House Hunters International: The Pros and Cons of Living Abroad, As Told By Expats

Experiencing the House Hunters International effect? Before you put in your two weeks notice and sell all your furniture, check out these pros and cons of living abroad from people who have been there, done that.

By: Kathleen Rellihan
Woman exploring buddhist temple

Woman exploring buddhist temple

A young woman is exploring a buddhist temple

After one too many marathons of House Hunters International, are you ready to quit your job at set up home base abroad? You're not alone, but don't pack your bags just yet. 

While it might be your lifelong dream, setting up a home in a new country comes at a price. If you ask us, the benefits — including the big one of getting a new worldview -- will definitely outweigh the downsides — hello, tiny closets. But don't take our word for it: We asked expats their favorite parts about living abroad...and yes, what they don't love, too. Read on and decide for yoursefl! 

The Pros

Native Brazilian girl looking at Rio de Janeiro from SugarLoaf

1: You’ll have more career opportunities and become more marketable. Chantal Panozzo, a writer who lived in Baden, Switzerland for eight years, was inspired to write about her expat life in the land of cheese and chocolate with her first book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known.

2: You’ll become more independent. "Being an expat in Belize and now the Dominican Republic helped me develop confidence and courage as a solo female," shares Lebawit ("Lily") Girma, a Caribbean guide book author who has lived in Jamaica and Belize and now calls the Dominican Republic home.

3: You’ll have inside access to another culture. "Access to language, history, and culture of an exotic 'other' place up-close and personal," is one of the biggest benefits for Virginia native and Russian linguist Michael Coffey of living in countries in Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. "Plus, I can...buy carpets, drawings and other artisans’ crafts” that show off the region's rich artistic history."

4: You can live better in places with a lower cost of living. Diana Edelman was given the opportunity of a lifetime when she was invited to volunteer full time at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (House Hunters International filmed the search for her new home.) One of the biggest benefits of living in Thailand? The dollar goes far, says Edelman, “the city [Chiang Mai] is incredible, gorgeous and very inexpensive."

5: It’ll be easier to visit so many other countries and cultures. "We have made some amazing friends here, French ones and people from all over the world," says Barbara Diggs, a former New Yorker who left her law job to give expat living a try with her husband, and has called Paris home for the last 15 years. "I also love how easy it is to visit so many other countries and cultures from here."

The Cons

1: You’ll be dealing with different laws and red tape. "Big con of living abroad? Dealing with bureaucracy that you don’t really understand," says Andrew Villone, who moved his family from Seattle to Slovenia to make his culinary tour company, Savor the Experience, his full-time job. Andrew and his family searched for the perfect home on the House Hunters International Slovenia episode.

Young Tourist near Dubai Opera House at Modern Downtown

Photo by: Girish Chouhan

Girish Chouhan

2: There's a language divide. Alyssa Pinsker has been an expat in India, Japan, and Switzerland, but struggles with the language divide. "If you expatriate five times like me, and you know you might only be in a country a year or two, it is difficult to learn the local language. I consider myself good at languages, I speak five, but Malayalam, spoken in Kerala, is almost impossible for me to learn!"

3: You’ll be navigating new social codes. "As an American, I know what the unspoken social codes are in the U.S.; I know what's considered rude or polite, I know how to handle a complicated situation," shares Diggs. "In France, whenever you interact with a native you don't know well, you not only have to dredge up the correct words in a different language, you have to consciously recall the right way to behave to make the right impression or get the result you want. That can be exhausting."

4: You won’t have the same conveniences. Cheryl Davidson, a Canadian inspired to set up a home in the much-warmer climate of surf-town El Tunco, El Salvador, explains there are numerous downsides of living in a developing country, including poverty, corruption, and lack of infrastructure.

5: Keeping in touch with family and friends back home can be difficult. “Scheduling Skype dates across time zones is harder than you’d think,” says Auburn Scallon, a Seattle native and Prague-based travel writer living in the Czech Republic.

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