There are so many reasons why people relocate internationally, whether it be to work abroad, study overseas, retire, learn a new foreign language, or take a gap year before university; here are some of the many advantages of living abroad that I’ve personally experienced.
Both my Thai mother and French Canadian father were very poor growing up. I fully recognize that travelling and living abroad is a privilege that not everyone can do and I feel very fortunate to have lived in several countries at different periods of my life.
But if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity, inclination and the money to live abroad, I highly recommend you do it at least once in your life.
Moving to a new country, even if for only a few months, is one of the many ways you can suck the marrow out of life.
(For the purpose of this article, My definition of living abroad is anything beyond three months. )
1) Living Abroad can shape you in mysterious ways
Many scholars believe our experiences shape who we are in one way or another and that memories of those experiences are equally as important. Even seemingly unimportant experiences can change our beliefs, how we behave and who we become.
Everyone is different, and the possibilities are infinite so it’s impossible to predict precisely how experiences will affect one person over another. Just know that they will. It’s called growing as a person.
2) You may learn it’s ok to question the culture you were brought up in
Everybody has a cultural lens, a unique perspective formed through time and experiences. It defines the way you see the world and the people within it, and it changes you as you experience new things.
As you immerse yourself in another countries culture and customs, it’s only natural to make comparisons between your culture and your new culture. Sometimes you may question things you never questioned before.
3) You’ll appreciate your home country more (maybe)
It’s natural to take things for granted but sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
When we’re at home, we dream of escaping off to some adventure; however, we often forget to notice the comforts and beauties of home all around us. It’s usually not until we’re away, seeing home from the other side, that we begin to appreciate it.
Your new host country can give you the distance you need. You may even start to appreciate the routine of your life that you thought you wanted to get away from.
4) You’ll get a chance to view your culture from another countries perspective
One of the surprising advantages of living abroad is meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and learning how they view your home countries culture. For instance, did you know that most French people think it’s strange how some Americans put flags in front of their house or wave flags during parades?
See also: Do the French eat McDonald’s: Fastfood in France.
5) Living in a different country can make you (appear) more interesting
Whether living abroad makes you more interesting or not is debatable, but in the eyes of other people who dream of moving abroad, you are living the dream.
6) Mundane Things Become So Much More Interesting
Living in another country where things are done differently can make mundane things look so much more interesting. Simple things like perusing the grocery store for new, interesting and strange new foods can be an exciting experience in and of itself. Eventually the novelty wears off, so enjoy it while you can before it becomes the norm.
7) You May Have More opportunities for travel
Depending on the country you move to, you may have more opportunities to travel to shiny new neighbouring countries.
For instance, In France, you’re surrounded by eight other countries that you can reach in as little as a couple of hours; Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain and Andora.
8) You’ll bond and learn to appreciate your family more (hopefully)
As you go forward with your new life abroad, you’ll experience new things together. Children will be more reliant on parents for support in their country, especially if you’ve moved to a new country that speaks a different language. You and you’re spouse will work together to manoeuvre day-to-day challenges.
These new shared experiences can all lead to a positive effect on family bonds.
9) You’ll get a different, broader view of the world
As the old saying goes, “you don’ know what you don’t know”; meaning you don’t know what knowledge you’re missing.
The views we have about life and the world around us are shaped by where we live. Moving to another country with different values and customs will open your eyes to other ways of living that you didn’t even know existed.
10) You’ll see that there is no right or wrong, just different
Simple things like manners, good and bad may be challenged when moving abroad.
For example, In France, it’s not polite or proper etiquette to keep your hands on your lap during a meal; they should always be on the table.
11) You may get a chance to learn a new language
Obviously, if you move to another country, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in that language and learn it more quickly than if you took classes in your home country. Even if you move to a foreign country where they speak your language, you’ll still learn new expressions, words, and accents.
See also: Will I be bilingual if I live abroad?
12) Living abroad encourages you to live life with intention and to the fullest.
Between your busy work schedule and hectic life, your daily routine can become an automatic series of unconscious acts that happen without even thinking.
Living in a foreign country where everything is new and different forces you to turn off the autopilot and make more conscious and deliberate choices.
