25 Unexpected benefits of living abroad most people don’t realize

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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. 

My family in Thailand
In Thailand with my aunts and my daughter

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. 

You'll get lost when you travel and land in the most wonderful places

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.

Travelling as a couple can make or break you

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?

funny French expression / idioms that don't make sense if you're not French

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.

Slow travel and living abroad is less stressful than a vacation

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 spices.

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. Travelling and living abroad encourages you to live your life to the fullest

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. 

A Day at the Berlin Wall near Warschauer Strasse Station: Travel can be educational for you and your kids

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.”

How to faire la bise step by step directions on greeting a French person with a French cheek kiss

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.

traveling has taught me that You Don’t Need As Much As You Think You Need To Be Happy

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? 

traveling makes you appreciate the comforts of home

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.

how much does it cost to live in France for one year?

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. 

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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  1. Wow what a great read. Certainly gives you inspiration and hope to travel with my future family :)

  2. Hi
    Your point about McDonald’s couldn’t agree more but it is not only America. It is all over the world what ever town you go to in any country and there is McDonald’s . I cannot eat the stuff just makes me feel bad with a capital B

    Loved the other points though thanks lee

    1. You are absolutely right. It’s not only America. I remember McDonalds being in Japan years ago and here in France McDonalds is everywhere now but, my point was that Mcdonalds was started in the US. I asked what a french person thought of Americans and Canadians and he said They eat too much McDonalds. LoL. I have not eaten a McDonalds in over a decade and my daughter has never eaten at McDonalds. But sadly many people do..

  3. Hey Annie,

    I love the lessons you have here. I honestly don’t think I could add any more things to your list about lessons from traveling. One huge lesson I’ve learned recently is just how cheaply you can travel if you do it for long periods of time. Staying in Casablanca has been extremely cheap for me. To be fair, the school pays for my housing and school lunch so I just pay for entertainment and food outside of school. But even then I don’t pay for much at all. I eat at home a lot which is extremely cheap and I walk most places. Back in the US, having a car is essential and I’m really glad to just be rid of it since I’d just rather not own one at all.


    1. Steve,
      I agree. Living without a car has made our lives much less costly and stressfull. We tend to walk alot and plan our trips around bus and train schedules. You just make due. On the other hand, i can’t run out to the store whenever I want but that’s ok because that just means each trip i make is super efficient and i get just what i need. The last thing i want is to forget something crucial and have to get back on the train or walk a mile to get what i forgot.

      Thanks for stopping by. Hoping for some photos of Morocco soon..

  4. Hi Annie

    Your list is something I can really relate to. Not so much from travelling but from giving up work to look after the kids. Many of the items on your list ring true to how our lives changed after that.

    Oh and we don’t have a dryer! I hang the washing up. Dryers eat electricity. Although it would be nice to have one maybe with all the washing we get through :-)

    Have a great week Annie


  5. Hi Annie

    Very rightly said that travelling opens our mind, but its more of a personal choice. I would prefer spending my time either on my laptop and the remaining with my husband, who I feel is the best in the world and with my daughter at home.

    Word “travel” brings a feeling of tiredness in me, I don’t know whether it is the upbringing or something else.

    All Said, your daughter is of the same age as mine, very sweet. Thanks ~Sapna

    1. Hello Sapna,

      I completely understand your point of view. I know some people who love to knit. I hate knitting and it makes me cranky so i don’t do it.

      Travelling is the same thing. It’s not for everyone. If you enjoy it, it can certainly bring out so many things in you. However, if you don’t enjoy it, if it tires you or stresses you out then it will bring out the worst. We should all choose those experiences that bring us joy. Sounds like you’re already doing just that.

  6. Hi Annie,

    Fantastic post and by the way, your pictures are gorgeous too.

    When I was younger I wasn’t nearly enough appreciative of what I had. I tended to take everything for granted. Now, however, I’m like you, I am grateful for every little thing. Things I wouldn’t even thought about back then.

    I agree travel teach you a lot and I think every one should live abroad at least for a little while in their life. It opens the mind in ways that people who have not done it, have no idea :)

    Thanks for this beautiful post!

    1. Hi Svlviane,
      You know the old saying, “you don’t know what you dont’t know?”. I think as you said, traveling does open up your mind in ways you never knew possible. I’ve traveled a lot in my life but never with my family long term like this and i’m still learning things.

      Thank you for the compliment on the photos. I’m trying to improve my photographing techniques but it’s a slow process.

  7. Fabulous list and great lessons Annie! I know that with you living in France then you are able to really put things into perspective.

    You know, I don’t have much but that’s a choice I made. It’s not that I can’t afford more but to me they are just “things”. Things aren’t what make me happy. My friendships and my family are on the top of my list.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us for this Thanksgiving week. We can all learn from these lessons.

    Enjoy your weekend my lovely friend.


    1. aaahh thanks Adrienne,

      I love that you it’s a choice for you to live with less. Focus on people and experiences over things and objects.

  8. Loved the lessons Annie!

    You are truly blessed to have such a beautiful family, and your little daughter is adorable indeed and reminds me of mine when she was that young. :)

    These are such wonderful things to be grateful for, and I agree with all of them. Yes, we really can manage and do with a little, though we tend to spend more. We realize this fact when we stop buying things we really don’t need and find ourselves as content and happy. We also hardly spend, except where it’s necessary, unless of course if there are certain occasions, functions, or birthdays.

    Also, though we don’t travel and live out of our country like you do, we do make frequent trips within our country to various places, and those are indeed moments of bliss for all of us, but we do miss home too.

    Ah…you last one on he best husband – well – mine is good too, and I feel he is the best one, though we won’t talk of that here. :)

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post with amazing pictures of your loved ones with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours too. :)

    1. Harleena,

      LOL, I am sure your hubby is quite the catch too.

      i can totally relate to your moments of bliss from your frequent trips within the country. That connection that you feel with one another which you should feel all the time but cannot because you daily life is so busy and hectic.

      thank you for the kind words about my daughter. I do love having a little girl. Especially after two boys who are now both teenagers.

  9. These are great lessons Annie! I especially love the ones focused on the importance of date night, space & time along for yourself and about travel deepening your connection to each other.

    1. Thank You Bethany, the deepening connection we feel with each other was something I did not expect. I still need more date nights. Cannot have enough of those.

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