11 Most Common Challenges of Living Abroad

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Living abroad is exciting and definitely something that you should try. In your first few weeks, you would feel positive and excited in your new home.

But, sometimes, no matter how mentally you are, you will face challenges while living abroad that will make your life difficult.

Everything could be relatable to you, or you might be curious only, but in this post, you will find the most common challenges of living abroad & how you can overcome them!


Culture shock

One of the most common challenges of living abroad is dealing with culture shock. As someone who grew up and lived in the Philippines, my standards (in terms of public services) isn’t that high.

When I first arrived here & I had to apply for a Swedish personal number or open a bank account, I asked at work if I could take a day off (or half-day off). My coworkers were baffled and told me it wouldn’t take that long.

Another one that shocked me was commuting 30 minutes from your house to work is quite a long trip already! In the Philippines, I would be happy if my commute takes 1 hour only as it usually takes me 2 hours one-way.

Have you heard of Filipino time? In Sweden, people are punctual, and it is considered rude if you are early or late. You should always be on time.

Lastly, one thing that impressed me the most was the efficiency of services especially, once you have your Swedish personal number & BankID. Want to open a bank account? Sign with BankID. Want to get a loan? Sign with BankID. Want to sign a document? Sign with BankID.

When I had to update my mobile number in a bank in the Philippines, they told me I have to go to the branch & update my details there!

You can process almost any document online. And, if you need to submit the papers, you can either go to the office personally or send them via mail.

Related: If you want to read more culture shocks when moving to Sweden, read the 19 Things To Know Before Moving to Sweden.

Adjusting to different work culture

Foreign country. New job. New culture.

The work culture between the Philippines and Sweden is entirely different. Sweden is one of the countries with the best work-life balance, while in the Philippines, you need to hustle.

Since most companies in Sweden are diverse, you get to work with people from different cultures. And each culture has its own ways of working.

One of the challenges of living abroad is adjusting to different work cultures. There will be a time where your social cues mean different to other people. So, there will be a lot of misunderstandings.

You need to be open & try to withhold your judgments and assumptions.

Of course, working with people from different cultures is also exciting, and you learn new things every day!

Related post: Advantages of living abroad

Language barriers

Sweden’s first language is Swedish, and English is my second language. Being bilingual has its disadvantages already, and now I need to learn a new language. At least be familiar with the Swedish language.

If you moved to another country that uses a different language than your mother tongue, it will definitely be a challenge!

I understand a few Swedish phrases like when I’m paying at the cashier, I understand what they are saying & I can answer back. As long as it is within the script I memorized (lol).

Also, my name is pronounced differently here, and I stopped correcting people anymore (though I don’t mind at all). And it was also nice when they ask if my name starts with a ‘C’ or ‘K.’

Distance from home

One of the challenges of living abroad is obviously the distance from home! When I studied in Australia, I didn’t think of the distance that much because it’s only a few hours flight to the Philippines. And the time difference is only 2 hours.

But, now that I am living in Sweden, the fastest flight I could get is around 18 hours. The airfare is also so expensive, which makes going home frequently is not a good option.

I haven’t seen my loved ones since 2018. We had plans that they will travel to Sweden, but the current situation didn’t make traveling an option.

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Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash

Because you are far away from your home, one of the challenges of living abroad that you will experience is homesickness.

It’s normal to feel homesick & it happens from time to time. You need to make adjustments too, and you are entirely out of your comfort zone.

Related post: How to Overcome Homesickness While Living Abroad

Missing out on special events back home

Your entire life is in your home country, so when you move abroad, you will miss out on a lot of special events.

My family, especially my parents, were never absent. They are there for every occasion, and we often celebrate every milestone. Sometimes we go out, or sometimes order some food at home. But, we always make sure we are together.

This is the hardest part about living abroad — you will miss out on every milestone back home.

It’s not possible to hop on a video call too, because of the time difference. I often see photos of my family get together or lunch out when I wake up!

I haven’t been home since I moved abroad in 2018, so I missed out on a lot of my friends’ milestones too!

Losing touch with friends back home

When you move abroad, it’s normal to lose touch with your friends back home. It’s different when you don’t talk as often but still find time to meet & catch up.

I have friends that I talk to almost every day and I also have friends who don’t prefer texts nor calls. And that’s when we started to lose touch with each other.

We still try to keep each other updated, but it’s not the same.

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Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Everyone adjusts differently but it’s important to continue to communicate with each other & check in.

Financial difficulties

They said that it can take two years to fully settle in a new country. This is definitely one of my challenges in living abroad. Even though I moved to Sweden for work and my employer paid for my relocation, I still struggled financially & adjusting to the cost of living in Sweden.

From getting the Swedish ID to opening a bank account to receive your salary, sometimes this process could take a few months. That would mean I should be able to support myself without my salary yet. Luckily, I was able to open a bank account within a month so I received my salary right away.

If you don’t have a job yet and you’re planning to find one after your move, you still have to consider your living expenses and make sure you have enough money.

So, you’ll have to learn to live on a tight budget. You might not have access to healthcare right away; you should get international health insurance so you are better prepared for the unexpected when it comes to your health and well-being.

Because of circumstances, I have to support my family back home. My salary from the Philippines is not enough & I will never be able to reach my goals if I stayed there. So, one of the reasons why I decided to live abroad is to have a better income.

