11 Most Common Challenges of Living Abroad
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!
In This Post
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
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.
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.
Everyone adjusts differently but it’s important to continue to communicate with each other & check in.
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.
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.
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
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).
- Living in Sweden
- Expats in Stockholm and Sweden
- Expats in Stockholm
- 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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