What is it Like to Live as An Expat? A Full List of Pros and Cons

Two friends in the desert

Are you considering Expat life? You know, the fantasy of letting go of everything you once knew and embarking on a life-changing adventure by living and working in another country. We all have a friend who has actually done this – I’m that friend.

Chengdu – Wenjiang Park

Naturally, I would be the best person to ask about my experience as an Expat living abroad.

Before I continue, please note – there’s a HUGE difference in traveling to different countries and actually living and working in them. I’ve traveled to more than 15 countries, but I’ve actually only lived and worked in 3.

If you are considering selling everything you own or leaving your job to live the life of an Expat – here is a list of pros and cons.

PROS

Travel

This would be the main reason why you are considering Expat life in the first place. Because you want to see the world. Being an Expat on a completely different continent will give you the opportunity to visit places you’ve only dreamt of.

Chances are, you’ll meet adventure-seeking individuals, like yourself, and before you know it you’ll be traveling in groups to the seven wonders of the world.

Salary

Expats, especially ones with University degrees and special skills, have the benefit of signing contracts with international corporations that pay megabucks.

English teachers are in high demand at the moment. The best persuasion for any foreigner to move to a non-native country is an insane increase in salary.

Example: South Africa’s basic salary for a beginner teacher can be R9,000-R15,000 per month ($620-$1,000). If you were to pack up your teaching degree and head over to a non-English speaking country you can get up to R60,000 per month ($4,000).

Follow my special TEFL certification link to find out more.

Experience

You can’t buy experience. Working in another country will not only give you relevant professional experience, but it will also give you the opportunity to grow as an individual.

In the end; experience abroad (no matter if it isn’t in your chosen profession) will give you an upper hand in many future endeavors.

Woman in evening dress on stage with microphone.
Presenting a Motivational Speech at i2 International Institute of Education in China
Cultural Awareness

My most favorite part is encountering different cultures. Experiencing the way other cultures go about their daily routine can be fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

Although you are going to have to adapt to a different way of life, you don’t have to let go of your roots. It’s all about sharing experiences. Have a chicken fromage frais at a French friend’s house and invite them the following week for an Italian dish.

When you are willing to learn and share you will get the most out of your Expat life. Always bear in mind that it’s okay to have a different way of doing things – it’s what keeps life interesting.

Opportunities

There is no shortage of opportunities when living abroad. You will meet amazing entrepreneurs who started doing odd jobs and ended up with a few Airbnbs or restaurants. If you don’t want to own a business you can pick a company where there is room for promotions or transfers.

CONS

Family & Friends

The worst moment will be saying goodbye to family and friends at the airport. There’s just no euphemism for the heart-wrenching shatter you feel when you know you won’t be able to see loved ones (in the flesh) for a very long time. You do get used to the feeling.

I have to sneak in a PRO over here – when you do come home for a visit you’ll most certainly cherish time with them even more. Quantity time becomes quality time. With all the social media networking apps available you’ll be able to stay in touch extremely easy.

Traveler's sneakers on floor next to book, travel pillow and backpack.
Goodbye, guys!
Expenses

Never Ever Ever lie to yourself by thinking you’ll be able to adjust in another country without a dime to your name. Having a decent nest egg available for when you embark on your Expat life is immensely important.

You might have worked out an excellent budget, you might as well throw it out of the airplane on your way. There will always be unexpected expenses waiting for you on the other side. Here is only one reason why…

Unexpected Change of Events

Some countries change their policies as much as I change housing. Which can be quite a lot. You can never be too prepared for a big change in your company’s set up, the country’s visa requirements, or even your living arrangements.

In your own country, you will be used to the government’s way of running things. You’ve learned to adapt quite quickly to your home country’s demands and changes. In another country, things are done differently and it will take some time to get used to.

Visas

I can’t think of a week that has gone by, living as an Expat, without someone bringing up the issue of a visa. Yes, working visa, travel visa, resident visa, passport stamps, visa run etc. will all bring you loads of paperwork and migraines.

Not Forever

Even if you decide to become an Expat – it will probably not be a permanent plan. You will see many other Expats come and go. You’ll make friends and you’ll have to say goodbye more times than you will be able to remember.

Putting some thought into why you are doing this and where you want it to lead will be a good idea. Perhaps you fall in love with the country and you stay there forever. Perhaps you’ll travel around to a bunch of different countries until you find one where you’d like to stick.

Travel

Yes, this one is on both the Pros and Cons list.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone ask me, “Do you even work? It looks like you’re constantly having fun!” Social media is amazing – I won’t post photos of myself typing like a steam engine all the time, no, you will see me splashing in clear Phuket waters or riding on the back of a Dubai desert Camel. And yes, I do work actually. 🙂

You see, chances are that you’ll get the same amount of holiday days as you do now. Traveling will still be affected by when you have some time off and whether you can afford it.

An antique wooden bus, Chengdu, China
Commute to Work in a Wooden Bus, Chengdu

My best friend always said you have to weigh risk and reward. Leaving a career mid-way through, saying goodbye to family, and completely jumping out of your comfort zone – can be nerve-wracking. It can either reward you in ways you’ve never even imagined or it can go completely haywire and you can end up homeless without food and a job (LoL – did I just trigger your anxiety?) There’s actually no way that this new adventure can go awry.

“A life changing experience is never fun in the moment. Only when you look back at what you’ve gone through do you see the value it held. “

Melonthegogo

If you want to make a drastic change in your life, but aren’t really sure where you should run to – check out Beunsettled.co to join a 2 week-1 month self-discovery retreat OR contact me, Mel, I might be able to give you some guidance.

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