I was reading through some of the newest comments I've gotten for my ‘Unemployment and Motivation‘ post (still one that attracts the most attention, thanks in no small part to MSN featuring it in a story), and something that was left in the comments made me think. (Yes, I do read and attempt to respond to all the comments I receive, even if it takes me a while.) A reader who called him- or herself DW left a message about going abroad to find employment opportunities, since all the jobs seem to have been outsourced from the US.
That got me thinking. There does seem to be an increasing number of people who are going abroad to make their fortune, or at least are considering doing so. (Austin of Foreigner's Finances has been living that dream since before he started blogging, to cite just one example, and he seems to enjoy his life greatly.) Add to that the fact that people have been coming to the United States to find a way of making a living since before there even was a United States, and going to a foreign country to work and live has a rather long history.
Which brings us to the question I raised in the title of this post: Should you outsource yourself? Is it worth going to a foreign country in order to find employment? Do the pros of going abroad outweigh the cons? Well, let's look a bit closer:
Let's Go Abroad! – Pros
-Exposure to a Foreign Culture: One of the biggest reasons we go to foreign countries, whether to work or simply to visit, is the opportunity to experience a new and different culture. While you might get a superficial idea of what a country is like from a two week visit, working in a foreign country for a year, a semester, or even a month will allow you dive deeper, getting a better feel for the country and immersing yourself deeper in the culture.
-Building Connections Around the World: In the same vein, working abroad allows you the opportunity to meet and get to know people in cultures and parts of the world to which you'd otherwise never have exposure. While visiting gives you opportunity to see the sights, take some photos, and maybe grab some souvenirs, living and working in a foreign country presents the opportunity to dive deeper into the culture and form connections with the people there. If you're hoping to have a collection of friends from all over the globe, there are few ways to do so more effectively than spending some time working abroad.
–Money, Money, Money: Let's be honest, one of the biggest reasons to work abroad is the same as the main reason we work, period: Money. Just like working at home, working abroad is the opportunity to earn money. But because you are working in a foreign country, which uses a foreign currency, you have exchange rates and different costs of living thrown into the mix, as well. If you move to a country with a lower cost of living, where your dollar (or pound, or Euro, depending on where you are reading this) can stretch further, your savings may be enough to provide you with a higher standard of living abroad, or last longer than you thought in said country. In a similar manner, a strong exchange rate for the foreign currency you are making could lead to higher levels of wealth when (or if) you go back to your home country. Think of it as similar to Forex investing; profiting off the differences in exchange rates, and the changes in said rates over time.
Let's Stay Home! – Cons
–The Language Barrier: This may or may not be a problem, depending on where exactly you do (and what language(s) you speak), but it could end up being a doozy. Particularly if you're an American, you may not have any skill speaking in a foreign language, and if you move to a non-English speaking country, there will inevitably an adjustment period as you try to learn the language and otherwise get acclimated to your new situation. Even when you learn enough to communicate with the citizens of your new country of work, you're still likely to have an accent and get funny looks from the natives, even if you could otherwise pass for one. Speaking of which…
–Distrust and Isolation from the Natives: Let's be completely honest here: not every country is warm and welcoming of foreigners who want to work in their borders. In the US, you can see this in the reactions that immigrant workers get when trying to cross the borders to find a job. Yes, there are countries that will welcome you, even encourage you to come and work in their borders (to go back to Austin, he's working as an English teacher in Japan, a position I've been led to understand the Japanese highly encourage Americans to take), but in many places, you could find yourself mistrusted, or even feared, by your new country mates.
–Homesickness: Unless you have no friends or family that you're leaving behind, you're liable to miss your home at one point or another. While the numerous advances in communication and travel technology make it much easier to stay in contact, even across the globe, there's still no way to work in one country and still climb into bed with your significant other in a country hundreds, even thousands, of miles away (although, the first person who invents such a method will find themselves with a LOT of orders from eager business travelers, among others). Depending on your personal life, this fact alone could destroy any hope of living abroad; at the very least, it is something you should consider.
Should You Seek Your Fortune Abroad?
As you can probably guess, there's no hard and fast answer to whether it is better for someone go abroad in order to make money. I think, thanks to improvements in communications and transportation technology, as well as the increasing mobility of people throughout the world, that it's easier than ever before to go abroad, whether for a short period or for the rest of your life, to find work, and to live in a foreign country. (Even one where you don't speak the language) But whether that's the right choice for you is up to you and your loved ones.