Moving abroad was a catalyst that changed my life completely. And while I love this nomadic lifestyle that I’ve been living for over a decade, there are definitely some things to consider before taking that giant leap.
There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages of living abroad. It’s exciting, rewarding, and breathtaking at times, but at other times you’re forced to contend with unforeseen struggles, loneliness, and exhaustion.
Whether you’re simply daydreaming of a fresh start or actively taking steps to move to a new country, consider these pros and cons of living abroad.
Pros of Moving Abroad—Advantages of Living Abroad
1. You Get To Experience New Places and Cultures
This one is obvious—it’s the reason we go abroad in the first place! But there’s a vast difference between visiting a place and spending extended periods there.
One of the best parts about being abroad is discovering all the nuances of a new place, and living rather than visiting will give you a lot more time to explore every nook and cranny of your new home base.
Finding out Moroccans eat couscous on Fridays and being lucky enough to rent an apartment from locals who shared their food with us on Fridays for two months!? Uhm, amazing!
Getting to participate in the largest water fight in the world numerous times while living in Thailand and getting water gunned by granny in the middle of the streets of Chiang Mai? Hell yeah!
Getting lessons in Aussie slang every time I showed up to work while living in Australia for a year on my working holiday visa? Yeah, mate!
2. It Makes You More Independent
Moving to a different country forces you to rely on yourself and yourself alone. This may seem like a con of living abroad, but stick with me.
Obviously, problems will eventually arise in your new home country – especially if you’re new to the nomad experience.
But being forced to deal with issues independently will make you more independent. This might be tricky if you’re used to a large support system, but you’ll be grateful in the long run!
I learned so much about myself and gained SO much confidence as a solo nomad, I truly can’t explain it to you.
I really learned how to be comfortable with myself, my thoughts, and my overall in my life—I didn’t know how UNCOMFORTABLE I was before this!
This independence forces you to get to know yourself better, and you don’t know how much you need it until you’re in the position.
3. It Gives You a Boost in Confidence
Conquering issues that arise while abroad will not only make you more independent, but it’ll also give you a huge confidence boost.
It may be hard to see the silver lining in the struggle, but if you can overcome problems in a different country and forge your own way, you can do anything!
Ordering food in another language and eating it alone at a table would have terrified me before. After living abroad? Ha! I LOVE doing this now and think nothing of it.
4. Networking and Making New Friends
One of the biggest cons of living abroad is that it can get lonely. But this forces you to get out there and make a whole new group of friends. Whether it’s other foreigners or locals, the people you meet while living abroad make your experience all the richer.
Making new friends can be scary, but this is the fastest way to create a new place that feels *enough* like home.
You’ll have someone to share your woes with, and locals have the best advice for everything from hole-in-the-wall eateries to epic day trips. They say misery loves company, but so does happiness!
I have friends around the world, and while they might not be my best mate since I’m not there anymore, I can rock up, and things will be just as if I never left.
5. Trying New Cuisine
Moving to a new place means you’ll need to embrace some new cuisine, and that’s one of the biggest pros of living abroad, in my opinion!
This is one of the quickest ways to get out of your comfort zone, and you’ll likely surprise yourself with new favorites no matter where you go. Local cuisine tends to utilize fresh, local ingredients, so you’ll probably be eating a lot healthier than you were back at home!
OK, let’s be real, the quality of the food in the US is subpar compared to some other places. Even in developing countries, my fruits and veggies are fresher, and I can eat more of what I want and not gain a single pound. There’s a lot to be said about the food abroad, but yeah, overall, the quality is better, and trying new foods is also so much fun!
6. Better Quality of Life
This one is a bit of a toss-up, and it depends a lot on where you’re coming from and where you’re moving to. But if you’re like me and coming from the US, you’ll be surprised to learn that the quality of life is a lot better in many places around the globe.
