Let’s discuss the reality of working abroad. The raw and not so glamorous moments that people tend to glaze over. Don’t get me wrong, having the opportunity to live and work overseas is an amazing experience. But the truth is that it can be challenging and downright frustrating. Without sugarcoating it, I’ll elaborate on some of the disadvantages of working abroad. Please note that the opinions and experiences expressed in this post are my own.
The difference in salary
Depending on the currency of your current place of residence to your home country, this may or may not apply. Regardless of the currency being the pound or euro, I took a steep pay cut moving to Europe. In the Netherlands, the salaries are much lower than in the US. It might be important to note that most employers here pay salaries once a month. whereas bi-weekly payment is the norm back in the states. So you will need to budget accordingly.
However, with all that said, the benefits are much better in Europe than compared to the US. Vacation days are longer, health insurance is cheaper and so is the cost of living. At first glance, the salary difference can seem to be a major disadvantage of working abroad, but it really balances out.
Double taxation or higher taxes
If you are a US citizen, you may be subject to pay taxes to the US and current residence. Although you may qualify for foreign earned income exclusion keeping up with rules and requirements can be a hassle.
The experience is never going to be what you expect
If you’ve never worked in the country you’re moving to let alone the employer, you’ll never know what to expect until you get there and start the job. That’s just the reality of it all. No amount of online research or Glassdoor reviews can prepare oneself for what day-to-day working life will be like.
For example, I learned about the unprofessional working practices, overwork with no pay, hostile working environment, and high turnover rate one month into being at my first job abroad. This is one of the disadvantages of working abroad. you put a lot at stake moving your life overseas and have no choice but to keep optimistic and hope for the best.
You might experience discrimination
My personal experience with this involves discrimination against my age and nationality. I was the youngest at my company and was singled out to carry the majority of the workload. Since I was young, apparently I was more “capable” and “willing” to work overtime during the week and weekend without extra pay. Evidently, this resulted in burnout.
My nationality and even race have also been points for recruiters to discriminate against. For example, I’ve come across numerous job applications stating that they were not accepting applicants from the US, South America, and Africa. this was because of the “lack of a cultural fit”.
I once worked at a company that was looking for new hires to support my direct team and wanted to involve us in the hiring process. Upon being handed over a selection of approved CVs, some of my colleagues immediately disregarded candidates because of their physical appearance, last names, and race. None of the qualifying factors had anything to do with professional skills, experience, education, or business acumen.
Limited employment opportunities
Unless you’re married to a local, have dual citizenship, or have an established skillset for a skilled labor visa, it’s not easy to move from job to job without a work permit. Essentially, you’ll have to convince a potential employer as to why they should do the paperwork for you.
Being homesick is one of the worst disadvantages of working abroad
Feeling lonely and homesick is inevitable when you’re a foreigner and evidently one of the biggest disadvantages of working abroad. The team of support that you received from family and friends is not easily accessible. Now that there is a physical distance, this makes it more challenging to see one another. You will miss out on special occasions and milestones like birthdays and anniversaries.
The standard advice you will receive is to join activities where you can get out there and meet people. This can help you manage the feeling of homesickness. However, I find this to be a temporary fix until I can see my loved ones in person.