6 Problems That You May Encounter When Moving Abroad

The immigration always implies problems and difficulties. Do not believe the stories of the “problemless” immigration, as if an immigrant didn’t experience any discomfort moving into the new country and everything was smooth and nice. This doesn’t exist.

Another question is, the degree of complexity and the set of relevant problems are different for each person.

There are several factors that play a role here and depending on which the immigration comes easier or harder:

  • Personal flexibility
  • Stress-resistance
  • Personal attachment to something and someone
  • The way of immigration (work, studies, marriage etc.)
  • Financial state
  • Knowledge of language
  • etc.

I have moved to a new country 3 times. First, I moved to France, then to the Netherlands, then I came back to France (but that doesn’t count, since I already knew that place) and finally came to Germany.

All these moves varied a lot in the difficulties and problems, but the first one (to France) was definitely the hardest.

Here are the points to take into account, when moving abroad.

(1) Motivation

It sounds evident but it is indeed crucial to have a strong and precise motivation. The key word here is “precise”, as oftentimes people tend to have a very vague idea about why exactly do they move.

Having a concrete and clear purpose could serve you as a strong basement, foundation to help one to overcome the difficulties in the new country.

However, there are plenty of cases where people initially didn’t have that special purpose, when coming to another country and they still can make it well. But these are, in my opinion, “lucky” exceptions that only prove the rule – without proper motivation, no good integration.

I was 19 years old when I moved to France. Honestly, I’m not completely sure, whether I had that “concrete” and “precise” motivation to move at that age. I was contemplating to live in Europe since I was 13 (after my first visits to Europe) and then, of course, it was a very vague dream. In 6 years between 13 and 19 I somehow developed my own motivation why I want to leave my country and what do I get in France, what I cannot have in Russia (and I didn’t mean material things here).

The expectations were met and I never had a regret about moving abroad (even though there were many moments when I questioned myself about this). But if I knew in advance how difficult would be my first years in France, I would think twice before going. Thankfully, I didn’t know, and when hard times hit, the motivation helped to keep it up.

(2) Language

I can tell you in a nutshell. Every day you feel like a loser. You understand that the rules of the game are unequal, unfair because no matter how hard you try, you will not be able to reach the level of the native.

When the struggle continues every day, it could be very demoralizing. A lot depends on the country and its mentality, of course.

For instance, I didn’t feel odd in the Netherlands; the people are very open-minded and as soon as you say a simple “dank u well” in Dutch, they take it as a big “effort”.

But things are way different in France. If you speak fluent French, as soon as a French hears your accent (even if it’s slight), he/she immediately moves to English (whereas their English is far worse than your French).

So here you stand, you learned French for over 10 years, you are studying French law in the French university, and you cannot properly order the baguette sandwich at the counter.

Of course, not every French is the same, and I might exaggerate the situation, but that actually happened to me and not once. And by the way, I love France and French people. Years later I love them even more for their… peculiarities.

The language problems are closely related to another problem of the migration: downshift.

(3) Downshift

This problem may not be obvious, but, in my opinion, the downshift related to the migration is the most destructive factor for the self-esteem and the mentality of the migrant.

Downshift may not affect people who are moving to work and have a contract in a new country.

There are several professions, which enable you to move abroad without lowering your status: for example, it is the case for the IT-industry.

But generally, the rule is: abroad, your diploma and skills worth little (if not, nothing) and for you as a migrant, it will be twice as difficult to fulfill your “American” (or any other) dream in comparison to the natives.

When I moved I was 19, and at that time all my friends were students like me, without work or any special accomplishments. However, I started my journey over again from the first year, and my fellows were already approaching the finish line (graduation). And every year I feel the gap is widening. Friends find jobs, start their careers and you continue sitting with the books at the university library.

Did you use to be a smart and talented fast-thinker in your homeland? Well, congrats, now abroad, you are stupid even in the next corner store. You don´t know or forget a basic word like “screwdriver” and you don’t understand the primitive instructions from the shop consultant on how to find it.

Despite the fact that I was not a perfectionist, I’ve got used to being nimble on my feet and I knew that I can achieve good results even with the slightest effort. But it turned out that abroad and in a foreign language the speed of thought decreases significantly. Not only you may seem dumb, but also it is going to be so much more difficult to achieve something, even when making an incredible effort.

To sum things up, it is harder to find a place under the sun and fulfill yourself, when moving abroad.

Building a motivation, creating an action plan and accepting the reality, could help to overcome the problem of the downshift in the new country.

  • sit down and honestly evaluate the current situation
  • search for solutions to the problem and again frankly assess the ways to resolve it
  • make a contract with yourself: what is acceptable for you and what is not
  • draw up at least an approximate plan of action to resolve or reduce the problem
  • accept and try to “reconcile” yourself to those things that cannot be solved

If after this you still see the reason to continue, then everything is right.

(4) Money

Another factor of stress when moving to another country.

During my first years in France, I spent 25 euros a week on food. Some will say that it is impossible, some have lived in France for the same money. Quite possible. The biggest part of the money was spent on the bills.

I think many people, who have moved abroad for the first time, after a while, develop a new kind of phobia – a fear of bills. I was scared to open a mailbox and to find a new letter with an unexpected bill.

The bills come unexpectedly because moving abroad you don´t really understand how the system works. And that’s another problem.

(5) Daily life

Only leaving home you realize what kind of baggage of knowledge regarding the daily life you accumulate during your entire life. And you used it without even noticing. Thousands of small details, starting from the banal tradition of taking off shoes at the home entrance, ending with the knowledge on how to pay for electricity.

You’ve got to learn to start over. Everything that seemed obvious at home, here works just different.

(6) Desocialization

And last but not least … Moving abroad, you disconnect from the society.

The same like with the baggage of knowledge, until you leave home, you don’t think about how many contacts and connections you have collected in your homeland, and how much time and effort it takes to get these contacts again.

It is pretty easy to gradually lose friends in your homeland, but it is much slower and more difficult to make friends abroad. Therefore, the loneliness is the companion of many immigrants.

So here were my 6 typical problems that you may encounter moving abroad. I don’t want to discourage anyone from moving abroad. It is a wonderful, life-changing and enriching experience. A lot is about attitude and acceptance. 


And finally:


I like to compare the migration with moving from Windows to Mac OS (or the other way around). This example may be somewhat primitive, but representative.

Both systems generally allow you to do the same thing, but the procedures, the manners to do the same thing are different. There are people who intuitively quickly switch between systems, and there are those for whom upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 10 is already a huge stress.

That is also why the age plays a big role too. The kid will not probably even notice the change between systems, but the grandma definitely will.

So moving when you are young, generally will be easier. The downshift in this case is less noticeable and so the desocialization.


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Posted by m.migalina

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