Living in a foreign country can be an amazing and frustrating experience at the same time. On one hand, you get to experience a new culture and lifestyle, while on the other hand, you may feel isolated and alone. There are many pros and cons to living abroad, so it’s important to weigh them all before making a decision.
And it’s a BIG decision.
After moving to Dubai over 5 years ago, I can tell you that there have been many highs and lows. Overall, I absolutely love living there but there are definitely some things that I don’t like so much.
In this article, I’m going to list the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad so that you can make an informed decision before moving to a new country.
You might also like:
- Moving Abroad – Everything You Need To Know Before You Make The Move
- Expat Life: 9 Harsh Truths You Need To Know Before Moving Abroad
- 18 Things You Should Know Before Moving To Dubai
- In Search of a New Adventure? 15 Reasons to Move to Another Country
- Easy Expat’s Guide to Living in Dublin, Ireland (2023)
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You’ll find yourself questioning: Is it really worth leaving your home country? Will you end up losing friends? What will happen if your relationship with your significant other ends?
These are all important questions that need answers before making such a huge change in your life.
Living abroad can be a life-changing experience. It provides an opportunity to learn about other cultures and see the world from a new perspective.
However, moving abroad is not just about exploring new cultures or gaining new experiences; it also comes with some hefty disadvantages as well.
If you want to fully explore all options available to you, read on below for more information on what those pros and cons may entail for you.
- Reasons to move abroad
- Pros / Advantages to Living Abroad
- Cons / Disadvantages to Living Abroad
- It can be lonely
- It's a culture shock
- Learning the language
- Personal relationships
- There may be financial difficulty
- You'll get homesick
- Setting up your new life can be difficult
- People may not visit
- It can be hard to find friends
- You'll make mistakes
- You may not feel secure
- You're far away in an emergency
- It can be hard to move back
- Moving abroad FAQs
- How do I know if moving abroad is right for me?
- Should I tell my family and friends that I'm thinking of moving abroad?
- What if I'm worried about leaving my family and friends behind?
- Do I need to speak the language of the country I'm moving to?
- How do I find a job in a new country?
- How do I make friends in a new country?
- Can I move abroad alone?
- What are the biggest challenges of moving abroad?
- Final thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad
Reasons to move abroad
Study – it’s an excellent opportunity to be able to experience studying abroad as part of your education. Especially if your studies include a language. To study abroad can be beneficial in so many ways, including academically and personally.
Work – working abroad can often come with excellent benefits, especially if your company requires you to move for them. You may be offered accommodation, a raise and/or yearly flights home. Alternatively, it could be that your significant other has landed a job abroad and you’re moving for them.
Retirement – some people of retirement age have saved up their whole lives to be able to move to a foreign country and retire. Somewhere with sun, a great community and where the cost of living isn’t too high.
New country – others just want to experience living in a new country so they don’t end up wondering ‘what if’ if they didn’t make the move.
So, let’s get into it. What are the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad?
Pros / Advantages to Living Abroad
It’s an adventure
Adventure is my middle name! Well… it’s not, actually Ellie is my middle name. But moving to different countries can be one heck of an adventure.
This is probably the number one reason people move abroad. It’s an opportunity to have new experiences and explore the world. It’s a chance to meet new people and learn about different cultures.
Even the small things can be exciting and feel like a new adventure, such as your first time having a staycation, or pretending to be a tourist at weekends.
You push yourself
Life isn’t meant to be lived inside a bubble. By moving to a foreign country, you’re pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and experience life in all its glory. And that’s a good thing!
It opens you up to new opportunities, people and experiences for sure. Yes, there can be scary times when you’re not sure what you’re doing, but that’ll all about pushing yourself to figure things out. You can do it!
Get out of a rut
Sometimes people move abroad to escape their current situation. Maybe they’re in a relationship that isn’t going well, or they don’t like their job, or maybe they just feel like they’re stuck in a rut.
If this sounds like you, then moving abroad could be the best thing you ever do for yourself. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start, with no baggage or strings attached. You can be whoever you want to be!
Before I moved to Dubai, I had the feeling I was stuck in a rut. I was getting up at the same time every day. Getting on that horrific long bus journey to work every day (freezing cold no matter what time of year). I’d get home from work at the same time every day and I would do the same things every evening. There was a lack of excitement.
Not that every single day needs to be as adventurous as the last, but after moving to a different country, I found there was always something new to do, new experiences, different things to do at the weekend, etc. The rut was well and truly over.
More opportunities to travel
One of the greatest advantage to living in a foreign country is that there are often more opportunities to travel.
