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How much is that tropical Dream Life overseas?? Living in Another Country isn't Easy

Updated on May 16, 2014
Island life
Island life

Tips For Living Abroad

Almost everyone dreams of escaping their mundane lives. It doesn't matter where in the world you live, it seems like the opposite of what you have is somehow that bit better. People in the UK dream of hot sunny beaches, cheaper prices, a golden tan and friendly people. Yet, people in many of these 'tropical paradises' are dreaming of being whiter, having better salaries, no mosquitoes and living in a cooler climate.

So, my question is; How much is that tropical dream worth to you?

When you move to a new country, often one of the biggest things that you give up is your support network. Many people always use income or savings as an excuse for not 'taking the plunge', but frequently it actually boils down to the sacrifice of giving up friends and family to make the move.

In the midst of things, it sometimes may not seem like this is a major issue, but trust me, if you didn't consider this before moving, then after a few months away you will quickly realize how much having the right friends can affect your life for the better. This is then amplified when we let go of the comforts taken for granted in the western world, such as policing, social security and free medical care. This is not to say that there are no solutions to these issues, but just that you should be aware of how landing in a new country can often feel like floating free in an uncertain and confusingly beautiful sea.

However, once you sink your feet into the warm sand and find your land-legs again, things will get easier ... so long as you can accept differences! It amazes me how many people move to an incredible, complex and intriguing new culture, only to then find themselves constantly comparing it to what they have left behind, or complaining about how different it is. Make your mind up for gods sake! Did you really want to stay where you were!? If you move, you should not expect life to be the same in any way, shape, or form. Life in any country has its 'quirks', but in a tropical country, expect these quirks to be far more pronounced. I'm not sure why it is, but the tropical climate tends to bring out extremes in people. Sometimes this is very good and sometimes not so good ... but, for sure, it is never boring.

Views like this remind me of why I chose this life of travel
Views like this remind me of why I chose this life of travel | Source

Now, for living, I would recommend being very careful about who you trust. Unfortunately, I was used to trusting people (within reason), but when I traveled, I quickly learned this is not a good idea. Often people living or traveling abroad will do and act in ways that they would never do back home. The move is a 'clean sheet', no-one knows them and so they can hide behind any mask they choose. However, so long as you are aware of this, you can meet some amazing and interesting people, building up trust slowly. After all, how much do your really need to trust an average friend. Nevertheless, this mix of culture, attitudes, histories and travel can be intoxicating! For me, this is one of the reasons I love to drift abroad ... the people around you are so interesting and when you need to trust someone, you just remember to be careful about it.

Once you start to settle, life will get easier and you will build up your own little local support network. All the little niggly things, like how to order some food, or finding where to buy drinking water, will become a thing of the past. If you are lucky (or, through trying to learn the local language), you will accept the locals and be accepted by them, becoming a part of the community. This is when you will discover an entirely different side to life in the paradise you have chosen. It is often a side most travellers miss, an experience even many ex-pats miss (choosing to hang only with English speakers, in small communities), but it is something that can make your dream far more of a reality! Being absorbed into and accepted by a foreign community is a wonderful feeling.

From my experience, the tropical weather seems to help make people warmer and more generous. That is not to sat that cold weather inspire coldness, but that warm weather brings a social and communal twist to daily life that colder weather puts on ice for months on end each year. This difference is open air social events, coffee shops spilling onto the streets, markets, food stalls along roadside, people having a drink in the sun and offering drinks to passers by ... a warm and wonderful mix of hot air, warm smiles and occasionally an ice cold beer.

So, if your are willing to take the plunge and struggle for a few months (up to a year) to settle, then I would say that it is definitely a good value experience. Just be prepared and prepare your partner or family first! Knowing that things WILL improve is the key to surviving the start.

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Have you considered the move abroad?

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    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I enjoyed this hub. Moving from rainy British Columbia to the Hawaiian Islands was easy for us because I had really 'had it' with the seven-months-long cloudy, gray winters of BC. I needed sunshine. There were other reasons for the move, too, though.

      I laughed at Wesley Meacham's comment above. That's so true. In Hawaii, that's even a question on the driver's exam -- what are you supposed to do when there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk? The overriding concensus seems to be: step on the gas. They've got no right to be there.

