Advantages and Disadvantages of Working Abroad

by Sojourner
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To go abroad is a dream whether you study abroad or live abroad. However, to get a job abroad is another story and a bit more complicated. No one said transplanting your life and career to another country would be easy. But there are advantages and disadvantages of working abroad to know before you commit.

Some are easier than others to adapt to, but not impossible. And remember the benefits and challenges of working overseas vary based on where you live and your career path. 

Working for an organization abroad, being a digital nomad, having a remote job, or other opportunities differ. But there are positive and negative sides regardless. The list below outlines them. Stay tuned after the pros and cons of working abroad for tips on how to find jobs abroad too!

What are the advantages of working abroad?

Attain foreign language skills

One of the most obvious benefits of working abroad is learning a new language. The world treats English as the universal language, and there are others to know. If you want to work in a country long-term, learning the language is necessary. It is a valuable skill to have working or traveling abroad too.

Verbal communication is not the only way to communicate either. Depending on where you work, you may encounter a country’s version of sign language. Be open to new language opportunities when you go abroad.

Enhance intercultural communication

Speaking of language learning, intercultural communication is another positive side of working abroad. Working in a multilingual environment often means working in a multicultural environment too. Through those meetings, work retreats, emails, etc., you will be communicating with people of differing backgrounds. 

All of those interactions will help you better understand how to communicate with people. The practices you may use in the workplace at home need to be adapted. Most of the time, you learn from your colleagues and pick up a few new strategies too. Your intercultural communication competence increases and is a transferable skill to any work after that.  

Better standard of living

Very rarely do people choose destinations to work abroad they do not like – at least not initially. Thus, one of the advantages of working abroad is picking where you want to live. To work abroad means to choose a country that offers a standard of living that is better for you. “Better” can include a more walkable city, access to healthcare, cheaper cost of living, etc. You decide!

Connect with people of different backgrounds

Though it can be nerve-wracking to make new friends when you do, it is worth it. You get exposed to new people, cultures, and a new meaning of “home” and “family.” With a strong community, the disadvantages of working abroad do not seem so bad. The people you meet are one of the advantages of living abroad. Be bold and connect with others. It only adds to the working abroad experience.

A deeper understanding of travel privilege

The more you travel, the more you learn about the world. Advantages of working abroad also include understanding your privilege and not taking the experience for granted. Not everyone has the means, opportunity, and travel privilege to work abroad. Processing how your citizenship, nationality, language abilities, etc., affect your experiences is natural. It also helps you work better with others and have a deeper perspective of your environment.

Increase self-confidence

Working and living abroad is already an accomplishment. It shows passion, ambition, and an admirable need for adventure. And it takes a lot of confidence! But when you work abroad, navigating cultural differences in the workplace, or opening a bank account in another language, you feel triumphant. 

Though when you land, you may be confused and uneasy. Over time that fades as you adjust. Those feelings of “why the heck did I do this” become distant memories as you feel more comfortable in your new home. By understanding the benefits and challenges of working overseas, you also overcome them. Those feelings of achievement add to the positive side of working abroad. 

More travel opportunities

Chances are, if you love to travel, working abroad seems like an ideal situation. The prospect of traveling on the weekends, or even during the week, is a huge advantage of working abroad. In addition, it makes it easier to plan travel when the places you want to visit are a short flight or train ride away. Bucket list here you come!

Just do not get too caught up in it. Remember that you are abroad to work. Though the travel is good, your work visa or sponsorship relies on you doing work to stay. So travel and see the world, but do not neglect your responsibilities. Getting fired while working abroad does not sound fun. 

Experience new holidays and traditions

Living abroad to work means being in a country long-term. As you work and live, you celebrate like the locals too. Even though there is a thin line between cultural appropriation vs. appreciation, participating in holiday celebrations is a part of cultural immersion. Working abroad allows us to (respectfully) observe our host country’s holidays and traditions we would not be exposed to otherwise. 

What are the disadvantages of working abroad?

Navigating cultural differences is hard

Knowing there are cultural differences is a no-brainer when you decide to move abroad. Whether you are working or dating abroad, it is a given. But, unfortunately, cultural differences are one of the disadvantages of working abroad because, as significant as learning cultural practices different from yours, it can be a struggle. 

