why this is a massive disadvantage to living abroad and can make even small tasks seem incredibly overwhelming.
4. All The Small Things
No, not Blink 182. They’re amazing whether you live abroad or not.
This con of living abroad is referring to all the little things you do in your daily life and how they can become overwhelming and seem insurmountable when living abroad. For example, going to the doctor or pharmacy, finding an apartment, paying bills, getting a bank account, or simply trying to do regular daily things that you often take for granted in your home country.
Some days, these little things just take a little longer than normal, but other days, they can really wear on you and make you want to be ‘back home’ where all of these things were just easier.
5. Job and Salary
You might be moving abroad because you landed your dream job, but you might also be moving abroad for a job that you aren’t super pumped about but it allows you the chance to live abroad. The latter is probably where most people are at.
If that’s you, you might have to work a job that’s just so-so because it gives you the opportunity to live abroad. That might mean having to suck it up and do something you’re not thrilled about during the week because then you can live abroad.
Oftentimes, it can be challenging to get through the week, especially if it’s a job you hate. However, it means you can live abroad and might lead to another job abroad that’s way better!
If you happen to love your job abroad, you might not be making a ton of money to stash away either because every country has their own salaries, and they might not be competitive to what you are used to making back home, or what your friends are making back home.
This can be difficult and weigh on a lot of people because, especially with social media and the feeling of needing to keep up with others, they feel like they are falling behind where they are “supposed to be.”
If you live abroad and have your dream job with an amazing salary, you’ve hit the gold mine.
If you are in a so-so job with a low salary, it can be challenging and huge disadvantage to living abroad.
Heck, even if you are in a job you like but the salary is low, it can feel like a real bummer if you plan on returning home because you think you will feel “behind” compared to your peers, which can lead to it feeling like a major disadvantage to living abroad.
6. Making Friends
Missing friends from home has already been stated as a disadvantage of living abroad, but you can make new friends, right?!
Well, yes and no.
Of course you can make wonderful new friends from all over the world while living abroad, but it can also be very difficult, especially at first.
One of the challenges is that it can be hard to meet locals as they have their own groups of friends and don’t want to bring in new people, especially someone who may just be living there for a short amount of time.
This means that many people living abroad fall into expat groups, which can be fantastic communities, but they often hinder your ability to learn about the local culture and language. Expats are also often very transient, so expect a fair number of your new friends to move on after a year or two.
Sure, this means you will have new friends all over the world, but if you stay put, you’ll have to make new friends all over again.
6 Advantages of Living Abroad
The most obvious advantage of living abroad, and probably the reason most people want to move abroad, is the ability to travel.
Chances are if you are considering moving abroad, you probably love traveling. If you absolutely hate it, don’t move abroad.
Every day will feel like traveling, at least at first. You get to experience a new place and dive deep into the culture, language, and food!
There is no rush to see all the sights in a week before you have to head back home and go back to your regular day-to-day life. This new country is your new life!
On top of exploring where you are living, you can easily travel to other nearby cities, villages, and countries! This probably beats only being able to take an international 7 day trip maybe once or twice a year if you’re lucky.
The ability to travel is probably the number one advantage to living abroad for everyone who is living abroad and for those considering moving abroad!
2. Learning All the Time
While there is a comfort in knowing everything about where you live, there is also something exhilarating about learning new things every day about where you live!
This might be new words in the local language, small pieces of history, or something about the countries politics.
Each and every day being a new opportunity to learn something new, which makes it a major advantage to living abroad. That is assuming you like learning new things.
If you put yourself out there and open yourself up to new opportunities when living abroad, you will have so many incredible experiences that you simply would not be able to have living in your own country.
You can connect with people from all over the world and make yourself more of a global citizen. These are simply experiences you won’t be able to have during a week-long vacation abroad.
You will learn the ins and outs of the culture—both the amazing things and the annoying ones—and be able to experience these every day.
You can find local spots and have your bar or your café where you know the bartender or servers. Have in-depth conversations and make connections for life.
You can get invited to family holidays and see how they really celebrate.
You will simply be able to have these rich, cultural experiences all travelers want all the time.
4. Meeting People
While making friends living abroad can be difficult, it is not impossible.
It usually just takes some time, and trial and error. Remember starting high school or college?
You will have the opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world who can become like family away from home and realize the true generosity of people when they offer to help you get set up in your new country.
These are friendships that you can carry with you for the rest of your life and truly make living abroad feel like home. Just be aware that it will take some time to get to this point.
These friends include locals as well as other expats, and even though expats move around a bit more, it’s a fantastic community to have when living abroad. This is especially true when you need to complain about annoying things when living abroad.
All the new people you can meet, learn from, and get to know are one of the biggest advantages to living abroad, but again, just remember that it will take time to get there for almost everyone.
Like travel, eating your way through foreign cuisines might be a super obvious advantage to living abroad, but it’s necessary to mention.
You will most likely be having to stop yourself from eating out every night as you will want to experience all the food for your new country!
Living abroad gives you the chance to really try all the different types of food a local culture offers and find out the best places to eat it! Your favorites might be different than all the top 10 places to eat in [insert city here] lists on the internet.
You will probably find some local places that tourists never visit that are outstanding, and you can show off to family or friends when they visit.
Eating your way through a new country, over and over again, is a huge advantage to living abroad since you aren’t limited to a week or so.
6. Challenging Yourself
We saved this advantage to living abroad because it really is the ultimate advantage and outweighs all the disadvantages. Living abroad challenges you and forces you to constantly overcome new challenges. By doing this, you teach yourself that you can succeed in life no matter what.
When you are living abroad, you will continuously have new things thrown at you, and you will, more often than not, have to figure them out on your own. All of this will help you learn and grow as an individual.
Neither of us would be where we are today without our experiences of having lived abroad, both together and individually before we met. This is why we believe everyone should move to another country in their lives.
If you can’t move abroad, at least take the opportunity to travel alone.
Living abroad, or traveling alone, will truly challenge you and help you become a more self-reliant and confident person.
Overall, living abroad is 100% worth it, even though it is not always easy. There are always going to be pros and cons of living abroad.
You will feel the downs more abroad than at home, but the ups more than make up for it.
If you’re considering living abroad, please do it! You will not regret it, even if it’s just for a little bit, as the advantages of living abroad far outweigh the disadvantages.