Whether it’s because you can take advantage of being in a different continent or country, or your company offers trips to other countries as part of your job, there are definitely more opportunities to travel when you live abroad.
When I was living in Ireland, I rarely travelled outside of the country. But since moving to Dubai, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many different places including, Oman, Jordan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and more!
I think this is one of the best advantages of living abroad – it gives you the chance to explore different countries and cultures without having to take a long break from work or your life. You can even pop over to nearby cities for short trips at the weekends!
You make new friends
Life abroad wouldn’t be the same without making new friends from all over the world.
One of the best things about living abroad is that you meet people from different cultures and walks of life. It’s so interesting to hear about their lives, their culture and their country. I’ve made some great friends while living abroad, and I’m sure you will too!
Whether it’s your new flat mates, your colleagues or even just people you meet through exploring the city. I have met some amazing people here in Dubai and I do believe that my life would be very different if I’d never moved here.
When you move to a new country, you find yourself gravitating to friends who have also left their own country to move abroad. So already you have something in common with these people. They’ll help to make you feel less homesick when you first move abroad.
It’s easier to find jobs abroad
With the world becoming more and more global every day, it’s easier than ever before to find jobs abroad. There are so many opportunities out there as technology is such as vital part of running businesses now, allowing you freedom to work from just about anywhere on earth (as long as you’ve got some good WiFi)!
If you have your heart set on working for a particular company, it may be easier to get your foot in the door if you’re based in the country where the company is headquartered.
I know some people who work for big companies that allow them to move into different positions in their company all over the world. Moving abroad to work, even if it’s not the country you see yourself staying in, can be a great choice because it can open doors to work abroad in another country in the future.
You can downsize
Moving abroad (or even just moving house) is a great reason to downsize and get rid of everything you don’t need or want. When I made the move, all I had with me were a small carry on case, a large suitcase and my guitar. That’s all.
Of course over the years I’ve filled out my apartment, but downsizing to move abroad taught me that ‘things’ aren’t that important and I still live by that. If I had to move tomorrow, the only things I would need to bring with me would all fit in one large suitcase.
Starting fresh into your new life with only what you need is a great way to live. It allows you to focus more on experiences and relationships, rather than things.
Reap financial rewards
If you’re looking for a way to boost your finances, then moving abroad could be the answer. In many countries around the world, the cost of living is lower than it is in Western countries. This means that your money will go further and you’ll be able to save more money each month.
For example, in Dubai my rent is half of what it would be for a one bedroom apartment back home and the apartment amenities are much better too: with a pool and gym in each building.
Of course, there are also some jobs that come with a higher salary when you move abroad. So if you research well and find the right job, you could end up earning a lot more money than you would at home.
Many countries also offer low tax or even tax free earnings (such as the UAE) so it can be really beneficial to move for a few years and save enough for a house deposit back in your home country or just for your future in general.
You learn new things
This is a given, really. When you live in a new country, you’re constantly learning new things. You learn about the local culture, the local language, the food… It never stops!
And it’s not just the obvious things that you learn, you also find yourself learning new skills. For example, I never cooked much before I moved to Dubai but now I cook all the time!
I’ve also had to learn how to deal with different types of bureaucracy and red tape (something I am very thankful for).
You’ll find that you learn so much more about the world and yourself when you live abroad.
You get to try new foods
When you live in a new country, you have the opportunity to try so many new foods. And I’m not just talking about the local cuisine, although that is definitely a huge perk!
I’m talking about trying new fruits and vegetables, new meats, new spices… There’s so much to choose from!
Living in a foreign country, as well as travelling in general, gives you the opportunity to try new foods you might never come across back at home.
At home, you get into the routine of having the same food every day (at least I did) but when you live abroad you tend to take as many opportunities as you can to try the local cuisine and order from new places instead of the same every time.
Some of my middle eastern favourites that I had never even heard of, let alone tasted, before I moved abroad are hummus, falafel, halloumi, baklava and shawarma!
If you’re a foodie, then moving to a new country is definitely something you should consider.
You grow in character
Living abroad can be a tough experience and it’s not for everyone. If you do decide to take the plunge and move to a new country, you’ll find that you grow in character very quickly.
You’ll become more independent, more resourceful and more confident. You’ll learn how to stand on your own two feet and deal with problems by yourself.
Being away from family and friends can make you grow up faster, taking responsibility for yourself much more than you would have done back home where your family and friends are still around to help out.
It may be difficult to adjust at first but after a while if you take the plunge, moving abroad will pay off when you return with so many new skills!
