Do You Want to Live Abroad? Here Are Some Common Pros and Cons

My first experience with living abroad was in 2011 when I moved to London. I moved there without weighing the pros and cons of living in a foreign country. I’ve since lived in Lisbon and Dublin combined for a few years and I’ve learned how to actually research the pros and cons before moving.

This post is me sharing the pros and cons of living abroad with you. I hope you enjoy it!

Last week’s post was about 10 Incredible Skills You Will Learn Whilst Solo Traveling the World. This week is kind of a natural extension to that specific topic.

I’ve learned so many things about myself, traveling, and living abroad. Learning things the hard way might seem like a con to many but I think of it as an opportunity to learn and adapt. It’s important not to let yourself feel beat after a bad day or bad experience but instead use it to grow.

“100 bad days made 100 good stories, 100 good stories make me interesting at parties”

AJR – from the song “100 Bad Days”

One thing before we jump into it. It’s important for me to say that the pros and cons will always be different from person to person. Especially, when it comes to the likes of leaving family and friends to explore yourself in a new country.

Let’s jump into it together – we’ll start off with the cons so we finish off with the pros.

Summary of the Pros and Cons of Living Abroad

ProsCons
Making friends for lifeLanguage barrier
You can have a fresh startCulture shock
Learn to adaptA lot of paperwork
Personal growthMoving is Expensive
Experience a new cultureThe convenience of knowing everything is gone
Become more independentTax implications
Make life-lasting memoriesHomesickness
Learn a new languageLoneliness and Being an Outsider
Make new opportunities for yourselfAdapting to new social rules
Every Day is an adventureLiving out of your suitcase

10 Cons of Moving Abroad: Things That’ll Make or Break You (And Make You Stronger)

Language Barrier

Languages can and will always be one of the biggest challenges when traveling.

If you move to a country where you don’t speak the native language, it can be tough but you can learn it.

I moved to Lisbon without knowing a single word of Portuguese. Honestly, it didn’t really matter at work but it was a big struggle outside of the office. I speak fluent English but it only took me so far, as you can’t expect the locals to speak English.

I’ve had to use hand gestures when going to the hairdresser, doing shopping, or even talking to people who lived in the same building as me. It can be equally fun and stressful at the same time.

Obviously, this isn’t a problem if you move to an English-speaking country (if you speak English).

The company I worked for offered free Portuguese lessons and I also used Duolingo to learn some basic words and sentences (not an affiliate link, they haven’t sponsored anything).

It’s always nice being able to say “thank you”, or ask about the time or directions. It’s not necessary but it’ll quickly turn into a con if you can’t communicate with the people around you.

Culture Shock

Ah, man. The culture shock you’ll experience when moving to some countries.

No country is the same. Some might feel the same but there’s always a difference between two countries.

You’ll be so excited to experience everything new, then you arrive and immediately you’ll realize how everything is so different. You’ll learn the hard way how to adapt to new office dynamics, ways of shopping, and whatever social culture is applicable to that country.

Drinking wine on rooftops in Lisbon, Portugal

You can always overcome culture shocks, but I know how it can throw off expats. Some people haven’t done their homework and will immediately start to struggle when they find all of these little challenges.

While you can’t prepare yourself 100%, you can research the country or city and find thousands of videos on Youtube where people talk about their experiences. I’ve done this every time and it has helped me a lot.

Dealing With Paperwork

This is a clear disadvantage of living abroad.

When you move abroad, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork.

  • Visas
  • Work permits
  • Plane tickets
  • Insurance
  • Proof of medical clearance
  • Tax
  • Bank
  • House/apartment

So… much… stuff… If you move to another country for work, make sure you have someone within that company that’ll help you with these things. Going back to the language barrier, this will be the biggest struggle when actually trying to get your life sorted in a new country.

Luckily, it’s usually a one-time thing but it’s something to prepare for.

Moving is Expensive

It doesn’t really matter if it’s moving to another apartment in your hometown or moving to another country. Moving is always expensive. When I moved to Dublin, I stayed at a hostel for three weeks before finding an apartment – that was quite expensive as I didn’t have a kitchen so I had to eat out every day.

Rent-wise Dublin is insane as well. This is another thing you need to research. What’s your income vs expenses? Can you actually afford to pay rent with the salary you get?

There are other costs too. You need to pay for flights and new furniture, and just getting settled can be expensive. But, when I moved to Lisbon the company offered me a free room in an apartment, which was a great deal. This way I didn’t have to stress about finding a place to stay.

You can move abroad without breaking the bank and ultimately, it all comes down to how much you’re willing to spend. This is a very important choice to make – it can quickly turn ugly if you don’t keep track of your expenses.

The Convenience of Knowing Everything Is Gone

If I asked you right now for directions in your hometown, you’d probably be able to show me the right way, right?

You can forget about that when moving to a new country. I have to be honest, this is a pro for me as it’s a part of the adventure. But, it requires a massive learning curve to become familiar with a new city. You’ll need to learn your way to work, to your gym, where to go shopping, to bars, etc.

