Living Abroad: 5 Harsh Truths and How to Deal with Them

Living Abroad: 5 Harsh Truths and How to Deal with Them

Scrolling through Instagram and seeing all those beautiful influencers working remotely in a dreamy tropical paradise, you probably think: “I want that too!”.  Trust us; you can. However, despite what all those beautiful pictures might tell you, living abroad is not a walk in the park. The harsh truth about living abroad is that you will encounter many challenges and setbacks, and it can be a real emotional rollercoaster. The reality of life abroad might be different from what you expected, but luckily, there are ways to overcome and deal with these challenges.

So before you book that one-way ticket to paradise, let’s look at 5 harsh truths of living abroad and how to deal with them.


Harsh Truth #1: Finding work is hard

Finding a job abroad is challenging. It takes time, often around 3-6 months. Especially if you require a work permit, it can be a struggle. A work visa is an investment for a company, so they need to be sure that you are worth it! Be prepared to test your patience and face many rejections along the way. Although finding a job abroad is hard, it is not impossible, and often it offers exciting new opportunities.

How to deal with it:

  • Put in the work, research the job market(s), localize your resume, and familiarize yourself with local work ethics.
  • Broaden your network and use it!
  • Reach out to local headhunters and recruiters.
  • Increase your skills sets; start learning the local language, or increase other skills that will be relevant for your job.
  • Be open to other opportunities – think beyond your current line of work. There might be some incredible opportunities out there!


Harsh Truth #2: A Visa is Stressful

In some cases, you’ll need a visa to enter and work in a foreign country. Although there are many different types of visas (from working holiday to work visas and digital nomad visas), getting a permit is a stressful endeavor. The application process can be daunting and stressful, and it requires a lot of paperwork.

But, once you get your hands on one, the stress doesn’t stop. The fear of it getting canceled, expired, or not extended is always in the back of your mind. Especially if a visa is connected to your job, the fear of losing your job (and then your visa) is not easy to shake off. 

How to deal with it:

  • Do your research and know the country’s rules and requirements regarding visas.
  • Be organized and make sure all your paperwork is always in order and up to date.
  • Have a backup plan in case your visa does expire (or gets canceled).
  • Try not to worry about your visa too much and live in the moment as much as you can.

Harsh Truth #3: Your expectations might not match reality

You have been preparing months for this moment and are finally moving to the country of your dreams, only to have your dreams shattered six months later because it’s not what you expected. One of the biggest pitfalls, when people prepare for a life abroad is setting very high and unrealistic expectations. They over-idealize and make assumptions. Having expectations is a human thing to do; we all do it. Yet, when it comes to moving abroad, these expectations can lead to huge disappointments (after all, you worked so hard on achieving this dream!), and in the worst case, you may move back home way earlier than planned. So, how to avoid this?

Living abroad: 5 harsh truths

How to deal with it:

  • Research as much as you can about daily life in your new host country (debunk some of the assumptions you made).
  • Acknowledge the expectations that you’ve created before your move and try to let them go the moment you arrive at your new dream destination.
  • Immerse yourself in your new life and be open to new experiences (surprise yourself!).

Harsh Truth #4: Friendships change

The harsh reality of living abroad is that your friendships change or even end. Being away and missing important events will create a different dynamic, whether you like it or not. Even though you make an effort to stay in touch, the truth is that you and your friends both create a new routine without seeing each other regularly. What’s more, the experience of living abroad will change you and might change some of your beliefs and values, which may or may not impact your friendships back home. 

How to deal with it:

  • Invest in the relationships you care about.
  • Make an effort to remember birthdays or other important personal events (sending a little card goes a long way!).
  • Understand that the life you lead is different from your friends. They might not understand the changes, challenges, or emotions you deal with (if they don’t want to talk about your life abroad, don’t take it the wrong way. They may find it hard to relate).
  • Find new friends abroad. Sharing your worries, struggles, and victories with people who understand what you are going through can be a lifesaver and allows you to deal with any problems abroad a lot easier.


Harsh Truth #5: You might feel very lonely

Living abroad: 5 harsh truths

It’s easy to feel lonely if you’ve just moved to a country that is entirely different from your home country. Local customs might feel foreign, the language is complex, and finding friends is more challenging than anticipated. As a result, you can feel isolated and left out. This is even more true when your partner (and kids) have a much easier time adjusting and immersing themselves in their new lives.  Just know this is completely normal! And there are great ways to help you get out of your cocoon and start enjoying your life abroad.

How to deal with it:

  • Go out! Sign up for a Zumba class, join a local choir, or go out for a coffee at a nice local cafe. Getting out there is the first vital step to avoiding loneliness.
  • Create a routine that you’ll love. It might be a completely new routine and very different from your routine back home – but creating new habits that you’ll love will help significantly to make a life for yourself that you’ll love!
  • Make new friends and create a community where you feel safe, loved, and supported.
  • Communicate often with your partner (and kids) – even if they don’t struggle, be honest about your feelings and let them help you find your groove.


Moving abroad is a life-changing experience. But change can be scary and challenging. Yet, if you open yourself up to these challenges and changes, you will go on a personal growth experience of a lifetime! You learn so much (also read 10 Amazing Things Living Abroad teaches you), and you grow so much. So that experience alone should be all worth it! What’s more important? Living life or embracing life to the fullest and becoming the best version of yourself?!

We hope that today, the 5 harsh truths of living abroad showed you that moving abroad comes with its own challenges and setbacks, but if you are willing to work for it – you can overcome them and grow!

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