13) You’ll learn to live outside of your comfort zone
Part of the charm of living in another country immersed in another culture is trying and doing new things you wouldn’t normally do in your home country. Sometimes those things can seem scary or strange. You might try new foods like escargot or chicken feet or go spelunking in a cave in Thailand, or swim with sharks in Palau.
All these new experiences stretch and test your limits, pushing you beyond what you thought you could ever accomplish. It’s an extremely satisfying feeling with snowball effects.
14) You’re children will learn to adapt to the wonders of another culture
I feel so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy other cultures with my children. One of the best decisions we ever made was mainstreaming our children in French schools. It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways for children to adjust to local life and make new friends. Having friends made all the difference for the kids.
See Also: Preschool in France- what’s it like?
15) Living abroad improves your creativity, if you let it
An often-overlooked advantage of living abroad is it can help you flex your creativity and problem-solving skills. If there’s a language barrier, you may have to figure out new ways to communicate until you master the language. To thrive, you may have to improvise in unfamiliar situations.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is chefs who travel and find inspiration in the foods from the countries they visit. I’m not a chef, but I often cook French food with an Asian twist or vice versa. One of my favourite inspirations is the classic French dish Mussels and fries (Moules et Frites) which I sometimes make with Thai
16) Living abroad makes you appreciate your time
Unless you’re moving abroad permanently, you have a sense that your time is limited and that every minute counts. The clock is always ticking in the back of your mind that you will someday leave your host country and may never return.
17) You’ll get to see places you’ve read about
Some things are worth experiencing firsthand, rather than through photos or books. This is especially beneficial for children. Seeing the great wall of china or the Berlin wall and touching them is a completely different experience when you see them and touch them up close.
18) You might adopt new customs and develop new interests
Food, culture, past times, sports, raising a family; all of these things can be quite different in other countries. You never know how they’ll affect you. Maybe you’ll fall in love with something you’re exposed to while living abroad.
One custom that our family has adopted is “the French mealtime.” Not necessarily eating French food but eating customs; eating later in the evening, entertaining à la français, and “le gouter,” a light snack around 5 pm that most kids eat. And let’s not forget “la bise.”
19) You’ll get to live like a local, not a tourist (big difference)
No disrespect to tourists, we’re all tourists at one time or another, but travelling to a foreign country for a 2-week vacation is nothing like living in the country. Tourists typically see the tip of the cultural iceberg but rarely get to experience what lies directly beneath the water, where most culture exists.
20) You’ll gain a new appreciation for immigrants and expats in your home country
When we moved to France, our starry-eyed selves imagined life akin to some romantic movie. The reality is, there are so many hurdles and challenges, not to mention bureaucracy and red tape immigrants and foreigners have to deal with to obtain the legal right to live in another country. If you have children, it only gets more challenging.
And if you don’t speak the language, how do you go about doing everyday things?
21) Boost your career and CV/resume
People often worry that taking a one-year family sabbatical or student gap year to live abroad will somehow hurt their future carer. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In addition to hard skills (usually those that have to be learned through formal study), studies have shown that employers also want to know about your soft skills: The intangible skills that usually come from life experience rather than formal training. Living abroad can definitely improve your soft skills.
22) You’ll make new friends living overseas
It’s fun meeting other expats living abroad but making friends with locals is where it’s at. It’s through those local friends that you’ll experience and learn the local culture.
23) Living abroad may be cheaper than living in your home country
If you move to Paris, life may not be cheaper than living in your home country, but there are plenty of places around the world where you can live that are. Even in France.
24) Living in a foreign country Can Boost Your Confidence
Moving abroad can be challenging.
You’ll be faced with a set of challenges that will test your survival skills and your patience, from figuring out how to set up basic things like electricity and cable to learning the ins and outs of your new country.
Overcoming challenges feels good, and with each new hurdle you overcome, you feel more confident for future ones.
25) You’ll feel some culture shock: it can be a good thing, too, you know?
Culture shock, that feeling of disorientation that occurs when you’re immersed in an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.
Experiencing culture shock is a lot like growing pains. Think about it. Aren’t our most meaningful memories in life when we step outside of our comfort zone and take risks? Sure it’s uncomfortable, but it’ll ultimately shape you into a much more interesting, well-rounded person.
Unfortunately, Living Abroad is not the cure to your life’s problems.
Some people think moving will solve their problems when all they’re really doing is running away. Eventually, your problems will catch up with you.