10 Signs You Should Move Abroad + 10 Signs You Should Stay Put

Do you dream of living abroad? Think you could pare down your belongings to embrace a life living in a cozy (read: tiny) apartment on a steep cobblestone street? If so, you might be ready for the leap to move abroad, but if this doesn’t sound so charming, you might need to reconsider expat living.   

By: Kathleen Rellihan

Photo By: Girish Chouhan


Photo By: Todd Davis

Photo By: Mick Telkamp

Photo By: Sebastien_DONDAIN

Photo By: Cristian Casanelles

Photo By: Terry J Alcorn

Photo By: InnaFelker

Pack your bags if...you love the act of travel, not just the idea of it.

Seems simple, but if the annoyances of travel outweigh the joys of travel for you, living abroad will be not be any easier nor enjoyable. Maybe you’d rather just watch House Hunters International from the comfort of your couch, and if so, we’re fine with that, too. 

Stay put if...you haven't ever set foot outside your own country.

Before you pick up and move your life to another country, get some travel experiences under your belt first. Find out what cultures complement your personality — maybe it’s the relaxed pace of the Caribbean or maybe you’d more inspired being surrounded by artists and intellectuals in a European metropolis. You won’t know where you belong in the world until you explore it.

Pack your bags if...you felt at home while traveling abroad.

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 (and House Hunters International filmed her search for her new home). “I have always had wanderlust,” shares Edelman who had previously taken a career break at 30 to go backpacking solo for seven months. "I knew then that I felt more comfortable on the road and in foreign countries than I did at home. The idea of moving abroad felt right."

Stay put if...you expect life abroad to be the same as life at home.

Michael Coffey’s career brought him to Central Asia where he has spent the last three years living mostly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Coffey warns if you expect cuisine and everything to be essentially the same, you should stay put. And the biggest red flag expat living isn’t for you? "Constant complaining about things as if you were still in your home country," says Coffey. "Shoddy electricity, sharing taxis, and having tough beef in every meal. Or expecting cuisine and everything to essentially be the same. Expect and accept different."

Pack your bags if...for you, adventure trumps adversity.

Alexandria Petri has lived in different countries all over the world: "I was a student in Italy, a reporting intern in China, a teacher in Korea, and a lovesick puppy in Australia.” Even though Petri experienced homesickness for food, family and friends while living as an expat, she says that her adventurous spirit and desire to learn about different cultures continued to push her to explore opportunities abroad. 

Stay put if...you can't handle power outages.

Does the idea of a power outage send you into complete panic? A life in the Caribbean might not be for you, shares Lebawit "Lily" Girma, a Caribbean guidebook author who has lived in Jamaica and Belize and now calls The Dominican Republic home. Girma believes flexibility and resilience are key when living in abroad, because you'll need it when things don't go your way and when the lights go out.

Pack your bags if...you can learn to embrace minimalism.

You’d rather have a life full of memories than a closet bursting with shoes or a kitchen full of the latest gadgets. An expat knows the benefits of new experiences far outweigh a list of possessions. Plus, you won’t be able to fit all those shoes in your tiny European closet anyway. 

Stay put if...you would suffocate in a tiny apartment.

If the experience of of living in a historic 18th- or 19th-century building in a city like Paris isn’t worth it for you to sacrifice on living space, then you might want to reevaluate why you want to move abroad. 

Pack your bags if...you have an exotic palate.

If you never ate an American hamburger again, your life would go on just fine. Your idea of comfort food is going out for dim sum, moussaka, paella, pho or tandoori chicken, not McDonald’s, even though you will find plenty of them abroad.

Stay put if...a Starbucks abroad seems more appealing than a local café.

If you think you wouldn’t be able to live without your pumpkin soy latte, and aren’t charmed by a tiny sidewalk café, you might be lacking the thirst for change and ultimately, the resolve to move into unfamiliar territory. 

Pack your bags if...you don’t get homesick on vacation.

When you are on vacation with friends and family they are ready to go home before you are. In fact, you seldom miss the comforts of home when traveling and feel you could be away...well, forever.

Pack your bags if...you want to quit your office day job.

Andrew Villone knew that moving his family from Seattle to Slovenia would be a good idea for many reasons, especially if he wanted to make his culinary tour company, Savor the Experience, his full-time job. Plus, it also helped that he was, as he shares "sick and tired of the States, big city life and boring day jobs." Andrew and his family searched for the perfect home on the House Hunters International Slovenia episode

Stay put if...slow WiFi sends you into a tizzy.

If you don’t have the patience for slow WiFi, then you might not have the patience to live — and work —abroad in some countries. Villone, owner of Savor the Experience culinary tours in Slovenia, Croatia and the Balkans, says while WiFi in his adopted home in Slovenia isn’t as fast it he was used to in the U.S., he knows that it’s a small price to pay for raising his kids in a place that closely resembles the America he grew up in. (Andrew and his family search for the perfect home on House Hunters International Slovenia episode.)

Pack your bags if...you like quirky details in homes.

Barbara Diggs and her husband gave up their lawyer jobs and tiny apartment in NYC to give expat living a try, and have called Paris home for the last 15 years. They own their own place in the French capital, but had to learn to embrace the quirky details of their new home says Diggs, “It's gorgeous, but it's got one of those bizarrely narrow Haussmanian hallways, and our kitchen is all the way at the back of the apartment.” But she lives in Paris, so enough said.

Stay put if...you couldn’t live without a washing machine and dryer.

Modern conveniences like washing machines and dryers and dishwashers might be hard to come by if you’re living in a medieval town in Italy. So if the sight of laundry hanging out a window and drying under the Tuscan sun doesn’t seem so romantic to you, expat living might not either. 

Pack your bags if...you don’t need an American-style bathroom to survive.

While teaching in Korea, Alexandria Petri had to get use the unique style of showering in Korea — without a stall. But Petri found a way to make it work living within a different culture and without the bathrooms she was used to back home, "In Korea, my showerhead came out of my bathroom sink, and often I showered at the gym with 70-year-old Korean ahjumas staring at me."

Stay put if...you don’t like to walk.

While there are numerous walkable cities and towns in the U.S., the American lifestyle generally includes less walking then other cultures abroad. So if you want to drive everywhere you go, moving abroad might not be the best option for you. 

Stay put if...you can’t survive without air-conditioning.

Sure, you might be lucky to enjoy an ocean breeze in your beachfront pad, but if you can’t stand life without AC, you might not be able to hack island-life, says Caribbean expat Lebawit ("Lily") Girma. 

Stay put if...you don’t like walking up a lot of stairs.

Whether it’s an apartment on the 7th floor and gasp, there is no lift, or you have to walk up endless stairs to get to your house atop of the village, if you don’t like to climb stairs, living abroad might not be worth the effort. 

Pack your bags if...your family and friends like to travel, too.

The novelty of life abroad will wear off inevitably, and no matter how independent you are, you will miss the people that filled your life back home. If they share your same love for traveling, you won’t have to work so hard to convince them to visit you when you are homesick. 

Shop This Look