      Great hub. Voting up.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 4 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I don't know if I would ever just take the plunge and move to a completely different country. That being said however, I would love to travel -- alot. But, I guess in away because of my military background, I kind of know what it is like to be away from your friends and family and adapt. I love the feeling, but ultimately, I still want to go home! Actuallly, this really kicked close to home as well since we moved well over a year ago to the other side of the US. We have family in both areas, but the support system is way different! Great hub show great perspective! :)

    • mwilliams66 profile image

      mwilliams66 4 years ago from Left Coast, USA

      What an excellent hub on moving abroad. Though my experience are tame, I can certainly relate to much of which spoke. I spent most of my childhood (and a bit of my adulthood) living between here and Australia. At first look, one would think there were few difference, but it actuality the differences are quite pronounced.

      I agree whole heartedly that the warm climate promotes a warm heart. I too wonder why that is.

      Voting up and sharing.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is so true. I especially agree that if we move to another country, we need to accept the differences and not expect it to be like "home". We have lived all over Peru for more than 15 years now and have met ex-pats and wonderful people from all over the world. A key to happiness is tolerance and acceptance when living abroad. Thank you! Voted up and shared.

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 4 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Honestly the only thing that I really miss about back home is drivers stopping for you when you are in the middle of a crosswalk.

      Interesting hub and a practical viewpoint.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This an excellent hub about the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad. You are completely correct in saying that a person needs a support system while living overseas. I have one now because my wife is a Thai local and I can understand, speak, and read Thai to some degree. If I were fluent in the language, I wouldn't feel so much like a foreigner or farang at times. Voted up as useful and interesting and I am sharing your good advice.

    • noenhulk profile image

      noenhulk 4 years ago

      It is normal to experience changes. It is not normal if you find it hard to accept changes. Come on, life isn't hard. Make friends and buddies abroad. They can help you in your immigration abroad. Learn to adjust your lifestyle with the new place you want to live. I agree with novascotiamiss comment here. You have to be careful. It needs careful planning.

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 4 years ago from Northern California

      These are important issues to think through. I will return to read the comments. thanks.

    • HawaiiHeart profile image

      HawaiiHeart 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I think experiencing change is always positive. Even if the change does not work as you expected, at least you'll learn from it.

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 4 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Very informative, and useful! I always tell my friends, who wants to move, take all this as an adventure, and keep an open mind...... Moving to a new place is always interesting, and what a great experience!

      Voting up, and useful!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

      The thought of moving to a tropical paradise sounds so enticing and exciting - it has certainly entered my mind more than once! As you say, leaving friends and family is one of the biggest considerations and one that many people could not overcome. Your other points are things I might not have considered. This is important advice for anyone considering a life-changing move! Great hub, voted up and SHARED!

    • How to - Answers profile image

      L M Reid 4 years ago from Ireland

      Travelling and living abroad works for a lot of people and they can settle very easily.

      Those that find it hard to settle often have not taken all the pros and cons into consideration.

      Very informative hub

      Thanks for SHARING. Up and Awesome

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 4 years ago from Greece

      Hi Brett, I left the UK many years ago, it was meant to be for six months, but you know how it is!! Over the years we have seen many people come and go, being disillusioned that the grass is actually not greener here, but just a different shade of green.

      During the tourist season when people tell us how lucky we are to live here, we tell them that it's not by luck that we live here and bills still have to be paid and the house work done!!

      A good hub, voted up and shared!!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      Free healthcare? You definitely aren't talking about the USA. Healthcare here costs an arm, a leg, 4 toes, a hangnail, and your first born child. If it's free here, it's probably DIY.

      Good hub for people contemplating a move overseas. Helps them think of things they should consider before they do it.

      Voting you UP and useful. Sharing with my followers.

      Thanks for SHARING!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Thanks for the great comments! Moving overseas can be a wonderful experience, you just have to remember that it is nothing like when you are on holiday. It will be real life, with real problems and in a culture that you may not understand. So long as you are willing to face this and adjust, keeping an open mind and embracing the new styles, then things will get better. However, if you want a sunny 'home away from home', just focus on improving the life you have, it will be a lot cheaper and less hassle.

    • J Burgraff profile image

      J Burgraff 5 years ago

      Excellent hub. I've thought a bit about moving to a warmer less expensive clime when I retire and this gives me a lot to think about. Thanks.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Great hub! Well, I can say that I am an expert on moving to other countries. It needs a lot of preparation, organizing and a lot of guts. One has to know the language first to lessen the obstacle when moving to other countries. Voted up.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 5 years ago from Brazil

      I couldn't agree more. My husband and I moved to rural Brazil just over 2 years ago. We have seen exactly as you stated. The infrastructure, policing, and attitude to time are all different.