Many countries offer comprehensive and affordable healthcare, great weather year-round, and affordable living costs – all of which contribute to your overall quality of life. Again, this will depend a lot on where you move to, so research where you’re going before you move!
If you’re nomading and not permanently moving, you still can reap benefits. Overall my money goes further, which means my life can be better abroad—and it literally is! Wait for it…
7. It’s Cheaper
Many people don’t believe me when I say it’s actually cheaper to live abroad than it is to live in the US, but it’s true! Living is NOT the same as traveling abroad, and when you lay roots down, you spend wayyy less than you do as a tourist.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply if you’re moving to somewhere like Switzerland or Monaco, but there are plenty of destinations across Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe where your dollar will go much further.
So not only is my quality of life better, but it was CHEAPER for me too. I know you’re thinking yeah, right—travel is expensive, there’s no way this is true.
But don’t get vacationing and traveling/living abroad mixed up. My life is mostly “normal” (as in I get up, have coffee, work, Netflix, sleep, repeat, just like you) so I’m living a regular life, just abroad.
8. Expand Your Worldview
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, and there are a lot of stereotypes about different places around the world. But as you travel, a lot of these prejudices slowly disappear.
Learning about a country’s culture firsthand, meeting locals, and experiencing what life is really like will help you expand your worldview. The more places you live in, the faster you’ll get over your culture shock the next time you move somewhere new.
My worldviews and thoughts have taken shape over the years of nomading, and my eyes have opened more and more. More empathy, more social experiences, more understanding, and an overall deeper understanding of people from different walks of life.
9. It’s a Non-stop Adventure
Living abroad is a non-stop adventure, and there’s something new to discover whenever you walk out your door. New people, a new language, new cuisine – the list continues.
Even everyday experiences like grocery shopping or walking through the city is a new adventure. Of course, the longer you live somewhere, the less jaw-dropping these experiences become, but it’s one of the more fun aspects of moving to a new place.
I get bored easily, and this is probably one of my main drives for this lifestyle. I love having something new happen, a new challenge, and even having a new “backyard.”
Flexibility is hands down one of the top advantages of living abroad. Not vibing with a place? Time to pick a new home base. Each time you move, it gets easier, and you get more flexible, which is a huge attribute for all aspects of life.
Learning to go with the flow and move on once you’re not enjoying yourself is a skill that many people never figure out, and it’s one of the best things I’ve learned during all my years abroad.
11. Personal Growth
This one is a bit hard to pin down. You likely won’t realize how much you’ve grown as you’re doing it, but it will astound you when you look back on your personal growth during your time abroad.
No matter who you are, where you’re from, or where you’re going, you will overcome challenges, making you a more resilient person.
12. Learn a New Language
Immersing yourself completely is the fastest way to learn a new language. If you put your mind to it, I have no doubt that you can become fluent in a new language when you move abroad.
Even if you’re not out to add another language to your repertoire, you’ll likely pick up on a few key phrases, and practicing in basic conversations will make you feel more like a local.
I taught myself beginner Thai during my years in Thailand, I learn all the basic phrases for each country I visit, and I’ve been learning Spanish for years now (can’t wait to be totally fluent already! ah!)
13. Learn Lifelong Skills
You may or may not learn a new language when you move abroad, but you will undoubtedly learn other skills. Whether it be how to cook a local dish, how to master the metro, or playing a new sport, learning is one of the best things about living abroad.
You’re constantly learning new things when you move to a new country, even unintentionally. You’ll likely have to learn a lot about the bureaucracy of wherever you’re living when you apply for visas, housing, and other services.
While it may be frustrating at times (this is definitely a disadvantage to living abroad), these skills will make you more confident and independent in the long run (yay for looking on the bright side, right?!).
14. Break From Routine
Unfortunately, our society values a steady schedule. While there is value in routines, they can also confine us and keep us small.
One of the advantages of living abroad is the opportunity to break away from routine and live life each day. You’ll most likely have a remote travel job or something with a flexible schedule, which keeps things interesting day in and day out.
