14 Bad Things About Living Abroad That No One Tells You

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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 that 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 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 just moved to a new country.

You just moved there, and there’re many new things to do and to see. You’ll be busy arranging a new place to stay, unpacking your clothes, visiting the attractions in the city or town that you’re living.

However, after a while, you will feel sad and miss things back home.

Ky Co beach Quy Nhon Vietnam

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.

When moving to a new place with different cultures and values, sharing becomes more difficult.

Besides, you may not want people back home to worry about you, so you keep quiet about those bad things to yourself and just sharing the good ones.


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

It can be difficult initially to have native friends until you learn the local language. People speak their native tongue with their families and friends, and only English on a needed basis.

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, and this process is not easy at all.

You will learn new things every day, even from basic things such as using chopsticks or carrying a garbage bag with you because there’re not many 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 frustrated lots of times 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 when living there.

Simple things such as setting up your bank accounts, 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 places 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

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 the way you look. They may mock you for your pronunciation even though, honestly, their English sucks.

For example, when I moved to Denmark, I got mocked lots of times. They called me out as “Chinese” and laughed at how I look. 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 there was a Danish girl who accused me of living in Denmark to make use of their benefits. I then politely replied that I paid my tax like the locals, even though I don’t get some benefits as they do 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’re restaurants everywhere, the taste is not the same.

Also, your home food abroad is changed to cater to the locals’ taste, so it can be somewhat disappointing to try them. Oh, and the price is high too!

Banh xeo Vietnamese street food


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 hard due to the difference between time and distance.

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 opened 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, it 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 cannot 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?

Yes, surely.

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 evening mentioning 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 prolong your permission.


You may feel depressed with the weather

Imagining you’re moving from a tropical country where it’s sunny every day to a super windy place, and the sky starts to get dark at 4 pm.

It was my situation when I moved from Vietnam to Denmark.

There’s summer in Denmark 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. When I leave home to go to work or school, it’s still dark outside. 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 getting citizenship. However, if you do, you will need to wait a long time and facing complicated procedures.

Depending on the country, that process may last from 5 to 10 years. You need to comply with lots of 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

Before you move to the country, it may seem exciting and promising, 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, extremely 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.

living abroad

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 so many expatriates, and foreign 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.

  1. Love this post and agree with every point! I think your “old life fading away” is especially well-expressed!
    Of course it can be a good thing…we don’t grow when we cling to the past…I suppose the key is to be mindful to create a rich life experience to replace what fades.
    I’ll be moving from the US to Europe soon. Thanks for the thoughtful reminders of what to be prepared for!

  2. It seems to me that the most difficult thing in life abroad is a longing for a family, friends and lifestyle that you are used to …

  3. Hello! I read and recalled my experience of living abroad. It was not long, about a year, but it was not easy … I was feeling sad and missing home.
    For me, it was the most difficult.

  4. Racism in western/northern Europe rarely gets spoken about on blogs, mostly because they are run by people who don’t face it, even if they may encounter other forms of xenophobia. I appreciate you mentioning it. It is under addressed.

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