While moving your family out of the United States may seem like a daunting proposition, there are actually many positives that can come with immersing your household in a completely different culture. Even nations like Great Britain or Canada, which have many similar attributes to American life, are distinct from the U.S. in their own ways. Here are some of the benefits of — as well as a few considerations for — moving internationally with your loved ones.
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Here are just a handful of different life-changing aspects of life abroad with a spouse and kids in tow:
- Experiencing different cultures: The impact of observing another nation with its unique culture, geography, culinary tastes, styles, and heritage is hard to understate. The eye-opening nature of understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around any one nation or people group is revolutionary and can be extremely beneficial in rounding out the worldview of parents and children alike.
- Medical options: While the debate over the U.S. healthcare system is an old one, the plain fact of the matter is that better healthcare can sometimes be found in other places. Certain medicines, procedures, and therapies are prohibited in the country, leading many to go abroad to seek treatment.
An easy example of this is the availability of marijuana for medicinal purposes, such as coping with chronic pain or anxiety, in certain areas. There are numerous positive and helpful uses for cannabis and its products, like CBD oil, in the health world. However, the fact that such products tend to be illegal throughout most of the United States can make utilizing the treatment difficult. While there are exceptions such as hemp-based CBD oil, many cannabis products are restricted in the U.S.
While people should consult their physicians before leaving the country for treatment, there’s no doubt that there are many options out there that just aren’t available domestically.
- A change in scenery: While the United States has many beautiful landscapes, there are countless other gorgeous geographic locations that can enable your children to broaden their horizons. Participating in activities like hiking world-renowned mountainscapes, learning to surfing on famous beaches, or visiting historic cities and locations that are so old they make the U.S. feel like it’s a brand new country are unforgettable experiences.
- Language: While this one can also be a challenge, the positive benefits of having your children grow up bilingual or even trilingual are benefits that will continue to aid them throughout life. It will unlock the doors to new cultural experiences, as well as potential employment opportunities down the road.
- Developing character: One of the most rewarding elements for a family living abroad is the deep emotional character that can be built all of the previously listed benefits that come with living in a foreign country. The challenges that are involved in learning to survive and thrive in a different culture can help bring a family together and teach everyone, from the parents to teenagers, kids, and even toddlers, lifelong skills.
Considerations for Moving Abroad
While the benefits are many, there are still many considerations — particularly when you’re weighing the benefits and costs of transplanting an entire family unit to another country for an extended period of time.
While cultural differences were already brought up as a positive, it is still something that should be carefully considered. The steep learning curve that comes with acclimating to a foreign language and culture can be both challenging and draining, especially for children. Parents should plan to regularly check in on how their children are doing with managing the changes.
Life’s staples should also be considered. Where will you get food and housing? How do these vary from their U.S. counterparts? Something as simple as a different plug for charging your phone or being unaware that water in a city isn’t safe to drink can cause issues if not properly addressed. In addition, how will you move around? Are there public transportation systems you can use? Do people drive on the same side of the road?
Visas are another element that should be carefully considered beforehand. New Zealand, for example, while a travel hotspot, still requires a visa. Even once you have your visa, the work isn’t done. Eventually, you’re going to want to consider if you’re going to embrace the expatriate spirit and become a citizen of your new country. If not, make sure you have a plan to renew that visa on a regular basis so that you don’t end up deported.
Work considerations are also key. For example, many of the top spots to relocate to are in Europe. If you end up choosing a location in the EU to relocate, you may want to create a Europass CV to streamline any future job searches in your new home. You’ll also want to go into any new work system with knowledge about how things like taxes and insurance function.
Finally, make sure to consider different medical systems. Whether it’s better than the U.S. or not, any foreign medical system is likely to function differently than what you’re used to. If a medical emergency arises, you’re going to want to know exactly what to do without hesitation.
While there are many risks and tips to keep in mind, it doesn’t dampen the fact that living abroad can be one of the most beneficial, life-changing events that a family can experience. The deep character building that comes through participating in a different culture makes it one of the greatest adventures life has to offer.