Any benefits of moving abroad for expat kids?

Uprooting the family, creating expat kids

We already talked about the reasons for moving abroad; money or adventure, a better life or a career choice. Whatever the reason, when you’re moving abroad with kids, the decision no longer has an impact on your own world alone, but also on the world of your soon-to-be “expat kids”.

So is moving abroad with kids a crime? Removing kids from their well-known environment and putting them into completely new settings certainly cannot be nice, right? So do we do the right thing at all? Do we make them poor, rootless creatures? Or are expat kids rather cosmopolitans, who have gained only benefits of moving around the globe?

Well, even if the decision is still ours to make, we should still listen to the kids and acknowledge their viewpoint:

The voices of two expat kids

When we started moving abroad with kids, they themselves were very young and obviously had no clue about any benefits of moving anywhere whatsoever. Now, looking back, they’re old enough to reflect on what they as expat kids have gained – and what they on the other hand could have gained, had they not moved out. Here’s a sample of what Julie (14) and Alexander (11) said about their view on any eventual benefits of moving:

I couldn’t imagine speaking only one language. That must be really boring.


You get to know more people, languages, cultures, lifestyles, and systems, so you don’t feel as isolated … and it’s more thrilling and adventurous.

– Julie

Beautiful and strong – expat kids at home in the world

As a parent, I see several benefits of moving abroad with kids, not least from our own experience: They are mentally strong. They speak several languages. And not least do they have a wider vision of the world. Because of the sometimes shocking exposure to so many different settings, they themselves became naturally tolerant.

This exposure to a number of very different environments, people, and influences have thus offered them huge benefits – as far as we can tell. Most important of all, it has provided them with inner values and a solid belief in these same values. They have emerged in the world and become aware of it – a bit like the flower in Masaru Emoto’s writing:

[…] you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.

More to come on how the expat kids see it themselves. Meanwhile, we’d love to hear from you! What do your own kids see as the benefits of moving, if any? Expat kids or parents, please share your comments!

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11 Responses to Any benefits of moving abroad for expat kids?

  1. My daughter was 3 when we moved to Dubai from Japan in 2007. Now she is 7 and have spent 4 out of 7 years of her life outside her country of birth. It has been a wonderful experience for her, learning different languages (in Japan she only knew and spoke Japanese), making friends from different countries. How do I know if she likes living in Dubai, UAE? Well she always asks when we go to Japan on vacation, “Mom, when will we go back ‘home’ to Dubai?”

    • Nana says:

      Wow, Grace, our daughter was 2 when we lived in Japan. She is now 14 years old and has spent 11 of those abroad. Whenever we ask her, she always claims to feel “at home” wherever we happen to live at that moment. Our 11-year-old son has spent app. 1 year in total in Denmark. However, both kids consider themselves Danish :-) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Tanya says:

    I work with TCKs (kids who spend much of their childhood abroad) in China. There’s definitely a balance of pros/cons to the experience of living overseas. Overall, I believe they gain more than they lose, but it’s important for parents to understand the negative impact so they can take steps to moderate it as much as possible.

    • Nana says:

      We agree with you, Tanya, and are very conscious about the eventual effects and consequences expat life might have on our children. However, as you say, all in all it seems that children are gaining a lot from their experiences abroad. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janie says:

    Personally, I have lived 15 out 0f my 20 years abroad. I cannot think of a better childhood to have. Of course I have missed out on having long time friends and lasting experiences, but at the same time I have gained so much more. Leaving every country I’ve learned to call “home” is difficult at first, but looking back, I wouldn’t change the life I’ve had or the experiences I’ve lived for anything. Learning different languages and being able to relate to people from many different backgrounds is a wonderful ability to have.

    • Nana says:

      I feel a lot more relieved now, Janie, great to hear your view on this! Our son has lived app. 1 year in his native country, our daughter 3 years. If you see this comment, I’d like to know which countries and which languages you call yours? Also, what took your parents around the world? Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kris says:

    I have 5 children the two youngest are 16 and 15 the rest are grown and gone (one in Russia on a mission for our church). I have contemplated taking a job in China. The kids have mixed opinions about going. Our 16 year old daughter is all for it and our 15 year old son says “no thank.” My wife is till opposed to it so we will stay put for now but I am still working on her. We are living in a small community that is very clickish and personally it drives me a little crazy. I am feeling like a little adventure and was a military brat till age 10 living in England and Taiwan. I appreciate your comments but would like to hear from more people who have older kids like mine who have never really lived out of the country before. We traveled to Tanzania this past spring and all the kids loved it and loved meeting other people of differing ideas and cultures. I believe it brought us a little closer. I think if handled well it could have that affect. Our situation is a little different in that we will still own our home in the US and jsut be leaving for about three years on temporary assignment then return to our home. At that point our youngest will just have graduated form high school. would love to hear your input.

    • Thomas says:

      Kris – not really my feedback you were asking for, but I’m just curious how your dreams are playing out? I’m sure China would be a great and very different experience for your teenagers. Maybe if you can find something concrete for them to look forward to, it would make it less “scary” for them. Like, “this is an awesome school”, or “see this neighborhood – and nearby there’s this great wildlife/mountain/etc.”.

    • McKenzi says:

      I am 16 and my family has just decided to move to China. We will be living there for about 2 years which means I will graduate there. I am very excited for the experience and have been all for it from the start. But I have a sister who is 14 who is very against it and would rather die than go.(she is a little over dramatic) I also have two other siblings who are in elementary school but don’t really know whats going on so they don’t seem too effected yet by the move. We’ve had to give my 14 year old sister a lot of choices and benefits to make her want to move, like being able to have her own room when we are there and trying to tell her of all the great experiences we will have when we are there. She and I have already been there and so she knows what it is like but she is just too against leaving her friends. I don’t know what religion you are but to me it sounded like you were LDS, from the comment about the mission, and my family is too. If you are concerned about the church there, we know that there are small branches of foreigners all over China. We are also returning back to our home afterwords and are just letting it be rent out while we are gone. I know there are going to be a lot of benefits by going. I will have the opportunity to learn Chinese and be involved greatly in a unique culture. I will have the opportunity to make new friends from all over the world by going to an International School there. I think that this will prepare me for my life by giving me experiences that will help me grow and learn. I think that your kids would hopefully find those same benefits with the idea of moving.

      • Robb says:

        I just stumbled upon these comments because I too am seriously considering relocating my family of six from Californa to Taiwan for at least one year (expat assignment for work). We have 4 kids and the older ones (14 and 12) have very mixed responses. My 14 year old daughter swears she will run away and hide before she has to move to Taiwan. My 12 year old son thinks it sounds cool…afterall, its only for one year. My wife is worried about disrupting the family dynamics and potentially throwing our kid’s lives into a tailspin. I am much more optimistic. Any advice for a parent with teenagers?

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