8 Honest Pros And Cons Of Moving Abroad From Someone Who Lived It

With our world in uproar, moving to a country more aligned with our personal views can sound alluring. Here is my first-hand account of the potential highs and lows for anyone ready to step outside the box.

By Johanna Lind5 min read
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I moved from Germany to Los Angeles almost 20 years ago. The move was not based on any tangible need, instead it was purely based on wanting to taste something new. To me, Germany’s conventions and beliefs felt too rigid. I always had a tendency for adventure and a craving for something bigger and less traditional. Here is my personal report on how that worked out. 

The Pros

1. You Get To Live Where You Want To Be

By moving away from where you grew up, you get a choice. For obvious reasons, the majority of people simply settle near their family. However, there are tempting benefits to living in a place that is pleasing to you. 

Although Germany has beaches, it only has a few weeks of adequate weather to enjoy them. What I love about LA is the proximity to other cities, the beach, the mountains, and even snow in the winter. I value the variety of food choices and activities LA has to offer. Along with the weather and laid-back lifestyle, my quality of life has improved. Somehow all this makes me feel alive. I feel closer to the pulse of life and what this world has to offer. 

2. Your Dating Pool Increases Tremendously 

Not only do you automatically expand your dating options via your new country, you will also find increased interest from the guys you’re leaving behind. Of course, a new country means new men and that equals new chances. But it also means having access to a different type of guy. 

I found American men to be more manly than German men. Chivalry had not yet been replaced by ‘I can open my own door, thank you very much!’. Sure, I’m generalizing and all countries have all sorts of men, and this is reflecting my own taste. But still. 

Speaking of surprisingly expanding my options at home: Even after all this time, there are guys somewhat available on the sidelines, just in case I were ever to move back to Germany. I see them lurking in the shadows of social media, or my German friends let me know they were asking about me. Somehow doing something out of the box and interesting with your life is a male magnet. Who would have thought? 

3. You Get To Grow Your Self-Awareness and Inner Strength

You get to be the sole creator of your authentic personality, outside your family and friend circle. This move could be your ultimate challenge. Your test in perseverance. But you get to say I did it. This experience alone can make you more persistent, open, and resourceful than anything else in your life. Along the way, you get to advance your life skills which you probably would not have in your comfort zone at home. 

Living in Los Angeles constantly reminds me that I didn’t grow up in an environment intensely focused on pop-culture. My ego doesn't love perpetually admitting that I don’t know a director or an old jingle from the past. But I get to define myself beyond what I know. In a wicked way, this somehow still forces me to find my self-worth beyond fitting in. I have no choice but to transcend my ego and its needy voice into being authentically me. I am facing it, I am growing from it, and now I am a better person for it.

4. You Get To Tickle Your Brain and Potentially Avoid Alzheimer’s

Chances are you will live and breathe a new language. While this takes time, you can rest assured you’re expanding your brain along the way. Studies discovered that actively speaking multiple languages can delay and even halt age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Speaking multiple languages can delay and even halt age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Sometimes when I get super tired, my English slips into German. That reminds me how much brain power and energy I consistently invest into living this far away from home. But intimately knowing two languages also gave me a new perspective on how language governs culture. For example, German has the word Wanderlust which basically describes the urge to wander and explore. Imagine what it means about a culture if their vocabulary includes Wanderlust

The Cons

1. There Will Be a Time When You Want To Go Back

This is especially true at the beginning when everything is new. In the time you’re adjusting, you will feel different. And that feeling may make you feel lonely. As a natural response, there will be an inclination to go back to what is familiar. It’s instinctively normal. But your mind may also play tricks on you: Anything bothersome could be used to blame your new country. 

About a year into my move, I started having issues with a new boss. Her insecurities came out in bullying me in a passive-aggressive way that sent me home crying most nights. Around that time, I wanted to give up and just be safe at home. I am fully aware that an immature boss is an international phenomenon and doesn’t represent the country that I am in. But back then, I started romanticizing Germany, thinking this would never happen there. I felt off-kilter, questioning my sense of right and wrong. The inner conflict made me uncertain and less confident, which took work to get back up again. 

2. Initially, the New Language May Make You Feel Overly Self-Conscious 

Humanity is trained to detect and question anything that is different. It’s a survival mechanism deeply rooted in our DNA. So people may treat you as if you’re unintelligent based on an accent or the scrambling for words. While this clearly gets better over time, it can definitely put a damper on your confidence. In case you’re lucky and without a secret insecurity about your intelligence, the only annoyance left is an inability to fully articulate an idea. And that, of course, shall pass, too.

During the first year or three, I would blush into shades of ripe tomatoes every time I had to scramble for words. But getting on the phone was the worst. My heart would beat so fast, a cardiologist would have diagnosed a heart attack. To this day, I am not sure which got better faster: my accent or speech recognition technology for automated answering services. Eventually, I remembered that even in my native language searching for words was normal. 

Remember, even in your native language searching for words is normal. 

3. Guilt Will Sneak In

Regardless of whether or not your family or friends pressure you to move back or visit more often, there will be a time when you will feel guilty about your decision. In my case, I moved 12 flight hours, 9 time zones, an ocean, and a full day shift away. Your choice may be less drastic. However, physical proximity will become a factor at some point. 

In my case, my beloved grandmother got sick. Blessed with a young family, that factor had not been an issue before. But her sickness made it tough. My solution was to visit more often. Who knows? Being in similar circumstances earlier in my ex-pat life may have made me move back. Good thing free video chats exist now. 

4. Over the Years, You May Not Feel Fully at Home in Either Country

Not growing up in your new country will likely make you feel like an outsider, at least sometimes. Surprisingly, the same is true with the country you left behind. 

I didn’t grow up in the U.S., so I’m not familiar with certain TV shows, ads, foods, or even toys American kids grew up with. These may be small things, but in their accumulation, they keep reminding me I am an outsider. And that’s because these memories bonded people and shaped their worldview. 

To my surprise, I’m also an outsider in Germany now. I left the country in my early twenties. Later, I noticed I’m missing specific adulthood vocabulary, knowledge of a German process, their new TV shows, or a new coffee chain everyone else knows about. Life has evolved for them as much as it has for me in the U.S.

After such a long time away, I realized I think of Germany in the way I left it. Things have obviously changed, but I wouldn't know about that. Everything considered, I get the feeling I no longer fully understand life in Germany, while I also don’t entirely get life in the U.S. I now live in the blurry lines in between – my own personal twilight zone. 

Closing Thoughts

Of course, we want to weigh the pros and cons of our decisions to be able to lean in the direction of our personal preference. However, there is inner peace to be gained by accepting that we’re not able to avoid the unwanted. In other words, the natural law of duality automatically presents the Yin with the Yang. But by changing our perception and welcoming the so-called negative feelings as lessons, we’re able to advance to the next level in the game of life. 

My choice to leave Germany and move to LA definitely involved aspects of running away. But then my reasons for staying shifted with the years. Instead of staying stuck on a hamster wheel of reevaluations, I committed to my decision and applied this newfound brain space to making it work. Doing so, I was able to grow and move forward, finding freedom in my dedication and confidence in knowing I am capable of enduring and even thriving in any scenario. As human beings, we make emotional decisions, and then we either pull through or get trapped by our complaints. Similar to a committed relationship: I choose my choice, day after day, good and bad. 

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