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15 Challenges of Moving to a New Country (& How to Overcome Them)

Are you considering making the move to a new country?

It can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also comes with its share of challenges.

I’ve moved around the world over 8 times in the last 10 years – sometimes even multiple times within the same year!

So I know the difficulties of moving to a new country.

While it’s not the easiest thing to do, moving abroad is SO rewarding. That’s why I want to help you overcome the biggest challenges of moving to a new country, so you can live your best life abroad!

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Floral suitcase being packed with shoes and clothes on top for moving abroad

1. Packing Up Your Life

This is probably the most daunting task on this list.

Packing up your life into a few suitcases is no easy feat!

You have to decide what’s worth taking with you and what you can live without.

Then you have to figure out how to fit everything into your luggage.

And don’t even get me started on the weight limit…

It can be even worse if you’re planning to bring furniture and things with you, as the shipping costs can be astronomical!

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How to Overcome this Challenge:

Start by making a list of everything you want to bring with you.

Then go through the items one by one and decide if you really need them or not.

You might be surprised at how much stuff you can live without.

Once you’ve sorted through your belongings, start packing up your things little by little.

Don’t try to do it all at once or you’ll get overwhelmed.

And if you’re bringing furniture with you, start planning and arranging the shipping as early as possible so you’re not rushed at the last minute.

I recommend looking at the cost of new furniture abroad to see if it’s really worth the effort before you start trying to take that 4-seater couch to New Zealand!

2. All the Admin and Expenses

There’s SO much paperwork and red tape involved in moving to a new country.

From getting your visa sorted to opening a bank account, there are a million and one things to do.

And all of this costs money!

Honestly, it can be exhausting.

It feels kind of like the admin is trying to keep you from wanting to live abroad.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Break down the steps one by one.

Don’t try to tackle them all in one day!

I always start with my visa.

Find out the type you need and exactly the steps you need to take. Then leave an extra few weeks in case things are slow to process.

Most of the admin for opening a bank account, getting a tax number, and rerouting your mail will have to happen on the ground.

I recommend using Wise.com’s multicurrency account, at least while you get set up.

It can take MONTHS to get a bank account ready in a new country, even with your visa and tax number!

But you don’t want to incur costly credit card fees or pay to withdraw your own cash from a foreign card.

Instead, use the free Wise.com multicurrency account with a virtual debit card, so you can easily pay as you go. It’ll save you a few grey hairs for the first two months – trust me!

With the financial costs, moves always cost money.

Unfortunately, that’s just a reality.

The best way to minimize some of the costs is to pack less and to do your research so you aren’t accidentally wasting money throughout the process.

Make getting a bank account MUCH easier by opening a free multi-currency account here.

3. Distance From Home

This is probably one of the hardest challenges to overcome.

When you move to a new country, you’re leaving your family and friends behind.

It can be really tough to be so far away from the people you love.

But there are ways to stay connected, even when you’re miles apart.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Technology has come a long way in recent years, making it easier than ever to stay connected with loved ones.

There are tons of apps that allow you to video chat for free, so you can actually see each other’s faces instead of just hearing their voices.

I Zoom or Facetime call my family regularly when I live abroad.

We even do virtual cooking classes as a family or they pass me around the Christmas party on an iPad so I can be apart of their lives!

If you want to stay in touch, you’ll find ways to do it – both with family and friends.

4. Culture Shock

This is a big one.

And it’s not just about the food or the language.

Moving to a new country means you’ll be experiencing a whole different way of life.

From the way people drive to how they socialize, everything will be different.

Even the way they work could be different!

Maybe you’re used to getting to the office at 9am and having a coffee chat with friends before you start your day. But there, they might expect people to be working at 100% by the time 9am comes.

It can be really tough to adjust, especially in the beginning.

I’ve definitely faced this and it can feel daunting. It makes you feel like you don’t belong, and then those mean inner voices start saying that you never will.

It’s a big reason people give up on living abroad.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

The best way to overcome culture shock is to just jump in headfirst.

