Deal With the Disadvantages of Living Abroad Before Moving

I am a traveler and proud expatriate and have lived outside the United States for many years. This means that people often turn to me for advice about moving abroad. One of the most frequently asked questions is quite simple: “What are the disadvantages?” Let’s consider.

Having lived in 5 countries, I can share a lot of cons, such as the fact that croissants are sold and consumed all over the world, but bagels, unfortunately, are not. (This is a parody.) Or that in order to use any American website in China, from Google to Facebook to Instagram, you need a VPN, which is somewhat illegal in this country, not to mention the fact that it makes life a little disappointing. when all you need is to watch Netflix.

But wait, that’s not all. And in no way do these negatives make life in certain places untenable; rather, they are challenging circumstances that you must enter with your eyes wide open.

Not all laws are created equal

I always tell people who are used to a certain type of structured justice system that it may not exist, where and when you choose to live abroad, and that you can live at the whim of a system that you do not understand or have to handle things your way. discretion. One of the worst things about living abroad is that you will not always have the same rights as in your home country. People can trick you or steal from you, and in some cases there is nothing you can do about it.

I once worked as a teacher at an international school in Giza, Egypt. On my first day, I gave my passport to an HR officer to make copies of. At the end of the working day, her office was locked and my passport was never returned. The next day, she told me that I could not get my passport back and that if I wanted to return it before my employment contract expired, I would have to pay her almost $ 1,000. Later, I discovered that they regularly took teachers’ passports and university degrees so as not to try to terminate their contracts ahead of schedule.

When I contacted the US Consulate, they told me that they did not handle “personal disputes” and that I would have to hire a local lawyer, which in Egypt is a waste of time and money.

The language barrier

The downside is pretty obvious, but if you’ve never lived abroad and needed internet repair or getting directions, this might be more frustrating than you might expect. When my family and I first moved to China in 2018, our first 90 days were really tough.

Not only did we live in a city where English wasn’t widely spoken, but translation apps didn’t help us fully convey the fact that our Wi-Fi wasn’t working or that we were locked out of our apartment. This is why I stress the importance of trying to learn as much of your native language as possible before you travel – but I also acknowledge that Mandarin is not the easiest language to navigate.

Difference in time

Unfortunately for people who move to Europe, Asia or Africa and still have to socialize with family, friends, or work in the United States, the time difference can be significant. When we lived in Asia, we were half a day ahead of all our family and friends on the East Coast. When it was 4 pm in China, it was 4 am in New York.

Due to the time difference, it is very difficult to stay in touch with loved ones. If you are used to maintaining very close relationships with those who have returned home, it is definitely important to consider how far away you are actually willing to live. If you live in Central America, South America, or Canada, you will be placed in similar time zones, making it easier to connect with your family or someone who can reach you when you are not working or sleeping.


After moving abroad in 2015, I realized that loneliness is one of the worst parts of the expat lifestyle. You will not always meet new people, and sometimes, even if you do, they will not be an obstacle to you. The same people you work with overseas may not be the people you want to hang out with and have a coffee or cocktail on the weekends.

Living abroad can be very lonely, whether you live alone or with your family. Sometimes you just wish there were people around you who know and know you. Financially, not everyone will be able to come to you abroad as much as you would like, if ever, and this can also trigger bouts of depression as time really flies and you can miss out on many key moments in life. the lives of your loved ones.

If you have ever lived abroad, feel free to share any bad experiences you had when you lived outside your “norm.” What annoyed you the most? What was the hardest part to do? Let us know in the comments.


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