The saying goes, “Think adventure is dangerous? Try routine, it’s lethal.”
And those words speak true to me so much! But it’s funny because I still have a routine, I just change my settings every few months.
15. Make Lifelong Memories
Like traveling, moving abroad is a memorable experience. Whether you’re studying abroad short term or making a permanent move, the memories you make abroad will surely stick with you for a lifetime.
When you look back on your time overseas, you’ll likely remember it fondly. Even the most challenging experiences have a way of turning more positive over the years, and you’ll appreciate the highs and the lows that made you grow.
No matter how long you do this, you’ll make memories, learn skills, and it will be impossible to regret, even if you decide you don’t like this lifestyle.
16. Learn to Adapt
One of the pros and cons of living abroad is that you’ll need to adapt. A lot. It’s not just the physical location that causes culture shock, either. The new food, smells, laws, and overall way of life will take some getting used to.
It may be challenging at first, but learning to adapt is a great skill to have, no matter where you live. As time passes, life abroad gets easier and easier, and adapting won’t feel like such a chore. You might actually learn to enjoy it!
This might be a con to living abroad for some, but I love learning new ways of life and trying out different methods. I’m a person who thrives when thrown into a new situation, and then I need to figure out how to do it “like a local.”
✅ Furnishing a home in Thailand? I figured it out!
✅ Navigating the metro in Hungary? Got it!
✅ Figuring out a temporary visa in China, a working holiday visa in Australia, and how to extend a visa in New Zealand? Done, done, and done!
✅ Eating with chopsticks? Got it—mostly.
✅ Living in Colombia during the holiday and having fireworks go off every day for a month straight? I adapted.
17. Experience New Lifestyles
One of the many advantages of living abroad is the opportunity to experience new lifestyles and open your mind to different ways of life.
You may move somewhere that prioritizes health and wellness, time with family, or time off from work. Maybe you’ll discover a new routine that includes a daily siesta. Sometimes we don’t know how much we’ve been missing out on until we experience things for ourselves!
Longer lunches and eating mini plates of a variety of things (tapas)—Thanks Spain, I love it!
Slowing down and learning the pace of life in the Philippines—My soul needed this, I’m a psycho and can go too fast sometimes. Thank you!
I’m constantly modifying my life and taking attributes from the places I visit to make my life more ideal for myself.
18. Discover What You Truly Want and Need Out of Life
If you’ve ever moved out of a house or apartment, you know it’s a great time to downsize! You go through all your things one by one and decide what to keep and what to toss. Moving abroad forces you to do the same, but, like, ten-fold.
You’ll likely only be able to bring whatever you can fit in a suitcase or two, which takes downsizing to all new heights. This is a blessing in disguise, and the less you have, the more you realize how little you need to be truly happy. It also makes packing easier the next time you have to move!
Stuff was holding me back from living my best life. I always needed more stuff and more space for my stuff, and I couldn’t do things I wanted to sometimes because I felt obligated to spend my money on stuff… stuff sucks. F*ck stuff.
Less stuff is the name of the game, and this lifestyle makes you a minimalist. It looks and sounds scary, perhaps, but a life without so much stuff means a much simpler life, a more affordable life, and a life with fewer strings attached.
19. It’s a Fresh Start
It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve lived in the same place for a long time. Maybe you’re staying at a job because it “pays the bills,” or you’re sick of the same old routine but don’t know how to switch it up. No matter what rut you’re stuck in – moving abroad will solve all your problems.
Okay, JK—maybe not ALL of them, but it will give you a fresh start and a chance to redefine yourself. No one knows you or has any expectations of you, which makes it easy to leave the things that no longer serve you behind.
It was my fresh start, the one I didn’t even know I needed and the one I didn’t expect to impact me so much. It was the fresh start I needed to start living the life I really wanted.
