Home Emigrate To emigrate or not to emigrate? | The pros and cons of emigration
Pros and cons of emigrating

To emigrate or not to emigrate? | The pros and cons of emigration

by Sabine
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Languages / Talen

Emigrate: still more than 154,000 Dutch people move abroad every year. It is now 5.5 years since my own emigration to Colombia, I have integrated into this new culture and am enjoying my life here. But is the grass really greener on the other side? Do you really have less stress in your new country? What makes emigrating so wonderful? And what are the disadvantages you may encounter? In this article I give you 10 reasons to emigrate and 10 disadvantages of emigration. In addition, you can read about what characteristics make it easier to emigrate and integrate into your new country.

10 Reasons to emigrate

I emigrated to Colombia at the end of 2014 and not for a second have I regretted it. There are many reasons I can mention why emigrating is great. For example, I don’t miss this at all from the Netherlands. And emigrating has given me these 5 life lessons . Most people emigrate because of the hardening of society, the climate, the disappointing political situation, better future prospects in another country, for work or because of the need for more peace and nature. By the way, here you will find many figures about emigrating from the Netherlands and Belgium. But there are more reasons to emigrate. Read the 10 most important to me listed here.

1. Emigrating is all about self-development

If you are not into self-development then emigrating can become quite a challenge. Whether you go abroad to the other side of the world, or you stay close by. You enter a totally different culture and whether you want to or not: you have to adjust to that to some extent. And you learn a lot from that (and sometimes come across yourself the hard way). I love self-development and find it very interesting to see those differences between two cultures and learn from them. You have to rediscover everything. Arranging a lot without knowing how it actually works. Suddenly you get to know other qualities of yourself. Get things done that you never thought you could. It makes you a richer person, with more knowledge and life experience. Suddenly the fear of going out of your comfort zone is gone. Wonderful right?

2. You suddenly dare much more and your self-confidence increases

Although I used to not dare to do many things I wanted, moving abroad has largely solved those fears. If you can emigrate you can literally do anything. It will make you stronger in many ways. You have to manage and rediscover a lot on your own, and when you manage to do that it gives your self-confidence a huge boost. Suddenly everything seems easier and you will more easily tackle new things that you might not have dared to do before.

After emigrating, I made other big changes in my life:

  • After years of working as a scientific researcher, I resigned to start my own business in web design and blogging . In Colombia, that is. Entrepreneurship was totally new to me, but if I can emigrate I can do this too, right?
  • I moved from the big city where everything was close by to a farm and lived above a horse stable in the Colombian countryside for 2.5 years.
  • Unfortunately my marriage didn’t work out, but this huge change of starting over again, finding a house of my own and really standing on my own two feet I went into it with purely the thought that everything will be all right again.

3. More freedom in life

The Netherlands is a very free country that other countries could learn a thing or two from. It just doesn’t feel that way at all, a lot of times. The many rules, pressure from society and interference from the government sometimes make the Netherlands a bit oppressive. And with me, that feeling was gone pretty quickly after I emigrated. Colombia is not sacred either, but there is a bit more sense of freedom. Stores are open until late seven days a week. Being able to buy food and drink anywhere on the street and even in traffic jams. Being able to meet with someone at very short notice without the need for an agenda. Certain things are arranged very quickly, such as finding and arranging a (rental) house, buying furniture or applying for a new debit card. To name a few.

4. Emigrating makes positive

Precisely because you find that suddenly more is possible than you ever imagined, you become a more positive person. Or at least, I do. Now I was always positive, but now I really worry about less things. Stress I definitely do have, especially about work-related issues. But less. Everything always works out.

5. A less rushed life

In the Netherlands, everyone is always busy. And admittedly, I myself also have a busy business of my own that I work on all day. But that hurried life as in Holland is not in Colombia and in many other countries. If something doesn’t work out today, it will come tomorrow. Or sometime next week. People worry little and that is contagious. Only when there is cause for concern. And that’s quite nice.

6. Emigrate for a better climate and spectacular nature

The Netherlands is beautiful, and when I see on the news everyone outside enjoying that first summer sunshine I really do think back to it sometimes. But those few months of nice weather in The Netherlands can’t compete with the climate I now live in. I don’t mind at all that there are no seasons: at any time of the year I can get in the car or plane and arrive an hour later in 30 degrees. Or at least, if there is no virus of course…. I really can’t miss the mountains anymore. The beautiful nature everywhere I go is pure enjoyment.

