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Living Abroad: 14 Advantages and Disadvantages You Need to Know

After living in 8 different countries, I can definitely say that living abroad is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. However, living abroad comes with plenty of advantages and disadvantages. (Although I’d always argue there are WAY more pros than cons to living abroad!)

Either way, you need to go into this decision prepared and with your expectations managed so that you can enjoy your move abroad.

9 Advantages of Living Abroad / Pros of Living Abroad

In my opinion, there are a lot more pros than cons to living in a foreign country. Here are a few that you definitely need to be aware of. Caution: these pros may make you want to pack up and move immediately to a new country.

1. There are Tons of Travel Opportunities & It’s Easier to Travel to New Places

The number one reason we have lived abroad so many times is that we want to travel more in the area that we moved to!

I can tell you for sure that if we hadn’t lived in Northern Vietnam, we wouldn’t have been able to visit off-the-beaten-path places like Pu Luong National Park or Mai Chau, or this crazy hike in Halong Bay.

Here in France, we’ve discovered so many places near Nice that we simply wouldn’t have had the time to visit if we hadn’t lived here (local secrets!)

For example, there are tons of hilltop villages just an hour away?! Peille Village and Peillon Village are my favorites so far!

Peillon Village, France
Peillon Village

All because every weekend we are SO excited to get out and discover the country we’ve moved to.

2. You Get to Learn a New Language

Ever imagined yourself speaking another language fluently? Well, this could be your chance to be immersed in that language you’ve always wanted to learn and sharpen your language skills!

Learning the local language is absolutely necessary if you plan to stay for a while (especially if you move to France like we did, the language barriers here are HUGE!)

I’m a bit of a language fanatic (I’ve written a TON about Duolingo and iTalki, my two VERY favorite foreign language tools that I can’t live without!) but even if you’re not interested in learning languages, there’s something so beautiful about being surrounded by words you don’t know.

Who knows, maybe you’ll convert! (;

why use italki to learn a new language
Literally the BEST website out there for learning languages online (through conversation!)

Want to learn how to learn a language and NEVER forget it? Check out one of my favorite language learning books on Amazon about how to stay fluent in a language over time without losing fluency!

3. You Put Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone & Try New Things

Learning a new language in a new country with new foods and new friends and new streets… I’d say that’s the definition of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone!

Living abroad is the perfect opportunity to learn a lot about yourself and you may grow as a person a lot faster.

You are constantly being presented with new obstacles and challenges that you have to figure out, usually on your own or in a language you don’t fully understand. If that doesn’t refine a person, I don’t know what will!

Although I can’t say that I’m the most patient, I actually only cried a handful of times during the process of moving to France! lol

two people holding visas to France
Cried quite a bit over this dang France visa lol

I prepared myself for the absolute worst (our story of finding an apartment was a bit of a nightmare) and surprised myself when French came out of my mouth even in the most stressful situations.

Get ready to prove to yourself that you can handle SO MUCH MORE than you thought you could. Okay, inspirational speech over!

4. You Can Have an Adventure Every Time You Leave Your Home

Ever get sick of doing the same things every day? I can promise you that a huge advantage of living abroad is that it will solve a lot of that.

Every day you can experience a bit of the local culture and have new experiences that will make normal, mundane tasks in your life seem like adventures.

A great example of this is simply going to the grocery store. Maybe you need to take a scooter in crazy Hanoi traffic to get there, then you spend an hour longer there checking out all the new types of food you’ve never seen before.

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Living Abroad in Hanoi, Vietnam

Instead of just a boring grocery shopping trip, you lose track of time and end up having a great time just shopping.

Yes, I still have a routine, but I rarely get sick of it because so much of my life is unfamiliar and new that I really enjoy the rest that a routine gives me.

You know the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”?

If every time you leave your house, you are speaking a new language or walking down a new beautiful street, or racing down a chaotic road on a scooter…a lot of your life suddenly becomes adventurous.

And that adventure makes it possible to actually miss routine and work. After a weekend of visiting new places near your new home, a part of you will be EXCITED to get home and rest for a bit!

Every part of life is better, even the non-adventurous parts.

