A couple of months ago I wrote this post, which outlines the possible downsides of expat life. The stuff you never think about when moving overseas, but which can end up affecting your experience all the same.
Enough of this “Debbie Downer” business – now it’s time to look at the other side of the coin!
If you are even remotely considering moving overseas and are in the position to do it – it’s an opportunity you should seize with both hands. Yeah, it will be hard. You’re moving out of your own comfort zones and that’s never an easy thing to do. Yet, the experience will make everything worth it.
Here are a few reasons why you should definitely move overseas, at least once in your lifetime.
You’ll meet the most fascinating people, from all walks of life
This was what I was most grateful for, while living overseas. I am Australian and as much as I (mostly) love my country-people… well, it all gets a bit same, same when you’re knocking about with people of a shared culture.
Moving overseas allowed me to meet, date and befriend people from all over the globe. I now have friends who live all around the world, many who have experienced a life that has been vastly different to my own.
I also see a lot of destination-wedding based trips in my future, which is something to get excited about for sure.
As a foreigner, you instantly become more attractive to others
Ask people what they find most attractive in the opposite (or same!) sex and an accent is usually pretty far up the list.
If you’re single and you move overseas ready to mingle, you will have the time of your life dating in a foreign country and come away with some amazing stories.
Plus, being a foreigner instantly ups your own attractiveness. You’ll have a different background and culture to the inhabitants of your new country. Your accent will get you noticed and your native tongue might be that of a far away, distant land. Even your looks could lead you to stand out among the crowd.
You may date more prolifically than you ever have before and this can be a terribly fun experience.
You can travel, sometimes a lot more easily than you could in the first place
If you ask people what their primary experience for moving overseas is, it’s often “travel”. For many, living in a new country will give them opportunities that just weren’t available at home.
I hail from a place where flying to our nearest neighbour (New Zealand) can often be cheaper than travelling from one end of the country to the other. Travelling abroad costs vast amounts of money and you usually will want to spend a chunk of time overseas to make it worth your while.
Compare this with life in London, where you can jet off for a weekend to a country on the continent for twenty quid round trip (and often significantly less). It boggles my tiny Australian brain thinking about it, it really does.
Living in the UK last year, I travelled to 21 different countries. By the end of this year after having spent twelve months in Australia, I’ll have visited two.
I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves in this scenario.
You could make mad money…
Some people move overseas for the experience itself. They pick up work wherever they can – in bars, restaurants, on farms. They have the time of their lives but cash flow (or lack thereof) can often be a pressing issue for them.
If you’re lucky however, you’ll get a job that’s better paid than whatever it was you were doing in your native country. Bonus points if the currency of your new home is a strong one (am pausing here to think wistfully of what the British pound was like pre-Brexit).
You can end up making more money than you’d previously dreamt of and truly end up living a “champagne lifestyle”, which can be jolly good fun.
…And instantly better your career
For many, there are opportunities to move overseas for a job. Perhaps your company has an office in another country and transfers you. Or you move over on a whim and manage to gain employment in your field.
This experience ends up being two-fold, as you’re not only earning a decent and probably livable wage – you’re adding to your CV and strengthening your employment options for the future. This could be in your native country if you choose to return… or beyond.
You’ll have opportunities to learn new languages
In some cases, you’ll move somewhere where your native tongue is either not the national language, or is barely spoken at all. If you want to get by, you’ll just have to learn the language in order to assimilate in your new home.
For people who are not of an Asian or European background and haven’t grown up speaking five million different languages, this can be quite difficult. It’ll mean intensive classes, reaching deep inside yourself for a courage you may not have realised you possessed in order to speak up and lots of moments where you’re going to feel like the biggest idiot in the world.
Yet, if you were to ask people about their life goals, many will respond with “learn a language!” (Along with “write a novel!” and “play lead guitar in a band!”). For most, it’s a skill they’ll dream of acquiring, but they’ll never actually set concrete plans in place to achieve this goal.
However, if you find yourself with an opportunity to learn a new language and it’s something you’re even vaguely interested in doing… what’s stopping you from seizing it with both hands? (Hint – it’s usually you.)
And you’ll get a firsthand experience of a different culture
Likewise, this will be a good chance for you to experience a culture that is sometimes vastly different to your own, firsthand.
This can be quite unnerving at times – particularly if the country’s culture is not too far removed from your own. I know I had plenty of moments where I felt quite comfortable in the UK until something would happen or someone would say something that would shake me back to reality. Like not making the most of a sunny day and having it pour down rain for the next week straight.
