Challenges of Living Abroad
While living abroad in your twenties (or thirties, forties, fifties…really anytime), can change your life for the better, teach you about yourself and the world, and has numerous other benefits, there are definitely some challenges as well.
At Turismap we’re all about laying it out there, telling the truth, and letting you, our lovely readers, decide what you think about a particular destination, experience or lifestyle. So while we recently shared some of our best tips for your first trip overseas, and encouraged you to live abroad during your twenties, we also want to talk about some of the more challenging things you’ll experience if you do decide to live overseas.
Here are some of the biggest challenges of living abroad:
It can be hard to keep friendships alive
While most people want to travel at some stage during their lives, those who choose to live as expats in another country for long periods of time may find that they have trouble keeping their closest friendships alive. And this can be one of the worst parts about living overseas- after all, true friendships are about staying strong during the thick and thin and always being able to connect, no matter how much time you spend apart right?
Unfortunately living overseas will give you plenty of amazing stories to share, but when you’re trying to tell your nearest and dearest about that incredible experience on safari in Tanzania, or how you loved wandering around Bejing, or simply can’t get enough of Australia, you may be a little surprised by just how uninterested your friends seem. It’s not because they don’t want you to have fun, or even that they’re jealous (although they may be slightly envious) but it’s usually just a simple inability to relate. Remember, while you’re off having adventures and learning how to speak another language, your friends are going about their day to day lives. That means breakups, trouble at work, paying bills, and going out with friends.
So what can you do? Accept that your friendships may suffer a little while you’re oversea, but the best friends will continue to be there for you. It’s also important that you do your bit to make sure you’re keeping your friendships alive. Instead of bragging about your amazing life, ask about how theirs is going. Take the time to be interested in what’s going on in their life, and commit to a weekly or monthly skype chat so you can catch up regularly.
You will miss important events
Most long-term travellers and expats will tell you that one of the hardest parts about living abroad is the amount of special events they miss. It’s simply not feasible to fly home for each one, especially if you’re living on the other side of the world and it can be hard to pick and choose. That means you may not meet nieces and nephews until they’re a few years old, you’ll probably miss weddings and funerals, 21sts and graduations, as well as the smaller things like celebrating job promotions, house warmings, baby showers and engagement parties.
You’ll also sometimes be in a position where you have to pick and choose what you go back for- how do you justify going back for one friend’s wedding and not another’s? These are tough questions you’ll have to deal with, but it does get easier. And you’ll notice that there are always people missing from these events, either due to being overseas, sick, or at another event so you won’t need to feel guilty that you’re the only one not showing.
You may find it hard to relate to people
One of the things we find so interesting about living abroad is how quickly you form relationships with other expats. This is due to a number of different factors- you have more in common and are more likely to value travel and new experiences, you’re likely to be more outgoing, and travel also helps you to lower your boundaries- most long-term travellers think nothing about bluritng out their life stories over a drink with a new friend.
But when it comes to people at home, you may find it harder. After all you may find that you’ve changed significantly since you’ve been away, and going home can reinforce that you don’t quite fit in anymore. And this can be really hard when it feels like you don’t fit in with your new country either.
Travel opens our eyes to what’s good and bad about our home countries. This means you’re more likely to notice that things that never bothered you about the people and the way things work in your home country now greatly annoy you. Remember if you’re visiting for a short amount of time after a long time away, it’s normal to have feelings of reverse culture shock, but you should try to be positive and enjoy the time you have with friends and family.