In 2017, the United Nations estimated that approximately one in 20 people today are living in countries outside their home country, most of these just in 20 countries. Any way you look at it, that’s a significant number of people taking the plunge and building a life in unfamiliar countries.

If you’re planning to become one of the many people working abroad in an unfamiliar country, here’s what you should know.

Benefits of working overseas

1.) You get to experience a new culture

Working overseas inevitably means contact with cultures and subcultures you may not have had extensive experience with back home. With this contact often comes the opportunity to learn new things about your own culture and your own behavior towards other people. For many, the experience leads to growth as an individual.

2.) You will probably be paid much more

Expats, as a rule, are paid much better than locals and those working similar jobs in their home countries. The latter point still applies to migrant populations who may not always be referred to as expats. This means working abroad for a few years can be a great way to save up for a new business or early retirement in your home country. Of course, more good things in life are inevitably available to those who are paid more.

Photo: iStock

3.)  You will learn new things

Even if you end up working in a similar industry to where you worked in your home country, there will always be some differences in practices and work culture that you will likely benefit from. And this isn’t even accounting for the fact that you may even pick up the local language along the way, which in turn can lead to more employability within and outside your field.

4.) You can build a global network of contacts

Having real friends and trusted colleagues from all over the world is something that can give you a lot of traction when it comes to both your career and personal life. It’s always great to have those perspectives on tap when you need them.

Drawbacks of working overseas

1.) You will inevitably suffer culture-shock

Culture-shock is a natural phenomenon that is unavoidable when moving to any culture. You may even experience it just moving to a different office in the same city. The effects are much more pronounced, however, when you move within a culture that has fewer things in common to your own. Most overseas workers will be able to reach a mastery of their new culture after some initial discomfort. A good deal, however, never manage to adapt or integrate, leading to continued friction at work and in personal relationships throughout their stay.

2.) Homesickness is very real

There will always be a few things about home that you will miss. It might be the food, or the types of activities you enjoy that you have to give up in your host country. In many countries, recreational drug use, alcohol and fraternization with the opposite sex can land you in a heap of trouble, where in other countries, it may just be part of everyday life. Indulging in the things you were accustomed to may not just be impossible, but illegal as well.

3.) You have an elevated risk of accidents and illness

Foreigners are at an elevated risk not just from unfamiliar diseases, but also from accidents as well. The possibly vast cultural differences and expectations of safety are often enough to make this accident risk statistically significant. This also extends into leisure activities. In Japan 86% of go-kart accidents involved foreigners, and similar statistics for other activities can be found as well.

This makes it important to get an international health insurance policy from a specialized health insurer, such as Now Health International. This will allow you to get lower rates and wider coverage if you’re planning to stay abroad for an extended period.

4.) You will leave loved ones behind

While a good number of migrants and overseas workers go to other countries in order to build better lives for their families, the fact that they will be separated from their families is often a bigger deal than they may initially realize. Countries with large diasporas often encounter social issues with regards to the breakdown of the traditional family unit, and steps often need to be taken to ensure families do in fact, stay together.

Photo: iStock