Why Is Being An Expat So Hard? 7 Real-Life Examples

Girl looking at train board in another language.

For the last 30 years, I have lived and worked in foreign countries such as Hong Kong, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. For my entire adult life and working career, I have been an ex-pat or expatriate.

As an ex-pat, there are things you miss out on from your home country, family events, and other life-important events. As an ex-pat, sometimes you can feel like an outsider in your host country, and life can be lonely as you are away from family and friends.

It may not always be easy to find friends and a support system in your ex-pat location, and you may miss out on essential services that are easy for you to get at home but almost impossible in your host country. Here are 7 real-life examples and thoughts on why being an ex-pat can sometimes be difficult.

7 Real-Life Examples Why Being An Expat Can Be So Hard

1- As An Expat You Are Away From Your Family

One of the hardest things about being an ex-pat is that you are away from your family.; this is really hard if you have a family that is extremely close and does a lot together. As an ex-pat, you will miss out on some important family events.

As I look back on being an ex-pat, there are many family vacations, funerals, birthdays, weddings, and family reunions that I could not attend. The truth is that as an expert, you will miss out on a lot of these things as it may be too hard, costly, or difficult to be able to come home for every single one of these family events.

As an ex-pat, one of the first things you must realize is that you will miss out on family events; It is just the nature of being an ex-pat and, for most ex-pats, a part of life overseas.

2 – Living In Another Culture Is Not Always Easy

It is not always easy to live and work in another culture. In some places of the world, the culture can be very similar to the one you have grown up with. In other parts of the world, everything from the food to how you greet someone can be totally different.

Some people really enjoy other cultures and can thrive in another culture; they embrace the new culture and want to learn everything about it. Some other people feel threatened or scared by the culture, so they spend most of their time indoors or pretending they are not living overseas but still at home.

I have seen ex-pat families where the husband loved living and working overseas, but the wife was so afraid of living overseas that she hardly left the house. In some extreme cases, the wife became very depressed.

When living as an expat your success or failure also depends upon your partner and how they are able to handle life overseas and living in another culture. .Living in another culture is not always easy and if your partner or family cannot handle living overseas it will make your life overseas a lot more difficult.

3. – As An Expat You Can Feel Like An Outsider

As an ex-pat, you will generally always be an outsider. I have spent all my adult life living and working in Asia, so every place I have lived in Asia, I have pretty much always been an outsider.

For some people feeling like they are an outsider can be extremely difficult to handle. I know how uncomfortable it can be to have someone stare at me or pinched and poked on the street because I am a foreigner. I have blonde hair, so many times, strangers came up and touch and stroke my hair. This can all be extremely unnerving if you are not used to it.

It can hurt if strangers start to talk to you about how you are too fat, or your nose is too big, or some other part of your physical appearance or body. This can be common in many cultures, as they may not see this as an insult but just how they talk.

These are all the kinds of things that many ex-pats deal with daily. For some people, this is a hard thing to handle.

4. – Being An Expat Can Be Lonely

Being an ex-pat can be extremely lonely. I have seen people who live out in the middle of nowhere who are not lonely but loving the ex-pat life. On the other hand, I have also seen other ex-pats who have lived in the middle of an ex-pat community and can hardly handle life overseas, and are extremely lonely.

Anyone who is thinking of becoming an ex-pat needs to understand that it can be a lonely life. Especially if you are away from your home and your loved ones. But if you can handle life overseas and make new friends while overseas, it can also be a wonderful life.

5 – Life Overseas Will Not Be the Same As Home

There may be things that you enjoy doing in your home country that are just impossible or very difficult or almost impossible for you to do overseas. Living overseas will usually not be the same as your life at home.

One of them that comes to mind is sports. Some of the sports that you like to do at home may be more difficult overseas. Other things may be the shopping is difficult, or you can not find the ingredients or other things you need.

Overseas you may not be able to drive yourself around, or you have a driver drive you everywhere; there can be a loss of independence. Some people may really miss the freedom to get into the car into drive anywhere.

Life overseas will not be the same as your life at home, and you cannot expect it to be the same. It will be different, and there will be things you will need to sacrifice or give up.

6. – Finding A New Support Network Is Not Always Easy

As an ex-pat finding a support network is not always easy. Some ex-pats may find a support network and friends by attending a church or through their work. If you are working at the US Embassy, there is usually quite a bit of support within the Embassy community. If you are like me and attend church, you can usually find a support network through your church community.

One of the most important things for your success as an ex-pat is finding a support network. For some ex-pats finding this support network is tough.

7 – As An Expat You May Miss Out On Some Support Systems

Even if you have a support network, there may be essential services or support that you miss out on or are just not available overseas. One of them that comes to mind is that if you have a child with special needs, you may find that getting the support and education they need overseas is extremely difficult, if not almost impossible.

If you are dealing with other things as psychological or other health problems, it might be very difficult or almost impossible for you to find adequate medical or other support that you need overseas. In fact, many companies will not even send you overseas if you or your family have any of these special needs.

I have been an ex-pat for many years; I have enjoyed living overseas. Being an ex-pat has changed and improved my life in countless ways.

But because I have been an ex-pat for so long, I also fully know how difficult it can be to live in another country and culture.

Simply put, life overseas is not for everyone. And that is OK. You need to understand if life overseas is right for you and your family.

Related Questions

What Is The Difference Between A Foreigner, Immigrant, and Ex-pat?

A foreigner is someone who was born in or from a country other than their own. An immigrant is someone from another country who plans to live in a country other than their own country permanently. An ex-pat or expatriate is living and working in a country other than their own country. Both an immigrant and ex-pat are usually considered foreigners.

You can learn more by reading What Is The Difference Between A Foreigner, Immigrant, and Ex-pat? by clicking here.

Why Become An Ex-pat And Live Overseas?

The main 8 reasons to become an ex-pat are 1) a sense of adventure, 2) experience other cultures, 3) it is a great lifestyle. 4) open your eyes to the world. 5) can find a great community, 6) can help develop your career, 7) there will be opportunities you will not get otherwise, and 8) it has become easier to be an ex-pat.

You can discover more by reading 8 Main Reasons To Become An Ex-pat And Live Overseas by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

Recent Posts

Why Is Being An Expat So Hard?