20. You Get to Travel More
One of my favorite parts about moving to a new country is the chance to explore it in its entirety. And it doesn’t have to be a spot known for its tourist attractions.
Think about it – every nearby town is a new destination to discover, and once you’ve seen everything nearby, you can move further afield and explore neighboring countries or regions you’ve never heard of.
I mean, this one is kind of a “DUH” thing to say, but it’s definitely an advantage to living abroad. You can travel more, and for cheaper too, because you’re “right there.”
Oh, just one thing—Your list of places you want to go only gets longer, NOT shorter. This might be a disadvantage to living abroad, the travel list that never ends, ah!
Cons of Moving Abroad—Disadvantages of Living Abroad
21. Language Barriers
One of the most significant disadvantages of living abroad is the language barrier.
Even if you’re moving somewhere that speaks English, there are new accents and slang to learn. It can be frustrating to lose your ability to communicate easily, but it allows you to learn a new language!
Solution: Learn a new language! Or at least pick up a few key phrases.
The reality is, if you know English, you’re lucky. I can tell you now there’s a VERY slim chance you’ll have any major issues living abroad because of the language barrier. It’s not as huge of an issue as most people perceive.
22. Missing Friends and Family
This is another tough one. And moving abroad can be an incredibly lonely experience.
But the good news is when you move to a different country, you’re automatically a part of the nomad community. You’ll likely find a Facebook group with other foreigners living in your area, one of the fastest ways to meet new people.
Making friends with locals is also amazing if you can do it. This gives you an inside look at the local culture and language, which is at least half the fun of moving to a new country!
But I will say, this is a pain point for me and it’s not always that easy! You really have to put in the effort. It also kind of sucks when you’re somewhere for a few months and then have to leave. It’s easier if you actually move somewhere abroad and can stay longer.
Solution: Make new friends.
Wow, revolutionary info, I know. But really, you HAVE to put effort into meeting people. This doesn’t have to be a disadvantage to living abroad, but there’s an extra level of effort needed on your part.
23. Visas and Bureaucracy
One of the biggest cons of moving abroad is figuring out all the red tape. It’s confusing, it’s exhausting, and right when you think you’ve done everything you need to live in peace, there’s something else to learn.
Whether it be purchasing insurance, setting up a bank account, or figuring out the tax system, there is a lot to learn about your new home country. Luckily we live in the information age, and many of these issues can be solved with a Google search!
Honestly, that’s why I think it’s easier to be a nomad sometimes. You don’t have to deal with most of that as much, just pay attention to the tourist visa info, and you’re good. But then the whole “making friends thing” gets hard etc… There’s no perfect solution.
There’s lots of research, and it depends on 3580938940 things! This article on US tourist visas and other visas to know about should help you understand everything better too!
24. Health Concerns
There’s nothing worse than a health scare in a country you’re unfamiliar with.
Trying to navigate a new healthcare system can be a massive headache, so I recommend getting a solid check-up before you move, ensuring you’re up to date on all your vaccines, and purchasing good travel insurance.
One of the pros about living abroad, if you’re from the United States, is that healthcare costs will likely be a LOT less than you’re used to, so if you find yourself needing medical attention, at least it won’t bankrupt you!
Solution: Get some good travel insurance
And really, that’s all you’ll need because 9 times out of 10 you will be fine just paying out of pocket abroad… I honestly almost put this under the “advantages of living abroad” section, but I know most see it as a disadvantage.
But is it!? It just might just be a pro to living abroad because healthcare abroad is actually affordable and pretty easy too! The travel insurance covers the emergencies, and the little stuff is probably as much as your deductible back home.
25. Culture Shock
The further you get from home, the more likely you will experience culture shock. Yes, living abroad can be a thrilling, incredible experience, but it’s also one of the hardest things you will do.
Getting used to new cultural norms, cuisine, languages, and transportation systems (among many other things) will give you some culture shock, even if you’ve traveled a lot before. There is no cure for this; it’s just a reality of living abroad.
