Last update on July 12, 2019

Moving abroad can be tough as you attempt to integrate into a new language and culture. We take a look at some of the most common expat complaints.

Moving abroad is a huge decision, and not one to be taken lightly. To withdraw from everything one’s ever known – the food (even if it’s healthy), the weather (even if it’s miserable), the traditions (not to mention the national sports teams) – and be thrust into an entirely new environment, with its own climate, currency, and culture, it’s no wonder expats frequently have complaints. Of course, most gripes are minor and can generally be related to the process of culture shock. But knowing some of the common expat problems can help expats better prepare for a big move abroad, because once the culture shock wears away, expat life offers so many rewards.

Some expat problems are foreseeable (for example, those thinking of moving to Siberia would be wise to pack a fleece), however there will inevitably be issues that expats cannot plan or prepare for.

Michael Brinksman of online expat resource Expat and Offshore, outlines some of the main issues that might cause stumbling blocks for those moving abroad.

“When moving overseas there are a number of obvious obstacles that most people will struggle with: finding a house, setting up a bank account, buying a car, setting the kids up in school and sorting out healthcare. Struggling with those things in a foreign language can make it twice as stressful,” Michael outlines. “Then there are always the social issues that come with living in an unfamiliar culture – loneliness is not uncommon. We therefore always advise prospective expats to research their destination as thoroughly as they can before making the move.”

Dealing with the cost of living abroad

High cost of living is one of the main problems expats face, although there are plenty of affordable countries you could move to instead. However, it is often difficult to know how tight finances will be until you reach your destination. A recent survey conducted by ETA International looked at the most expensive cities for expats, but the reality of living in an expensive country may not always be as straightforward as these simple lists suggest.

Switzerland had the highest number of cities in the top 10, with Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel ranking higher than commonly cited expensive cities Tokyo and London. However, British expat Clare Fraser suggests that the figures may be misleading: “I’ve been living in Basel for the last two and a half years. If you compare Swiss prices to those in your homeland, it’s going to seem expensive, especially for food staples such as meat. But once you start earning in francs, you don’t notice it as much. Although it may be a different story in Zurich – friends there pay astronomical prices for rent!”

Paris ranked 28 in the survey, 10 places up from last year. Although expat sources suggest they haven’t experienced a noticeable difference: “Living in Paris has always been expensive, but you get used to managing your money more wisely and eventually you don’t feel so bad about the money you’re spending just to get a roof over your head at night!” suggests five year expat Sam Morgan.

Common expat complaints

It’s impossible to predict the complications and grievances of expat life before arriving in the country, however it helps to be aware of some of the common problems that other expats regularly experience. And what better way to find out about other people’s problems than on social media?

Scrolling through Twitter, there are several issues which emerge with frequency.

  • Learning a language is usually rated as the biggest problem for expats (especially for retirees);
  • The struggle to make friends can be a common issue, particularly when the usual long-term background of knowing people from childhood, university and employment is eliminated;
  • Establishing a new identity can be a challenging but rewarding factor when moving abroad, as many expats experience significant personal growth and absorb new factors from another culture.

There may, however, be other issues you weren’t necessarily aware of. Take a look at some of the issues for expats living abroad:

Language barriers

Most common expat complaints

Most common expat complaints

Most common expat complaints

Cultural differences

Most common expat complaints

Changing identity

Most common expat complaints

Timezone difficulties

Most common expat complaints