Living Abroad: 6 Reasons Why It’s Overrated


This guy found living abroad a lot like killing rats


Living abroad is something I’ve had the opportunity of experiencing a fair few times in my life. First there was America (good ol’ Miami), then there was Vietnam (mmm vegetable spring rolls) and now there’s Spain (is it ever going to stop?) Each time however I’ve always had a similar moment. Each time I’ve always found myself saying the same.

What is that exactly?
“Arghhh. Screw this country, I want out. I’m never living outside of England again!”
What is it that drives me to this level of despair? Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and experiencing all these new places just as much as the next backpacking Billy. But sometimes, especially when the language, the food, the people and all the rest of it get too much, I can’t help but feel this whole live abroad thing is vastly overrated.
6 reasons that attest to the fact? Check to see if you agree!

The Bureaucracy


Who would seriously want this?

All that apply for this visa or that visa? I’m sick of it! Are you really going to make me jump through hoops to get into your country when there’s shit all to see and do anyway?
And what’s with dropping a small fortune on a glorified stamp or sticker that all it does is allow me to get stared at and scrutinized by a border immigration official who looks at me like something he’s honked up after a night out with his mates on the snake wine?
Yes North Korea I’m looking at you. Let me in.
If you do need help: Visa requirements for backpacking Europe or for elsewhere like esta permits can help a lot.

The Language


You know where you can shove your certificate?

Yes I dig learning Spanish but what about living abroad in a country where the language is nigh on impossible to learn? Travel in most of Western Europe (Germany, Holland and Scandinavia especially) and as soon as people suss you speak English there ain’t no going back. Whatever feeble attempt you make to learn the language and use it in a social setting? You might as well kiss that goodbye!
If you do need help: Benny’s ace Fluent in 3 Months

The Currency


Is this a small fortune or not?

Let’s face it, in countries where there’s a high exchange rate learning to use the local currency is a lot like running the obstacle course in the Krypton Factor. Dizzying, exhausting, but most of all, physically shattering, it’s best staying at home if you’re planning in living in somewhere like say Vietnam (where dropping a few million of the local currency is the norm in a supermarket).
Working out the value of a pint of milk, a chocolate bar or a load of bread shouldn’t be calculator inducing fare. At least at home you’ve got a rough value for these essentials ingrained on your mind from birth!
If you do need help: Using money in Europe

The Lack of Difference


Swindon: a poor man’s Saigon

What happens when living abroad is exactly like living at home? Living in Cáceres, in some ways, was a lot like living in my home town of Swindon (same nightspots, same people, same synonymy with pigs). Happen on a situation like that and it’s likely you’ll question why you jumped on a plane and spent all that money moving abroad at all.
Granted. Three months in Cáceres is undoubtably better than three months in Swindon but it’s hardly the mind-blowing culture shock of somewhere in Southeast Asia or Africa.
If you do need help: Wandering Earl’s cheap and different destinations abroad

The TV


Some crazy TV

Live abroad for any fixed period and it’s only a matter of time before your adopted countries weird TV shows start to creep into your daily routine. Here in Spain I was spoiled for choice with nude fests like Aguila Roja and Tierre de los Lobos so it wasn’t so much of a problem. Vietnam, however, was a completely different kettle of fish (sauce).
Screaming-at-the-top-of-their-lungs TV presenters, weirdly animal-dressed men in epic ninja-like dramas and lots of strange dubbed imports from Korea and I was literally dying for a bit of Eastenders or Coronation Street – shows that I wouldn’t think twice about watching back home. Living abroad for this? Someone hit the rewind button.
If you do need help: RTW travel shows to watch before leaving

The Having to Go Home


Poor girl. She only wanted a few extra days in Swindon.

Studying, working or volunteering abroad all have their major advantages. The one killer disadvantage with the power to override all that positivity however? The having to go home.
The knowing you have to go back (especially for me) is the most depressing part of living abroad. Just when you’re starting to make all those friends, getting to know a new place really well and just starting to get a hold of the currency, then you have to head back to finish that thing you started when you were all naive and uncertain.
The only answer? Turn to long-term travel.
That’s my dream and I want you all to follow along!
If you need help: self realizations on coming back home
What do you think? Living abroad: is it all it’s cracked up to be?