Don’t be afraid to try new things or to make mistakes.

That’s how you learn!

Ask people about how things are done if you’re confused. Most of the time, they’re very willing to explain and help you sort it out.

Another great way to overcome culture shock is to connect with other expats.

They can help you to understand the local culture and customs, and they’re usually more than happy to help you out.

Beyond all that, a lot of it is treating the first few months living abroad like being a tourist. Expect to feel a bit different.

And don’t worry if you stand out!

People are often drawn to you for that.

They’ll want to know more about your home country and why they behave differently.

The amount of times I’ve had to explain why the heck Canadians stand the -30C cold in winters is exhausting (tbh, I’m not sure. We’re just crazy!!), but I’ve made a lot of cool friends through it!

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5. Homesickness

Homesickness is a real thing, and it can be really tough to deal with.

When you’re living in a new country, you might start to miss the comforts of home.

Even if you didn’t like your home country that much, there are still things that you’ll miss – like your favorite food or being able to understand the language.

There’s a sense of comfort in the familiar that you often lose when you’re living abroad.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

I’ve heard so many tips to avoid homesickness.

Stay busy. Find fun things to do. Call home less often.

Honestly, the best way to get over homesickness is to give into it for a minute.

There’s probably a reason you’re needing that comfort. Maybe your body is feeling a bit overtaxed from the move or you need to talk to someone honestly about the struggles of living in a new country.

It’s totally ok.

In fact, everyone I know who has lived abroad for any period has had AT LEAST one time when they were hopelessly homesick.

I’ve even had it when I’ve been in my 8th country abroad with no desire to go home!

Being homesick doesn’t mean you’re giving up or that you’re not good at this.

It just means you need some comfort.

So buy that McDonalds burger, call your mom, have a virtual game night with your friends at home, celebrate a holiday from home, or pay a bit too much in shipping for that spice you can’t live without (I’ve done it for pumpkin pie more than once!).

Don’t dwell forever, but give yourself a few homesickness days here and there.

Lonely girl sitting on the edge of a cliff looking over a valley.

6. Loneliness

Loneliness can be a byproduct of homesickness, or it can be its own thing.

You might find that you’re lonely because you don’t have friends in your new country yet.

Even if you do have friends, you might feel lonely because you’re not used to being away from home or because you feel a bit out of the loop with the new culture.

This is totally normal!

I’ve felt lonely while living abroad many times.

It’s one of the hardest challenges to overcome, but it’s possible.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

The best way to overcome loneliness is to reach out and connect with others – both in your new country and back at home.

It sounds simpler than it is.

But even saying hi to your barista when you get your morning coffee or having a chat with a server can make you feel less alone as you start to establish yourself abroad.

For me, being honest about my struggles also helped me feel less alone.

When I was feeling isolated in Austria, I told my friends that I wasn’t having the dream gap year I’d imagined.

Just telling people about my reality helped SO MUCH.

👉 Want to make friends around the world? Join Meetups today for free!

Three women hugging and laughing as new friends from abroad

7. Making New Friends

This is one of the challenges of living in a new country that goes hand-in-hand with loneliness.

When you’re living in a new place, it can be really tough to make friends – especially if you don’t have any family or friends there already.

And even if you do have people there, it can still be tough to find your social group.

Even introverts like me need friends. So while we may be able to last a little longer before this becomes a true issue, it’s still a human need to be social.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

There were two main things I did to make friends while living abroad. I did the same things no matter where I was or why I was there.

#1 Join local clubs

If you’re studying abroad, you can find these through your school.

Otherwise, check local listings at the community centres or language halls. Check expat Facebook groups too.

I love Meetup.com for this. It’s a free online network for people to set up clubs around their hobbies around the world.

I made my first friend in New Zealand at a boardgame cafe night!

👉 Want to make friends around the world? Join Meetups today for free!

#2 Get a job

Working abroad, whether for pay or as a volunteer, has helped me meet some of my best friends in the world.

