Have you ever vowed to move to Canada should a certain to-be-left-unnamed candidate win the election? Or dreamed of strolling the streets of Paris with a French lover on your arm? Or envied your college roommate living in Thailand who documents all her adventures in jealousy-inducing detail on Facebook?
Well, you shouldn’t.
A move abroad may seem like an escape from all that ails you—a proverbial carte blanche to reinvent yourself in a new setting. But moving abroad is a big deal—it can be a tough adjustment, and it’s only going to be worse if you don’t have good motives for your move in the first place.
So before you sell your furniture and buy a one-way ticket to Barcelona, stop and make sure you’re not making this life-changing move for the wrong reasons.
Moving to another country will not instantly improve your love life. Take it from an acquaintance of mine, who moved to Europe after deciding that all the men in the States were absolutely intolerable: What did she find once she started dating in her new country? Different geography, same romantic problems.
Remember this: You are still you, no matter the GPS coordinates, and people are people, no matter what language they’re wooing you in. You won’t suddenly transform into a dating diva by moving abroad, nor will the new dating pool suddenly be free of personal insecurities and emotional hang-ups.
If you think you’re “romantically stifled” at home, stop and think about what you’re really after, and how you might be able to mix things up without a cross-oceanic jaunt.
So, you hate your job, and you’re convinced the whole job search thing would be much easier if you moved to another country. But unless your job requires work in the international arena (e.g., international development), or you already have a position in another country lined up, you may want to re-consider the impact a move abroad will have on your career.
Yes, the U.S. economy is in crisis mode right now, but many of the popular destinations for U.S. emigrants have also been hit hard. For example, the U.K., the most popular destination for U.S. ex-pats, reached an 8.4% unemployment rate at the end of 2011. And when push comes to shove, employers are more likely to hire natives, who are already authorized to work in the country and speak the native language. Some countries, like Germany, even require people to prove their employment in the country before they’re even allowed to come in.
While none of these challenges are insurmountable, they do require a lot of preparation, gumption, and self-motivation to overcome. So if it’s just a new job you’re after, you might be better off starting the search closer to home.
I hear ya, I’ve been there. Bored, burned out, desperately seeking to infuse some excitement into my day-to-day. Moving to another country seems like the perfect answer to the malaise that sets into all of our lives from time to time.
But getting that stamp in your passport is not a free pass to adventure-land. You know why?
Because adventure is not what happens to us, but what we make happen. An adventurous spirit will find interesting things to do no matter where in the world she lives. And a person who enjoys quiet evenings at home parked in front of the TV will likely become intimately familiar with the local primetime line-up, no matter whether she’s sitting in a small Midwestern town or a stone’s throw away from Champs-Élysées.
OK, so now that I’ve beat you over the head with why you should not become an ex-pat, let’s talk about why you should: To immerse yourself in a new culture. To become fluent in a foreign language. To meet people who will help you see yourself, your country, and the world in a whole new way. And that’s just to name a few. All these things would be possible, I suppose, but highly improbable if you were to stay put in one place for the rest of your life.
Moving abroad can be a marvelous experience, but the bottom line is this: Do your research, do some serious thinking, and before you jet off, make sure you’re making a move for the right reasons.
Bon voyage!—or not.