Are you considering working abroad? If so, you’re in good company. All over the world, people are making the decision to move to another country in terms of better opportunities for themselves and their families. According to the United Nations, more than three percent of the world’s population is currently living and working outside the country of their birth, and that number continues to grow. All told, about 232 million people work outside the country of their birth, up from just 175 million in 2000. This boom in expatriates produces a number of pros and cons for those considering a position in another country. If you are thinking of joining their ranks, consider some of the benefits and drawbacks of spending time working abroad.
Pro: Opportunities for Personal Growth
Living in another country can help you to grow and develop as a person. After all, you’re being exposed to a new culture, new customs, and possibly even a new language. All of this is extremely rewarding and can enrich your life in ways that can’t always be quantified or anticipated.
Con: Culture Shock
On the other hand, the amount of adaptation and change you need to fit into a new culture can be challenging, especially when it makes you feel isolated, insecure, or confused. Culture shock can also lead to depression or even antipathy to the host culture, if you don’t take steps to assimilate and fit in where you live and work.
Pro: Financial Rewards
If you’ve been recruited to work in another country, chances are it’s because the company really wants you. They may offer you financial incentives, bonuses, or paid moving and housing expenses to get you there. Living expenses in many countries are often cheaper than back home, especially if you are moving from the United States to areas where the local currency isn’t as strong as the dollar. Depending on your compensation package and how you are paid, you can parlay your salary into a lot more bang for the buck.
However, the taxes you pay might make it less rewarding than you think. While many European countries only require their citizens to pay taxes where they live and work, in many cases the United States requires its citizens to pay taxes both in the host country and back home. U.S. income taxes on top of already high income taxes in the host country can make that high salary dwindle down fast. Be sure to run the numbers and think carefully about whether you can afford life abroad. You may want to speak to a financial advisor before you accept a position.
Pro: You Can Leave Your Old Life Behind
If you’re looking for a fresh start, there’s no better way to leave everything behind than to move to another country where nobody knows who you are and they have no expectations about how you should look, act, or behave. In your new country, you can craft a new persona and be the person you’ve always wanted to be. Plus, in many places, Western expatriates have a great deal of prestige, and you might find yourself becoming a local celebrity, or at least the object of curiosity.
Con: You Have to Leave Everything Behind
However, if you have strong connections with family and friends, being thousands of miles away can be a major challenge, especially if it takes 8, 10, 12, or more hours to fly home for important celebrations and life events. Not seeing family and friends regularly can be a big problem, especially if you find yourself homesick in your new country.
Only you can decide whether the pros outweigh the cons for you, but many people who have taken the plunge and work abroad have found it to be a rewarding and beneficial experience. Future employers will always give a second look to a resume that shows international experience, especially in this age of globalization. As they say, you only live once. Why not give living and working abroad a try?
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