7. Moving abroad for your loved one

A very good reason to emigrate if you ask me. Unless, of course, you really can’t miss your home county. It is exciting, a new adventure in your life and you learn a lot as described above. The chance to get to know another country and culture. And also to be together with your foreign love.

8. You broaden your world

Nice cliché, but it’s just the way it is. You gain knowledge that others do not have and are open to things that are different from your standard. Things that seemed very strange at first are now becoming more and more normal. Think about certain eating habits, the way you greet people or simply the way other people do things. This makes you flexible and you understand the world better. It also makes you suddenly see how strange some things are in your county of origin.

9. You no longer feel good in your home country

A good reason to move abroad. Not feeling well in your home country anymore can have many causes. Think about the hurried life, air pollution, political situation, discrimination, the mentality of the people or the peace and space you miss. Perfect it is nowhere, but not feeling good anywhere requires a change. You can resist it, but better to find a solution for your bad feelings. Moving abroad could be just that solution.

10. Facing adventure and chasing your dreams

Do you find your life boring? Then emigrating is a good way to get at least temporarily into a great adventure. It does take some time to become fully established in a country, and depending on the country, you continue to be regularly amazed even after years. Did you always have the dream of living in another country? Do it!


10 Disadvantages of emigrating

Is the grass really greener in another country? No. Emigrating is incredibly fun and educational, but there are just as many drawbacks. After many years I fel those disadvantages more and more. It may be a part of my personality tough. Before you take the step to leave your home behind and move abroad, be aware of the less fun aspects of emigrating.

1. (Learning) to speak another language is not always fun

Depending on how well you master the language, your new language can be quite a burden. I myself speak Spanish very well. I also communicate in Spanish at home with my boyfriend. Although I make grammatical mistakes and still encounter words I don’t know, I actually do everything in Spanish. From registering my company with the Colombian Chamber of Commerce to going to the doctor to grocery shopping. Still, that language sometimes brings tricky situations, no matter how well I speak it:

  • Sayings and typical jokes I often do not understand. Then it must be explained or I simply miss the reason why everyone is laughing so much. Not fun.
  • In some cases, I simply feel stupid for not understanding something, and that’s really frustrating.
  • In Spanish, at least in Colombia, many things are said in a different way than in Dutch. For example, cumbersome or in a way that is not clear to me even though I understand the sentence. This is very difficult, because I tend to say something in Dutch in Spanish. But people here don’t undertand it.

When you are just starting to learn a new language, it is also very difficult to express emotions. How do you say how you feel in a new language? That really sounds easier than it is. And speaking in groups: really a drama. Having “cozy” lunch with your new friends then becomes quite a challenge. Speaking one on one is still possible, but in a group you lose the thread after just a few seconds. Of course, this is going to be totally fine, but the first few months in your new country can bring many uncertain situations.

2. Your certainties fall away

Unless you are already guaranteed a good job in your new country before emigrating, a lot of certainties fall away. Finding a new job can be quite a challenge and you may not earn as much as for the same work in your country of origin. And social security as it is pretty well regulated in the Netherlands: they may never have heard of it in your new country. And that’s pretty exciting. Being flexible helps a lot in this, accepting that this is part of it and trying to solve it for yourself as best you can. Not always easy, but if you have a positive attitude you will get there.

3. Feeling at home takes time

The first year of your emigration is often dominated by arranging things. Both in your country of origin as in your new country. Good housing, your new insurance, finding a doctor and dentist, finding a job, arranging your possible visa; you name it. Besides, it can easily take a year before the feeling you are on holday will disappear. Then there is also the matter of getting involved in your new society and making new friends. Once you have finished arranging, made some new contacts and started building a new life you are going to feel more and more at home.

4. You are more Dutch (or wherever you are from) than thought

Did you leave because you wanted to escape the hurried society in the Netherlands, suddenly everything goes very slowly in your new country. Dutch directness is not always nice, but in other cultures you suddenly seem to have a huge need for it. And so you run into yourself big time. Turns out you’re more Dutch than you thought. I myself am also really still Dutch, though with many new features. A hodgepodge you could call it. And yes, still after all those years I am sometimes annoyed by the Colombian mentality. In the beginning, my patience was way more often tested, by the way….

