Long-Term Effects of Living Abroad and What To Do
Everyone has their reasons for crossing a border for a few years, but there are permanent long-term effects a short-lived stay will have on you.
We've made two international moves in the past four years, and I'm here to tell you...make sure you have deep discussions covering these topics before you jet off.
How These SIX Talking Points Will Alter Your Future
- Having A Large Family- this is a tricky one. I know a few people who have quite sizable families and still manage the expat life beautifully. However, if you are accustomed to having family or close friends around to help out in times of sickness, working late, date nights, etc then this will be a mighty tough adjustment for you. Sure you will make new mom friends, but that takes time. Developing a deep bond and trust for a stranger to care for your babies can be nerve-racking. Also the cost. Some countries are more family-friendly than others; providing ways to affordably raise children. The cost of healthcare, childcare, owning a car (or two), food, schooling, and housing are mind-blowing in a few spots and greatly weigh on the size of your future family. If you are not financially and emotionally prepared, it can be a huge adjustment.
- Growing up, I always dreamt of having four kids. However, we had our first baby in one state and soon after moved cross country. Found out we were due with number two shortly before moving to Asia. And now we are living in Europe. If we were still living in our hometown surrounded with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, then having more children might have made more sense. But I can't wrap my head around the thought of settling into a new country with four kiddos in tow. Deciding whether to move abroad or not will have long-term effects on the size of your family.
- Stunting Your Career- this is a big deal to a lot of people out there. Ever heard the coined term, "Trailing Spouse?" It's a real thing! Most of the time, international relocations occur because one person in the relationship has been presented an incredible opportunity. After mulling over the pros and cons, one individual will likely give up or put their careers on hold while abroad. If you are this person, the trailing spouse, this will take a mental and emotional toll on you. It might sounds nice to some. Move to a foreign country? Take a break from work for a few years? Have a leisure lifestyle? Yeah...not so fast with all that. If you have small children, they will be home with you all.day.every.day. If you are not currently a stay at home parent, this will be a massive change to your day-to-day. You will go from being accountable for tasks, having a boss, a checklist to sign off, and (a big one) being paid for your efforts at the end of the day to... wiping butts, kissing boo boos, refereeing fights, and making snacks, allll the snacks...and not getting paid a single dime for your thankless job.
- If you don't think the mental shift will take a toll on you- what about a gap in employment? Some companies frown upon time holes in careers. Look into the future. If you return to your home country, will it be difficult to obtain work again? This idea of having a vacation from work for a few years could have a massive impact on your overall career.
- My undergrad is in journalism, and I also hold a masters degree in education. A gap in my employment as an editor/publisher/news reporter would for sure punch a hit to my future resume in terms of gained expertise in the field. This would make me less desirable to potential employers. Although, a big one for public educators is how we are paid on a tiered salary level. Each year, teachers are given a minimal pay bump. If you are a trailing spouse for five years, then that's five years of pay increases you are consciously tossing in the garbage. Retirement is also a big one for teachers. You would be sacrificing those five years of living abroad and adding them on to the end of your career upon returning home.
- Forced To Learn a New Language- guys, this is a big one. I will speak from personal experience first. Our initial move abroad was Singapore. They have a few main languages on the island; one of them being English. Therefore, our move and settling-in phase was much smoother. And there was no pressure on learning a new way of communicating to survive. Our current situation in Germany looks much different. While there are a few, friendly, English speaking spots in Bavaria, they much prefer you speak their language...and rightfully so. However, that leisure life you are dreaming of will be hard to come by without being able to communicate with the locals. There are various ways to obtain a new language: one-on-one tutoring, online training, and registering for in person classes. Although, the physical classes in my area are no joke. Five days a week for four hours a day. Now, let that sink in. Are you willing to spend that time and money learning a language you will only use for a few years? Think of returning to your home country. You will put in all that effort and stress for little to no return in your future.
- Missing Out on Milestone Events- Let me paint a picture... You recently found out your sister is pregnant, but you just moved 12,000 miles from home. Your precious nephew will be graduating in the spring. Your bff finally got engaged and planning a June wedding. Your college girlfriends are planning a reunion trip in August, and you are invited. Your parents will be having their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in October. All of these things will be taking place over the course of the following calendar year. How do you choose? How do you consciously prioritize who is more important than the other? Because if you go home for one and not the others, that is what you are doing. People see that. And unless they have lived this lifestyle, they will not understand in the least. Feelings will be hurt, and relationships will be put to the test. It's time zone changes, time off work, lining up childcare or lugging your offspring with you, not to mention the heaping loads of cash to fund travel expenses. This is a tough one to balance, but not as heart-wrenching as the next...
- Challenging to Return Home For Funerals- You recently catch wind someone you dearly cherish is not doing well. It's not as simple as driving down the road or a few hours to spend precious time with them. You've lined up all the essentials for this: money, time off from work, childcare covered if it's a few days away and doesn't make sense to take them with you. Now, the life-altering decision. Do you go now? Get a warm hug and tell the best stories of time's past? Or, do you wait for the inevitable and honor them in the most respected way? We've lived through this twice. I'm here to tell you it is not fun, but it is life. And life will still spin whether you are in the next town over or across the mighty Pacific.
- You Might Think You Are Only Leaving for a Couple of Years- this one happens more than you know!
- Hubby signed a contract. A lucrative one at that. You've made up your mind and have a plan. You are taking a hiatus from work, diving into a hobby you've put on hold, and will be seizing this amazing opportunity to travel and spend time creating magical moments with your family. It's been an amazing whirlwind couple of years, but you are ready to return home. Back to work. Back to your family and friends. Fall back into a previous life you had put on hold... That is until, hubby walks through the door one afternoon with words you never thought you'd entertain. -EXTENDING THE CONTRACT-
- You are two months from going home. Returning to the comforts of your old neighborhood, favorite shops, that one dish you've been craving from THAT restaurant...you know. Now all of a sudden, this two year "vacation" has the potential to be so much more. That career you put on hold could have a much larger employment gap. More milestones you are missing out on. Family occasions slipping through your fingers. But...your kids are getting settled. You are finally making strong connections. Getting to know the area more. Being comfortable living abroad. Growing accustomed to the weird money, recycling systems, strange culture, interesting food, and weather patterns. I promise... that one simple phrase will rock your boat and have lasting, long-term effects on your future.
If you've not taken the time to seriously think about these six issues, then now is the time. Go the old fashioned route and break out the pencil and paper. What long-term effects will these topics have on your future? Make a pros and cons list. Pour a glass of wine and have the hard discussions with your significant other. Dive into all the ifs, ands, buts, and whys. Remember, moving abroad is a team effort. If you are both not onboard...completely onboard... it won't be pretty.
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