Whether you want to work overseas, retire abroad, or just move to another country to cut your living expenses in half, there are pros and cons of moving abroad. There are a lot of major benefits to living in a foreign land as an expat, but there are serious adjustments to be made as well.
The 100+ reviews I’ve gotten on the second edition of A Better Life for Half the Price echo something I heard a lot when I put out Travel Writing 2.0 as well. In essence, “Don’t expect a lot of sugar-coating.”
I like sugar. I probably eat too much of it. But I try not to spoon any onto the information I’m giving out, especially when someone could be making big life decisions based on what I’m telling them.
Life is like a box of chocolates as Forrest would say, but part of the appeal of escaping your boring predictable life and moving somewhere completely new is, you get a much bigger box. You get a huge variety of surprises on a regular basis instead of one or two a month at home. (Ooooh, a new TV series with my favorite actor! Look at that, a new Chipotle at our strip mall!)
Thailand is not Nicaragua and Bulgaria is not Mexico, but here are a few commonalities expatriates or location independent nomads run into when they move from the familiar to the new. Even students who want to study abroad somewhere besides Europe or Australia are going to encounter most of these for a semester or a year.
Upsides to Moving Abroad to a Cheaper Country
There will be a lot of things in the “pros of living abroad” column when you start tallying them up on a notepad. Here are a few you can probably expect when you are looking at moving overseas to a country with a lower cost of living.
You spend far less on living expenses and have more disposable income in the least expensive places to live in the world.
The costs of restaurants, clubs, and entertainment shows are lower so you can enjoy them all more often.
Domestic help is drastically cheaper, so you can afford a maid, tutor, gardener, frequent taxi rides, or a weekly masseuse.
The weather will probably be better—unless you already live somewhere warm and sunny all year.
You’ll probably be healthier, due to less stress, cheaper healthy food, and lower medical bills. Most non-U.S./Canadian cities are also more pedestrian-friendly, so you’ll probably walk more.
You’re not deluged with the constant negative and bickering non-news that the 24-hour cable channels dish out every day. If it’s in a different language, you can easily tune it all out too.
Your life will get much more interesting. Every day you’re hit with new and different stimulation of all five senses, and you’re regularly meeting new people who aren’t like you.
You may find that you form better, deeper friendships because you’re in a “work to live” place instead of a “live to work” one. People aren’t in such a rush and there’s no badge of honor for working 80-hour-weeks.
Downsides to Living Abroad
When you leave your “rich country” home and move to a place where the local wages are a fraction of what they are where you came from, things you currently take for granted won’t be true. Some expectation adjustments are in order when you move abroad and try out international living. There will be some things in the “cons” column for sure.
You won’t be able to buy 24 types of mustard and 48 kinds of beer in a local supermarket.
You will not have the breadth of clothing or cosmetics shopping variety you have in a typical first-world city.
You will pay more for electronics than you do in the USA unless you move to one of three or four countries where that’s not true.
You may not have the lightning-fast internet service you’ve gotten used to—though some countries like Romania present a big surprise to the upside. (This is getting better every year too, at least in the cities.)
You may have to communicate in a different language to get basic things done.
You may have to put up with more garbage, more graffiti, more paperwork, lazier bureaucrats, corrupt policemen, and sewage systems where you can’t flush the toilet paper.
You may not be able to drink the water from the tap.
You will probably miss some things about home that feel like a part of you, such as:
– The greenness, the mountains, the changing seasons, or the colors of changing leaves.
– A lush garden full of plants you know and recognize.
– Your local friends and community.
– Your favorite grocery store, the local bar, your regular restaurant.
– 348 channels of TV in English, eight streaming services, plus a DVR with a terabyte of storage.
Are You Good at Jumping Over Obstacles?
In the end, no matter how many things you have in one column and how many things you have in the other, a lot of it comes down to attitude. Are you someone who wants an interesting life and thrives on adventure? Or are you someone who prefers routines and predictability?
Can you deal well with uncertainty and a need for patience? Or do you get flustered when things move too slowly for your tastes and when everything is not prim and neat?
Most things worth doing in life require some work, and the overcoming of obstacles. Even if you’re in one of the best places for expats to live, you are still going to have to deal with culture shock and different ways of doing things.
Staying put and doing nothing is the easy choice, of course. Making a big move requires some commitment and a willingness to meet new challenges, even within the same country. The challenges multiply when moving abroad to a place with different rules and customs. For instance, it is recommended to stick to a strict checklist when moving to Germany.
Some people are highly resistant to change, believe everything their favorite TV channel tells them, and think it’s a scary world beyond their borders. Those people will be miserable when moving abroad. In my experience, these are also the people who will be the most resistant to your decision about moving out of your home country. They’ll hit you with a lot of objections about moving to another country.
The pros and cons of moving abroad can vary depending on your current income and life situation. The attitude about a need or a want for a living situation change can be influenced, of course, by finances. If you spend most of your time figuring out how to reduce your tax bill and where you’re going to dock a larger yacht, you are probably fine just fine staying where you are.
If you have trouble finding enough cash to pay the bills each month though and never seem to get ahead, cutting your expenses in half by moving abroad could have a life-changing impact on your future. Sometimes the key to happiness could be as easy as moving to a place where you are no longer living paycheck to paycheck (or gig payment to gig payment).
If you’re in the latter camp, follow this link. In one place you can get info on the best places to retire, where you can extend your runway as an online business owner, or how to move to another country without making a long list of rookie mistakes.
If you make that move, tell me how it went!