While I’ve written before about how exciting expat life can be, and how much I love it, it goes without saying that there are challenges that come with this life. While living overseas I’ve missed a brother’s wedding, the birth of 4 nieces and nephews, and countless birthdays and big holidays. I even missed Christmas one year. I love living overseas, but it does come with its challenges. Here are my top five challenges of living overseas.
Being away from family
This is probably the number one reason that anyone would cite when listing reasons why it’s hard to live overseas. There’s no other way to put it than to say that being far from family just stinks. Not only do you miss things like birthdays, children’s sporting events, recitals and other special occasions, but you also miss the little day-to-day moments. The first steps. The first lost tooth. Hugs and kisses. Funny stories. Family dinners and get-togethers. And for me, this being away from family also means being away from my church family. I always find a new church when I move overseas, but it’s just not the same as being at my home church. I miss it when I’m away.
Learning a new way of doing everything
While learning new things is fun and exciting, sometimes it can be overwhelming when you have to learn a lot all at once. It might be fun trying to learn some Japanese while flipping through a children’s book, but it’s not so fun when you are peering out a train window as it approaches the station and frantically trying to determine if this is the station you need because you weren’t really paying attention. Learning how and where you pay your utility bills, and cell phone bill, and well, all your bills, can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time. Learning that you need to weigh and label your own produce before checking out at the grocery store can lead to some confusing moments when you and the cashier don’t speak the same language. While learning is fun, it can also be a challenge at times.
Being sick overseas
It’s never fun being sick. And it’s even less fun when you are overseas. Google and WebMD become your best friends as you try to diagnose yourself and then prescribe yourself medicines that you have to then try and hunt down. All while sick in bed. If you are living overseas with a spouse or friend this might not be as much of a challenge for you. But if you are living alone and don’t have anyone who can come over to help you, this can be a really miserable time.
Dealing with companies back home
Getting an email notification that your credit card has been frozen due to suspicious activity can be a nuisance while living in your home country. But when you are overseas it becomes even more of a problem. You are so far away and feel so helpless. Due to the time difference, you often can’t call right away to resolve the issue. Or you can’t call because the company doesn’t have a Skype number listed. Or because of prohibitive international phone charges. There are always issues that come up that are more easily dealt with when you are home than when you are overseas.
Missing foods and other familiar products
It is exciting and fun to try and to learn to like new foods in your host country, but there will always come a time when you just wish you could grab some food from home. You will miss the randomest foods at the weirdest times. Sometimes you miss things simply because you can’t get them. I’ve missed foods while overseas that I rarely or never even ate back home. I can’t even explain that.
What have been your biggest challenges while living overseas? How did you overcome them?