Skip To Content
  • Great Vibes, Great Adventure badge

Americans Who Have Moved Abroad Are Sharing Their Experiences, And Some Of Their Realities Are Nothing Like What I'd Expect

"I will likely reside here the rest of my life — but it's not quite as wonderful as it seemed at first."

Is it just me, or do you also fantasize about packing up your life and moving abroad for a new adventure? Well, it can actually be done. And while moving to a new country can be amazing, it's often also full of challenges. So I browsed the subreddit r/expats and rounded up a bunch of honest responses from Americans who have left the states for other countries. Here's what they say about their own experiences.

1. "My husband and I moved to Germany for my work. We loved every minute of it. We lived in a small farming village, walked the dogs in the national forest almost daily, bought bread from the bread truck, had the best neighbors, and loved everything about the area and the culture. We would have lived our entire lives there if my work contract hadn’t ended. At one point we considered getting citizenship and giving up our US citizenship. Maybe one day we’ll get back."

A family eating a meal outside in the country.

2. "My husband and I moved to South Korea years ago and I never want to go back to the states. First of all, the national healthcare plan here is amazing. Because the government actually cares about the welfare of its citizens, there is cheap universal healthcare. I can walk into any doctor, dentist, or hospital and be seen in minutes for a few dollars. There's no more wondering if something will be covered or if I needed a referral, and prescriptions are two or three bucks."

A busy street in South Korea filled with people.

3. "I lived in Italy for five years, and it was the best time of my life. I am originally from the US suburbs and moved to an Italian city, so I experienced culture shock — plus the shock of living in a bigger, busier place. I paid less attention to things I didn't like (such as politics), stopped watching TV, and I found it really easy to be enamored by everything... even banal tasks like going to the grocery store. The food is better, regarding both the cuisine and the quality of ingredients in general. And there is a lot more history, so I loved learning about the culture and traditions really fun.

Bikes on a quiet street in Italy.

4. "I've been living in New Zealand for the past three years now. It has its issues: Firstly, there's a housing crisis, which is definitely an issue now for new homeowners. Luckily my wife and I bought it three years ago before it got too bad. Wages are another problem, but NZ has intangible things it can offer and it's all about the Kiwi lifestyle. All in all, it's an amazing and beautiful country. I highly recommend moving here."

A woman's silhouette at sunset on a mountain.

5. "I live in Berlin now, and I'm still trying to get used to my five weeks of vacation. All vacation is paid vacation, and it's standard everywhere. I also get a two-hour lunch and have a 32-hour workweek. All of this adds up to years that I can spend with my family. It just makes the quality of life so much better."

People relaxing along the river in Berlin.

6. "I moved to South Korea after I graduated university. Life is good here, but I seriously miss America at times. The food, the multicultural atmosphere, the people, everything. I often get nostalgic. I got married last year and things have gotten interesting, but there are some very Korean customs that still feel strange to me (and both of my parents are Korean). That being said, I really like it here, and it feels less like I moved to a foreign country and more like I moved to an extension of what I'd call home."

A Korean BBQ meal.

7. "I moved to Europe seven years ago. At first, our motivation was the ability to have children without going into debt. After living here for a few years, we were able to buy a house and live a lifestyle that was once considered 'the American dream.' I also found that life is less materialistic here. People still have gardens and walk to places they want to go to. I just find it to be a more sustainable environment for my family."

Boy playing with a ball during sunset outdoors.

8. "My wife and I have been living in Japan for the past few years because my wife's job had a temporary overseas opening. We love it here, but we are actually moving back to the US this year. Living in Japan has been the best time of my life. The language barrier was hard, but we picked up enough to manage. The Japanese social norm of being outwardly polite is really nice. The main thing I'll probably miss most is the food. It lacks variety that the states have, but it is delicious. That being said, it is very apparent we would always be considered outsiders and treated differently, even if we lived here forever. There is a general mistrust of foreigners that some people have, and it has caused a few problems since we arrived. As much as I love it here, I don't think I would actually want to live here permanently."

Elevated view of famous Shibuya pedestrian crossing in Tokyo.

9. "I moved to Europe and my favorite thing about living here is that it's so easy to pick up and travel somewhere completely different. In America, you have to travel a long way to get to a place with a different culture. But here in Europe, in just a few hours I can drive to France, the Netherlands, or Germany. And in a few hours on a plane, I can be in Italy, Greece, Spain, or Portugal."

Traditional old tram on the streets of Lisbon.

10. "My wife and I immigrated from USA to the Netherlands about six months ago. We sold nearly everything we owned in the states before moving here, intending for it to be permanent. Work has been great and the people are very friendly. Getting our two boys integrated into Dutch schools was a little challenging at first, but it's gotten much easier lately. My wife and I are still learning the language, but we've noticed things generally become much more enjoyable with each word we learn. 10/10 recommend."

Sun shining through the streets in Amsterdam.

11. "I have been living in Taiwan and the major difference is how safe life feels here. I can take my dog out to the park at 1 a.m. and never have to worry about getting mugged. Truthfully, the only thing I miss about the US is the food."

A busy city street at night.

12. "I moved to the Turks and Caicos. I can't see myself ever going back to live in the US. In fact, I've only been off-island once in the last 15 years. Residency permits are relatively easy to get but work permits are more problematic here. If you're contemplating a move to the Caribbean, the US Virgin Islands are easier as they are part of the US and require less paperwork."

A person in the ocean at sunset.

