5 Hardest Things about Living Abroad ( and What to Do About Them)

I’ve been traveling overseas for over 10 years but I’ve only lived overseas permanently for the last couple of years (mostly in Asia).

After receiving an email from a loyal subscriber who talked about “not feeling comfortable living in another country away from family and friends”, I decided to create this list of the 5 hardest things about Living abroad along with what to do to solve these problems.

First off, you will encounter challenges in another country because everything is new to you. The language, culture, weather, people, and way of life makes it a bit difficult to adjust at first, but I’ve ultimately become a better person and grown from my time living outside the United States.

Here’s my personal opinion on the 5 hardest things about living abroad and what to do about them.

Speaking a Foreign Language

The biggest challenge most travelers and expats face overseas is the language barrier. There are English speakers in every country but most foreign nations have their own native tonque and they will speak it amongst themselves (especially when they want to prevent you from understanding what they are saying).

After a while, you will become frustrated by constantly hearing a language that you cannot understand or speak well.

The Solution? Practice writing the language first then speak some of it everyday. You cannot understand a language unless you are able to write it. Think about how you learned English in school by writing the ABCs as a kid. Practice writing the foreign language then speak it as often as possible. Invest in a phrasebook or (even better) sign up for a language class to speed up your comprehension.

Some useful free language learning apps:

Living Away from Family and Friends

If you’ve ever moved away from home to go to college or find a job then you’re probably used to being away from your family and friends for long periods of time. It was hard during the 1st year because I was so used to seeing them at lease once a year. However, technology is so advanced that you can make international calls & video chats using tools like Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook. I recommend making calls so you can hear your friends and loved ones voice because this provides a much stronger connection than normal texting and emails. I try to contact family no less than 1 time per week and stay in touch with friends using social media.

The Solution? Make frequent voice & video calls at least 1 time per week to stay connected. I use Skype to make cheap international calls around the world. If you are really homesick, then fly back home 1 time every year to see your loved ones.

Running Out of Money

The biggest nightmare for any travelers, expat or digial nomad is running out of money. Once the money is gone, you are forced to return back home with a bruised ego and empty bank account. There are many horror stories of expats losing everything and being stuck in a foreign country without any assistance. Some of these expats end up homeless (think places like Thailand) and may never return home anytime soon.

You really need to take a hands-on approach to your finances and make sure you always have at least $1,000 emergency savings and several months of living expenses saved up. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 5 months of living expenses saved up.

I track my income & spending habits using a free personal finance app called Mint.

If you are running low on money, don’t wait until your bank account reaches zero. Start getting creative and think of ways to increase your income. Also, think about reducing unnecessary expenses, too. Things like alcohol, cigarettes, beer, working girls, and drugs are the most important things a struggling expat must avoid to stay financially solvent.

The solution? Track your personal finances with Mint. Get a job, start an online business or start a small business to increase your income. Cut out wasteful expenses from your monthly budget. Keep an emergency savings and at least 6 months of living expenses saved up.

Getting Sick Abroad

If you are traveling to a developing country, then one of your biggest fears should be getting sick. Many countries in places like Africa, Asia and Latin America have awful medical facilities adn you may need to fly back home immediately or be transported to a nearby country if you fall sick.

Anytime I travel, I avoid ANYTHING that can make me sick. Here’s a quick list of items to avoid:

  • Street Food – Yes, I know it looks tasty but there is no FDA overseas to ensure sanitary cooking facilities. Don’t follow the hippie backpackers who are eating all the street food in sight. They are also going to doctor often. Eat at well known restaurants or better yet cook your own meals at home.
  • Unattended Drinks – If you are going out at night and leave your drink unattended by accident, get another one. Many criminals (including females) will drug your drink and you could end up getting robbed or worse once the drugs take their effect. Always cover your drink or if you leave it for more than a few seconds, pour it out and get a new one.
  • Beef, Pork and Seafood – Again, many foreign countries prepare their meats in bizarre ways that are not only strange, but potentially hazardous to your health. I generally avoid meat while traveling and living overseas. I got extremely sick after eating a seafood salad in Brazil years ago and that was the last time I ate flesh foods overseas. Becoming vegetarian or vegan is good for your health and you are less likely to get food poisoning.

The Solution? Most people get sick from what they put in their mouth. Be extremely careful about what you eat and drink. 90% of the time, food and drink is what makes us sick.

Avoid Gorillas and Law Enforcement

This is one of the biggest traps men can fall into while traveling overseas: gorillas and the police.

A gorilla is a loud mouthing troublemaker who targets certain people because they make him feel insecure. Their goal is to make you upset so you do something stupid that will get you in trouble. For example, a local will start a fight with you so you get deported or locked up. Sometimes, they will plant illegal items in your belongings or try to frame you to get you in trouble.

Avoid gorillas at all costs because they serve you no benefit. I prefer to focus on the local women when I travel so I don’t really have any problems with gorillas but sometimes brothas get caught up. I read about a recent story where a brotha got sentenced to 8 years in a chinese prison because he got into a fight. This is an example of not “staying focused” and allowing gorillas to ruin your future.

Also, be sure to stay out of the police and law enforucement’s way. Don’t get into arguments with them or even pay them any attention. If you have a problem, say as little as possible and contact an attorney to represent you. Sign up with LegalShield to have a lawyer on retainer 24/7.

Foreign police officers can easily plant false evidence on you and make your situation worse. Be as nice as possible and lawyer up ASAP.

The Solution? Avoid Gorillas and the Police. Stay focused on your health, wealth and the local women. See the big picture.

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  1. I lived in Georgia by 6 month and can to say that it’s very interesting and hard. The hardest thing is to live away form my friends. I used Skype for video calls but it’s not enough and after 2-3 month of living abroad you are thinking about come back to home. But in other part it’s very interesting. All the things are new for you and you are in good mind 24/7.

  2. Tariq, happy new year… what’s your top 10 list of the least racist countries to visit or live in for black men. Maybe, it would be a good topic for an article…. I heard that the Philippines was the least racist place, along with Japan and Colombia… your thoughts?