Don’t let the title of this post mislead you, I friggin’ love living abroad. I seek a life of adventure and spontaneity and living across the world from my home certainly does that. However, just like anything else, there are always downsides to every sunny day. Whether you live across the country or on the other side of the globe, once you leave your old life behind, both positive and negative repercussions of that decision are felt each and every day.
You miss out on big family moments
This one is a bit of a no brainer and something that every expat comes to terms with before they take the plunge into a life abroad. Your cousins will get married, your Grandma will celebrate her 80th birthday, and your sister will graduate university – all without you. The idea of being there via Skype or viewing the festivities on Facebook sounds like an ok alternative, but unfortunately, that only tends to amplify the pain of not being there in reality. I am experiencing this first hand as just in the year that I have been living in Hong Kong, three (THREE!!) babies have joined our family. This is my first experience of being an Aunt and I’m not there! It hurts, no sugar coating it, and honestly it has made my final months in Hong Kong drag by, but I know that once I am there it will be like I never missed anything. If you have a supportive family who wants to keep you in the loop, you’ll stay in the loop. It just sucks at times.
You give up those “life long” friendships
This may not be across the board for everyone, but it certainly has been true in my experience. I’ve moved around my whole life and have friends from each walk and chapter. I have a handful of friends who I always thought would be by my side for life and we’d be in each other’s weddings and be Godmothers to each other’s children etc. But the harsh reality that has happened again and again is that when someone moves away, people move apart. Not maliciously necessarily, but the people that you are surrounded by on the day-to-day do become the most important. I’ve found this to be especially true for expats because people back home can’t relate at all to your everyday existence and vice versa. As an expat, your friendships back home tend to become amplified for you because it is a tie to your old life. Sadly, that’s usually not the case for the people you left behind. Their lives go on as normal, and although you still mean a lot to them, you can also be replaced easier than the other side of the coin. When you go home for visits hopefully you can still pick up where you left off but don’t be heartbroken if your friends have moved on. It’s a sacrifice we make to live our dream.
No one can relate to your day to day and vice versa
As previously stated, one tough aspect of moving to another country is that no one back home can relate to what you’re going through. At first everything is exotic and they are “totes jealous” but then the envy starts to wear off and your everyday struggles aren’t as interesting. Your little victories of ordering the correct meal without any English and they’re stories from their new job at the bank just don’t seem to interest either of you. Neither of you is wrong, but it’s just hard to relate to such different situations.
You want to share what’s happening in your life but risk the dreaded “humble brag”
This one, I definitely suffer from it. I love to do crazy things (bungy jumping, anyone?) just so I can have an awesome story to tell afterword. With that, however, it often sounds like I’m humble bragging left and right. I don’t mean to bring up my travels but what you just said totally correlates to when I swam in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or when I took care of a bull elephant in Thailand! Try as you may, there is no way getting around how you “name drop” all the places you’ve been in every conversation. Not that you should be ashamed!
You spend a lot of money going home
Yes, you spend a lot of money at home doing frivolous things but travel expenses tend to be on the lower end. If you live abroad, yes, you spend money traveling to neighboring countries and that’s all exciting, but you also spend a ton of money on plane tickets to go home for Christmas or other huge occasions. If a loved one passes away not only is it emotional trauma but you also always need to have some money saved up so you can drop a large sum on a ticket home. It’s just another emergency you have to be ready for.
You experience racism like never before
My family currently lives in the southern United States, a place ridiculed for it’s racism (whether deserved or not), so you’d think maybe the rest of the world would be a bit more open minded, right? Nope. Not only do I see and experience it first hand from the locals around me, but I have also seen it in many of the westerners that I encounter. People love to live off of snap judgements or what they read about in the media without truly getting to know those around them. It’s not all a bad, of course, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most kind, generous, and least judgmental people in the world. Lesson being, there are crappy people everywhere but there are also good Samaritans all around.
You struggle with totally new feelings
When I was home I was constantly dreaming of when I would get to travel and see the world, I dealt with that wanderlust bug on the daily. Well, now that I’m getting to travel I have a whole new set of thoughts and feelings to work through. Now I get lonely a lot and miss things about home, like Target and Taco Bell. Obviously those things will be there when I’m back for a visit but I guess you always want what you don’t have.
I guess the point of this is not to discourage anyone from taking the plunge abroad, (I promise, it has been the best time of my life!) but to shed light on some of the struggles that you may encounter. It’s not all sunshine and daisies but, to me, the pros totally outweigh the cons. Not everyone shares my sentiment, however, which is why many people move home after a year abroad. Whatever category you fall into is completely fine but know that with every fear comes and exciting victory to be had.