Don’t worry, though. As time passes, you’ll get used to the country you’re living in, and pretty soon, it’ll feel like home!
Solution: Give yourself time
If I’m being honest, this never really happened to me. I didn’t have much “shock,” and instead, it was processed in a way that can be described as amazement or curiosity. I loved it, and this, for me, was never really a con of living abroad.
If anything, REVERSE culture shock, when I went back to the USA for the first time after 2.5 years abroad, was the shocking part!
26. Ditching the 9-5 Mentality
In my mind, ditching the 9-5 mentality is a massive pro of living abroad. My life STARTED when I left the US and began to forge my way outside of societal norms. But I get it. Taking that first step and switching your mindset is HARD.
Before you move abroad, you’ll want to have a good emergency fund saved up, and from there, you can start searching for work abroad or remote work opportunities. Luckily, I’ve tried many of these out, and I have so many resources available about how to work and travel around the world. You’re welcome!
Solution: Work abroad or find remote work
OK, my list of cons for living abroad isn’t very good. They are kind of mostly pros… But again, this is subjective! I had no issues saying Sayonara to the 9-5! But I know it’s been embedded into our brains, and while some might hate it, it doesn’t mean it will be easy to adapt off the bat and reframe your mind to better attain a travel job.
Unless you’ve got a whole boatload of cash to spend on shipping all your belongings abroad, you’ll likely have to get rid of a lot of stuff when you move to a new country. And if you’re nomading? You better only bring what you can carry!
This can be highly emotional, making it hard to part with certain things. No doubt. But eventually, you will learn to love living with whatever you can fit into your luggage, making you realize what’s most important to you. Hint: it’s probably not things!
Solution: Realize what’s most important to you
I was lucky and got to leave a few boxes at mom’s house, but otherwise, I got rid of everything else. I’m so happy I didn’t spend a dime on a storage unit!
It’s wasted money for stuff that has no meaning. Hopefully, you can keep a few keepsakes somewhere safe and avoid the storage unit too!
This one is especially daunting if you’re a solo female. Unfortunately, the reality is that being alone in a new place often makes you vulnerable.
You need to consider safety no matter where you’re going, whether it be theft and pickpocketing or downright violence.
Always read up on the best safety tips and common scams overall and for specific countries.
Solution: Do your research and avoid unsafe places and situations
If this gives you any solace, most countries are probably just as safe, if not safer, than where you’re living right now.
Yes, seriously! And most crimes against tourists are non-violent as well. Of course, always take precautions but some of the easiest things you can do are:
- Use common sense.
- Don’t get wasted.
- Don’t go out at night often, and definitely not alone.
- Wearing crossbody purses and using anti-theft gear.
Following these simple rules, I have kept myself safe for years.
Even if you’re not enthralled with your current home base, homesickness is an inevitable part of moving abroad. You don’t realize how much you love your favorite comfort foods or hanging out with your friends until these options are out of reach.
It’s okay to miss home, and it doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision about moving abroad. Give yourself grace, and accept your feelings as valid. Then pick yourself up, find new snacks and friends, and keep pushing through. It gets easier over time, but some days are more challenging.
Solution: Accept it
I miss family and friends, but not enough to give up the lifestyle that fuels my soul. There are flights… I visit them every year. And because I don’t like my hometown, I’m always happy to get right back on the plane and leave again.
30. It Can Be Difficult to Stay in One Place Long-Term
Visas are tricky, and every country has different rules for how long you can stay, if you can work, and if you can renew your visa.
Some countries offer extended visas for digital nomads, and some places like Australia and New Zealand have working holiday visas. You can try to figure out which places offer the longest visas for US citizens or simply move on to a new country once you’ve overstayed your welcome.
Solution: Figure out which places offer the longest visas
The longest tourist visas, a working visa, a digital nomad visa… All of these can help you stay longer. Again, this is the harder route though, so in the meantime, you can just hop around “nomad style” until you figure it out if that’s your goal.
