Ten Great (and Some Less Common) Reasons for Living Abroad
When you ask expats about their most important reason for moving abroad, the answers are usually rather pragmatic and practical-minded. “I found a better job abroad,” they’ll say. — “My spouse was transferred to an overseas branch office.” — “I joined an international Ph.D. program and then just stayed.”
However, there are many more great reasons why you should live in another country at least once in your life. Here are ten which might be mentioned less frequently, but which you should definitely consider.
1. Find Happiness
A huge majority of expats — nearly 80% — consider themselves happy. One in five is even completely happy, and only one out of ten is dissatisfied with their life. When asked to rate their personal happiness on a scale of one (very low) to seven (very high), expats give an average of 5.334 — a solid result best described as “pretty happy”.
For the World Happiness Report 2017, respondents rated their happiness in response to a similar question with an average of 5.310. However, the scale used here ranges from zero to ten, so this average is really just about average.
The comparison yields an astounding result: those who are living abroad are — on average — quite a bit happier than the general population!
2. Discover Your Genius
Did you know that learning about and adapting to new cultures can improve your problem-solving skills? This connection has been shown by an INSEAD Business School study among MBA students enrolled in an international program.
After living abroad for almost one year, those students who were more open-minded towards other cultures were also able to make more complex connections between disparate ideas. This is a very valuable talent, both in your personal life and for your career — it encourages innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.
3. Become More Creative
Another study, this time from Singapore Management University, demonstrates a similar effect. Experiencing diverse cultures has a positive effect on creativity, too.
Students who were exposed to two different cultures at once showed better creative performance — and they were also more likely to engage in creative processes, like coming up with unconventional ideas. Therefore, it might not be a surprise that nearly one in ten expats work in the arts or the media.
4. Find Love
There are more than seven billion people in the world, and about half of them are estimated to be single. But how do you know that your soulmate even lives in the same country? By moving abroad and getting to know new people, you might highly increase your chances of meeting your perfect match.
In fact, every fourth expat in a committed relationship met their significant other, regardless of nationality, in their current country of residence after their move. Moreover, more than six in ten of these lovebirds are now involved with someone from their new country.
5. Learn a New Language
For one in ten expats, improving their foreign language skills was one of the reasons for moving abroad. However, far more have benefitted linguistically from relocating: one in three expats speaks the local language at least a little, and over two-fifths feel confident communicating in it.
Moreover, among InterNations members, over 80% of those currently living abroad speak at least two languages — and over one in five even know four languages or more. Good news for all these polyglot people: some studies suggest that bilingualism (or multilingualism, for that matter) helps us keep mentally fit!
6. Be a Modern-Day Pioneer
Whether it was a settler in the seventeenth century searching for a new world or scientists testing a new medical treatment, what unites all pioneers is the bravery to move towards the unknown. It is that same spirit that defines an expat.
No matter if expats move for work and career (31%), love and family (25%), a better quality of life (8%) or in search of adventure (7%) — the moment someone decides to move abroad, they are a modern-day pioneer. They crave the new, the unique, the unexplored, and the unknown — just like those intrepid pioneers of the past.
7. Practice Tolerance
When you arrive in a new country, adapting to new customs might be a challenge. However, struggling with culture shock may pay off in the end.
As expats start to settle in, they become more open-minded and more adept at overcoming cultural differences, says Rona Hart, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of East London. She also explains that you are less quick to judge others and gradually start tolerating opinions and actions you might have disregarded or dismissed before.
8. Become a People Person
Surveying more than 1,100 students, about half of them going abroad and the rest staying at home, two German researchers tracked how the students’ personality developed during that period. They did find a connection between moving to a foreign country and improved social skills.
Those students who spent some time abroad and had to establish a new support network were more extroverted, agreeable, and open towards others. Surely all those newly acquired people skills might help with no. 4, too...
9. Find a New Heimat
Countless personal stories among the 2.9 million InterNations members show how the decision to move abroad for a while can turn into a long-term project.
For example, Meghan Driscoll left the USA to live in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan first, and she has now settled in Germany. “I have a really hard time seeing myself in one place forever. I actually feel more like a global citizen now.”
And Meghan is not the only one: nearly four in ten expats find it unlikely that they will return to their country of origin.
10. Trust the Opinion of 57 Million Expats
According to market research company Finaccord, there are now about 57 million expats around the world, 11 million more than in 2009. With the increasing globalization of the world population’s travel destinations and working habits, the number of expats will probably keep growing. International exchange among various cultures and being exposed to different customs are key for learning how to live together peacefully and harmoniously.
And let’s face it: 57 million people can’t possibly be wrong!