13. "I moved to Norway 15 years ago. For the first 10 years, there were no regrets. Recently, though, I'm not as certain. I will likely reside here for the rest of my life, but it's not quite as wonderful as it seemed at first. As an Expat, you will always be the outsider. In Norway, identity is closely tied to language. If you can speak Norwegian well you are more accepted, but never totally accepted. You will be stereotyped. This attitude far less pronounced in the US. You might be from somewhere else, but if you are a citizen few people will dispute that you are an American."

Family walking on pier at sunny day.

14. "I've been living abroad for 11 years in several countries, and I'm currently in Thailand. Life here is better than life in the US in almost every way. I can afford to go to the hospital anytime, food is less processed, I save more money, and there are no mass shootings. There are simple things that can be frustrating due to the language barrier, like dealing with the electric company. Every country has its drawbacks, but it all comes down to the positive social connections you make there."

A hawker market at night.

15. "I'm a Black American. I moved to Japan and was there for eight years. I had some awesome experiences there and met my wife, but dear God, the xenophobia is real. Everywhere I lived or visited in Japan I was stared at as if fire was shooting out of my head, and my European wife, too. I later moved to Hungary, where I've been for more than a decade now, and I find myself feeling more free here than anywhere else I've lived. Unlike in Japan and the US, where being Black was an absolute hindrance at times, in Hungary, it just doesn't seem to matter much."

Customers at a ramen shop in Tokyo.

16. "My family just moved back from Madrid after living in there for two years. I loved it so much. It was admittedly hard being away from family, and there were some days I'd think 'what am I doing here, this isn’t home,' and it wasn't perfect. That being said, the lifestyle was so much better. The Spanish way of life and the cost of living keeps people there. My advice: If you are thinking of moving aboard, just do it! Even if you move back after three months because you miss home, it's still worthwhile."

People sitting outdoors in a plaza in Madrid.

17. "I'm an ex-pat living in Germany for the past 5 years. I moved out here for graduate school, then got married and have a kid on the way. For the most part, I really love it here: the cost of living, the affordability and quality of healthcare, the work-life balance, safety, and public transportation. But there are, of course, drawbacks. In addition to missing my friends and family, finding friends here is a bit difficult because Germans are quite reserved as a rule. This is especially hard because I am not the most extroverted person."

People walking by a canal during autumn.

18. "I moved to Norway for work 10 years ago right after getting married. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. We have a great life here. It's so peaceful, relaxed, comfortable, and secure. I have absolutely zero desire to move back to the USA. There were things we missed at first, mostly #firstworldproblems like our favorite restaurants and Costco, but we’ve found ways to cope without those luxuries, and in most cases, we realized we don’t need them at all. We’ve had three kids since moving here. They know they’re American but, to them, Norway is home. America is the place we go on vacation to visit Grandma and Grandpa."

People sitting on a pier in the sea.

19. "I moved to England about three years ago and I feel like the only way to describe my experience is that the grass is always greener on the other side. I felt so trapped and bored in the US that England felt like the place to be, but having moved, I think we romanticize the places where we weren't born. I do love it here. I love the history that’s literally everywhere and everyone is so kind. But there are also cons, As an American, I expect to be able to find everything I love at the supermarket, but I'll often find the British equivalent of certain products just don’t exist (For example, corn tortillas! They're nearly impossible to find). There’s also an adjustment period and a major learning curve. I’m still learning new 'English' vocabulary every day at work. Overall though, it’s been a positive experience."

A person standing in front of Tower Bridge with an umbrella.

20. "I have been living in Switzerland but am moving back to the US in a month due to three main factors: Better job opportunities, a language barrier, and social integration. I think everyone fantasizes about how great it is to move from the US, but they totally overlook the challenge of social integration and a worse job market. The US has one of the best job markets in the world, and I think that's overlooked. Although I make more money in Switzerland, the growth opportunities here can be limited. Worker's rights, though...that's another story."

A hiker admiring Matterhorn from path.

21. "I moved to Europe and always thought I would go back to the US one day. That changed when I had kids. As weird as it is for someone who grew up being fed the whole 'land of opportunity' narrative, Europe simply provides more opportunity, more security, and a better quality of life for my kids. Staying here for them has been a no-brainer."

Two girls walking on rocks by the seaside.

22. "I moved from the US to the UK 12 years ago. I have had an immensely hard time fitting in and finding friends. I firmly believe I will never truly be anything but a novelty here. Isolation is a huge problem for me here."

People walking towards cliffs in the UK.

23. "People assume moving to France has been like going on permanent vacation. Every time I complain about something a friend says, 'but you’re living in France!' I have to remind them that it’s cool, but it's still real life. I have to work just like anybody else. And it’s even harder here because there are fewer jobs available to someone who doesn’t speak French perfectly."

People sitting in a garden in Paris.

24. "I have loved ex-pat life. I've been abroad for almost a decade now, mostly living in China and Korea, and I've really enjoyed the new cultures, experiences, and people I've met. For me the hardest part is not the isolation, but the fact that so many of the close friends I do make move so often. Ex-pat life can be very fluid as people come and go. On the whole, however, daily life is not so different than it was back home. I wake up, go to work, exercise, and go home. The weekends can be a bit more exciting and the travel opportunities are much better than being back home in the states."

People walking on a busy street in Shanghai.

Are you an American who has lived in another country? Tell us about your experience — both the good and the bad. What did you miss about home and what were your favorite things about life abroad?