Despite reading about the country before you go, you will still fumble. Assimilating and adapting requires time and commitment. You will not get everything right. There are days you won’t want to learn. We all have our bad days! Stick with it.

Doing taxes abroad can be confusing

Taxes are not necessarily a negative side of working abroad. Yet, it is annoying and complicated. Each country has its own rules about who pays what and to whom. In some cases, you are taxed higher, and working abroad is not as fruitful as it seems. Speaking with a financial advisor may be beneficial before you leave. They can guide you and answer any of your burning questions. My Expat Taxes is another online resource too.

Working abroad can be expensive upfront

Moving is not cheap, especially when you move abroad! You may have to renew your passport or pay for a visa, which also includes transportation to and from the consulate. If you do not downsize, you need to pay for long-term storage. And you still have to buy flights and temporary housing accommodations until you find something permanent.

To curb some of these costs, minimize your spending once you decide to work abroad. Save as much as you can to prepare. Some future expats even take up extra jobs, but that depends on your responsibilities and money needs. It balances out and possibly decreases in the end, though that can take time.

Language-learning is difficult

Learning a new language is enticing and impressive. However, it is also frustrating and difficult. Many people intentionally move abroad to a country where they do not speak the language to force themselves to learn it. Others make it easier and pick a destination where they know the language. There is no right or wrong way, just your preference. 

So as far as disadvantages of working abroad, this one you can overcome in due time. It requires a lot of dedication and continuous practice inside and outside your language school. Pro tip: observe the street signs, labels at the grocery store to learn new words. You just have to stick with it and be ready to make mistakes – it is one of the best ways to learn!

Feelings of loneliness and instability

Homesickness abroad is a real thing and one of the disadvantages of working abroad. I’ve been there – it’s not fun. It is linked to the adjustment phase and overcoming culture shock.  In the beginning, when you are building that community, it can be lonely. And living in multiple Airbnbs can cause some instability as another negative side of working abroad.  

Once the excitement of going abroad diminishes, loneliness can creep inside you. And with loneliness comes fear and a hint of overwhelming sadness for the life you left behind. However, it does not last forever! You eventually adjust, find people (and housing), and become more flexible working abroad.

Dealing with culture shock

People who work abroad may hate to admit it, but culture shock happens to the best of us. Even when you feel adjusted, culture shock can appear. Examples of culture shock vary too. Some examples include adapting to new work hours or learning a different concept of work-life balance. Not understanding what goes on if you do not know the language can feel isolating. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Yet, it doesn’t stick around for long. 

Finding a job that aligns with your values

Workplace culture can be hit or miss at home or abroad. Adjusting to living in a new country means adapting to the work culture too. Sometimes that is a price you pay to work abroad as quickly or easily as possible. This scenario can happen if you work abroad in a destination you end up not liking. On the other hand, you learn a lot about a country’s values when you work and live abroad instead of being a tourist. 

Tips on finding jobs abroad

Consider a fellowship program

International fellowships are unique opportunities to work abroad. Unlike regular, full-time positions, these are fixed-term opportunities. Most fellowship grantees are on a contract that includes some benefits, such as relocation, above-average stipend housing, and more. Fellowships abroad can last at least one year, but they could be longer depending on the opportunity.

International fellowship programs are worth the application process if you are transitioning between college and the 9 to 5 life. Since you are on a specific contract, it has a definite beginning, middle, and end with no pressure to re-apply. However, it does require you to come up with a plan post-fellowship.  If you want to stay in that country after the fellowship is over, begin seeking opportunities midway through.

Research visa sponsorships

Ahhh, the coveted visa sponsorships. These are opportunities for foreigners to work abroad with an employer legally. Lucky for you, Google is your best friend. First, input “visas sponsorships list” with the respective country’s name to find which employers can help you. Then, scroll through each sponsor to choose which ones align with the work you do. 

Scale up your side hustle

If you are not finding an established opportunity to do what you want, make it yourself. Sometimes your “formal” or ‘traditional” career experiences are not the most fruitful. Getting a job abroad can take a little creativity, and a side hustle can be that outlet. You can attain so many transferable skills in a side hustle that your regular job may not provide. Plus, there is an admirable level of drive and discipline when a person creates a side hustle. 

