Jenie Gabriel

Pros and cons of living overseas

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In 2013, there were a total of 232 million international migrants—defined by the United Nations as people who have lived a year or more outside their country of birth—around the world. Whether your own choice or due to circumstance, uprooting your life and starting from scratch in a foreign land can be stressful.

However, the advantages can often outweigh the challenges depending on your perspective and goals. As with any major decision, there are many pros and cons to consider before taking the plunge into a strange and unfamiliar territory. Take a look at some of them below.

The upside

  • It’s a truly enriching experience

Moving to another country opens your eyes and mind—with new beginnings come new discoveries. You’ll be immersed in an unfamiliar culture and will learn how to adapt to unique customs, social codes and traditions that you’ve only encountered in textbooks. Outside your comfort zone, you’ll be required to learn other ways of doing things that are unlike what you’re used to. At the same time, living away from home builds character and promotes personal growth as it teaches you to be more open-minded, respectful and accepting of people from all walks of life.

  • You’ll meet people from around the world

According to a well-known quote, “We are the sum of all the people we have ever met”. From locals who can show you the ropes to kindred spirits who have also left their hometowns, the people you meet overseas could make a big difference in your new life. Each one of them has stories to tell and reasons for leaving their home countries. By sharing a common ground with fellow migrants, lasting friendships are often formed and help make your stay even more meaningful and memorable.

  • Your language and communication skills will improve

Especially if your new country has a different native language to your own, expect your communication skills—whether verbal or nonverbal—to considerably improve. You’ll learn to deduce meanings from contextual clues, body language, gestures, facial expressions and one-word sentences. This provides a great opportunity for you to acquire a second or third language in the long run. Plus, if you really want to be fluent in your adopted country’s native language, there’s no better way to learn than to meet with language exchange partners on a daily basis. Fluency in your host country’s native language may also help improve your interactions at the workplace and integrate with society. Lastly, knowing the language could give migrants a better and clearer understanding of the unfamiliar culture.

The downside

  • Homesickness

From time to time, being far from home means being struck by loneliness and longing for the comfort of the familiar. It’s completely normal to miss conversations with your family and close friends, homemade meals and practicing traditions. It often gets even worse during the holiday season or when you’re suffering from an illness and you suddenly miss your Mom’s cooking and, sometimes, even the nagging! The good thing is, it gets better over time and you learn how to cope with it.

  • Integrating with society

The issue of social and cultural integration is complex. Depending on the country, many locals see you as an outsider if you’re a foreigner who doesn’t speak the native language. On the other hand, while foreigners can adapt to the host country’s norms in general, they still hope to remain culturally different and continue to practice their native customs. Hence, the challenge comes when integration is one-sided, instead of a mutual and interactive process.

  • The language barrier

Doing seemingly ordinary tasks, such as filing taxes and reading mail from the bank, can be burdensome for foreigners in countries like Japan and China. While living abroad could hone your communication skills, the existing language barrier still contributes to the complexity of social and cultural integration. Thus, it’s easier to forge friendships with your fellow countrymen or other foreigners who speak your language.

Each person’s journey is different, and living in your home country also has its pros and cons. It’s all about perspective and learning to appreciate the path you’ve chosen.

If you’ve moved away from your native country, share your thoughts and experiences below!

Jenie Gabriel
Jenie Gabriel
Jenie assists in creating online content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her glued to social networks or daydreaming about her next escapade.