Moving overseas can be a very bad idea for some people and here’s why:
1. You may stay longer than you planned.
The longer you stay the more life at home will go on without you. You will miss the small and big family events. Your friends will develop routines that don’t include you. Making time for your phone calls will become more of an effort for them.
2. It is more difficult to raise children without family and friends nearby.
You may not realise how much you rely on siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents nearby to help with raising children, but everything from babysitting, to moral support is difficult to come by when you’re parenting 6,000 miles away. Skype just doesn’t fill that gap.
3. Cultural isolation.
You will not have a shared history with anyone, except your partner if you have one and then only if he or she is from your home country. You won’t understand the in-jokes at dinner parties, you won’t know the good places to go for buying wardrobe basics, or the best grocery stores for the widest selection or the places to avoid at holidays or that shops close for half a day in the middle of the week.
4. You may have to retrain in order for anyone to take your credentials seriously.
Education systems are becoming more similar across the world but many countries still do not often recognise the qualifications gained in another country. The reasons for this are varied: laws may differ, such as business operating laws and if you work in HR you simply need to learn the new laws. Legal requirements differ such as with medicine where you need to retake exams to show you are competent to the host country’s expected level. Or, the decision to not accept your credentials could be a form of prejudice or ignorance. Can you afford to retrain–can you afford the money or the time?
5. Your identity is challenged.
If you are not moving for your career, but for your partner’s, then you become the trailing spouse—that is your identity, not lawyer, or teacher, or whatever you were at home. If you are travelling for work you become the American or the Australian, or the Brit and you automatically take on all the baggage that label carries with it—the loud American, the sexist Aussie, the Brit who drinks too much. Everyone stereotypes. It will be up to you to show them you’re different but until then, you’ll just be a stereotype.
6. Culture Shock.
It’s hideous. And it is not just for new expats—even after living somewhere five or 10 years you will still experience culture shock. Everyone gets culture shock. You will not be an exception no matter how open minded you think you are, no matter how much you think you want to live in another country.
This will hit when you’ve just returned from a visit home, or when you’ve had a bad night sleep with a new baby or when you’re sick of the weather, or when you see a family get together and you know your family are getting together without you. Or it will hit when your washing machine breaks down and you have no idea how to navigate the little nuances of repairman culture in the host country. How could that be difficult, you ask? (Here all the seasoned expats have a knowing chuckle…)
8. Saying goodbye.
These aren’t just ‘see you next week’ goodbyes. These are ‘see you in a year—hopefully,’ goodbyes. You may go several years before you see some people. Can you imagine that? Or, when you return to your home country, you will say goodbye to the many good friends you have made in your host country. You will never see some of them again.
9. Hearing things about your own country and people that you may not like.
Like the stereotypes above, people in your host culture will have opinions about your home country. Some will be big, loud opinions voiced at inappropriate times, such as a dinner party. Everyone will be watching you for a reaction. Do you a) smile and take it on the chin, b) agree wholeheartedly even if they’re wrong, c) get angry and shout back, or d) offer an equally offensive opinion to see how they like it?
10. You are convinced your home country is the best in the world.
You are setting yourself up for disappointment because either a) you will discover that there are indeed other very fantastic countries in the world, or b) you will hate living in a lesser country.
11. You may not want to go home.
‘This is a good thing!’ you cry out. Yes, and no. If you can’t extend your visa then it’s a bad thing. If you have family back home that will be heartbroken, then it’s a bad thing. If you have friends and family back home that you love and love to be with but you have made a life in your host country then you will be forever torn, and that’s a bad thing.
If you really, truly think you can cope with these 11 factors, then perhaps an expat life could work for you.