      Medical care here is socialized but you can always pay, it isn't too expensive, and we can get things done the same day. The buildings may not be modern but they are very professional and skilled.

      The internet allows us to stay connected with relatives and friends abroad.

      As novascotiamiss commented, about fellow immigrants 'buddies'. She is exactly right. We have seen this time and time again.

      Several foreigners come over and open a guest house for tourists. Now there is a glut of them. Many make the mistake of only allowing foreign guests! What kind of way is that to run a business?

      Another thing we notice is older foreign men come over, get a young Brazilian wife/girlfriend to stay in the country and then complain about her when she takes him to the cleaners.

      All in all, I am glad we moved. It hasn't been a smooth ride but I love waking to sunshine everyday.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Around a third of the Brits who emigrate to Australia and NZ each year are back in the UK within two years, having underestimated the impact of being so far away from family and friends. For a lot of people, better weather and great beaches just can't make up for that loss. I think that there is also an assumption that just because the language is the same, so is the culture. There are big differences between daily life in the UK, Australia, NZ and the US, which emigrants need to try and be aware of before they go and be prepared to adjust to as best they can when they get there

    • Maximizer profile image

      Maximizer 5 years ago from San Jose, Costa Rica

      This was fantastic Brett, and beautifully written. I made the move to Costa Rica from the US just over two and a half years ago and everything you said here rang completely true for me. It's hard to get started in a new country - devilishly hard. Especially if, like you said, you're heading for the tropics. The best way to get through it is to keep an open mind and learn to love some of the local customs, even if they seem strange at first. I'm 23 years old now and, for me, it was the best decision I could have made. Pura Vida.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I admire the spunk and adventurous nature of people like you who like to live in foreign lands at least for a period of time. I think from what you have said in this hub that you certainly have the right attitude as to how best approach the differences and things to consider before moving. Votes up and SHARED.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Brett, the information you've provided in this hub should be required reading for anyone who is considering living in another country -- not that it is a negative thing to do at all -- just that it has its own set of considerations.

      Voted up and socially SHARED.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Thank you all for your kind words. For me it wasn't courage, just a feeling from a young age that I wanted to see more than just England. I had the feeling that life could be better than 9-5 work and evenings of TV ... thankfully it can be :-). However, when I moved I hadn't considered all the angles and had to adjust, so thought this may help others.

    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Voted up, nice hub. So true too, sometimes the dream takes a lot of work before you can realize the life you envisioned.

    • CrazyGata profile image

      CrazyGata 5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Interesting hub Brett! Just adding here that in regards to tropical islands, do consider Puerto Rico... a United States territory, that doesn't require passport to get in an upholds all the U.S. Government Federal structures (like Social Security and Medicare).

      We have United States Postal Service, all kind of hotels and accommodations up to five stars... McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and even Popeye's :D among many others.

      The only Caribbean Rainforest in all United States is in Puerto Rico.

      In regards to trust, there are those that marry someone thay can't trust. I don't think their origin had to do much with the fact that they are unworthy of a friendship. People is people no matter where you go.

      So this is an unpaid promotion: Puerto Rico is US... no passport required :D...

      Voted up and interesting! Following and sharing!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      It can be hard to leave the "familiar" behind. I agree - I think it probably takes at least a year to adjust to a new life before you can really judge it, too. The longest I've stayed abroad is six weeks. But, I recall thinking each time I was abroad: it would take a good long year to really figure out the language, people and start making social networks, and even then, there's a lot to learn. Voted up and SHARING.

    • profile image

      MP50 5 years ago

      Great Hub Brett.Tesol, I have lived and worked in many Countries around the World. The change of scenery, culture and meeting new people is interesting.

      I am an English Man and today I live in Scandinavia, I love it here although I do miss England terribly, there is something about our English hospitality and friendship, that cannot be beaten anywhere else in the World.

      I think people should go and see new places, but in my opinion there is no place like home, one day I will return to my beloved England and grow old gracefully.

      Just my input........Voted useful and interesting :)

    • tammyfrost profile image

      Tammy Frost 5 years ago from Oregon

      I love the Tropical Weather. Great Hub here.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I admire you Brett, for your courage to help educate students abroad. I so enjoy your sharing of experiences!Best of luck to you and I will continue SOCIALLY SHARING on my teacher groups.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 5 years ago from Central United States

      I never realized how I seem to know a little of every kind of people. With years on the internet I guess you meet all kinds. I know those who both came to America as a second country also those who have left for exotic places and those beautiful tropical beaches.