5. Missing family and friends after emigration

If you have moved to a neighboring country it may not be too bad. But further away: missing relatives is the reality. No more going for coffee with your parents, celebrating Christmas with your family is no longer natural, birthdays of family and friends are missed, and important events are experienced from a distance. Consider the birth of a nephew or niece, the death of a close friend or when a friend or family member gets married. Now during the Corona crisis, in many cases you cannot even get to your family at all. Here you can read what it’s like to be quarantined for months in Colombia and what it does to me.

It is also difficult from your family’s point of view. A child moving abroad is not easy. My parents wrote this article about what it’s like when your child emigrates.

6. You may suffer from guilt

Leaving your family behind has a big impact on both your family and you. Your children, your brothers, sisters or your parents. Especially as your parents get older and need a little more help. As an only daughter, you can no longer go shopping with your mother. I too struggle with guilt regularly, although it is diminishing. Skype and an annual visit saves a lot, but it really isn’t always easy.

7. You have to adapt to everything

That is precisely the beauty of emigrating, but can also be very difficult. After all, you also have to adapt to things you don’t really want to adapt to at all. The way of greeting, way of speaking, way of socializing, the way of eating and the way of working, for example. This is easier for some people than for others. I myself, for example, don’t have a lot of trouble adjusting. However, working in Colombia became really too much for me at one point, after which I resigned and started for myself. Read more about that here.

8. You may start to miss your country of origin

Whether it’s homesickness or missing little things: you may just end up missing your country tremendously. You may also occasionally miss something from your country, but it may not be a nuisance. In my case, I don’t easily miss anything, but earlier I put this list of 10 things I miss from the Netherlands in a row. I don’t really miss it, but I do enjoy stroopwafels, Dutch cheese, chocolate sprinkles, gingerbread and Dutch bread when I visit family. What I do miss is that typical Dutch cosiness, which you really don’t find anywhere in the world. I try to mimic that as best I can in my home, but it’s not the same.

9. You are always a foreigner

When you emigrate, you suddenly know very well how a foreigner in the your country of origin must feel. And that’s not always pleasant. It depends enormously on the country how foreigners are treated. Colombia, for example, is generally (in my experience) a very nice country for foreigners. In fact, there are a lot of advantages I have as a foreigner. I don’t usually feel like a foreigner, only in certain situations. But I do feel people stare at me and talk to me in another way. I think that also if you don’t feel yourself a foreigner, you still feel yourself always a foreigner in some level. And in some situations, like getting along well in a group. Or if I need to arrange something related to my business or the tax authorities and I start to miss the Dutch tax authorities because it is extremely complicated here (especially for foreigners). But otherwise I don’t suffer a lot from that feeling. However, that can be very different.

10. Your country of origin is not so bad

Just when you have emigrated you suddenly see your country in a different way. Literally from a distance, giving you a good look at everything. What used to be normal is now quite special. What you didn’t appreciate before you now begin to miss. Check out these 50 reasons why the Netherlands is so cool. Every country has advantages and disadvantages, including the Netherlands and your new country.


Do you need certain characteristics to emigrate?

I am a positive person and I think anyone can emigrate, as long as you really want to. If you have that dream, that desire, you should be fine. However, if you have certain traits, it certainly does make emigrating easier. At the beginning of your emigration, flexibility is particularly important, but if you’re going to stay longer, then these traits can help:

  • Being open-minded | Not being immediately judgmental about other customs, norms and values. With this, you will make friends faster and it will also save you a lot of irritation.
  • Being able to take initiative | Making friends in a new country is not so easy, so some social skills and being able to take initiative are helpful. Walking up to people yourself and suggesting a fun outing, for example.
  • Flexibility | Useful both at the beginning and later. Being able to adjust your behavior easily and quickly. Adapting easily to habits that are strange to you. Seeing a challenge in new situations.
  • Ability for self-reflection | You are undoubtedly going to encounter yourself in your new country. It’s very easy to blame problems you encounter to someone else, but that doesn’t really make you happy. And is unfair.
  • Positive attitude | Making a problem of everything, always commenting on how others do certain things. This is not convenient if you want to emigrate. After all, you’re going to encounter a lot of things that you disagree with or think are stupid. Stay positive, see things positively. Learn from it and move on again.
  • Adventurous spirit | At least a little. Emigrating, after all, is a great adventure.


What do you actually need to take care of when you emigrate?

There I have this roadmap for emigration listed for you.


Do you have plans or dreams of moving abroad? Or have you already emigrated? What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of emigrating for you?


More to read!

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