10 reasons you should NOT move abroad
Hi! If we haven’t met yet, my name is Morgan, I am an American living in Zambia. I’ve been living outside the United States for almost 7 years. I’ve lived in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and now Zambia.
Despite my many years living as an expat, it is not always easy. Here are 10 reasons why you should NOT move abroad.
1. It is just hard to do
There is really no other way to put it, it is simply hard to move abroad. Countries don’t hand out long term visas/permits to everyone willy-nilly. Not only is it hard to get a visa/permit, but it’s also exceptionally hard to get a visa/permit that allows you to work. Countries want to make sure their own citizens are employed before they give jobs to foreigners.
2. It is a logistical nightmare
Moving abroad is, simply put, a logistical nightmare. Aside from having to get a visa, things are just more complicated when you are not a citizen or resident in a country. For example, I’ve lived in Zambia for over a year and a half and I still don’t have a bank account here, which makes transferring money and withdrawing cash at an ATM expensive and complicated.
Other things made complicated by living abroad include voting, paying taxes, buying/renting property, and getting married.
I made a video answering some common expat questions here:
3. There is little stability
Unfortunately, being an expat offers little to no stability. Visitor’s visas expire, work visas expire, spouse visas expire, even some residence permits expire. If you are on a two-year visa, you don’t know what is going to happen at the end of those two years. Will immigration grant you an extension on your visa, will you find another visa, will your application be approved? If not, you will have to pack up and leave.
4. Cultural differences
Cultural differences can make it quite challenging to move abroad. Things that you don’t think are a big deal can be a huge deal wherever you move. For instance, in your country, pointing your finger is totally fine, but in your new country, it can be wildly disrespectful.
Along those lines, language barriers can be a big deterrent for moving abroad. Living in a city where everyone speaks a different language can be so difficult, and learning a new language as an adult can feel nearly impossible. Although a lot of people around the world can speak English, I think it is important to make an effort to learn (or at least try to learn) the local language where you live, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
5. You wll miss friends and family
This one is self-explanatory. Just hope that flights two and from your new and old country are relatively inexpensive (and that there won’t be a global pandemic closing borders and stopping you from going home).
6. It is difficult to make friends and create a support system
Moving abroad is hard enough already without feeling loney and isolated. Making friends, especially as an adult, is really hard. Luckily, social media is making it easier and easier to meet new people.
Also, a lot of expats end up hanging out with other expats from their home country, and although I totally get it (I have American friends here in Zambia), I think it’s important to make an effort to meet and socialize with locals.
7. lack of convience and customer service
This point is mostly if you are moving from America, but I am going to include it anyway. The U.S. has great customer service, whether you want to believe it or not. Chances are, you are moving to a place with worse customer service, and that can be extremely frustrating.
Additionally, the States is super convenient. Amazon Prime, overnight shipping, stores open 24/7… I mean, come on! Very few countries have the convenience of the United States and it can be a huge adjustment to move somewhere where everything isn’t easily accessible.
Moving abroad can be extremely expensive. Now, if you are moving abroad with your company and they are transferring you abroad, that is a different story. But most people moving abroad have to pay a lot of upfront costs for visas, flights, accommodation, etc.
I know other expats here in Zambia who have spent thousands of dollars over the years just to be allowed to stay here.
9. it may be unethical and unsustainable
I will be honest, I don’t know a lot about this topic, but it is something I am trying to learn more about. There are many ethical debates about moving abroad and I will link some resources here and here. Just make sure if you are moving abroad, you are doing so in an ethical and sustainable way.
10. you may never go home
It’s true, I’ve been living abroad for almost 7 years and I still haven’t moved back home. So, here is your warning: moving abroad can be addictive and you may never go back!
Let’s be honest, this list is a bit tongue in cheek. I have been living abroad for a long time and obviously, I feel like the pros far outweigh the cons, but these are very real considerations to make before you move abroad.
Don’t worry, I will make a blog post about reasons why you SHOULD move abroad soon 😉
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my list? Did I miss any reasons why someone should not move abroad? Let me know in the comments!