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Expat life: when the great adventure starts to grate

Moving overseas can seem like a great idea when you’re stuck in a crowded commuter train on a wet November evening, after a hard day’s work in a company that’s had a pay freeze in place for the last three years, and nothing to look forward to except a dismal microwave ready meal and an equally dismal evening’s viewing on the telly. Who wouldn’t want to exchange all that for a life of excitement and substantially better pay in the sun?

Unfortunately, life ain’t that simple. For starters, most countries don’t allow just anyone to come and settle. Which is probably just as well, otherwise there’d be significantly more opportunity for bigots around the world to grumble about foreigners coming in and taking their jobs and women. You have to prove that you’ve got something to offer the country you’re hoping to live in: a particular skill that’s in short supply if you’re planning to work, or plenty of funds to support yourself if you’re not. If you’re unskilled and short of funds, you’re unlikely to get very far, even in the least developed countries.

But even if you do make it to the country of your dreams, it doesn’t take much for the dream to become a nightmare.

Infographic depicting some of the economic and social difficulties expats face
(Expat Life: Not Always A Smooth Ride! – An infographic by the team at Overs)

Some of the information above will be no surprise to many would-be British expats. The news that many expats in the UK are looking to leave because of rising costs is no news to the people who are already considering for precisely that reason. Likewise, anyone who’s paid even superficial attention to the news over the last couple of years will know that the Spanish economy has left many expats there wondering whether it’s time to up sticks again (although some are still making a go of it).

On the other hand, the information that so many expats feel lonely, homesick or depressed may come as an eye-opener. So too may the realisation that it’s not enough to speak English slowly and loudly to make yourself understood.

The message is clear: although expat life can and does bring many benefits, they do come at a cost. And, as the bar chart at the bottom of the graphic shows, you might have to wait for the full benefits to kick in. So if you’re contemplating a possible future as an expat, do your research properly – without rose-tinted glasses to obscure all the nasty bits – and be ready for some bumps and potholes along the road.

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