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What are the advantages and disadvantages of working abroad?
When you’re between the ages of 18 – 30 working abroad is extremely easy. British citizens have access to working holiday visas in 8 countries. This gives you a great opportunity to see the world.
There are plenty of reasons a person might get a job in another country but are they positive or negative? I want to give you as much information as possible. That way, you’re in the best position to decide if working abroad is for you.
After living and working abroad since 2015, I have experience. I want to share the pros and cons I have encountered both personally and professionally.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of working abroad first, then we will check out the disadvantages (if you’re not already convinced by then!)
Advantages & pros
Easier to learn a language
This of course depends on if you are travelling to a place with a different national language in the first place. However, One of the easiest ways to learn a new language is to be thrown in at the deep end.
When you are surrounded by people on a daily basis speaking a new language it becomes easier to learn. You’ll start recognising phrases and words. It’ll become part of your daily routine.
When you have no choice but to learn to get by, you’ll be surprised how quickly you become fluent. This is a great help if you’ve been wanting to learn a language in particular. It’s also much less aggressive than the DuoLingo owl.
Sometimes you can earn more
Let’s face it, we go to work to earn money. This completely depends on where you plan on moving to. Different countries have different living standards and salary amounts. Australia (a common working holiday destination) is known for having high wages. This makes it easy for many people to save significant amounts.
When you live somewhere that allows you to have more money in your pocket, it helps you afford things you might not have been able to before. This leads to better saving opportunities and experiences for you to enjoy.
Check out these other posts about living overseas:
- Moving to Canada from the UK: How to get set up
- Gap year advantages: 12 reasons why you should go
- Honest disadvantages of a gap year
Gain skills from other places
There will never be a bad time to improve your skillset and better yourself. What’s great about working in a new place is that no matter where you go, someone will do things slightly differently from what you may be used to.
This can give you skills you never knew you needed and can benefit you going forward. What if you have a task that needs to be completed but you face some difficulties? By having alternate solutions can really come in handy.
Learn to interact with different nationalities
This can make it much easier to understand strong accents and differemt cultures if you’re associating with new people regularly. This can help you to understand tone and phrases that have a totally different meaning to you at home.
Some people forget that we are all the same after all. Think of Humans as crisps or chips. We are all made the same, we’re just in different flavours.
By understanding people from a different background better, you can easily prevent workplace disagreements and misunderstandings. But don’t assume this is only beneficial in the work place. Understanding other nations can help make you a better person too.
You become more independent
You’ve left your home town to start a (temporary) life abroad and you’ve done it all on your own! By successfully heading overseas and landing a job abroad you prove to yourself that you’re more independent than you realised.
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you made it all happen without needing to rely on others. You got this!
Similar to our last point, once you have made the leap to move overseas and get a job you applied for, you’re going to feel so confident. You might not have learned how independent you are had you not taken the risk.
Having that inner confidence and knowing how capable you really are can feel great. Besides, most people need a good boost of self confidence once in a while and this is one sure fire way to get it.
Your professional network grows
In the working world the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is widely spoken. When you work overseas you naturally start creating a foreign network of colleagues and associates within your working circle as time goes on.
By having your eggs in multiple baskets you can potentially leave yourself open to future job opportunities around the world (visa dependent of course). One popular way for people to keep track of their professional circle is the social network site LinkedIn which has an interface similar to Facebook.
Can make you seem more experienced
If you had to hire someone and your choices were two people with the same number of years experience behind them, but one had experience in 3 countries and the other just one city. Who would be more desirable? The one with the world experience of course!
As an employer, you’d want to choose the person that might be able to offer new solutions to a problem that your current country may not have thought of.
Opens your mind to other cultures
When you never meet people different to yourself and are only surrounded by people the same as you, you can become closed-minded. When you allow yourself to be around people with different customs, cultures and way of life you open your mind to new people.
That in turn can make you more personable and a better employee. By being able to speak to many different people professionally you are easier to work with. This can really come in handy when you’re ready to make friends in a new city too.
Shows you are adaptable
If you can move alone to a new country and still do well at a job in a new work place, it shows employers you are adaptable. This is a great trait to have and it allows employers to see how well you adjust to change.
People who can’t handle well change often don’t last well in high pressure work environments which can damage their career.
Some disadvantages to working abroad are feeling like you can’t fit into the new work environment, so making sure you adapt and try to excel in a new place looks great to employers which is why this is part of our advantages list!
Could have better work/life balance
Of course, this completely depends on the country you are moving to and where you are coming from. I found that my work-life balance was greatly improved when i moved to Canada from the UK and both work positions had been in sales.
However, when working in customer service my job in New Zealand had a better balance compared to that in Canada. So it’s all relative to the job, industry and location but you might find yourself with more free time after your shift ends compared to what you’re used to.
Shows you can work in diverse environments
Adapting to a new country isn’t for everybody so when you can do it, it really is a bonus.
You might be having to adjust to a drastically different temperature to back home (average winter temperature in Toronto was -28c with windchill) and having to commute in that everyday when you’re from mild, wet England seems like the worst idea ever.
When you put yourself into a new environment (whether surrounded by different landscapes or people) you’re giving yourself an opportunity to grow and improve your world experience which helps in the workplace.
You can explore a new place
Technically you could have just applied for a new job 20 minutes from your last role. But you chose to go to the other side of the world! When you travel you get to see a new place and part of the fun is exploring that new destination.
Taking part in a working holiday visa lets you legally work in that country so that you can afford to continue travelling that same country. When you spend more than a typical one week holiday in a place you pretty much become a local. And locals know the better places to go in comparison to tourists.
