There are so many wonderful things about bravely leaping into the unknown, and spending a year working abroad.

From experiencing a different culture to getting more bang for your buck, a whole new world will open up to you – new ways of thinking, new food to eat, and new friends.

If life is just a series of events, a disjointed tale of things that happen, why not have some of those things happen in a fascinating location that can develop you both personally and professionally?

And gloriously, the best places to work right now are scattered all over the world, from Canada to Bahrain, via Helsinki.

That means you have a massive variety of destinations to choose from – but before you make your final decision, let’s prepare you for the inevitable ups and downs of your sojourn.

woman working abroad on a laptop

Would this be your experience? Maybe!

Pros

You could make more money

Many places which attempt to entice British workers do so by paying them more than they earn at home.

Singapore, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates are prime examples of countries which have high average salaries or make especially generous offers for foreign expertise – or both.

And it’s not just the lucky minority who profit from moving to a different country for work. 74% of expats increase their income abroad, according to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey.

Many countries also have lower living costs than the UK, allowing you to hold onto more of your higher salary and set yourself up nicely for when you come back home.

You’ll learn new skills

You could take your abilities – and therefore your career – to a higher level by working in a new environment.

A massive 71% of people who work abroad when they’re under 35 learn new skills, according to HSBC’s survey.

So be like a sponge dropped in an interesting new bucket, and absorb everything you can from different experts in your field.

You’ll experience a different culture

It’s great to become a significant part of your community, to learn about your city, and to grow roots in your hometown.

But you’re not a tree. You don’t have to stand, motionless, in the same place for eternity. 

You’re more like the nomadic flamingos in the African portion of the Great Rift Valley, who move from lake to lake in search of sustenance.

Just like those birds, you’ll gain more from flying further afield. You’ll grow professionally, by seeing different working practices, listening to new perspectives, and improving your communication skills – but you’ll also grow as a person.

If you’re open to it, you’ll learn more about yourself, absorb new ways of living and thinking about life, and develop a more well-rounded view of humanity.

This will let you wow colleagues and friends back home, but more importantly, it’ll enable you to become a better version of yourself.

You can travel and see wonders

Free from responsibilities, and from the usual number of obligations to friends and family, you’ll be able to spread your wings and fly all over your new country.

And why stop there? If it’s possible, squeeze as much from your time – and your British passport – as you possibly can.

Now is the time to see far-flung places and make memories that’ll last your whole life.

If you’re working in the US or Australia, make a list of states and attractions you want to see. If you’re in Europe, a list of countries. The sky’s the limit.

You’ll make interesting friends

Developing relationships in another country gives you an insight into that culture, a more nuanced understanding of the human condition, and a deeper sense of empathy.

Many of the benefits we mention in this article come directly from making friends who can show you the best and worst facets of their region.

There’s nothing like seeing how the local culture or political situation affects someone you care about to help you understand that place.

And if your new friendships mean you have somewhere to stay when you visit your adopted home on holiday, that’s a nice bonus.

Goodbye, stereotypes

Making friends and forging connections to people and places is also the best way to destroy – or lovingly contextualise – any stereotypes you have about the region.

Do you think people in the American South eat a lot of unhealthy food? You may be right, but if a new friend introduces you to deep-fried okra, along with the income inequality that forces poorer families to buy convenient, cheap food, you’ll understand the situation better.

Going on holiday is lovely, but it only provides you with a quick, basic sketch of a country.

If you live there for a year, you get to see it as an oil painting. You’re able to see where the paint has faded or cracked, understand why certain colours have been used, and appreciate the masterpiece’s beauty – and flaws – in full.

You’ll come back knowing that Colombia is more than the drug trade, or that France is more than wine and cheese, or that Japan is more than cool tech and sushi.

Knowledge is power – and fun

From understanding the approach to life in your temporary home to learning which foods you can no longer live without, you’ll return from your travels ready to share the gifts you’ve absorbed.

This can – and will – take many shapes.

You’ll enthusiastically force your friends to go to restaurants catering to your new-found tastes, share your helpful cultural knowledge with colleagues, and generally be a more interesting human.

You can gently deconstruct other people’s impressions of the country you lived in (not everyone in Brazil loves football and knows how to samba, Dave) and introduce more nuance into the world.

Need to convert your British pound sterling into a different currency?

In short: it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate. 

That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.

man with a laptop on a cliff edge

Working abroad can be beautiful – but isolating

Cons

The culture shock

It’s not easy to seamlessly slot into a whole new culture, with its compendium of different social rules and work habits. 

It’s obviously harder if you’re not fluent in the language, but even if you are, there will be new words, phrases, and ways of speaking that’ll knock you off balance.

Feeling like an outsider in your new home is hard, and you’ll constantly be reminded of how you don’t belong.

You’ll reveal your accent every time you speak, and while it can feel exciting at first when people react in surprise and delight, it can also get old pretty quickly.

Get ready to be a fully fledged representative for the UK, and answer an increasingly inane set of stereotype-based questions.

No-one will blame you if you eventually crack and say that you have, in fact, met the Queen, and that you’re best friends with Her Majesty.

An increased mental load

It’s also exhausting to settle into a new routine.

You’ll suddenly appreciate the sheer number of daily tasks you’re usually able to complete without thinking, as everything from taking the bus to getting lunch becomes a potential pitfall.

There’s also the matter of learning the local etiquette. Everything from tipping to the way you greet people may be different to what you’re used to.

You’ll get used to the new rules and routine over time, but depending on where you move and how quickly you pick everything up, you may end up coming home before you figure it all out.

You’ll be away from your friends and family

Sure, you’ll make new friends, but you’ll still miss out on spending time with your loved ones back home.

Ironically, even though you’re the one leaping headfirst into amazing adventures, and even though your Instagram profile will look better than any of your friends’ feeds, your FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings may well be stronger than theirs.

You’ll see their photos of nights out and trips to the pub, and be hit with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and longing.

You may even wonder what you’re doing spending a year away from everyone you know and love.

You may feel lonely

This can lead to feelings of loneliness, especially if you don’t know anyone in your new home.

Making friends takes time, so you may be in for a few weeks of exploring your local area by yourself.

You can combat this by taking risks when it comes to making connections. After all, who wouldn’t want to show off their city to the interesting foreigner?

There’s also a danger that you’ll feel isolated, because everything’s so different from your normal life.

Embracing what’s different about you, and what’s different about the people you meet, is a process, and it won’t happen immediately – but you can speed it up by embracing the culture.

Ask questions, say yes a lot, and approach new experiences with an open mind.

Taxes may be higher

As a temporary resident in your new country, you’ll almost certainly still have to pay your fair share back to the UK, in the shape of income tax.

Many countries won’t force you to pay them any more in income tax – but some will.

Make sure you talk to a tax specialist before you move abroad.

Summary

Understanding the world complexly is a crucial skill, and working abroad will allow you to expand this ability.

You may well also be able to earn more money, make new friends, and develop your professional skills, all while enjoying every new experience the region has to offer.

If you want to spend your whole life in the place you were randomly born, that’s your choice, but the world is massive and you only get one life – so we’d encourage you to take exciting opportunities when you can.