Experience new cultures
Of course there are the obvious benefits of being in a foreign country that has their own culture – learning about different traditions both big and small that all come together to create beautiful pieces of history. And experiencing these things for yourself helps too because it makes it real.
One thing I love about living in the UAE is learning about other cultures from around the world that I would never come across back home.
For example, I’ve made many friends with other expats from India, Egypt, the Philippines and Jordan (amongst others) since moving here and learned so much about their countries through them as well as doing some travel there too.
You can’t really experience another culture until you spend time with those who live it every day and living abroad is such a great opportunity to do just that.
Cons / Disadvantages to Living Abroad
It can be lonely
Living abroad can be a very lonely experience, especially if you don’t have any family or friends with you. It’s easy to feel isolated in a new country where you don’t know anyone.
I remember when I first moved to the UAE, I didn’t know a soul. I would go days without speaking to another human being and it was really tough.
I was homesick a lot and it took me a long time to adjust to being so far away from home.
If you’re thinking of moving abroad, make sure you have a support system in place (family, friends, etc.) to help you through the tough times.
No matter how many new people you’re able to meet, there’s no one like the ones who are closest to you back home. It can be expensive to regularly visit them too so it may not even be an option if they are quite far away.
It also takes time to make friends when you first move to a different country. If you think about it, you found your friends back home over time, not instantly. So the first few months after moving can be quite lonely.
It’s a culture shock
If you’ve never lived abroad before, it can be quite a culture shock. There are so many things that are different from what you’re used to and it takes time to get used to them.
From the food, to the weather, to the way people drive (or don’t drive as is the case in many places), there are a lot of things that can be quite a shock to the system when you first arrive.
Be prepared for a bit of culture shock if you’re thinking of moving abroad – it’s normal and part of the experience but a big disadvantage of living abroad for some people.
It can be really tough to adjust to all the new surroundings, especially if it’s completely different from what you’re used to back home.
This was one of the hardest things for me when I first moved to Dubai because it was such a drastic change.
Learning the language
Some languages are easier to pick up than others, and some people are able to learn a new language with more ease than others.
Learning the local language can prove difficult, especially if they use a different alphabet to what you’re used to!
While I’ve picked up a few words and phrases in Arabic, my language skills still aren’t great and the language barrier can sometimes make things more difficult than they need to be.
It can be frustrating when people around you are speaking a language you don’t understand and not being able to communicate properly can lead to feeling isolated.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important to make an effort to learn the language of the country you’re living in, even if it’s just some basics.
A huge disadvantage of moving abroad is losing those closest to you back home – family and friends.
You may end up losing touch or even worse, growing apart completely. And you must remember that when you eventually do move home, people have moved on, their lives have changed, it’s not going to exactly the same as it was before you left.
New people will come into your life as you make new connections but this takes time and effort on both parts which means starting from scratch again isn’t always going to be easy.
And although you might meet many new people at work or through similar interests, these won’t replace the old friends you’ve built over time back home.
There may be financial difficulty
It can be difficult to find your dream job as well as keep up with your regular bills. If you’re not working then the money you saved will only go so far and this is especially difficult if you have expensive travel or health costs that need paying for.
In some countries, if you lose your job it may mean that you can’t stay there on a working visa, so you might have to leave the country.
And finding yourself in financial hardship when so far away from home can lead to you not being able to pay bills, running up debt, and losing everything you have.
You’ll get homesick
There’s no two ways about it, you WILL get home homesick every now and again. You’ll miss your family and friends, the food, the weather, your old life. It’s normal to feel like this and it doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision by moving abroad.
It can be really tough being thousands of miles away from home when something happens or if you just need a shoulder to cry on.
When it’s a friend’s birthday that you can’t make, a christening you’re missing out on, family reunions, thinking about your nieces and nephews growing up so quickly while you’re away.
You’ll think about all your family and friends back home and wonder if they’re missing you too. And of course they are! Which can make the homesickness even more pronounced.
Setting up your new life can be difficult
Moving to a new country can be really exciting but it’s also a lot of work. You need to find somewhere to live, sort out your visa, get a job, open a bank account, and learn your way around a completely new place.
You’ll have to find a new doctor, dentist, schools for the kids if you have them.
And if you’re moving by yourself then it can be quite daunting to set everything up alone.
You’ll need to be really organised and have a lot of patience as you go through the process of setting up your new life.
Dealing all the various companies and agents to get yourself set up abroad can be soul destroying!
People may not visit
While they all have the best intentions and say they’ll visit, the truth is that people rarely do
When you live so far away it’s just not practical for most people to visit and even if they do, it may only be for a short while as they have their own lives to get on with too.