5. You Discover Lifestyles Outside of Your Own

There are so many ways to live a life outside of the one that you know. Maybe there’s a lifestyle out there that will make you infinitely happier, but you’ll never learn about it if you don’t move abroad and try it out!

le negresco, nice, france
Try taking long walks every day during your lunch break or after dinner! (this is Le Negresco in Nice, France)

Siestas, long lunches, tons of time off, work to live instead of living to work… there are so many things and habits you could incorporate into your lifestyle in order to be happier.

Your new life could be totally different because you’ve adopted ways of living that you never knew existed before.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely read the 4-Hour Work Week to get a different perspective on the work-life balance. Escape the 9-5 and live anywhere!

6. You Will Try New Foods… That Become Your New Favorite

Massaman curry, tomatoes, prosciutto crudo and melon, Thali, Pho… all foods that I never had before living abroad (yes, I said tomatoes!!) but now I crave them often!

There is a world of food out there that you’re missing out on!

Bun Cha New Foods to Try Living Abroad in Vietnam
Bun Cha in Hanoi, Vietnam. One of the best foods on the planet.

Who knows what your REAL favorite food is until you’ve tried it all, right?!

7. You’ll Simplify Your Life (Figure Out What You REALLY Need)

When you have to move yourself to another country, you have to really assess everything you own (and believe) and see what actually needs to come with you.

And then once you’re there, maybe you will shed even more things until you realize what you actually need to be happy (which probably isn’t as much as you thought before!)

Maybe you’ll even realize that the things you thought you needed aren’t important anymore. This is a huge reason why I don’t think I’ll ever move back to the USA.

pastry in Lyon, France
French pastries are all you really need to spend your money on! (; (Picture from Lyon, France)

When I’m there, I feel like spending a lot of money on food and drinks and making sure you have the best toys and the biggest houses are what’s important.

That may not be the case, but I would rather work less and make less money but have so much more time to enjoy my life and free time than work overtime to have those extras that I just don’t think I need!

8. The Cost of Living Will Most Likely Be Cheaper

Depending on where you decide to move, you could be saving yourself a lot of money! Even moving to the Cote d’Azur, perceived as one of the most expensive places meant for only celebrities, was a great financial move for us.

It’s WAY cheaper than the USA and we get to live only 5 minutes from the beach!

Nice, France Coast

If you are really looking to save money, Southeast Asia is the perfect first place to move abroad. I would recommend Vietnam, Thailand or Bali which all have cheap living and good enough internet to work!

9. You Can Work From Home

You may notice that a lot of people who live abroad also work from home. This is because if you work from home, all you need is good internet and you can work from anywhere in the world!

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Besides a few jobs in high school and college, I’ve only worked from home. Since I graduated from college, I have been traveling with my husband while teaching online for VIPKid.

girl working from home
Doing anything to make the kids laugh!

I have been blogging for over a year now while also working for VIPKid, but right now the blog isn’t making very much money yet!

5 Disadvantages of Living Abroad / Cons of Living Abroad

This is my more simple list of the cons of living abroad, but if you want more detail on what can really suck about living abroad, I wrote a post to prepare you for what life as an expat is really like.

If you are moving abroad, I recommend reading it all! I imagine you’re reading everything you can get your hands on and I hope I can help prepare you for this huge decision!

Here are the cons of living abroad you need to know about:

1. You’ll Most Likely Live Far from Family & Your Home Country

You have to be prepared to experience a bit of homesickness every now and then if you choose to move abroad. It’s hard to be so far away from family.

Even if you choose to travel home a few times a year, it’s not the same as living there. You will be missing all those little family events that happen on the weekends or during the summer.

I’ve missed family reunions and birthdays and Spring Breaks. Of course, I wish I could have been there, but that’s one of the things that I have had to come to terms with if I want to continue living abroad.

Two Boys riding scooters in Bali
Finally convinced Jake’s family to go to Bali with us and it was a blast!

Another thing about living far away from your family is that there will be a time difference. This means that when I want to call my family, I have to double-check that I’m not waking them up at 2 am.

This may not sound like a huge problem, but if you have a lot of family and friends you want to catch up with, you have a very limited amount of time in your day to do it.

One last thing about family and friends, you need to be prepared to be the one to visit them.

After living abroad for almost 4 years, we’ve never had anyone visit us. In 2020, we have a few friends and family that booked trips to visit us, but they had to be canceled. Yay, 2020! )’:

Just understand that you may beg and ask over and over, but if you want to see them YOU will need to go where they are.

