Are you thinking of living abroad?
Starting your expat life in a foreign country is challenging.
Before packing your bags, moving to another country, and starting your expat life, take a look at these disadvantages of living abroad to prepare for your journey.
You can’t communicate smoothly.
Okay. Let’s start with the basics.
Not all of us have the privilege of moving to an English-speaking country or a country where we know the language well.
The language barrier is one of the main problems of moving abroad, so learning the language a bit in advance is highly recommended.
It was tough for me when I first moved to Japan.
Although I studied in an international environment, I still had to communicate with the locals in Japanese at the bank, market, or city hall.
Even though I had already learned Japanese for four months before going there, it was stressful. I felt isolated in a country where I could not understand what they said.
Things got better when my Japanese improved. But still, life was not as easy as it was!
Homesick – You will be sad after a week or two.
It’s all fun and exciting in the first weeks when you have just moved to a new country.
You just moved there, and there are many new things to do and see. You’ll be busy arranging a new place to stay, unpacking your clothes, and visiting the attractions in the city or town where you live.
However, you will feel sad and miss things back home after a while.
The loneliness and extra work/study pressure make you tired. You miss the feeling of having someone to share with or something familiar to you.
Sharing becomes more difficult when moving to a new place with different cultures and values.
Besides, you may not want people back home to worry about you, so you keep quiet about those bad things to yourself and just share the good ones.
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- Money transfer: I use Wise for my international transfers. Quick, secure, and their fees? Way lower than most banks I’ve tried!
- Expat insurance: Life abroad has its surprises; make sure you’re covered with expat insurance.
You become nobody
When you move abroad, you become nobody.
You will have to start everything again: new relationships, new house, new job, etc. Also, you will have to manage to live, study, work well, take care of yourself, and learn independence.
For those who are moving with your loved ones, you’re fortunate. Otherwise, it will be a challenge that you need to face.
You may feel like an outsider.
Initially, it can be challenging to have native friends until you learn the local language.
People speak their native tongue with their families and friends, and only English when needed.
Even if you can communicate well with the locals, it’s hard to get into their social friend group. Sometimes, you will feel like an outsider because you’re not the same as them.
It’s hard to fit in the society!
You were not raised in the same environment as them. You don’t have the same culture and living styles. Even the food you like is different from theirs.
You will not be comfortable with the changes
They do things so differently!
Living abroad is a learning process that is not easy at all.
You will learn new things every day, even basic things such as using chopsticks or carrying a garbage bag, because there are few garbage bins on the street (Japan).
Sometimes, you feel uncomfortable with the differences. “Why can’t they just do like this?”
You will find it frustrating often because getting out of your comfort zone is hard.
You don’t know about Bureaucracy and Laws
Every country has its Bureaucracy and laws. No matter how well you prepare, you will have difficulties living there.
Simple things such as setting up your bank accounts and utilities, renting an apartment, or registering a residence card can involve many surprises and difficulties.
The problem will worsen if the language instruction isn’t your native language or the language you’re familiar with.
When I first moved to Japan, going to the bank or government was a nightmare.
No one could speak English at my former bank. They only understood Japanese, but my Japanese at that time was limited. Although using Google Translate helped, it was far from perfect.
You may get discriminated against.
It’s sad to point out, but there’s still discrimination against people of color.
Some people will laugh at you because of your skin color or appearance. They may mock you for your pronunciation even though. Honestly, their English sucks.
For example, when I moved to Denmark, I got mocked many times. They called me “Chinese” and laughed at how I looked. It happened when I traveled to other countries in Europe, too.
Note: I’m Vietnamese, by the way, and I don’t know why being Chinese is such a bad thing to them.
Once, a Danish girl accused me of living in Denmark to make use of their benefits. I politely replied that I paid my tax like the locals, even though I don’t get some benefits because I’m non-European.
You will meet these people lots of times. The best thing to do is to ignore them and live your life.
It’s somewhat sad to get discriminated against, but I’m grateful to have more experience and new opportunities when moving overseas.
You will miss your country food crazily.
Food is the thing that I miss most when living abroad. It’s challenging to find the taste you had in your home in your country.
Although there are restaurants everywhere, the taste is not the same.
Also, your home food abroad is changed to cater to the locals’ taste, so trying them can be somewhat disappointing. Oh, and the price is high too!
Your old life is fading away.
The obvious thing about living abroad is that you will lose many relationships and opportunities back home.
Maintaining relationships with people back home is challenging due to time and distance differences.
Also, you will change to adapt to a new society, and you will become a different person. You may have different thoughts and ideas than your old friends. You will be more open and stronger as well.
Although you can call them or meet them once a year, it can be challenging to catch up like the old times.
Everyone will have new relationships and changes over time. Therefore, fading out old relationships and opportunities, though predictable, is impossible to avoid sadness, deprivation, guilt, and regret.
You can’t be there with your family in times of need
There are countless times that I missed my family members’ weddings or important events.
Or even worse, when my dad had surgery, I could not do anything or visit him because I was thousands of miles away.
In these situations, I felt powerless and could not do anything because I chose to live abroad.
You may have difficulties in finding jobs
Is it challenging to find a job as a foreigner?
Although you may not recognize it instantly, you will notice that your values are reduced when applying for a new job with the same position as the locals.
Some countries have laws that require companies to hire their citizens before considering foreigners, and even without the law, some corporations prefer hiring their “local people,” too.
It makes the job market harder for expats, not to mention the language barrier issue.
Also, you will have to worry about your working visa if you have to switch jobs or find a good enough job to extend your permission.
You may feel depressed about the weather.
Imagine moving from a tropical country where it’s sunny every day to a super windy place where the sky starts to get dark at 4 pm.
It was my situation when I moved from Vietnam to Denmark.
In Denmark, there’s summer with sunny and lovely days, but it only lasts about two months. The rest of the year is cold and windy.
The wintertime is the worst. IT’S STILL DARK OUTSIDE when I leave home to work or school. When I come out of my office, it’s dark again.
Although I love cloudy days, not seeing the sun for a long time brings sadness and depression. I have to take a vacation during the winter to Southern Europe to enjoy the warm days.
The naturalization process will be difficult.
You may or may not seek to stay in the country as a permanent resident or get citizenship. However, if you do, you must wait a long time and face complicated procedures.
Depending on the country, that process may last from 5 to 10 years. You need to comply with many rules, and you may need to take classes and tests to apply for citizenship.
I would recommend doing extensive research before moving to a new country to prepare for that process.
You may HATE the country that you move to
It may seem exciting and promising before you move to the country, and you can’t wait to go there.
However, as you’ve lived there for a while, you may hate the place and want to get out and go somewhere else.
Living abroad is not as rosy as you imagine. The differences in languages, highly stressful jobs, homesickness, horrible food, and countless things that “bump into your face” may make you feel exhausted.
Things sometimes are too much for you to endure.
I must admit that I did not enjoy the time when I was in Japan. I love traveling around Japan but not living there. Life wasn’t enjoyable, and I didn’t feel like belonging to society.
However, I love living in Denmark (except for the weather). I guess everyone has their preferences.
Final thoughts on moving abroad
Living abroad has lots of benefits, too. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be many expatriates, and foreigners would want to move overseas.
This article is merely intended to answer the original question: What are the bad things about living abroad? And I wrote it based on my experience and feelings while living in different countries.
So, what do you think about the cons of living abroad? Feel free to share with me in the comment section.