      Some take their country with them, others have blended with the natives. It seems some need the security of a home like feeling while others handle change well. This is most like the differences between my father and I.

      He was a world wide traveler. As far as I know he was on every continent in the world. He fit in where ever he went. I on the other hand have never left North America.

      For some people it seems are happier with what they know. Support is for some people is important. I would have to keep close to my support group to be comfortable. Sharing for my followers..

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi Sgbrown,

      Strange, not sure how that happened, but thanks for the 'heads up'. There are a lot of things people should consider before moving, or at least move without judging or expecting the same life.

      Cheers for reading.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Brett! Great hub and very true! One of my brother-in-laws and his wife moved to Costa Rica when he retired. They stayed there about 3 years. The change was just to drastic for them and they moved back to California. Good information people should be aware of before they make that move. (By the way, paragraph 4 and 5 are a repeat.) Just FYI! Great hub, voted up, useful and will wait on the fix before sharing. :)

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi jeyaramd,

      Thanks for confirming some of what I suggested. Family, friends and governmental security are MASSIVE factors to consider.

    • jeyaramd profile image

      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Life in another country can definitely has its benefits if you are willing to accept change. However, excepting the same old experience is just the wrong way to go like you mentioned. The close network of family and friends is the biggest sacrifice when moving to a new country. And for those who rely on health care; that can be a deal breaker as well. Thinking before hand and doing the research is best. There are so many resources. There is no reason why we should fall into the unknown without any preparation. Frommers is a great book to explore. Your hub provided some great advice for travellers. Voted up. Thanks for sharing. Beautiful.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hey Freecampingaussie,

      I completely agree, it is all about the new experience, not about comparing it to your old life!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi Molometer,

      Thanks for a great comment there! I agree, surely the move is all about experiencing the local culture ... but for some, it is just a little too hard to change their own ways.

      Sounds like you had an incredible journey there too! You should always do what makes you happy, and as that is spending time with family now, then you are in the right place. You will always have those memories and that is kinda what life is about (at least for me, it is all about the experience!)

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 5 years ago from Southern Spain

      It is a great experience as long as you make the most of the diferences and not complain about what you are used to back home. The idea of going to a new country is for a new experience -try new foods - sports etc !Good hub.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi point2make,

      Yes, I think that most people go through that stage. In all honesty, I underestimated the cultural differences when I moved, but then made an extra effort to embrace it all. Many don't really consider the differences, but then also can't change themselves, so end up heading home or living in a 'expat conclave' somewhere, cut off from the real people. It is all about attitude really.

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      Great hub Brett,

      You caught just the right elements. You have to mix with the locals as they know how the place runs. I don't understand ex-pats who stick in their little clicks and recreate a little piece of their homeland. If it was so great why did they leave in the first place.

      I had 8 wonderful years in Cape Town and fell in love with the place instantly. Literally within days I knew I made the right decision. I only planned to stay for 2 years lol.

      I returned to the UK as my children started giving me grandchildren and they came and stayed with us for 6 months.When they went back to the UK it was tough, so we decided to come back. I must say I am enjoying England and the grandchildren.

      Would I do it all a heartbeat.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 5 years ago

      Good Hub Brett. I am sometimes puzzled at how people who want to move abroad, in reality, have so much trouble embracing their new surroundings and fitting in. I realize the transition can be difficult especially with new cultures.Does everyone go through this phase, at least to some degree, in the beginning?

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Hi novascotiamiss,

      Thanks for reading!

      The holiday experience is normally what tempts people, but the real deal is never the same as a tourist's experience.

      It is also sooooo true about expats/travelers. A lot go to live the dream, but run out of money quickly and just can't give up on the 'dream lifestyle'! So then turn to scamming newbies to the area in order to hold onto their dream that bit longer. Not all though, as there are many good expats too and some even some wonderfully generous ones ... you just have to be careful.

    • novascotiamiss profile image

      novascotiamiss 5 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

      Good hub. The problem with people wanting to immigrate to an exotic place, which they know only from their holidays is the following: Holidays are always great because you don't have to work, you spend money on fun things and you eat and drink to your heart's content. So unless you've got deep pockets, don't expect your new lifestyle to carry on like an endless holiday. Rather look at it from the perspective of a local person who works on a low salary while everybody else is vacationing. Quite often the salary in your native country is a lot higher. And as the hub clearly says, don't expect your old life in your new location. Rather slot into the local lifestyle and try to become fluent asap. Re. not knowing who to trust. Strange enough it's quite often the fellow foreigners who take advantage of their new immigrant buddies rather than the poor local population.

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