2. You’ll Be Worrying About Visas, Bureaucracy, & Paperwork

Before moving abroad and traveling, I honestly had no idea that to visit certain countries you needed a visa.

Or that you only had a certain amount of days you could be there. In fact, we almost overstayed our time in the Schengen Area (most of Europe) on our first trip there because I had NO IDEA.

Want to know how to travel Europe for only $35 a Day?

Visas are a pain and will be a big factor in where you are able to live abroad.

You may WANT to move somewhere, Italy for example, but then realize that living there long-term is almost impossible. There just isn’t a visa for your situation.

Girl sitting on a rock in front of Ha Long Bay

It takes a lot of research and time to find a country you want to move to and figure out what visa is the right one for you.

You may not be able to stay as long as you wanted to without leaving for a while or renewing your visa. It’s a pain, but in the end, it’s definitely worth the hassle!

Here’s how to get a visa in Vietnam and the exact steps to get a long-stay visa in France!

3. It’s Difficult to Become a Citizen

If you fall in love with the country you moved to, you have to be prepared to either renew your visa for the rest of your life or actually go through the horribly intense process of becoming a citizen.

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I haven’t done this yet, but trust me, I’m in love with France so when this time comes (about 5 years after living in France continuously you can apply for citizenship) I will definitely be writing about it and complaining plenty I’m sure.

4. It’s Pretty Hard to Find Good Friends

As always, when you move to a new place you may feel more lonely for a while since you don’t know anyone there. Add onto that the fact that you speak a different language and you are learning how things work in a different country…

It can be overwhelming, to say the least. The best way to get through this part is by staying in contact with friends and family back home as well as finding a community BEFORE moving to your new country.

girl petting a deer in Japan
Me looking for friends lol (Nara Deer Park, Japan)

Look at what you love to do and find people in your new city who are like you. Before moving to Nice, France, I found some coworking communities and planned meetups ahead of time through Facebook to meet some new people.

I also found some VIPKid teachers through Facebook who lived in the area.

For more info on that process, here’s how to create lasting friendships in France!

I also plan to find a few language exchange partners who would like to learn English and hope to become friends that way!

Of course, even though I did all that…2020 kind of ruined all my plans.

I guess I have to add to this list that you should be prepared to go through terrible things abroad (like surviving 2020) while just being able to Skype your family. If you can do that, you’re ready to move abroad!

5. You Need to Have a Job Secured Before You Move or Work Online

The FIRST thing every Italian or French person I talk to says when I talk about living abroad in Europe is that it is very difficult to find a job. They want to know what I do for a living here since most Americans only come here to retire.

If you plan to just move to Europe and find a job, you’re going to find that path VERY difficult. Unless you’ve graduated from a University in the country you want to live in, most employers are not going to put up the extra cost to sponsor your visa.

cinque terre, italy
Italy is notoriously difficult to get a visa (and impossible for Digital Nomads )’:)

The best way to move abroad is by already having a job online that doesn’t serve anyone from the country you’re moving to.

This is a bit of a legal gray area since being a Digital Nomad is very new. However, the general idea is that if you’re not taking jobs away from the local community then you’re okay.

An example of this would be teaching piano classes. You would be looking for locals to take those classes and most likely pay you under the table, which would be taking business away from local piano teachers.

However, if you are an online English teacher who only teaches students in China, that doesn’t negatively affect any local businesses.

I hope this helps you make your final decision to move abroad. Living abroad is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I hope it will be for you, too!

6. Bank Accounts & Taxes

If you plan to stay abroad full time, a huge downside is that you have to become more aware of the tax laws, especially if you’re an American!

This is not tax advice at all, but if you open a bank account abroad, you have to report that account every year to the USA which is called an FBAR. If you don’t, you could risk huge fines back in the US.

Depending on the destination, you may owe taxes to your new country as well, so make sure to look into this before living abroad!

Need More Convincing? More Posts About Living Abroad:

everything you need to know before moving abroad

Danny

Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Hey! I just found this post and agree with every single one of your points! Living abroad helps you dive into a country in a way that you just can't in standard backpacking travels. Great read and full of value. Thank you :)