Seven issues that almost all expats struggle with when they move abroad

Jan 7, 2022

By Stewart McCorvey

Becoming an expat shapes your personality as it takes you through a journey of life struggles and challenges. Every expat goes through very particular circumstances, but there are certain things that almost all of them will have experienced.

I have gathered the list of the top seven things only expats understand, take a look:

1. Immigration processes can be a nightmare
From understanding immigration laws, to getting a Police Clearance Certificate or sorting a full medical examination – the requirements and all the paperwork that may be involved in the process of obtaining a visa or work permit can be really exhausting.

Dealing with the bureaucrats at immigration offices is never easy.

If you’re one of the many expats that have been through this, you probably wish there was an easier way to getting your visa renewal, or that a permanent residency didn’t take so much of your time waiting and filling forms. Not to mention the costs.

On the bright side, once you’ve gone through the never-ending immigration process and you get your papers, you feel an incredible sense of achievement – one that only expats can understand.

2. Your diet changes
Once you’ve left your home country, you start missing things in a way you probably didn’t expect. Food is usually one of these things. Finding your favorite food is almost impossible.

For most expats, and depending on their new location, it becomes a matter of trying some new questionable food, and learning to love the local cuisine. If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually find a specialist import shop that sells products from your home country.

3. Some routines can become big challenges

Is that what I ordered?

When you’ve just arrived in a new country, doing your grocery shopping is not anymore the easy thing you could do in your spare 15 minutes – not only can you be confused about where to go, but you may find yourself not knowing what you should buy. And once you’ve done it, you may realize you don’t actually know how to cook what you bought.

Expats living in a country with an unfamiliar language can easily find the simplest things considerably more complicated: asking for information, buying the food you want or finding medicine in a pharmacy; suddenly become very challenging tasks.

4. You value things differently
Expat life can make you change some of your priorities and value things differently – the more you move, the more you realize you don’t need to have so many ‘things’, especially when these things will involve extra packing and shipping. At the same time, you start to really value the simplest things, like the first time you managed to order a meal in your new language.

Similarly, while it wasn’t particularly a big deal before to see a close friend or family member – the day you’re abroad and anyone comes from home to visit you can easily become the best day of your life.

5. Healthcare is not to be taken for granted
Wherever you are, ensuring you’re covered for healthcare is vital. Getting ill is bad enough, but when you’re abroad it can be 10 times worse – you can feel you’re dealing with a disease that you’d never heard about, or be conflicted about visiting a doctor that will not speak your language.  In addition to this, there’s the whole understanding of how the healthcare system works in your new location.

In many cases, expats opt for international health insurance, which can ease much of the stress; attend your queries in a familiar language, and ensure you can be treated whenever it’s needed.

6. People back home may see you differently
Try not to take offense; to the eyes of others, you may be really “blessed” to be living in some exotic destination, and the photos you’ve posted on your social network may be giving the impression that you’re living the good life.

Expats can be stereotyped and perceived as rich individuals or just extremely happy. But the truth is that everyone is different; a person can move to another country for many different reasons, and experience very different things. Expat life involves struggles and it can often be isolating. Moving abroad can bring a mix of emotions, cultural changes and paperwork, and it can take quite some time for expats to properly relax and enjoy life abroad.

7. At the end, it’s all worth it
Despite all the difficulties and the hard times you’ve been through in your expat journey, you may feel that you wouldn’t want it any other way – and that being an expat is worth the struggles. Settling abroad fills you with confidence and a great sense of achievement; it makes you a more adaptable individual and stronger towards change and future challenges.


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