Thursday, February 23, 2012

5 Disadvantages of Being a Writer Abroad

In general, Writer Abroad prefers to discuss the advantages of living abroad. After all, many great writers have lived in other countries. Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway. The list goes on and on.

Living abroad can make you more creative, allow you to understand your homeland as you never have before, and teach you a lot about yourself.

That being said, there are several disadvantages. Here are a few Writer Abroad has run across.

1) You are writing about your experiences abroad but you don’t live in Italy or France. Maybe you didn’t get the memo. But according to one American agent, no one cares about Switzerland in the United States—except for maybe the government looking for our bank accounts. But that’s another story.

2) The dollar isn’t what it used to be. And as most writers know, it’s hard enough to make a living as a writer. If you have to convert your hard-earned dollars to Swiss francs or euros, it’s even harder. Solution? Move to Mexico or write for local publications.

3) Editors back home might not get it. As an international writer, you’ve got something unique—an international perspective. Unfortunately, many editors haven’t lived abroad, so they might not understand where you’re coming from. David Sedaris read an essay about language difficulties to an audience in Zurich and there was not a person in the theater who wasn’t laughing. But according to Sedaris, that very essay had been rejected by the radio show, This American Life.

4) Residence permits and bureaucracy are huge headaches that typically repeat themselves every year. Enough said.

5) It can be hard to find classes and workshops in your language. That’s one reason Writer Abroad founded the Zurich Writers Workshop along with several other American writers. Sometimes if you want a writing education abroad, you have to organize it yourself.

Any writers living abroad want to chime in on disadvantages? If you’re from the UK or Australia, is the situation similar?


  1. Can definitely relate to #3. In a memoir piece I recently had accepted by a lit mag, the editor didn't understand why in my dialogue I'd framed a question syntacically different from standard US usage. You can't frame questions about culture as directly when living abroad. People outside the US (Indians in this case) frown upon such straightforwardness. That's why it's a literary travel piece, not a tourist piece going in a glossy mag.

    Your literary climate is far different from mine. In northern Peru there's any artistic culture at all, let alone expats who share those interests/talents. Therefore I am quite alone here. That makes me extremely thankful for my Internet friends (when I have an Internet connection, that is).


  2. And that is why a lot of our great expat writers always think about moving to france before jumpstarting their careers. What's with that place anyway?

  3. I don't think there's something wrong with that. But I think you gotta try more when you travel abroad or even write something about dropshipping companies. More formal in a way.

  4. I agree with the disadvantages that a writer aboard faces.

  5. If you are born to be a writer, you've to face the disadvantages too.

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