Feeling unsettled

This is also one of the challenges of living abroad and it’s normal to feel lost & unsettled when you live abroad. Everything is new to you. You may feel all sorts of things and it’s valid and normal. You’re not alone!

You might feel you don’t fit in but it is temporary. Give yourself some time & take it slow. Eventually, you will feel better!

Making friends in your second home will also help you get settled.

Weather changes

It depends on which country you moved to. As someone who grew up in a tropical country and moved to Sweden, dealing with the weather changes is one of my challenges of living abroad.

I prepared myself for my first winter but I realized my clothes (even shoes) are not enough.

I learned that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. That’s what Swedes usually say when it comes to the weather here.

So, you need to be prepared for different seasons.

If you moved to a tropical country, expect that you will only encounter wet & dry seasons. I don’t like both!

Managing with local food

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Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

I have a different palate. When I moved to Sweden, every food was bland. It made an impression that I’m eating healthy food!

The advantage of that is there are a lot of options when it comes to diet. I was able to try a pescetarian diet and it’s easy to find vegan alternatives. It’s easy to find gluten-free, grain-free, lactose-free, or basically all options available in the grocery stores.

You will miss your local food and if you find one in your new home, it doesn’t taste the same!

Of course, you can cook your local food but sometimes some ingredients are not available and you have to find alternatives!

Making new friends

Making new friends for foreigners is unfortunately not easy. I’m not a fan of going out & meeting new people, so I rarely meet new people except for my coworkers. I don’t isolate myself though! Otherwise, I would be miserable.

My closest friends here in Stockholm are also Filipinos! I feel most at home with them & it just feels different when I hang out with them. It’s still easier to communicate with your first language & you can express more.

Though, you can meet new people abroad by joining meetup groups or Facebook groups for expats. Social media can help you meet people in a foreign country.

Here are some Facebook groups for expats in Stockholm (or Sweden).

  1. Living in Sweden
  2. Expats in Stockholm and Sweden
  3. Expats in Stockholm
  4. Stockholm | Girl Gone International

Living abroad (and the expat life) has its challenges but it’s a good opportunity! The positives still outweigh the negatives. It may not be for everyone but enjoy and trust the process. It will get easier.

Want more inspiration about moving abroad? Here are my favorite quotes about living abroad!

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  1. living abroad can be difficult if it is not something you want my brother Habid lives in Puerto Rico and he says that it is difficult to get used to food that you have not tried also the weather can be Different but you can get used to it you have to be patient and know where she is and it is very important to have knowledge about the place and the area in which you will visit and it is very important speak english and understand it

  2. Living abroad has many advantages but also disadvantages such as the language barrier, which makes communication difficult, as well as the use of different currencies to pay, there is also the cultural shock, things that are well seen in your country abroad are not. it is optional it is not knowing anything arriving in a new country can be difficult because you do not know where you are located but if you have family or friends this can be easier another is the change in laws all countries have different forms of government and different activities considered as crimes

  3. The problems that this entails are not being able to get a job very quickly, being away from family and friends, it will cost you to save money, traditional festivals and culture will not be the same as what you are used to, the safest thing is that you will you will miss the gastronomy of your country, challenge your abilities as a person, treacherous loneliness will be known, you will feel less safe not being in your country

  4. In Mexico, migration has been a very difficult process due to problems such as discrimination and lack of support in communication. Communication is important to socialize with people, also when migrating they leave without speaking English and cause many problems for not being able to communicate with people, therefore it is more difficult for Mexicans to find work in other countries

  5. Moving to another place very different from yours as a foreigner can have good and bad things, one of them can be to meet people or make new friends. When you move abroad it is not easy at all and much less if you are not a social person but this can be fixed by meeting new people through social networks, such as facebook something that we all do nowadays, another problem when moving could be the language, but this is something that is solved with practice or with courses to master the language, which in this case is English

  6. The attitudes of Mexicans towards migrants may be explained by the fear of encountering competition in the labor market, as well as by social concerns such as ethnicity or threats to security. To explore these hypotheses, we use data from the project Mexico, the Americas and the World. Our results are in line with the attitudes towards immigrants in advanced countries. Social disposition, rather than economic concerns, better explain attitudes towards immigrants in general and towards both groups of foreigners in particular. Specifically, we find that concerns about security and a moderate level of ethnocentrism determine attitudes and opinions of Mexicans towards immigrants.

  7. Hi Karen, thanks for this information. I tell you that the same thing happens in Mexico, for many Mexicans it is a dream to live abroad, especially in the United States, but for others it is not. Many Mexicans go looking for work without speaking English, they are often discriminated against, overexploited, in short, treated badly. On the other hand, for few Mexicans (especially from the upper class), they are treated well, this is sad because there is no equity and respect, and unfortunately it happens in many countries.

  8. let yourself be carried away by wanting to know another country but it is important to know what your next destination will be and how you are going to take it since Living in a foreign country is very intense since you know a different culture but you are still going to have cultural clashes maybe it sounds terrifying at the beginning, but you have to think positive and live the experience maybe that way you will have a better future

  9. let yourself be carried away by wanting to know another country but, in addition, it is important to know what your next destination will be and how you are going to take it since Living in a foreign country is very intense since you know a different culture but you will still have cultural clashes such It may sound scary at first, but you have to think positive and live the experience, maybe that way you will have a better future

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