Unexpected Benefits of Living Abroad for an Extended Period of Time

7 Unexpected Benefits of Living Abroad for an Extended Period of Time

By Rachel O’Conner

There’s living abroad and then there’s living abroad. A couple of weeks on an extended vacation or on a volunteer trip don’t give you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a culture. In fact, you could live for years in a foreign city and still not see and experience everything right outside your door. While any exposure to a different country is incredibly beneficial, there’s something especially magical about living abroad for an extended period of time. What that means depends on you, but generally at least six months is a must to start to feel comfortable in new surroundings. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do if you have a sense of adventure—and especially if you’re a native English speaker. Teaching English overseas has long been a gateway for adventurers wanting to live abroad. There are various countries offering a salary and benefits that provide a living wage. Many times, the only requirements are that you have a degree (preferably) and that English is your native language.

Still not convinced? Check out these seven benefits you may not realize living abroad for months or years will give you:

  1. You can actually learn another language. For many people, the only way to really become fluent in another language is to immerse themselves in the culture and country where it’s spoken. This simply isn’t possible in a classroom no matter how much supplementation you have from audio clips and foreign television shows. If one of your goals in life is to become genuinely fluent in another language, you need to live where it’s spoken. Choosing a rural area is even more helpful as there will be fewer English speakers to help you out of jams. It can be frustrating and overwhelming at first, but it can also open up a brand-new world for you.
  2. Empathy and compassion will increase. Both empathy and compassion are learned characteristics. Consider newborns; they are perhaps the most selfish, uncompassionate, and unempathetic of people. It’s simply because they haven’t learned empathy and compassion yet, skills that are continuously learned throughout life. You’ll experience situations that would never happen “back home.” The result? You’ll become a kinder person.
  3. Your patience will increase. Western countries are in many regards highly efficient. If you opt to live in a non-Western country, you might find yourself taking an entire day off of work to go to the bank. That’s how long it will take to complete a task that’s considered simple in the US. You have no choice, and over time your mind will adapt.
  4. You’ll probably become healthier. Western countries, and especially the US, are well-known for being plagued by diseases like obesity. That’s not the case in many other countries, and without even trying or noticing (at first) you will likely start to become healthier. You might start cooking at home more often, and the ingredients you use will naturally be healthier. In time, you’ll find American portions huge, and your palate will pick up the taste of chemicals and preservatives.
  5. You’ll save big on taxes. The US has an agreement with many foreign countries that results in “foreign earned income exemption.” This means that you don’t have to pay US taxes on earnings when you’re overseas (except for Medicare and Social Security). You can save more of what you make, which can make a meager salary feel a lot bigger. Just make sure you actually do file your taxes each year.
  6. You’ll make friendships that never would have been possible otherwise. One of the best things about living abroad for an extended amount of time is the friends you’ll make. If they’re local, you’ll be able to create a friendship that would have never been possible in any other circumstance. If they’re expats, the shared experience of finding yourself in new surroundings will cement a different kind of bond than what you’ve had before.
  7. You’ll get a new perspective on Americans. No amount of reading op-ed pieces or watching foreign movies prepares you to see how non-Americans see you. It can be a humbling experience, but it will also shape your worldviews for the better. It’s total immersion, and that means seeing through a new lens. In some cases, this might be one of the most challenging parts of life overseas, but you’ll adapt. It’s human nature.

If you’ve been thinking about moving overseas, there will never be a perfect time. Do it now, before more excuses pile up. You will never be younger than you are now, and youth can be a great asset—no matter what the actual number may be. Have a family? There are many opportunities that welcome and truly want such a secure immigrant. There’s nothing to lose except regrets.

Rachel O’Conner is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic” currently writing for Mazda Atlanta. She enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing her experiences with the world. In her free time, you can find her planning her next trip, running with her dogs, or heading to the closest farmers’ market.




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