Find a local volunteer organization. Take on some part-time work. Or use the built in social network of your full-time job.

This forces you to get out of the house and meet people, plus it can help you earn some extra money.

8. Missing Out on Special Events

When you live in a new country, you’re bound to miss out on things.

You might miss your best friend’s wedding, or your sister’s graduation.

You might even miss major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, or Thanksgiving.

This is one of the challenges of living in a new country that no one tells you about.

Missing out on these events can be really tough.

You can feel guilty, or like you’re not a part of your family or friends anymore.

But it’s important to remember that you’re not missing out forever.

And there are ways to still feel connected, even when you’re far away.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

The best way to overcome this challenge is to stay in touch with the people you care about.

That might mean sending a gift, writing a letter, or scheduling regular Skype calls.

You can also try to schedule your travel so that you can be home for major events.

I often attend events virtually via my mom’s iPad or my sister’s phone. They pass me around parties and I still get to see everyone, but instead of being in snowy Canada, I’m on a New Zealand beach for Christmas.

It never really gets easier, but you learn to value your time with people. And if an event is big enough, you can usually find a way to get back for it!

9. Finding a Job

This is one of the challenges of moving to a new country that people don’t often talk about.

It can be really tough to find a job in a new place – especially if you don’t have any connections there.

And even if you do have connections, it can still be tough to find a job that’s a good fit for you.

One of the biggest obstacles is writing a resume in the local style.

You may not know this, but every country I’ve lived in has had minor differences in the way they apply for jobs and submit resumes.

In the UK, you have to be VERY careful about your email sign-off lines. In the US, if you don’t have local experience, it’s WAY harder to find work.

Person interviewing with two women for a job with resumes in front of them.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

There are a few things you can do to overcome this challenge:

  • Read up on the local resume style and make sure your resume is tailored to it.
  • Look for job postings that don’t require local experience.
  • Network! Get connected with people in your industry and see if they know of any openings.
  • Work with a job recruiter. This helped me a TON with fixing up my resume for jobs in New Zealand and it was 100% free.

Pro tip: Always advertise if you already have a visa as well. And if you do, tell them the end date of the visa.

I recommend this platform to find jobs as a foreigner.

10. Finding Housing

One of the challenges of moving to a new country is finding somewhere to live.

It’s often hard to find an apartment or house that you can afford, and it can be even harder to find one that’s in a good location.

Plus, if you’re not from the area, you might not know where the best places to live are.

If you’re looking to buy, many countries have special hoops you need to jump through before foreigners can purchase land. It may even come with an additional tax that could send the price skyrocketing!

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Do your research before you move. Look up the average prices for rent in the area you’re moving to, and try to find a place that’s in your budget.

Get connected with people who live in the area and see if they have any recommendations for good places to live.

And finally, try to be flexible. Be prepared to compromise on things like location or price.

I prefer to arrive before I lock in on a place to live. So I opt for Vrbo accommodations for the first 1-2 months of my stay.

The few times I’ve taken something site unseen, even temporarily, they haven’t gone well. So I prefer to get to know the area and shop around in person.

German language sign saying goodbye

11. Language Barrier

Depending on where you move, you may not be able to speak the local language.

This can make it really hard to get around, make friends, and do everyday tasks like grocery shopping or going to the bank.

Even in places with many English-speaking people, like in Berlin, I often had to spend 3x as long doing tasks simply because I couldn’t read German.

I often felt like an outsider because I couldn’t connect with locals in their own language.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

With Babbel.com, you can learn the local language before you move.

I wish I had started learning German sooner because it would have made my life a lot easier when I first arrived in Berlin.

If you don’t have time to learn the language before you move, start as soon as you arrive.

Many cities have free language lessons that you can take advantage of to help with your conversational abilities.

Need help learning a new language? I recommend iTalki! I’ve tried ALL the apps, but iTalki is the only way I’ve managed to learn as much as living in the local country.