As mentioned, this can be a pro for some and the worst nightmare for others. It’s important to realize that this is a great challenge that’ll make it easier for you in the future to overcome similar challenges.

Tax Implications

Let’s be honest. Who loves taxes?

They suck, that’s right. No one enjoys dealing with the paperwork and therefore taxes are a massive con.

Getting into the system can be tough but if you move with a job it should be easier. The great challenge is also when or if you decide to move back home. There are some rules within Europe where you can use your taxes and work contracts to document your work when moving back from abroad.

If you’re working freelance or without a local company backing you, I recommend using a tax accountant to make sure you’re all set up.

Homesickness

Most of these cons you can’t avoid – and homesickness will vary from person to person.

I know people who left their hometown because they fell out of line with their families and wanted change. These guys probably won’t feel homesickness as much as the people who left their families to try something new.

Homesickness is a funny thing. Personally, I would still feel it after having lived abroad for years. I think it’s just me missing certain things about home – and obviously, my friends and family.

Thankfully, the world is so digitalized now and you can always call home. I’ve had dinner dates with friends and family over Facetime and Skype. It’s not the same but it’s something that’ll make it easier.

I’m sure you can’t fight this. It’s something that’s in you. You shouldn’t fight it – just remember if you hate it, you can always move back home.

Loneliness and Being an Outsider

Two things a lot of people fear; being the outsider and loneliness.

When you’re moving to another country you might be the only person from your nation. This will make you stand out – and while I love the thought of this, it can be hard for people who don’t want to stick out.

This might result in some people feeling lonely. Admittedly, I’ve felt lonely too – and I’m an extrovert when it comes to meeting new people and exploring new cultures.

Friday bar with friends and colleagues in Lisbon, Portugal

Isolation and feeling lonely are something you will experience. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But I’m going to be candid and tell you straight up that it might be your own fault.

You can blame the city or the people or whatever for your loneliness but the fact is that it’ll forever be your own fault. Stop doing these things:

  • Stay in your room alone
  • Not joining your friends or colleagues when going out
  • Refuse to speak to new people, e.g. small daily interactions with the guy packing your bags and the supermarket
  • Only socialize with people back home

There are so many things you can do to avoid feeling lonely. It’s okay to be alone if you feel down but the art is to get over it and start fresh every day. Ending up in that negative spiral won’t make it easier and it’ll only make this con even worse.

Adapting to New Social Rules

What you’re used to at home might not be the way they do it elsewhere. Every country has taboos and its way of doing things. You can do your research but I don’t think you can fully prepare for them before you arrive.

The social norms will vary from place to place and you’ll often feel unsure of what’s acceptable. This will lead to you making mistakes, which is fine – but make sure you learn from them. Think about how you’d feel if someone came to your country and broke the sacred social rule.

My best tip here is to talk to locals. I’ve only had a great experience with talking to locals about these things. They love talking and teaching you how their world works.

Living Out of Your Suitcase

Not too long ago I published another post called The Art of Finding a New Home in a New Country. It kind of sums up the cons of living abroad and turning them into pros.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made before is not unpacking when getting to my new apartment in whatever country I’ve moved to. Not unpacking and settling down stressed me out constantly because I felt like I was always on the move.

I understand the urge to always want to try something new. Don’t worry, I understand. I’m there constantly. I’ve currently been in the same apartment for almost four years – I’ve never been in one place for this long beside from when I lived with my parents.

This is probably the con that you can easily avoid. Honestly, unpack your bags and allow yourself to feel at home. It’s the best and easiest thing you can do to get settled.

10 Pros of Moving Abroad: Skills and Advantages Your Future Self With Appreciate

You’ve read the cons of moving abroad. You’re now ready to avoid certain mistakes. You’re now fully aware of what awaits you when you decide to move abroad and channel your inner adventurer.

Now, let’s talk about some of the pros and advantages of moving to another country. Some of them won’t be as in-depth as they’re pretty self-explanatory, but let’s talk about it!

Making Friends for Life

There are certain friendships that’ll last forever. When I moved abroad I thought I’d get a lot of proximity friends. You know, like the guys or girls you were hanging out with when you were younger because they were close to you. But now you’ve all grown up, moved on and you’ll probably never see them again.

I’m sure you’ll make a lot of proximity friends while being abroad. This might be locals, other expats, your colleagues, tourists, etc. But you’re also going to meet people who’ll turn out to be your closest friends.

There’s just something about living somewhere else. Being on an adventure and meeting people who fit into that sphere of being on a personal journey. That’s what you’ll find. You’ve moved to another country, you’ve exposed yourself to the ultimate challenge – and now you find people who did the same.

Shaky… We went to watch a Benfica game in Lisbon, Portugal

Those are the friends you’ll have forever.

I’ll forever appreciate the friends I have at home but after having lived abroad for years, you kind of lose the connection automatically. I’ve personally been dealing with this for quite a while.

