When moving overseas, people rarely talk about the disadvantages of living abroad. Instead, the pros are all listed as reasons to make a move and the benefits you get, such as copious sunshine, a new lease of life, and enjoying delicious national dishes. Yet, it is essential to prepare for adjustments and hurdles to overcome. No matter where you move, nowhere is a god-given utopia. While certain countries may present disadvantages with issues like finances and residency, generic disadvantages apply no matter which country you move to. Knowing these experiences helps expats overcome them, so your new life abroad can take on different meanings.
Disadvantages of Living Abroad
1: Language Barriers and Communication
This is the first disadvantage of a foreign country that most people think of. The local language is everything. It affects how we make friends, have simple conversations with passers-by, and even buying ingredients in the local supermarket. Have you ever sat in among foreigners who speak another language that you know nothing of? The intimidating feelings range from insecurity and paranoia in case they talk about you to disappointment or shame that you cannot join in.
For this reason, most people move to towns where locals speak English, one of the most common languages in the world. Unfortunately, they struggle to learn the language, and in some cases, like Turkish, the grammar is hard to understand. The good news is that it isn't your fault. Experts say the best age to learn foreign languages is age seven when our minds are at their optimum for absorbing new information. However, take time out to learn at least one word daily or attend weekly lessons. Read language-learning hacks.
2: Home Sickness and Missing Friends
When you live abroad, Homesickness is caused by being in an unfamiliar environment or away from things or people to which we are attached. Even the most confident person living abroad, who swears that it could never happen to them, experiences bouts of homesickness on the odd day or two. Others stick it out, but symptoms don't go away, and they return home. Symptoms can include
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Feelings of loneliness in life
- Withdrawing from social situations
- Feelings of anger, insecurity, anxiety, or sadness
- An overwhelming sense of doubt as to whether the life move was the right thing to do
- Lack of motivation or hope for our new life
So, what causes homesickness when living abroad? It could be various factors or a simple event, like seeing photos of friends back home on fun nights out together or missing the birth of grandchildren. Additionally, we all have our home comforts which mainly include food items, and if they are not stocked in the country we live in, the cravings never go away. So, what do the experts say? Stick it out, and deliberately look for opportunities that make you happy. So, if you wake up one morning and feel homesick looming but the reason you wanted to live abroad was for marvellous sea views, get yourself down to the beach. Gratitude and enjoying life's simple pleasures lessen symptoms.
3: Bureaucracy Regulations and Living Laws
We all love familiarity, especially when renewing our driving licenses and passports, making appointments at the hospital or or selling our house. This is the comfort of living somewhere continuously. You nestle into a comfort zone where you know what to do and when to do it. However, once you live abroad, the experience changes. Even the house buying procedures differ from country to country.
Additionally, foreigners need to adapt to that country's different regulations, like navigating residency permits, driving licence rules, and figuring out tax implications. Even figuring out how to pay bills online or open bank accounts can be daunting for the less than confident person. So, for the few months living in your new country, give yourself time. For unfamiliar aspects, take them slowly, seek advice from people already living there and have an open mind. Eventually, as time passes, that sense of familiarity will return.
4: Residency and Not Citizenship
Ah, the benefits of being citizens in our own country. We can work, vote, have free speech and are protected fully by the law. Yet, when expats move to a different country, they apply for residency status, which does not give them the same rights as citizens. For example, residency permits don't entitle foreigners to work in Turkey. This requires another visa instead. Additionally, they can not vote or contribute legally to how the local community is run.
The only way to bypass this is to choose a country with citizenship through investment opportunity schemes. For example, in Turkey, foreigners who buy property for $400,000 or more and pledge to keep it for at least three years can apply for citizenship for their spouse, dependents, and any future born. If you don't want to do this, check out residency application laws and how to apply before moving overseas to your chosen country. Find out about Turkey's citizenship by investment program.
5: Culture Shock when Living Abroad
Many foreigners visit a place first on holiday and have fun during the day, either on boats, by the pool or at the beach. Evenings times consist of delicious food in top-notch restaurants and seven days of entertainment. It seems like locals are always friendly and full of warm welcomes. However, when living abroad, you see the authentic side of life.
In Turkey, Muslims' annual 30 days of fasting shocks many newcomers. In Spain, it can be the simple everything happens tomorrow attitude that winds us up. The only solution is to get with the program. You cannot change social culture and traditions to suit your own. Give it time to find a happy medium where both cultures exist side by side.
6: Loneliness and Making New Friends Overseas
Mental health experts say human beings need two things in life. The first is a sense of safety, so a roof over our head, somewhere to sleep, and something to eat. The second is a connection with other human beings. This basic human need harks back to tribal days, so whether this is a strong family network or simply having supportive social networks, it boosts our mental health and wellbeing. On the other hand, moving abroad means leaving family and friends behind. This can subconsciously evoke a different sense of loss for those connections, which causes stress.
When you move to a new country, still keep in touch with friends and family back home on Video calls via What's App or Messenger. Additionally, find some local groups to join to meet people with shared passions and hobbies. This could be volunteering at the local dog shelter or joining different bowls, painting, or photography clubs. Take time to get to know neighbours and find out of there are any regional meet up groups to make friends. Within the first year, that sense of connection will return.
7: International Working Versus Non-Working Expats
The working foreigner has the advantage of more opportunities to meet people and increase their language, work, and cultural skills. Most people of retirement age do not want to work, though, and rightly so. They paid for many years into the system to receive their pension and should be able to enjoy time as they wish.
If you plan to retire abroad and do not have to work, be aware of the trappings of the massive amounts of free time. When the sun is shining, and everyone is out by the pool or beach, some people like the experience of afternoon drinking, but this only leads to an empty bank account and poor health. Expats are notorious for filling up bars in the afternoon, but regardless, all health experts say drinking every day is not suitable for our physical, emotional, or mental health. Don't use this as an excuse to make friends.
8: Money Management Abroad
Ah, this age-old concept makes the world go round. Money management isn't so much of a problem if the country where you live abroad has the same currency as your savings, job income, or pensions. However, if it is a different currency, you need to watch currency exchange rates. One good example is the country of Turkey. Their exchange rate is up and done like a yo-yo. This can make daily spending and bill payments harder to keep track of. To get the best rate on currencies when living abroad and affordable rates for transferring finances, use a foreign exchange company like Wise.
Also, About Living Abroad
Moving Checklist: While we know some people who moved abroad ad-hoc, we recommend preparing a checklist of things to do before moving to another country. After all, being prepared for significant lifestyle changes minimises stress and gives the confidence to deal with setbacks or problems which will arise regardless. Moreover, when moving abroad, taking care of the small things enables expats to look after the more extensive experience overall.
Is Turkey a Good Place to Live? In our line of work, many clients ask us if Turkey is an excellent place to live? We always answer yes. We love living here and always endorse Turkey as an ideal place to retire, and the disadvantages of living abroad are easy to navigate. Do not just take our word, though. To date, Turkey is home to thousands of expats. So, if you want to move to Turkey and wonder if it is the right lifestyle decision, let us look at what to expect when you call Turkey home.
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