I’ve lived in Qatar too and at first was like “It’s hot as Hades here and humid as too, plus I can’t walk down the street without having ten dudes whistle at me, what the hell?” But then suddenly that became normal, which is the point in your life where you truly start to question everything you know.
You’ll try things you probably would have never tried at home
This will often stem from a desperate desire to make friends and meet people, but you’ll often find yourself scouting out new hobbies and activities, things that you never would have envisioned yourself doing at home.
You’ll start the day with a spot of parkour, go to your weekly life-drawing class on your lunch-break and fence your way into the evening. You’ll then go home, look at yourself in the mirror and say: “I don’t recognise myself – I have muscles growing in places I didn’t ever think they could grow and I managed to scale a wall without falling flat on my face. This is awesome.”
You’ll be more “in the moment” than you will have ever been before
Due to your new-found culture shock and unfamiliar surroundings, you’ll be more aware of both yourself and your surroundings than you’ll possibly have ever been in your life. In fact, it might be the first time in your life that you’ve ever felt hyper aware of each passing moment… in which case you will be truly living.
These moments may not be good all the time (because that’s life). There’ll be highs and lows. They’ll be mundane periods too. But you’ll be in it, experiencing it and that’s what counts.
You’ll become closer to friends and family back home
Moving overseas makes it incredibly easy to weed out the toxic people in your life, or even just the friendships that aren’t worth investing time in. This can hurt – there’ll certainly be people who you will have thought of as one of your tribe, who will disappear off the face of the planet. Some friendships require constant interaction to survive and without this, they’ll simply fade into the background. The story has ended, the chapter is closed and they’ll no longer have any relevance to your life.
However, there will be other friendships that will only strengthen over time. In these instances, the adage of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” certainly rings true. These people will Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Message… basically do whatever is needed to stay in contact with you and your friendship will only grow over time.
This is often the case with family too. If you’re already close, you’ll find yourself relying on them a lot in your first few months abroad. They’ll tell you stories of home, support you when you’re lonely, be your sounding board for new situations. You’ll gain a better appreciation and understanding of what you left behind… and when you do see them, your reunions will be oh so sweet.
You’ll learn more about yourself than you ever would have realised…
You’re going to experience pretty crazy levels of self-actualisation while living overseas. You’ll gain perspective on situations that were just a bit too close to home whilst you, well, where at home. You’ll learn factors about yourself that you probably never would have thought of. Some of these will be nice and leave you feeling all glowy and smug. Others will be less pleasing.
Most precious of all, is the fact that you’ll probably gain a better understanding of what’s most important to you. For example, I’ve always had an interest in the environment, but it wasn’t until I moved overseas that I realised what a great big hippy I actually was. Drinking bottled after bottled water in Qatar made me feel guilty and lead to my now years long quest to find the perfect filtered drinking bottle. Seeing plastic littered everywhere in London kicked off my ongoing campaign to use less of the stuff in my own life.
Related: 7 Lessons Expat Life Will Teach You
… and you’ll gain a better understanding of the world and your place in it
Your world will ultimately broaden and you’ll begin to see things in a different light.
One thing I noticed after living overseas, is that I have became less aggravated over situations I couldn’t control. Not completely – but I have a little more faith in things happening for a reason and working out, one way or another.
I never used to think like this before I left – I wanted to control everything that was happening in my life. When I was taken out of my comfort zones and forced into situations where things were happening beyond my control, I finally learnt to accept that that was just how life goes. And although it’s something that I have to remind myself from time to time, I’m a much happier and satisfied person for it.
You’ll develop an appreciation for your own country
No country in the world is perfect and my own native country of Australia is no exception. Yet, I will say that when I returned back to Oz, I had developed a newfound appreciation for my place of origin.
It’s easy to take things about a country for granted when you’re living in it. I made friends easily in Qatar, as the expat community was gagging for fresh blood and figured I’d have the same experience in London. I was surprised and upset when it took a lot longer. When I was in the UK, I took the public transport for granted and have now struggled big time with getting around Melbourne without a car. And I took everything about life in Australia for granted, least of all living in a culture I mostly understood.
I fell in love with the beauty of my country from afar. Coming home wasn’t easy and there are a lot of things about Australia that annoy me greatly. Yet, there’s good amongst the bad and I appreciate these factors more now than I would have if I hadn’t left in the first place.
What particularly resonated with me upon returning was this line from the T.S Eliot poem “Four Quartets”, which has had a place on my blog’s sidebar since its inception almost three years ago:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
When you return home after living abroad, this is a sentiment that certainly rings true.
If you have or do live overseas – what have been the biggest benefits for you? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments.
Pin me baby, one more time.