Should I Move Abroad? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Should I Move Abroad? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Moving to another country can be a transformative experience, but it is not without challenges to consider. If you’re thinking about making the jump overseas, ask yourself these five questions before packing your bags.

1. Are you okay with taking a step back?

Moving abroad can sometimes mean a temporary set back in your career. Perhaps you don’t have the same network, don’t speak the language extremely well, can’t make as much money or aren’t able to get a job at as high of a level as you had in your native country.

It can sting at first to feel like you’re moving backwards. But the advice I hear over and over from other expats is to take a job quickly, even if it isn’t your dream position, because you will learn a lot about the work culture, gain local experience and improve your language skills drastically.

And eventually that step back becomes two steps forward once you have more international experience and language skills under your belt. So while it may be difficult at first, don’t fret, it is probably a temporary bump in the road.

2. Are you prepared to be humbled?

This is something I’ve heard from every expat here: living in France will humble you. Navigating a new culture and city, embarrassing yourself daily to improve your French speaking and often times being beholden to the French person across from you at the bank, post office or immigration office will make you view your place in the world differently.

Being an outsider, being an immigrant, is a humbling experience. It is also one that will teach you empathy and patience and make you a better citizen of the world.

3. Are you prepared to be challenged?

No matter how well you had your life set up in your home country, prepare to have that comfort demolished. The challenge is not only in building a new life, but also re-establishing your sense of self.

For me, it was very difficult to go from a life in New York City I had worked hard to build and felt confident in, to a life in Paris where I could hardly have basic conversations in French. I had to figure out how to define myself without my normal support system of work, family and friends.

The great news is, as with most challenges, there is a pay off when you make it to the other side. But know that feeling at home in new country won’t be quick (1-2 years is commonly cited) and there may be some tears along the way.

4. Are you escaping?

Do you really want to move because you’re trying to get away from something? That isn’t always a terrible idea. I do believe moving to a new place can help alleviate heartbreak or help you restart fresh after a personal tragedy. But your drinking problem, eating disorder, anxiety or broken relationship won’t magically be fixed by a location change.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations about what a move can do for you. Your problems will probably follow you and may even be worsened by the uncertainty of your new life.

5. How curious are you?

Establishing a new life abroad will be easier if you have a high level of curiosity. It takes a lot of time and effort to meet friends, learn the city, learn the language, jump through the hoops of the immigration system and other necessary steps.

If you are a homebody or don’t enjoy putting yourself out there a lot, it will take longer to adjust. I have had to get out of my comfort zone and increase my level of curiosity, but it has been highly rewarding.

If becoming an expat is your dream, don’t let these considerations scare you. But hopefully after thinking about your answers you will be better prepared for your new life!

What do you wish you knew before moving to abroad? Any tips? Leave a comment and share!

8 thoughts on “Should I Move Abroad? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself”

  • I would add – be prepared to hate it sometimes, and get over it. Even when you are mostly enjoying your new life, there is always a point in which you are just done with everything being new and difficult. Getting through these periods is a challenge, but I’ve found it’s important not to let it take over and make you think you’ve made a mistake. There will always be moments you think ‘what have I done?!’ but they are just that, moments. I heard someone say moving abroad is not easy, but it’s rewarding.

    • Yes, I agree! There have been times when I’ve thought 1) Why am I putting myself through this? 2) I’m too old for this, or 3) I’ll never feel at home. Do not expect that you will “love it” all the time — frustration is normal, it passes and is all part of the overall adjustment process.

  • Thank you very much for your article. I am also married and moved because of love to another country, passed the same lessons and I liked the way you described it all so precisely. Wanted to add some few things.
    The most important lesson that I am still learning is to take away my pair of glasses and not to measure people from my perspectives. Just let it be. And also not to socialise a lot with my compatriots cause in most cases they were complaining how bad, cold and cruel Austrians were and how bad was all around and this was preventing me to adopt and accept the new culture. But thanks to God at work, working in International organisation (still didn’t figure it out was it a step back or already a step forward) where there are no my compatriots I found very pleasant Austrian colleagues and realized another lesson. We are all the same. The most important is just to behave as a human. And not to think in categories.

    • Thank you for the lovely comment Kama! Yes it is important to spend time with locals, as tempting as it is to stay safe in the expat community, and to keep an open mind and not judge everyone by the same standard. Good reminder no matter what country you move to 🙂

  • Thank you for this smart post with the realities included as well as the exciting things. I am considering a move and I appreciate the honesty.

  • Is so true. Moved a year ago to Paris and never thought how challenging it could be. I have been through all stages as you describe them. Guess it wouldn’t be easier if I knew them before hand, is just something as an expat you just have to experience….. just transforming ?

  • Me and my partner moved last year, we chose a better life for ourselves, life is calmer here, people are friendlier. we set up a small business, renovated our house and discovered our little area in Aude last year, we love it and I would say just go for it!

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