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The Biggest Challenges of Moving Abroad

by Paul Allen

A couple of months ago I was interviewed by the features director of the UK’s Good Housekeeping magazine .

She was writing an article on the pros and cons of moving abroad, and wanted my “expert opinion” on the topic … which naturally I was more than happy to provide (not least since the magazine has a monthly circulation of half a million readers!).

The article has just come out, featuring in the October 2010 edition of the magazine. And – leaving aside my own contribution – it makes for fascinating reading.

Top Expat Challenges

The main body of the piece features case studies of various expats, relating the experiences they have had in their respective destinations – France, Italy, Spain, Australia and the United States.

Although they went to diverse locations, and were confronted with different circumstances, they all commented on the challenges they have come up against (many of which echo the topics I address in my book, Should I Stay or Should I Go). Relocating overseas, they found, turned out to be harder than they had anticipated.

Among the biggest issues the expats encountered were:

Housing problems

Crumbling walls, leaky water pipes and repairs gone awry are the mainstay of moving abroad tales such as Under the Tuscan Sun and Driving Over Lemons. But while such problems may have become a literary cliché, they remain all too commonplace for wide-eyed expats.

Unfamiliarity with local legal processes and requirements

Buying property in a foreign country, with its idiosyncratic rules and regulations, can turn into a nightmare. Therefore, the value of having expert, and independent, assistance should not be underestimated.

The same goes for all the other legal requirements you may have to meet. For example, there may be rules stipulating you register as a resident in your chosen country, obtain an ID card, set up in the social security system, pay town hall taxes, license your vehicle in a particular way … things all too easy to overlook unless you have someone to guide you.

Acclimatising to the local weather

Day after day of cloudless skies may sound idyllic. The problem is it may also come with blazing temperatures that scorch everything in sight and make it too hot to step outside. Or perhaps it is the unexpected cold of a southern European or North American winter that catch you offguard.

Earning money

Running a B&B in rural France may seem like the way to finance your moving abroad dream. But will it really generate the income you need?

Too often people’s money-spinning schemes barely allow them to survive, let alone thrive in their new home. Scratching a living surrounded by the beauty of the Tuscan hills may sound romantic, but adding the pressure of money worries to the already considerable stress that comes from moving abroad is not recommended. Whatever avenue you opt to pursue, it needs to be sustainable.

Finding social outlets

No man is an island, etc, etc.

Leaving behind your established social network to move somewhere new can leave you isolated – unless you replace it with new friends and activities. Integrating into your local community is a key ingredient in making your move a long-term success.

Missing family and friends

Low cost air travel and Skype have helped shrink the world. Nevertheless, separation from family and friends is most frequently cited as the hardest part of living in another country.

Hopefully the stories, tips and advice contained in the article will prove a valuable primer for anyone contemplating a similar move. The central message though is simple: Be prepared.

To get a copy of Paul’s book, Should I Stay Or Should I Go? The Truth About Moving Abroad And Whether It’s Right For You, visit the book's page at If you would like more free information and advice on the pros and cons of moving abroad, visit Paul’s website at

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