It may be that it’s just too much of an inconvenience for them to book time off work, too costly, maybe they’ve been there before and don’t want to go back.
More often than not, if you want to see your friends and family from back home, you’ll have to be the one to visit. In their eyes, you left so you should come back to visit.
This can be really tough as it’s not always possible to visit as much as you’d like and you may feel like you’re the one always having to make the effort.
It can be hard to find friends
When you first move to a new country it can be difficult to find friends.
You’ll need to put yourself out there and make an effort to meet new people. This can be really hard as you may not know anyone and feel like you’re the only one in this situation.
It can be difficult to find people with similar interests and it may be that you don’t have much in common with the people you meet.
This can lead to feeling isolated and alone, especially if you’re living in a country where you don’t speak the language.
You’ll make mistakes
You’re bound to make mistakes when you first move to a new country. It’s all part of the learning process.
You’ll make cultural faux pas, say the wrong thing, not know how to do things. It happens to everyone so don’t beat yourself up about it.
You may not feel secure
Being at home, you have the security of knowing that if you lose your job or house for some reason, you have family and friends you can call on who’ll be there in a jiffy to help you out.
But when you move away, that safety net is no longer there. You have to rely on yourself and it can be really scary.
This is why it’s so important to make sure you have a good support network in place before you make the move.
You’re far away in an emergency
There’s always going to times when you live abroad when you need to get home as soon as possible. In the unfortunate event that someone takes ill, or worse, you can’t always be there in short notice.
You may feel guilty that you’re not there to support your family and friends in their time of need but you have to remember that there’s nothing you can do if you’re so far away.
It can be hard to move back
If you do decide to move back home at some point, it can be really hard to readjust
You may have been away for a long time and things will have changed. Your friends will have moved on with their lives and you may feel like you’re the one playing catch up.
It can be difficult to find a job and you’ll be starting from scratch all over again.
Moving abroad FAQs
How do I know if moving abroad is right for me?
The best way to decide whether or not moving abroad is right for you is to sit down and weigh up the pros and cons. Consider your lifestyle, your career, your family and friends and make a decision based on what’s best for you.
Should I tell my family and friends that I’m thinking of moving abroad?
If you’re thinking of moving abroad, it’s a good idea to tell your family and friends so they can support you in your decision. They may also be able to help you with the practicalities of moving such as finding a place to live or a job.
What if I’m worried about leaving my family and friends behind?
If you’re worried about leaving your family and friends behind, it’s important to stay in touch with them. Make sure you keep in regular contact through phone calls, social media or video calls. You could also visit them when you have the opportunity.
Do I need to speak the language of the country I’m moving to?
If you’re moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, it’s a good idea to learn some basics before you go. This will make the transition easier and help you to get by in everyday situations. There are many language learning apps and websites that can help you to learn a new language.
How do I find a job in a new country?
There are a few ways you can find a job in a new country. You could search online, contact recruiters or look for job postings in newspapers and on websites. You could also try networking with people you know who live in the country you’re moving to.
How do I make friends in a new country?
Making friends in a new country can be difficult, but there are a few things you can do to meet people. You could join a club or society, go to events or meetups, or volunteer in your community. You can also join Facebook groups located in the country you’re moving to.
Can I move abroad alone?
Yes, you can move abroad alone. In fact, many people do it every year. If you’re feeling nervous about moving by yourself, it’s a good idea to research the country you’re moving to and make sure you have a solid plan in place.
What are the biggest challenges of moving abroad?
The biggest challenge of moving abroad is often the adjustment period. It can take time to get used to your new surroundings, make friends and feel settled. There are also practical challenges such as finding a job and a place to live.
Final thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad
Starting life over by moving abroad is always going to be a challenge. But living abroad has given me a new perspective on the world and left me with unforgettable memories.
I’ve also been able to create long-lasting friendships with people who I might never have met if it weren’t for us both being in the same place at the same time.
On the other hand, it can be difficult to build up social support systems when you live so far away from home and miss out on some of your favorite traditions during the holiday seasons.
But while there are both advantages and disadvantages of living abroad, for me, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. And I’m sure for many others, the same is true.
It’s important to weigh these advantages and disadvantages of living abroad before deciding if it’s right for you.
Have you ever considered living abroad? Which country would be top of your list?
Vourneen is a travel junkie and chronic illness warrior. Although she was late to game in terms of travelling, she has picked up numerous tips and tricks from the almost 30 countries she has visited in the past 5 years.