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26 Responses to Living Abroad: 6 Reasons Why It’s Overrated

  1. Nicole - Woman Seeks World December 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Great article – its refreshing to read, as I know I can definitely relate to many of these points! Thankfully though, its pretty awesome most of the time!

    • Will December 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      Nicole I’d definitely agree! The last point attests to that. Should really have made the title “could be overrated”!

  2. Cole @ Four Jandals December 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Agree to disagree in general. We love living abroad but then again 2 Kiwi’s living in Canada for a year then Scotland for a year is no great culture shock! Agree that having to go home is the worst. Fortunately we are just trying to make it around the world for as long as possible. 2 years and counting with Asia in another year or so. Hopefully should total about 5 years all up…

    • Will December 18, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks for the comment Cole! 5 years on the trot eh? That’s impressive stuff. I wish I could keep up that kind of pace. Let’s see!

  3. Denise December 17, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    I see no reason to head home! When I left my home a bit over two years ago to move to Switzerland, I knew I had done it because Malta was just not the place I wanted to be. Now, I know that Switzerland is not going to be my home either, so I’m moving to Australia (with the correct, permanent visa type stamp), and I can stay/leave depending on whether I like it or not.
    Living abroad will never be like living back home. Your routine may be the same (but that’s only natural), but the minute you need something new you simply need to head out and explore a new street or neighbourhood…I just love it.
    I’m heading to Vietnam for two months next year, with one month in Hanoi, any recommendations?

    • Will December 18, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

      Hey Denise! Agree with you on both points re: the routine and the new exploring. As for Vietnam make sure you check out Hoi An (it’s lovely) and, if you can, Hue. I’d give Nha Trang a miss for Mui Ne if you’re looking for some quiet beach time too!

  4. Elisa December 17, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    I understand (and share) your frustration with the various hoops we have to jump when moving abroad, but I don’t think that makes it “overrated” – I think living abroad is a fantastic adventure, no matter how much of a pain some parts of it may be!

    However I do agree that moving abroad isn’t as glamorous as a lot of people seem to think. Tell them you are moving to Switzerland and they picture you eating fondue, hiking up a mountain and then standing at the summit to enjoy the view… each destination has it’s cliches attached to it, and you may well do all that stuff, but as you shrewdly observed, there is also a whole bunch of boring, mundane stuff to deal with that will often quickly slap those rose-colored glassed right off your face 😉

    • Will December 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

      Yup once you get in the groove of living anywhere life becomes pretty much the same. The article is meant in jest more than anything as the last point suggests I’d rather never come home but permanently travel!

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    Having to go home is the hardest!

  6. Hamatha December 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Hi Will,
    Great post! I completely agree with you, but I believe Spain might want a few words with you. We couldn’t let you leave without a little fanfare now could we?

  7. Michi December 23, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Oh, I can so relate on a lot of those levels! One of my dear friends sent your blog along, and I’m so glad he did!

    • Will December 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

      @Michi Thanks for the comment! I’m sure we can all relate a little bit.

  8. Travis January 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm #

    I’m a bit surprised that I’m the first to disagree with you. Perhaps my experience was a bit different from yours, but my time spent living abroad was an incredible experience, and not one I’d easily give up.

    Most of your arguments against living abroad seem a bit petty – you can’t watch what you want on TV? You have to get a visa? The language and currency are different? If you wanted everything to stay the same, why’d you want to live abroad in the first place?

    Most people I know who’ve lived abroad embrace the differences with home and that’s kinda the reason they went in the first place. Experiencing different cultures, different food, exploring new cities and generally enjoying the experience are what living abroad is all about. Not watching TV or complaining that you can’t figure out that 100 yen = 1 dollar.

    Seems like you might have gone into it with the wrong attitude or perhaps chose a destination too similar to home for you. In any case, a posts like this are a bit disappointing to see out there because I fear something like this might influence would be travelers to not give living abroad a chance. From my perspective it’s something everyone should do once in their life.

    My two cents…


    • Will January 23, 2012 at 11:36 pm #


      Kinda missed the end point there: that I actually love living abroad…

      “The only answer? Turn to long-term travel.
      That’s my dream and I want you all to follow along!”

      It’s tongue in cheek mate. Heaven knows the travel blogging world needs a bit of that.