So hopefully you are convinced and getting eager to start your trip. The advantages should outweigh the disadvantages in order for you to enjoy your working abroad experience. Let’s see the negatives, and I hope they don’t put you off!
Disadvantages & Cons
The language barrier could be overwhelming
Many people in the world are bilingual. Unfortunately, there are so many languages in the world that it’s impossible for one person to know them all.
This means that depending on where you choose to work abroad, there may be times you don’t speak the local language (even if you work in a company that does speak your language). A solution to this could be taking some basic language classes.
If cost is a concern then you can opt to join free language exchanges through facebook groups and local meetups. You can also use language learning apps to help you understand the basics – my go to is DuoLingo.
Might have a gap in your CV/Resume
So in many cases, employers don’t like seeing gaps in employment for future employees. Many people believe this to make a person unreliable but that isn’t always the case.
When you move abroad, unless you are transferring from a company you are already with, there will be no doubt a gap between when you finish your last role and start the next in the new country. Some employers look at gaps as unprofessional however some others see them as gaining new experience.
As long as you can explain where and why you have gaps (and why it can help in the next potential role) you should be able to get around the non-working periods on your resume.
Homesickness can affect work
It’s no secret that moving away from everything you know and love can sometimes overwhelm a person. This can lead to homesickness and it doesn’t discriminate.
When you are feeling low and the homesickness has taken over it can affect everything from your mood to your productivity, which can affect how you do your work. This can mean you’re not performing as well as you might normally if under different circumstances.
When you don’t perform well in a job it can lead to disciplinaries or losing that job in a worst case scenario. then you have to deal with the stress of having no income on the other side of the world. Don’t let it go that far, deal with your homesickness correctly.
Might pay higher or double tax
Another point that completely depends on where you plan on working. You could move to a place that has a double taxation treaty with the UK (basically preventing you from paying tax on the same income twice) or you could end up with exactly the opposite.
Checking the tax rules before moving to the new country can help you upderstand what tax obligations you need to follow and if you will be paying more, less or the same rax as back home and whether you need to pay tax in just one or both countries.
When you’re able to pay just one amount of tax in your local destination then this is of course grouped with the advantages, but when you need to pay tax twice it’ll be one of the few disadvantages of working abroad. Make sure you do your research so you don’t get in trouble with the authorities.
You may be discriminated against or left out
This can happen at home as much as it could happen abroad but it can feel much more isolating when it happens in a new place. People in this new country might discriminate against you due to your nationality, race, gender, age, physical appearance or religious beliefs.
Some people are mean and have no regard for other people’s feelings. A solution could be to take comments at face value and try not to let them get to you. It won’t happen everywhere and it won’t be every one that feels that way.
When you find good people in the new place, stick with them and keep your distance from the bad eggs.
Often need money to start with
Yes you’re going overseas to look for work. But have you considered the money you will need before you start working? Many people underestimate how much money you need to have in savings before taking the leap and some end up getting stuck when their money runs out.
Things to consider as upfront costs are work visas, flights, long stay travel insurance, accommodation on arrival, living costs until your first paycheck arrives. If it takes you 1 month to find a job you need to make sure you have enough money to live on that entire month plus the time it takes to receives your first paycheck.
If you get paid monthly you may need to wait a whole month after started for the first pay so potentially you’ll need two months worth of savings minimum.
Temporary visa might limit work opportunities
Depending on the type of visa you are approved for depends on the work options available to you. If you are on a sponsorship-style visa you are often tied to that specific position. This means if your job contract is terminated then your visa often is too.
If you are on a working holiday visa instead, this is a flexible work visa that doesn’t tie you to one job so you can change jobs throughout the visa length.
In New Zealand on a working holiday visa, you can’t accept permanent positions only temp contracts and in Australia you can’t work for the same employer for more than 6 months. These can put a restriction on your work plans if you don’t plan ahead.
Some employers don’t like people that move around
Similar to having gaps in your CV or resume, some employers are put off my staff that have moved around a lot. This could lead them to think if they hire you, you will leave them too so they might be less inclined to hire you to begin with.
When this happens you might not get interviews, but in the instance where you are hired you need to explain to them how your moving around and gaining new skills from elsewhere can actually help you excel in their business if given the opportunity.
You have to start fresh
So depending on how you look at it, this could be grouped in with both advantages or disadvantages of working abroad. Especially if you loved your previous work colleagues from home!
You’re moving to a new place where you don’t know anyone. This can seem daunting if it’s your first place moving somewhere new. It might take time to meet people and make a social circle.
You need to focus on making new friends in and out of the workplace as an adult and creating that home away from home. All while getting your career in a new country off the ground. This takes hard work which can put some people off but you’re the only one who can make it happen.
Final points on advantages and disadvantages of working abroad
Working overseas has many pros and cons but what matters is how to handle those situations.
Having career experience in more than one country can put you a step ahead of other candidates but it could also lead you to being deemed less professional due to having gaps.
By being honest and open with potential employers you can turn any negative into a positive by researching their company (and the role you’re applying for) and showing them how your experience working in another country will directly benefit them if you’re hired.
Remember, if you’re between the ages of 18 and 30 and from the UK (or 18-35 from some other countries) I highly recommend going on a working holiday or two to broaden your life and work experience.
Even if you hate it, at least you gave it a fair shot! (But I’m confident you’ll love it)
Can you think of any other advantages or disadvantages of working abroad? Let me know in the comments!