12. International Health Insurance

If you’re moving to a new country, you’ll need to get health insurance.

This can be really confusing and expensive, especially if you’re not used to the local healthcare system.

There are often a lot of rules and regulations that you need to follow, and it can be hard to figure out what coverage you actually need.

With visas, you’re often not entitled to the same healthcare access as locals. And for digital nomads travelling without visas, you often have no coverage at all.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

If you’re moving to a new country, one of the challenges you’ll face is ensuring that you have adequate health insurance.

World Nomads is an excellent option for international health insurance, and it’s easy to set up and customize to your needs.

Be sure to check out their website for more information on how they can help you stay safe.

I’ve used them in over 29 countries now, both as a tourist and an expat. I’ve never had to worry about a claim being denied, so I can focus on getting the healthcare I need – like when I fell off a horse in Croatia or the time I got a parasite in Morocco (fun times).

👉 Find out how much it costs to protect your trip today with World Nomads travel insurance.

13. Adapting to a New Climate

Depending on where you move, you may have to adjust to a completely different climate than what you’re used to.

This can be really tough, especially if you’re not prepared for it.

For example, I moved from Canada to New Zealand and had to get used to INSANE summer heat.

You could literally get a sunburn in 3 minutes in the summer!

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Do your research before you move and find out what the climate is like in the place you’re moving to.

If you’re not used to the heat, try to arrive in the cooler months so you have time to adjust.

And be sure to pack appropriate clothing.

If you know that you don’t handle a certain type of climate (i.e. me with the heat), maybe don’t move to countries that have that climate. Or find ways around it.

When I lived in Scotland, it was VERY dark and gloomy. So I bought a SAD lamp to help me feel happier on grey days.

Finding tweaks like this can really help you adjust.

14. False Expectations

When you move to a new country, it’s easy to build up false expectations in your head.

You might think that everyone will be super welcoming and that you’ll make friends easily.

But the reality is often quite different.

Instagram has sort of trained us all that travel is glamorous and it’s so easy to move abroad.

You think you’ll show up and have some Emily in Paris dream life.

But that’s often not the case.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Do your research before you move and try to set realistic expectations.

Talk to people who have already moved to the place you’re going and get their honest feedback about what it’s really like.

And don’t compare your experience to what you see on social media.

Remember that people only share the best parts of their lives online, and that’s not representative of reality.

If anything, go to Tiktok and you can usually find a more realistic view of expat life.

If I’d been on Tiktok when I lived in Glasgow, you would have seen a lot of me wandering grocery stores desperately trying to find non-wilted vegetables, and me literally screaming into the sky when it somehow rained TWICE on days with zero clouds in the sky.

Man teaching classroom of students who are aged 10-13.

15. Schooling

If you have kids, one of the challenges you’ll face is finding the right school for them.

Depending on the country you move to, there may not be many schooling options available.

And the ones that are available may not be up to your standards.

This is even a challenge for people studying abroad.

I remember when I was living in Prague, there were very few English-speaking schools available.

How to Overcome this Challenge:

Do your research before you move and find out what the schooling options are like in the place you’re moving to.

Talk to other parents and see if they have any recommendations.

And try to be flexible.

Remember that your kids are adaptable and they’ll be able to adjust to a new school, even if it’s not perfect.

Wrap Up: Is Moving Abroad Worth the Difficulties?

Phew! That was a lot of challenges.

But don’t let them discourage you from moving abroad.

Because despite all of these challenges, the rewards of living in a new country are so worth it.

You’ll get to experience a new culture, eat delicious food, and travel to amazing places.

You’ll make new friends and create memories that will last a lifetime.

So if you’re thinking about making the move, go for it!

Just be prepared for the challenges that come with it.

P.S. If you’re moving abroad soon, be sure to check out my post on things to do before you move!

It’s packed with helpful tips and advice to make your move as smooth as possible.

Save money on moving abroad by booking cheap airline tickets and accommodations with this platform!


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