      • Travis January 24, 2012 at 3:36 am #

        I found the article via Stumble Upon and I guess the end point got tied up with your last argument and I passed over the switch.

        Glad to hear you do actually love living abroad.


  9. Travel Finland February 20, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    I have livecd abroad in Finland and Russia for 23 years
    I would never go back to the old stuffy British lifestyle in Endland
    Living abroad has made me more humble and respectful of others

    If you go abroad with a bad attitude,then yes,you will allways find points to be grumpy about
    Do not expect to much,then your not likely to meet any big disappointments

    British Expat in Finland

    • Sam September 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      Stuffy is the last word I would use to describe British lifestyle. Not too serious,animal friendly and polite would be more suitable. Why anyone would live in Russia is beyond me and Spain? Well what a dive??? Can’t wait to get home myself to Britain but enjoy yourself ( I do actually like living abroad but not in Spain)

  10. British Expat February 20, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Hi Will

    To live abroad you first need to know why you want to be there firstly
    To many expats are running away from broken love affairs,disallusioned fantasies of life being better abroad

    Preparation is vital to moving abroad.If tou expect to much,you just may be shooting yourself in the foot

  11. Grand Theft Auto 5 Cheats March 5, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    Coming from America and going to other countries it is great. Maybe next time you should come out to good ol’ San Andres

  12. Jon March 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    The bureaucracy – agreed. And your point about learning the language somewhere like Scandinavia is definitely true. And the TV – yeah. Heck, I agree with most of this. ‘Cept maybe the currency. It could be worse – try going to Cuba, where they have two!

  13. Just One Boomer May 15, 2012 at 5:58 am #

    So, I’m just exploring your blog in depth for the first time—hence, the way out of time comment. For all I know, you have changed your mind about everything you said. So, I’m old enough to be your mother (or your friend’s mother 😉 ). I was born and raised in Philadelphia (100 miles south of New York City and 150 miles north of Washington, D.C.–a city of over a million people that gets left off of weather maps–(gimme a break!). Before the age of 21, I had lived in Mexico for a year, England for a year (Devizes, had to go to Swindon to take the train to London) and I studied in Bogota, Colombia for a semester. Then, life kinda got in the way of living somewhere else although I traveled any chance I could. But, in retrospect, I’m not sorry I settled down for awhile (i.e. a long while). Now that we’re empty nesters, I feel like I can go again—but, there’s less angst. I know who I am, who I married, who my children are, how to buy a house (or two) and how to have a career. So, now I can just just go because I want to go. I’m not looking for myself.

  14. Izy Berry @ The Wrong Way Home June 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    I think the worst thing I find with living abroad, is sort of what you mentioned with the ‘knowing you have to go home’ – this time I’m in Spain for two months with a month or so of travel before I make my way home. I’m choosing to go home, but the fact this place doesn’t hold any permanence makes me feel a little akin to a long term traveler, in that I’m not super excited about investing a lot into this location because I know it’s temporary. Wrong approach, anyway. I need to buck up and get cosy and make the most of it.

  15. Robert September 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    I´ve lived “abroad”, in various countries, most of my life, so I don´t really know where “home” is. What I´ve noticed is that if you´re actually living in a foreign country, as opposed to simply being on a longer stay than usual, you soon start to notice the similarities with “home”. You get up early, have coffee, go to work, go home in the evening, watch the TV until you go to bed again, get up early the next day………….The language you hear around you may be different, the food not like home, the TV programmes are better/worse, there´s a good chance that people talk about football, etc etc…….but it all soon turns into a routine. Then, one day, you´re leaving and you realise that things you should have seen you haven´t seen and it´s too late. One example, in my case, was living in Via Manzoni in Milan for several years – maybe 50 yards from the Last Supper fresco. But I never got to see it. “Plenty of time – after all, I live here.”

  16. Shawn February 16, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Personally, I have found tremendous opportunities overseas that trump all the negatives aspects. I live in Dubai and although aspects of it drive me nuts at times the financial benefits of working in the Gulf easily outweigh the annoyances. TV? really, who cares!

  17. greenminimalism July 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Some nice ‘Cracked’ style points here! I think that the point about foreigners refusing to use anything but your native language is a really valid and overlooked one. You can go to so many countries in Europe and never practice languages at all as soon as they work out you’re English.


  1. - Pass the Ham - December 19, 2011

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