Is Living Abroad Hard? 10 Things No One Tells You About Moving Abroad
So, Is Living Abroad Hard?
Is living abroad hard? Ah, the big question. Well, a lot of us are guilty of making living abroad look like one long extended holiday, but we all know that the ‘holiday’ feeling soon wears off. It’s important to take into account that living abroad is not one big walk in the park and although there are plenty of positives, it isn’t without its bad points too. It’s a massive part of your life and like everything, it’s one big learning curve. What I can promise you though, is that’s so worth it! So without further ado, what are 10 things that no one tells you about living abroad (and is living abroad hard)?
*Note: You’ll probably relate to this more if you’re in your twenties and trying to get your sh*t sorted. 😉
[Struggling abroad during the Coronavirus crisis? This is also an article for you.]
1. You’ll Change a Lot!
You may not notice it, but everyone else certainly will. It’s definitely not a bad thing. People were telling me how I had become so much more grown up and independent since I’d moved. You haven’t got everyone around you to run to when things get hard, so you are forced to grow up. I definitely felt more like a proper adult, probably because I was conversing with adults much older than me on a regular basis. When it came to visiting relatives, I finally felt like we were all adults and they saw me as an adult. Probably because just before that I was still relying on my parents to get me out of sticky situations. When you live abroad, you’ve got to deal with these things responsibly. For that reason, you grow up massively, whether you’ve been adulting for a while or not!
One of the biggest changes is definitely being more open-minded and also more confident and comfortable in unusual situations. You’ll be used to that after all. 😉
2. You’ll Likely Lose Some Friends (and Sometimes Family)
The biggest punch in the face ever is realising that some people couldn’t give a rats ass that you were leaving. In fact, some people even saw it as the official end of a friendship if you left. Some people just don’t want to do the long distance thing, so they don’t see how it can work any longer. It definitely was the hardest thing to overcome. Even some family members became distant, it was a sad thing to go through.
I remember once actually having a massive chat with my boyfriend about it, along with a cry. You start questioning whether it’s just you. Then you realise it happens to almost everyone and it’s okay, it’s all part of growing up. It’s like when you leave school or when you leave for university or when you leave for anywhere really. You win some, you lose some. You’ll still have a collection of great friends and you’ll meet some incredible ones on your journey too. Don’t spend all your time dwelling on it! I promise it will get easier. As I said, you’ll meet some equally as fantastic people on your journey.
Is living abroad hard? Yes – but it’s so worth it!
3. You Won’t Always like Where You’re Living
Okay, so remember when you’re living back at home and you would moan about the state of politics or how high car insurance was or whatever it may be. Well, that doesn’t stop once you move abroad. After a period of time, you’ll come to realise that your new home isn’t perfect too. Not in a bad way or anything, but some things could start to wind you up.
For example, things that wind me up is how high the tax is and how tiny the supermarkets are (not at all related haha). Everyone has their little pet peeves, some people may agree with you and some won’t. The worst thing though is if you mention them, some people say “well you chose to move there.” Okay, so that means I have to like EVERYTHING? That’s completely impossible. Accept that it’s normal not to like everything. After all, the perfect place doesn’t exist.
4. You’ll Miss Birthdays, Weddings and Sometimes Even Funerals
Living abroad usually means living far away from home, or at least not being able to just drop everything and come home immediately. This is especially true if you have family abroad with you. When you live abroad you tend to eat into your holiday days faster, usually, because you tend to travel more (all these exciting new places to visit and all) and because you’d have to use more holiday when visiting home.
In your late 20s and early 30s, you’ll see an influx of weddings, baby showers and housewarming parties. As you get older, you tend to see more death, which is sadly how it has to go. The chances are you won’t be able to go to them all. Sometimes it can feel like you’ve left it all behind and it’s impossible to keep up.
5. You’ll Get Homesick
Sometimes you’ll get homesick and that’s okay. No matter how good things may be in your new home, it’s completely natural to sometimes get down and miss home. Home is your safe space and where everything you know is. It’s okay to crave that every once in a while. It’s hard to believe, but being homesick isn’t necessarily bad. Missing home means that when you do go back you treasure every moment. You learn to appreciate the little things. The chances are you won’t waste a single moment when you go home. I find it totally knackering, as you never stop once you get home. So much to do, so many people to see, so little time.