The good thing is that I have amazing friends scattered across Europe, Cape Town, America, and a lot of other places. You might not see them as much anymore but you know that you can always contact them – and who knows, you could probably host each other while traveling the world.

Incredible.

You Can Have a Fresh Start

When I moved to Lisbon, I moved after a breakup. When I moved to Dublin, I moved because I felt like I needed change. I’m thinking of moving abroad again because I feel I’m stuck and have been stuck for years – especially since COVID-19 hit.

Whatever the case might be, moving abroad will allow you to have a fresh start. You can literally be whoever you want to be. You can use the mistakes you’ve done in the past to adjust yourself and overcome whatever challenges you’re dealing with.

Oftentimes, people will ask you what you’re “running away from”. It might seem and feel like you’re running away from something. Maybe you are, maybe you’re not. Who cares, if you want a fresh start or need change, this is the way to do it.

You’ll Learn to Adapt

Depending on where you decide to travel to, you’ll probably stumble upon places that are very different from wherever you’re from. Personally, I can’t relax if I don’t feel comfortable – so I struggled a bit with this when I first started out traveling alone. But, as soon as you get used to the new language, culture, food, and rules, it’ll develop into a skill you can use in so many situations.

Leaving your comfort zone and doing something you haven’t done before is one thing. Another thing is dealing with bad internet, missed flights or terrible weather – which won’t ever be a problem for you. Yes, it will forever be annoying but you’ll be able to adapt and overcome it.

Personal Growth

It’s no secret that when you challenge yourself and push yourself to the limit, you’ll grow. It’s no difference here. One of the biggest personal pros of moving abroad is that you’ll start developing a “growth”-mindset.

This means you’ll constantly develop and learn new skills and improve yourself. You’ll be more driven and more motivated which is something your future self will appreciate more than anything.

Experience a New Culture

With new countries comes new cultures. Learning more about a new culture, the people, the language, the food, the country, and so much more is one of the main reasons why a lot of us are traveling.

Embrace the fact that you can learn by traveling. Embrace that strangers will be welcoming and introduce you to their country and everyday life.

Become More Independent

Whether you’re traveling solo, as a group, with friends or family, you’ll learn more about yourself. When moving abroad you’ll learn how to be more independent and how to tackle challenges yourself.

A lot of people want to become more independent and I can’t think of a better way than to take everything you own and move to a new country. This way, you’ll stand on your own, you’ll face new problems alone, and you’re pretty much forced to communicate with strangers.

Your decision-making, communication, and problem-solving skills will develop and reach new heights.

Make Life-Lasting Memories

Just the fact that you’ve moved abroad is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It might be a good or a bad experience, but the fact that you did it – that’s something you’ll remember forever.

The cool thing about this is that you’ll have stories to tell and memories to share. People will genuinely be interested in hearing about this. You’ll be the guy or girl who moved abroad. You did what others wish they had the guts to do. How amazing is that?

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

My hope for you is that you’ll take advantage of this. Use every day wherever you are to make even more memories. You’ll hate it if you only remember the actual move.

Learn a New Language

I talked about how the language barrier could be a massive con when moving abroad.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the culture – what better way than to learn the language of the people? I’ve always regretted not taking those Portuguese lessons when I lived in Portugal.

I learned basic words and sentences but they’re pretty much all gone now. It has been so long and it never really become a natural part of my vocabulary.

It’s a great party trick to be able to talk in a different language. Many people speak English but how cool would it be if you could teach your friends and family some foreign sentences or words?

Make New Opportunities for Yourself

When I talk about living abroad, I usually always talk about how it opens up new doors. Doors you never knew you’d be interested in opening.

What I mean by this is the fact that you’re now able to move wherever you want. You’re not restricted by your fear of trying something new. You’ve done it once and now it’s not scary to do it again.

When I lived in Dublin, I was interviewing for a job in Amsterdam but unfortunately, the company was shut down (thankfully, before I moved there). Amsterdam and the Netherlands would’ve been my fourth country and I was so thrilled to move there.

The point is that you’ve created new opportunities for yourself. That’s a big advantage of having moved abroad and you should use that to create opportunities for yourself.

Every Day Is an Adventure

This final pro is kind of a summary of all the pros.

When you live abroad every day is an adventure. Yea, you’ll have good and bad days. We all do. You can’t avoid those. It’s a part of life.

Cascais, Lisbon, Portugal

It sounds cliché but you need to realize that you’re living the dream of many. So many people are dreaming of living abroad, trying something new, escaping whatever problems they have at home, etc.

You’re living their dream, your life is an adventure in their eyes. The quicker you realize that the quicker you’ll start making that adventure even better – for yourself and not for everyone else.

That’s it, guys. Have you ever lived abroad? Do you agree with these pros and cons? Have I missed something that should’ve been on the list? If so, let me know in the comment section – I’d love to learn!

Take care,
Rasmus Bak

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