The Harsh Flip Side of Serving Overseas

Those of us who live and serve overseas have a lot to be excited about. We experience many unforgettable, life shaping moments. It’s just that these great moments come with a pretty harsh flip side. If you’re considering moving overseas and are caught up in the excitement, or perhaps already are overseas and feeling a bit disillusioned by your experience, this post is for you. Here’s to acknowledging the inevitably downright miserable side of living this incredible life.

You will make your mom cry.
Maybe your parents will be supportive and proud of your decision to move overseas. Maybe your parents will be heartbroken and angry at your decision. Either way, moving far away from your family, especially if you have children, is painful if not devastating.

You will feel that your life is completely out of your control.
So much about living overseas is outside of your control. We could argue that the sense of control we have over our lives in our passport countries is just an illusion, but illusion or not the feeling of lack of control overseas can be overwhelming. A big one that comes around yearly for many people is visa renewal. Every 12 months your family’s home, work, and future rests in the hands of a few government officials.

You’ll look and feel like an idiot, especially in the early years.
Thankfully we’ve found most people in our host culture to be gracious and forgiving. Still, especially at the beginning, it doesn’t matter how well respected and credentialed you were before moving overseas, you will lack the vocabulary and cultural knowledge of a local pre-schooler. It’s hard to seem impressive when you need someone to teach you how to properly use a squatty potty.

You will lose your friends.
Not that you’ll part on bad terms, you’ll just likely drift apart. The friends you left behind will move on with their lives and the constant rotation of new people overseas means you will exist in a world of perpetual hellos and goodbyes. Some are able to hang onto a few close friendships with the aid of social media, but the gap left by those who are no longer in your day to day real life can feel more like a chasm.

You will feel a lot of doubt about your future.
In serving overseas, you step outside of the traditional career building ladder. When will it be ‘too late’ to go back and enter the workforce? If you do go back, who would employ you? If you stay, what about retirement?  Uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty.


Was this post depressing? Sorry about that. There are so many wonderful aspects of living overseas and those are good things to get excited about. I’ll tell you about them next time.      

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Anisha Hopkinson

Anisha was born to Chilean and Texan parents, first tasted missions in Mexico, fell in love with an Englishman in Africa, and now lives in Indonesia. She journals about cross-cultural life, helping people, and loving Jesus on

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