Is Moving Overseas a Bad Idea?

leaves in paris gutter

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.

7. Homesickness.

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.


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7 Responses to “Is Moving Overseas a Bad Idea?”

  1. Vix
    May 18, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    An excellent list. I particularly like the comment about culture shock. I know I didn’t expect it and yet almost two years in to living in Britain,I still experience culture shock every week. It’s the little things that really jar. I thought that coming from New Zealand I would be immune, after all NZ was settled by the Brits we should have lots in common, right? Er no.

  2. Stephanie
    May 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I feel like a lot of these apply to relocating to another city in the US. To me, if that’s the case, then might as well relocate abroad rather than just to another city.

  3. olivia duval
    May 19, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    Good list. I have to agree with Stephanie that this applies to moving across a country as well. However… I think it really REALLY applies to moving overseas. All those things are true moving across a country but hugely magnified if moving to another country. So, I dont agree with Stephanie in that respect. I would also add that its more expensive to move overseas than to move across country and psychologically it is harder to move to another country–for you and your family. I bet I would get more visitors if I lived in the same country as my family–they could at least drive to see me.

    Another item I would add to the list is language–if you dont like learning new languages theres no point (unless you’re moving to another English speaking nation, of course!!).

    Nice to see a list focusing on the negatives rather than glowing all the positives!! Becoming an expat isnt all fabulousness.

  4. Naomi
    May 24, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    Loved this! Blogged about it at

  5. Dubya (yes, that one)
    May 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

    I think that all good Americans should be scared of the world outside of the safe borders of the continental United States. The rest of the world just ain’t got as many MacDonalds as we do. You may encounter communists open minded people and realize that they ain’t so bad if you leave your home town. I think more people that have never left America should publish lists like this on the Internet.

  6. Star
    June 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    What a good list and it is worse, let me tell you, when you are older and have a life behind you. Much as I like the ‘new’ country, it is not the same as the ‘old’ one and there are so many things that I miss. I am surprised at how patriotic I am, more so than when I was at home! I don’t really know where home is anymore, that’s the problem.

  7. Blake
    September 26, 2014 at 1:33 am #

    I’m sorry but this list has only a couple of good reasons; the rest are just weak excuses! I am not really bothered if I don’t get the “in-jokes” at dinner parties – I’d rather take some time to learn the in jokes and discover new culture and society than be stuck in a society that makes me want to leave and try life in another country. And if you really believed that the country you lived in was “the best in the world” then why would you consider leaving? Cultural isolation doesn’t just occur when you travel – it can happen right in your own home country as well. If you are lucky enough to live in a place rich with culture and a strong sense of community, and you feel it is the best place in the world, then good luck to you – stay where you are and you’ll have no issues. What makes this article carry the least weight is the very first number one listed reason – you may stay longer than you intended. Really?! It can’t be that bad if you’re not working out ways in which you can move on. As someone commented before, this article was written for people who are too scared to make such a big change in their lives and actually experience something outside of their own routine.

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