Become a freelancer

Based on your skillset and working personality, you can also work as a freelancer. Resources such as Upwork and Fiverr are two of the most popular websites to find freelance work. If you are an aspiring travel writer/freelancer, check out Matador Creators or the “Careers” section of your favorite travel publication. Become a virtual assistant for an entrepreneur or content creator. The freelance world is a hustle, but there are opportunities to get more freedom than you have now.

Attend job fairs

Some international companies host job fairs or webinars to connect with future employees. Using LinkedIn you can connect with employers to find out if these job fairs exist. For those who want to work in education abroad, as a teacher or otherwise, Search Associates may work for you. They have virtual and in-person opportunities to meet with employers.

Get a Master’s degree abroad

Becoming a student can lead to a long-term stay abroad if you plan it right. Pursuing a Master’s or even a Bachelor’s degree is an easier way to find a job abroad. Going to school can then lead to working abroad. Many countries have 1-2 year visas for postgraduate students to find a job. 

There are resources such as Masters Portal and GoAbroad that have more details too. So the opportunities are out there! Another resource is Vanessa of  Wander Onwards, who got her degree abroad and has been abroad ever since! She is a fountain of knowledge, tips, and resources from someone who has done it.  

Seek out government employment

Government jobs are another way to work abroad. Depending on your nationality and citizenship, you can work for an embassy abroad or another public service sector. Some teaching English abroad programs are even sponsored by government agencies. Those could be great pathways to a more government job. 

Some websites to use are Impact Pool, UN Volunteers, and for U.S. citizens USA Jobs. You can also check the country you want to work in for international positions. Those jobs are on their respective websites. 

Try an internship abroad

If you like the idea of fellowships abroad but want a shorter length of time, consider internships instead. Internships abroad are similar to fellowships. However, they have a higher probability of being unpaid and do not include health insurance. Each internship is different and varies upon your career path/sector. 

Internships abroad are great for students or early-career professionals who want to get some work experience. For students, who normally have a summer off, check with your school for scholarships. But, again, the biggest downside is that many are unpaid (though that is changing). So if money is an obstacle for you, pursue a longer fellowship with more benefits. 

Find a remote job

Remote work is becoming more and more popular! With websites like FlexJobs and entrepreneurs such as Andrea of It’s a Travel OD, you can find remote work opportunities just about anywhere. Remote work is a nice way to work abroad because you can also be location-independent. Co-working spaces are popping up everywhere too. So if you want to be a digital nomad, this pathway is ideal for you.

And if you think some of those cons of working abroad will not arise, think twice. Just because you are virtual does not mean cultural differences do not affect you. Or that culture shock will not impact your transition. Remote work still requires a bit of an adjustment working from a laptop all day. Get blue light glasses, a comfy chair, a desk, and lots of natural light to enhance productivity.

Check out seasonal work

Did you know seasonal work visas exist too? These are temporary work opportunities for people to work in agriculture, hospitality, and tourism. Even without the visa, many people work in hostels (especially if you can speak multiple languages) or become tour guides. Opportunities vary based on the country and their needs!

How to decide if you should work abroad or not

This list outlined a few of the advantages and disadvantages of working abroad. But there is still so much research to do! In the end, you have to weigh the pros and cons of working abroad to understand if it is the right decision for you. Some people decide to make a pros and cons list to make their final choice. 

However, I will say that ambition, patience, flexibility, and adaptability are a few of the soft skills you will need to work abroad. There are benefits and challenges of working overseas where you will need these skills. And while hard skills to land a government or remote job are necessary, I would argue soft skills are more important. Those are the ones you need regardless.

Final thoughts on the pros and cons of working abroad

Working abroad is not for the easily frazzled. To do it, you need a lot of self-determination not to give up when it gets tough. If this list excites you, then consider working abroad in the future. If you are still hesitant, keep digging. The spark to go for it is there, so do not hold yourself back! The fact you read this far shows you are for a big change. Do not let fear, or the advantages and disadvantages of working abroad, get the best of you. It may be the best thing you ever do. 

Looking for opportunities to work abroad? Check out these overseas fellowships!

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