T Nation

Living Abroad


I am a 25 year old American male who is interested in living outside of the U.S. for a bit. I am currently living in DC, and with the recent resignation of my boss I have found myself trying to figure out my next move. I look at this as an excellent opportunity to travel some and see what's out there. I'm not in debt, have a few grand in the bank and a car I'll sell for another few grand.

I know there are posters here who currently live abroad or have done so in the past, so I'd really like to hear from some of you about your experiences. I am including a few questions:

  1. How did you support yourself? Did you go for a job, or find one when you got there? I view this as the biggest challenge for me.

  2. For how long did you stay?

  3. What country would you recommend? I have some contacts in Australia through my rugby club, and could get a work holiday visa easily. I would like to become fluent in a language though, and am viewing Argentina as another great option with beautiful ladies and weather. I have some background in French and Spanish.

Thanks for any input!


Have you considered the Peace Corps?


Come to Taiwan. I need a spotter.




I did this when I was your age. Great experience. To answer your specific questions, (1) I showed up first, and then looked for a job; (2) I was in Europe about 5 years; (3) really depends on who you are, what skills you have, and what you're looking for (although I don't trust Argentina because their Spanish is incomprehensible and they keep making imperialist attempts to conquer the Falklands).

I would recommend somewhere outside of the English-speaking world, and not only if you're interested in a language: it's when you cross a language barrier that you really find yourself confronted with cultural differences on a constant basis. Of course, it also makes everything much harder, but if you want easy, stay home.

Assuming you're planning actually to move somewhere, and not just blow your savings for a few months, you have two main issues: (1) getting a visa and (2) getting a job. I have useful passports, so I have nothing to say on the visa front, but unless you have a highly desireable skill, or important contacts, this can be very difficult. I don't know what your skills are, but many skills don't cross national boundaries so easily (computer stuff, which I did, is one major exception).

Things to keep in mind... German-speaking and Scandanavian Europe (and Holland) all have an amazing level of English, so there are sometimes good jobs there for people who only have English (I showed up in Germany without a word of the language and proceeded to work for years in one of the top companies, and I know plenty of people who have done similar things) - and they do appreciate it if you're trying to learn their language, particularly if you don't have to. Also, my experience has been that pretty much anywhere you go, if you're an educated native-English-speaker, English teaching jobs are often available once you're on the spot (assuming you have a work visa) - although teaching English pays pretty crap in Europe (it can pay quite well in the far East, I'm told).

To give more specific advice, I'd have to know more about your particualr scenario, but do keep in mind that culture shock can be a very real, and very powerful thing. It's all exciting and different for a few months, but for me, there was a sort of hammer-blow around the six month mark. Things got really hard. If I had known how hard it would be, I might not have gone in the first place, but in hindsight, all very worthwhile.


Very interesting topic and I hope more people contribute. Traveling and learning about other cultures has always been a huge thing for me. Having traveled to many countries in Europe, I can say that I actually prefer Europe over America. I would love to live in Greece but there is no way I'm moving there with their economy in the gutter. Germany, however, is very appealing to me. I've taken 2 high school-level and 2 college-level German classes, so I can speak/read/write at an intermediate level. I've been there a few times and it was great: Dusselfdorf, Koln, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Berlin. Very friendly people, love their culture, the language, the food... and their economy is holding up pretty well, even with the Euro-crisis going on with a lot of countries right now (Ireland/Spain/Portugal/etc).


If Japan weren't fucked I would tell you to go there. I had several of my friends teach English in Japan and they loved it.


I actually noticed that Taiwan is a place that needs a lot of English teachers. How long have you lived there? I know Mandarin is the official language, is it widely spoken or is Taiwanese more common? Are there decent gyms? Fun place to live?


My concerns (although they may be unfounded) about the Peace Corps are that you get less say in where you go, and it takes a while for your application to be accepted. Have you done it in the past?

How about you Gambit, what is your experience with Peace Corps? It's definitely something I'll look into further.


Thanks for all the responses guys. I have family who have worked abroad (I'm in St. Petersburg now for my sister's wedding actually) and so I have a sense for the difficulties of getting a visa, culture shock, etc. My brother really wants me to come to Africa with him, it may be just a matter of finding the right opportunity. Unfortunately, right now my skills are not the most marketable, so getting a work visa will likely prove difficult. Part of why I want to gain fluency in a foreign language is to make my skill set more competitive.


I've been here 10 years and there's lots of work, and Taiwanese (as a language) is not spoken widely except by people in the countryside and older people.

You don't need to learn Mandarin but that's the one to study if you want to speak to people here. I can speak quite a bit but so long as the conversation is about the weather or food or something equally mundane.

The gym...well I have videos of great hilarity on youtube...search "nardpuncher how not to work out" and you can see the gym here!


now I'm addicted to watching your maltese puppy vids, LOL.


They have a lame/funny accent, but incomprenhensible?

I moved away to a poorer country, with much worse weather and a quite complicated language. I was very lucky to get settled so fast.
Wherever you go, try to start learning the language from day 1. It will really help you in the future.


The chick on the treadmill was hilarious as well.


I lived in South Korea for 3-4 years.
I taught English the entire time.
It's easy as fuck and pays pretty well.
Free apartment, airfare & other benefits.
Gyms all over the place.
The weather is comparable to the Northeast United States.
The culture can take a bit of getting used to.
Koreans are pigheaded, but Seoul is huge and if you ride a bike or some shit like that you can do tons of exploring at all hours of the night.
Street crime is practically non-existent.
I may go to Taiwan soon.
All my friends that moved on from Seoul to there prefer it there even though they pay less due to the cultural aspects.


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To those that taught English, did you have a teaching background or get some kind of TEFL Certification before going? Thanks for all the responses guys, this is very helpful!


In East Asia you do not need anything but a B.A or B.S. (in any discipline) to teach.
Southeast Asian countries like a college degree (any discipline) coupled with a TEFL of some sort.
Having a TEFL can not hurt you though as it will set you apart from a lot of applicants and you will be offered more money.
Same with a teaching degree.
But you don't need them in Eastern Asia.