Is living abroad hard? Well, loneliness can creep in from time to time
6. You’ll Likely Get Reverse Culture Shock
Reverse culture shock. This is a weird one and something that other people can’t seem to grasp at all either. When you live abroad, it’s not a holiday. At first it will totally feel like one and basically, every single thing you do will continue to amaze you. Nothing will be mundane and even little trips to the supermarket won’t bore you (all that new food)! Soon that novelty wears off and everything is just normal, just like it is back at home. It’s such a strange feeling what that happens because that means that you truly are home. Making a completely different country home is a beautiful thing.
However, when you go home (especially if it’s been a while), initially it’s a bit of a shock. You’re thrown out of your normality and although your home is your real normality, it takes a while to adjust. This is going to sound strange but one of the weirder things I find about going back home to the UK when I’ve been in the Netherlands for a while is walking into the supermarkets. Not only are the HUGE, but they are so bright, so cold and noisy. There is so much food it’s unreal, most of it is so cheap and I feel like I’ve just stepped into heaven, frantically throwing basically everything into the trolley. Cars driving on the left side of the road is strange to me now too.
You soon get used to it, it’s your home home after all, but it’s still strange. Some people don’t seem to get that and it’s definitely weird.
7. People Will Always Ask You When You’re Coming Back
I don’t recall ever visiting home and people not asking me this question. Of course, it’s okay if they do ask you, understandably they want you home. I think they just sit there and hope that one day you wake up and decide it’s time to pack it all in and come home. It’s not as easy as that though and although every day in your new country may not be perfect, going back home is rarely a serious thought. If it is, then that’s fine too, you can go back home if it’s right for you.
Just be prepared to answer this question a lot! In Spring it will be my 3rd year of living abroad and that question is still being asked. Also be prepared to answer “how come you like it better than here?” too. People are generally interested in why you do it at all.
8. You’ll Have Less in Common with People at Home
With this, I’m talking specifically about the people at home. Although I did talk about my life in the Netherlands a lot on social media, in person I made a conscious effort to leave it out of the conversation or talk about it very minimally. Not only is it awkward, but it sounds like you’re bragging. You’ll find that when you go home, although life goes on, it seems to move a lot more slowly than it does abroad. When I go home, not much really changes and so it’s hard to keep a conversation going.
You live completely different lives and because you never do the same things, it’s hard to find things to talk about. If you have a lot of history with people, it’s usually easier because you tend to take a trip down memory lane, but in general, it can be really hard. I couldn’t even talk about someone I’d bumped into or a new bar I went to in town, because I didn’t live there any more. What else do you say? Even if they complimented you on a new outfit or something you couldn’t even start a conversation with that, as it’s probably from a shop that they don’t have at home.
This is bound to happen and it’s a natural part of living a life so different to someone you know. They probably feel exactly the same about you and that’s awkward for them too.
Is living abroad hard? It can be when it comes to sustaining friendships
9. It’s Harder Than You Think to Move Abroad
If you think that moving abroad is simply a walk in the park, then you are mistaken. Moving abroad is hard, mainly because there are so many things that you need to get sorted. Housing, career, studying, banking, visas, language classes, currency, transportation are to name but a few. Remember how stressful it is just moving to a different house, let alone moving your whole life to a completely different country?! That’s not to say it’s unbearable or unmanageable, you just need to be realistic and prepare. Do your research, plan everything thoroughly and you’ll be fine!
Getting cold feet is natural and you may at times feel like it will never happen or that you’re incapable of sustaining it. That’s not true, you can do it.
10. You’re Stronger Than You Think – You’ve Done It After All!
This is basically completely restoring your faith over the last point. Yes, living abroad can be challenging. Yes, sometimes you might hate it and want to come home. Yep, you may lose some people along the way BUT you are stronger than you think. You left every single thing you knew. The culture, the food, the stability and security, your family, your friends, sometimes even your language. Fair bloody play. If it were easy, everyone could hack it. Always remember that if things start to overwhelm you, you’ve already done it! You’re there now, surviving and frankly thriving.
