January 19, 2021


Life might be difficult for a while, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world.” – David Sedaris

When I was 25, my boyfriend MacKenzie and I decided to pack up our belongings (and two cats) and move to Malmö, Sweden. We initially bonded over our love for travel, and it had always been a dream to live abroad. Almost 3 years and 2 countries later, we definitely consider ourselves full-fledged expats – with no intention of moving back to the US anytime soon. 

I absolutely love living abroad, and all of the opportunities it’s allowed for me to travel and explore more of the world. Living abroad, and travel in general has a way of changing you. You start to see things differently, and while living abroad definitely has it’s challenges, there are so many incredible benefits that make it all so worth it. 

Keep scrolling for 10 things that happen when you live abroad. 

1. You become an expert on visas and immigration

No one knows better than you what it takes to live abroad and stay abroad. You know every type of visa and could basically get a job at the immigration office with all those hours of research. 

2. You become the best host and tour guide

There is nothing better than being able to share your new city with people who come to visit. If you’re like MacKenzie and I, chances are you have a standard “tour” you take guests on whenever they come to visit. The Emily/MacKenzie walking tours of Malmö and Copenhagen incorporate stops at the best historic locations, modern hidden gems, and of course with lots of food and treats along the way. Tours of Edinburgh opening Summer 2021 for those friends/family who want to join 😉  

3. You’re an expert on timezones

At any time of day, you can ask me what time it is in Seattle (where my family is) and I can tell you. I’ve become a pro at navigating the 8-hour time difference and I bet if you live in a different timezone from friends/family you are too. 

4. You become adaptable

Nothing screams getting out of your comfort zone more than being in a foreign place with strangers and language and gestures that leave you feeling disoriented. Encountering different cultures and adjusting to new environments can be stressful, but as an expat, you know that it’s adaptability that will get you through. 

Trying new foods, navigating public transit, learning a new language… the list goes on and one. And while you may miss some of the comforts of home, the empowerment that comes with knowing you can take on anything life throws you is beyond compare

5. You bond with your significant other

Moving to a new country is hard. But moving to a new country with your significant other can make it a bit easier. Being able to rely on each other as you navigate a new culture, language, and way of life can bring your relationship to a whole new level.  

6. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself

Sometimes you find yourself thinking, “wow-how did I get here?” It can feel surreal and often induce some type of panic – “is this my life?!” But for the most part you’re grateful and so happy that you live 10 minutes from a castle and can give directions to lost tourists. 

7. You learn that life goes on

While you’re experiencing life abroad, the tough reality is that exciting things back home will happen without you – friends will get married, babies will be born, and parties will be thrown. You’ll probably miss a lot of it and only catch the highlights on social media. For me, this is the biggest downside to living abroad. It’s hard to accept, but it makes those visits home and FaceTimes with friends and family all the more special. 

8. You learn about yourself

Whether you move abroad with a partner or not, moving abroad can be an incredible way to learn more about yourself. Living abroad will allow you to grow and develop as a person; you’ll find yourself in a different environment, adapting to the new culture and attempting to solve new problems from serious adult situations down to trivial things like how to say “I need the toilet” in a new language. Spending time away from the comfort of home, you may also find yourself becoming more reflective about life and the things you want from it.  For me, this is the best part of travel. You’ll meet tons of new people and learn so much about different cultures, but in the end, you’ll learn even more about yourself.


9. You make the best friends 

There is nothing quite like the friendships you make while living abroad. The best way to get to know a country is by spending time with the people who live in it, and the friends you make abroad often become like family. One of my favourite things about travel and living abroad is making friends from all over the world. The conversations are always so fun an interesting – plus you always have a place to stay! 

10. You realise home isn’t just one place

The longer you’re away, the harder it becomes to answer the question of where your home is, as it usually involves a lengthy explanation.  Sometimes, it’s where you spent your childhood or where you’ve spent the most time. Sometimes it’s where you have the happiest memories. I’m still trying to figure out my answer, but right now home is where my boyfriend and cats are ❤️ 

Life as an expat can be exciting, weird, frustrating, and amazing all at the same time. But the longer I’m away, the more I’m able to appreciate it all and see how many wonderful experiences it’s brought to my life. 

Do you live abroad or have in the past? Let me know which point you relate to most! 

Talk soon,

expat life, thoughts 5 Replies to “10 THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU LIVE ABROAD”



    Author’s gravatar

    I love reading your posts!

    Author’s gravatar

    Experts on visas is correct! And time zones. I really feel that living abroad has allowed me to have a very clear idea of what I want for my life. For example, living in Sweden has shown me that a high quality of life — one that is not controlled by my work schedule as it was in the US — is possible. When I move back to the US, I will take that lesson with me, and will try to find work at a place that will allow me more flexibility and time off, even if it comes at a lower paycheck! I also never expected how much it would feel like life back in the US was moving along without me. I can really relate to that, especially during these covid times. That has been a hard reality to face. Thanks for a nice post!

    Author’s gravatar

    Perfect, I agree. I would add a #11……..it gets in your blood and you want more!! More adventures, cultures, places, food, etc….. The more you do and see, the more you want! David

    Author’s gravatar

    Love reading your posts. You are lucky to have these experiences and we’re lucky to have great tour guides!! But we miss you!!!

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