Benefits of Living Abroad – the Hidden Trade-offs

Benefits of Living Abroad – the Hidden Trade-offs

The hidden benefits of living abroad

When we decided to move to Denmark for an expat assignment, everything happened fast. One thing we came back to often was, “what will we miss if we move abroad to Copenhagen.” Even in a short term expatriate assignment, we knew we would miss out on family birthday parties, friend’s bachelor parties, weekend trips to the beach and almost every holiday besides Christmas. But what would be the benefits of living abroad?

What we found was some incredible trade-offs to missing these events. This week, while we were missing Easter with our families, Mike and I spent time talking. We discussed what we gained in exchange for missing those events. These “expat trade-offs” really mean something to us. We focus on them when we start to get down about missing things back in our native country, America.


More Quality Time

|the time we get at home is compact – but much more special.

While it’s hard to go long stretches without seeing friends and especially family, the time we get while we are visiting the states proves to be high-quality. We didn’t live in the same cities as our families before we moved. So, visits to family were sometimes a month or more apart.

Those visits may be several months apart now (we generally manage two trips to the US per year) but the time spent together is different – it’s more quality time. Because we are staying with family for several days, we enjoy most of our meals together. We also get visits from extended family and have time to just relax, be cozy and – dare I say it, hygge. It’s a trade-off and really a “trade-up” – the time we get at home is compact – but much more special.

Related Post: Why Americans Can’t Hygge

Travel With Family and Friends

|we got to enjoy Mothers Day brunch at Prague Castle – that’s something neither of us will ever forget

This week my family will hold a late Easter celebration, and celebrate the birthdays of my nephew and mom. It’s tough to miss out on the birthdays and the Easter holiday, but we’ll FaceTime.

I’ll also reflect on last year, when my mom celebrated her birthday by traveling to Europe. This was her first time in Europe and seeing our new home – it was unforgettable. The timing worked out such that we were in Prague over Mothers Day weekend. Sure, I’ll miss being together for her birthday, but last year we enjoyed Mothers Day brunch at Prague Castle! That’s something neither of us will ever forget.

This Fall, we got to visit Amsterdam with Mike’s parents and celebrate their wedding anniversary at our favorite Dutch fondue restaurant. We’ve missed two years of beach weekends with friends, but we’ve also been able to host so many friends from that group in Denmark. During our time here we have even been able to travel around Europe with a lot of them. In September we even joined some of our beach crew in Munich for Oktoberfest. While we still miss out on those beach weekends, I love that we have been fortunate enough to travel to several countries with family and our friends who are like family. If we never moved to Copenhagen, we wouldn’t get to enjoy these benefits of living abroad.

Related Post: Amsterdam – 5 Things You Can’t Miss

Seeing and Hearing From Old Friends

|being able to show off our city and catch up while friends who are traveling is a hidden benefit of living abroad

One unexpected trade-off of living abroad is that people reach out to us all the time and ask for tips on Copenhagen or other places that social media has let them know we traveled. Some are old friends that we haven’t kept up with as much, even friends from college and high school who we reconnect with over travel interests.

The best is when friends reach out because they are going to be in Copenhagen. Sometimes work brings them here, or they are looking into Baltic cruises and we are happy to share advice and even open our home to them. At the very least, we have gotten to meet up with old friends for a drink and an open-faced sandwich (Danish smørrebrød).

Often we hear from friends who we didn’t see on a regular basis when we lived so close to them. They remember we live here and shoot us a facebook message. It’s really cool to forge a better friendship or reconnect with old friends because they find their way to Denmark. Sure, we miss the meet ups at our old favorite bars or bumping into people at the gym or shopping mall, but being able to show off our city and catch up with friends who are traveling is a hidden benefit of living abroad.

Related Post: Expat Life – Leaving Loved Ones Behind

Homecoming Treatment

|Everyone should experience walking into a bar full of friends and having them all turn around, yell and run to hug you

During our visits home, we are blown away from the effort people make to see us. We get an amazing homecoming treatment every time. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. That’s definitely true for anyone living abroad who visits their home country. Whether it’s the busy summer months or the rush of the holidays, when we are home our friends and family turn up to see us. Everyone should experience walking into a bar full of friends, having them all turn around, yell and run to hug you. All you have to do is move across the world.


Efficient Catching Up

|It’s virtually impossible to see everyone individually

Similar to the homecoming treatment, it’s very efficient to catch up with friends and family when you move abroad. Part of this is due to traveling to your home country for holidays or weddings. Those events make it easy to see a lot of people in a short period of time. If there isn’t such an event, we’ve been lucky to have family plan brunches or backyard barbecues to get together.

Another convenience is that people make more of an effort to meet up when you return for a short period of time. For us, it’s also led to some fun mixing of friends for group dinners or nights out for drinks. It’s virtually impossible to see everyone individually. We usually organize group dinners or nights out for drinks by just letting everyone know where to be and when. Those are our most fun nights because we see so many people while introducing friends from various social circles.


Even with so many benefits of living abroad, it can be tough sometimes. Missing friends, family and “the little things” can be difficult. The point is to make sure you focus on what I keep calling “the trade-off.” It’s essentially the bright side that comes along with living away from the people you love. It’s also how your relationships with those special people are actually enhanced during your time apart. It doesn’t eliminate homesickness or FOMO, it keeps you focused on the opportunity you have been lucky enough to take.

Live abroad? What keeps you going? What do you think of my trade-offs and what hidden benefits of living abroad would you add? Comment Below:

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Derek Hartman

Derek Hartman is an American expat from Philadelphia, currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. His blog, Robe Trotting focuses on travel, expatriation and lifestyle topics.

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