Okay, so maybe it may not work out in the long term, sometimes it’s not forever, but look how far you’ve come and how much you’ve changed within that process. If you haven’t left yet, then just always remember throughout this process that you are stronger than you think.
Is Moving Abroad Hard? Yes, but It’s so Worth It!
I absolutely love living abroad, but it’s not always easy. To balance it out, I’m going to write an article about 10 reasons why you should move abroad. Stay tuned. 😉
Is living abroad hard for you? I’d love to hear your stories about moving abroad! Can you think of any others that I have missed? Drop a comment below.
Where Is Home When You Live Abroad? How to Figure It All Out
Join the Conversation
If you move to countries in the developing world, “poor” countries, you will most likely have to adjust to a very different life style, with fewer conveniences and comforts. You may not have reliable electricity, Internet, air conditioning. and so forth. Still, even then, the experience can be wonderful.
I can only imagine – my experience is so different from that. It’s great that it’s still such an adventure.
Sorry for being so nosy, but I saw on your profile about where you’ve been living over the years. Amazing! You must have so many stories.
Great blog. Im feeling homesick at the moment and reading your story is comforting and empowering. Thank you
I swore I replied to this, it must not have gone through (sorry for the long reply). Thanks so much Rich, I hope things are better for you now!
Just found your Website, really nice thank you, also moved to the Netherlands a view month ago, I fell a lot homesick at the moment. But I know it is a good experience.
Hi Nina, welcome to the Netherlands! 😉 I hope you get over your homesickness soon, we’ve all been there, but I promise you it’s worth it. Thanks so much for reading!
I really like that you said that being able to live abroad is something that makes you very strong. My sister was telling me that she wants to move abroad next year. I’ll pass this blog onto her so she can be prepared if she decides to move.
It’s true and good luck to your sister! 🙂 Thank you for reading.
all good points.
a couple more….repatriating back, if you do, is in many ways as character building… you are a much different person
then when you left…
there’s some unwarranted envy to wade through. the extraordinary becomes ordinary. When in your new normal
foreign life you regularly visit say for instance Thailand…friends, relatives etc . can & often do perceive that as
bragging, name dropping etc…and you get a ration of crap.
If you went over as a kid, or you have kids the aforementioned is particularly hard. not helped by a teacher who
might point out …Johnny has joined us from Singapore. Johnny tell the class all about it. Expat kids don’t
talk about it except to other expats. Who can relate.
You may have to quickly learn currencies, exchange rates…which can work for ..or against you
I completely agree with all of your points. I find it particularly hard to form a conversation without it sounding like bragging, but it’s generally not, it’s my life now and like you said it’s ordinary to us! I can also imagine it’s difficult/different for children.
So much to learn and so much change.
Thanks a lot for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂
Hi. I enjoy your blog and wanted to point out that much of what you have shared applies to those of us who served or grew up (or both) overseas. Moving wasn’t an option, it was your job. I always considered the US “home” but having been raised in an overseas military culture (desegregation, 1958), equal pay for equal jobs, “guest behavior at all times”, screw up and you get sent back to the US as an embarrassment to the reputation of the military/US, retiring and moving to a Stateside address is very difficult. You are right “expats talk to “expats.” Saying anything is taken as bragging. Relatives at home see you as the child they last saw, not the adult you have become. You’re a fish out of water without a bowl in sight. Moving back to “somewhere” else is too expensive. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why vets have a high suicide rate. “Lots to say/share; no one listening.”
Hi Cheryl, thank you so much for sharing your story and for reading my blog!
It’s so interesting that it applies to so many other situations when living abroad. What you’ve said is so true, including the quote.
Take care and thanks again for reading.
I am pleased to read your blog. I am glad that you were able to share your experience. It is very valuable to me. Thanks. It seems to me that the most difficult thing is the longing for family and friends and the lifestyle you used to …
Yes, that’s sooo difficult! But thankfully it does get easier. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Very informative and useful. I will use these above mentioned .Moving abroad alone is never easy, and there are just some things that are undeniably hard to deal with, but inevitable
Exactly – living abroad is inevitably difficult, but most of the time it’s completely worth it. Good luck (if you’re about to move) and if you’re already there, then know that you’ll be okay! Thanks so much for reading. 🙂