What Living Abroad Is Really Like

What It's Like To Live In A Foreign Land

Every considered living abroad? Since the age of 17, I’ve visited 21 countries and 36 U.S. states. In 14 years of marriage, we’ve made our home in 10 different houses, 4 of those  in a land other than that of my citizenship. After living a combined total of five years in another country, I still have moments of frustration of trying to understand and fit into a culture that is not my own.

I grew up in small town Texas where a 45 minute trip to Dallas was considered a day trip. Moving 9,268 miles away to the southernmost country in Africa was a big deal. In high school, I dreamed of living abroad, in a different country and raising kids who had an awareness of what the world was like, not just what life in America was like. I got my wish, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I hope this little glimpse gives you an idea of what it’s like to live in a foreign land.

The first thing you should know, however, is that a “typical” day doesn’t exist in my world. I’ll tell you why. In any given day, one or more of the following could happen. Totally serious.

1. Monkeys. Depending on the migrating path of our friendly vervet monkeys, we might get a natural wake up call as they jump on our tin roof during their hunt for breakfast. I find it quite annoying seeing as how they have no consideration for the human species. Staring down my son through closed, glass doors bringing him to frightened tears is just not cool. We can’t seem to get used to it.

What It's Like To Live In A Foreign Land

2. Snakes. “Mom, a snake just slithered over my foot,” he said with a chuckle. What? That’s NOT something a Mom wants to hear from her son, especially living in a country with deadly ones. {I’m shuddering as I type.} Clearly the wildlife is a big part of the experience of living abroad.

3. Errand running. It can easily take me a whole day to do a few things. One stop shops don’t exist. Everything from getting your car registered to buying groceries takes longer, much longer. The more I’ve lived here, the harder this has actually become. Time is precious and having to go to the department motor vehicles several different times because the person behind the counter tells you each time that you need yet another document different from the others, is just plain frustrating. Ain’t nobody got time for that. America is a land of convenience, and to be perfectly honest, I miss it. Life in foreign countries definitely has pros and cons.

4. Capturing HOPE. There is nothing more rewarding than capturing hope right before my very eyes. Whether it be from a hungry child receiving a plate of food or a single Mom who once lived in a shack moving into her very own home, I love the opportunities when I can grab my camera and capture the story. It’s such a privilege, and one that would not likely be duplicated in my blessed and convenient domestic life.

What It's Like To Live In A Foreign Land

5. Candlelit dinners. Usually this is not by choice but rather a result of the government trying to generate a way to have enough energy to run the country through load shedding. These are the times I thank the Lord for my gas stove.

6. Water shortages. I used to take water for granted. Not anymore. There have been times where we’ve literally gone days without running water. You learn to manage, you tell yourself that it’s time to build another rain catchment tank, and you count your blessings, one of those being water.

I could go on and on on what it’s really like living abroad, to make a home in a totally foreign land. There are crazy adventures, lots of learning (some of it hard!), and silly mishaps all along the way. It’s challenging and frustrating, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Jen Price

Jen currently makes her home between two continents, one in the great state of Texas and the other in a small town in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. She wears many hats such as wife, mother, photographer, storyteller, communications director, writer, traveler, and lover of dark chocolate. She writes for several websites including her personal blog, I Believe In Love, where she shares her creative ventures, her photography, and the stories of the orphans she loves on in S. Africa.


  1. Karen :

    Wow–that about sums it up–or not–hehe! It’s so interesting to realize that you do not have a “typical” day—I understand that with your descriptions. And Monkeys!!! and snakes!!! At least you are building your scare tolerance! Gotta look on the bright side! I love your writing–it’s so real.
    Have a great non-typical day!

    • Jen Price :

      Thanks, Karen! Yes, my scare tolerance is definitely getting built up!

  2. maryanne @ mama smiles :

    Living in developing countries definitely taught me not to take water for granted. Living overseas can be difficult, but I’m so glad I had that opportunity, and I would love for my kids to experience it as well!

    • Jen Price :

      Yes, it does make one appreciate water, doesn’t it, MaryAnne? While it is hard at times, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!