31. It Can Be Tiring to Move
Kinda going off my last point sometimes moving around can be a bit annoying and tiring. This is why I practice slow travel as much as I can, but because of visas, I still have to move around.
But Nina, wait, didn’t you just tell us you love having a new backyard and moving around?!
YES! I love it. But just like anything else, it can get tiring sometimes. This is your cue to try and slow down even more.
Solution: Stay somewhere longer
Flee to a country that allows you to stay longer or allows you to extend your visitor visa.
32. Packing is Awful
Yes, I admit it, this is a true disadvantage of living abroad. I HATE packing, and despite my years of experience, I still kinda suck at it too because, really, there’s no “right way” to pack when you live out of a suitcase and travel to different places and climates year round!
There are no secret hacks or tips—truly, I don’t care who claims they’re an expert, NO—packing sucks, and there’s no really great solution). Each country, or least region of the world, can require something different from you. It’s just not fun. And neither is wearing the same stuff after a few months!
Solution: None, just deal with it.
You could buy lots of stuff and swap stuff out, but I’m no fashionista, and I hate spending money on lots of clothes, so I end up giving up on my looks and just wearing whatever anyway!
33. You May Not Want to Move Back
This can be a serious issue, trust me! I fell in love with living abroad over a decade ago, and I’m still out here living the dream every day. I actually prefer this lifestyle, and people stopped asking me when I’m moving back a long time ago.
When it comes time to decide to move back home or stay abroad, make sure you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad and use your own experiences to figure out what works best for you!
Solution: Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad
Is this another pro to living abroad?! I don’t know anymore. I honestly “had” to put some of these under the con side since I know most might view certain things as a disadvantage to moving abroad, but a lot of the cons for me are still pros!
Maybe you agree? Or not?! Whichever it is, if you’re happy—do more of that option!
For me—It was continuing to live my life abroad!
Wait—I thought of another advantage and disadvantage of living abroad—You fall in love with too many places, and you have to choose between going back to your favorite spots or going to new places.
Which category do I even put this one in? Ha! OK, really, though, I’m done! I think we got most of them. 🙂
OK, I Got The Pros and Cons of Living Abroad—But What Now?
Got more questions? I got answers! If you think there are more pros to living abroad, then you’re in the right place, I can help you get there! Here are my best resources below…
How Can I Live Abroad?!
Well, this is a loaded question! You should start with these articles:
- How To Plan a Trip: 13 Step-by-Step Instructions
- How To Work Abroad & Travel The World
- How You Can Work Abroad Without Experience So You Can Travel Longer
What About Jobs I Can Do Abroad?
I got you covered!
- 73 Travel Jobs—How to Make Money While Traveling!
- 23 Digital Nomad Jobs: Take Your Desk Around The World
- Working Holiday Visas for Americans
Sign up for my free guide:
What I Did and My Journey:
- How I Started Traveling—Three Jobs, Two Years, One Dream
- 11 Travel Jobs That Helped Me Stay On The Road
- My Favorite Places I’ve Lived—Six Places I’d Call Home Again
- How I Saved Over $20k USD in 10 Months Living in Australia
What Are The Main Pros and Cons of Living and Working Abroad?
I’m going to keep this really simple…
The ONLY true disadvantage to living abroad is if you truly don’t want to. If you, deep down, don’t resonate or want this lifestyle. This is really the only valid reason I can think of.
But if you’re still reading, then I’m going to assume the advantages of living abroad outweigh the disadvantages, right?
So the only way to know if it’s going to work for you is to just DO IT.
The worst-case scenario: You can buy a ticket back home if you hate it.
So—Should You Live Abroad?!
DUH! You should at least try.
You won’t regret trying this lifestyle, you’ll only regret not taking the chance while you had it.
I hope this helped you understand some of the pros and cons of living abroad and it helped you make some decisions for your future!
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!