Life outside of the USA is different.
The small things are different. The day-to-day is different. The social contracts are different.
So after a long time living outside of the USA, it stands to think you might change, too.
Here were some of those answers.
More Of A Shift
I've lived in several different countries so the changes were different in each one. The one major/constant one is that I travel a lot more now. Not because I have some sort of passion for travel or because I feel like I missed out on it living in the US (I traveled a lot as a kid). It's just so damn easy, that it's not even much of a thought. Traveling outside of your state is a hassle but outside of the U.S., that's a major trip. Traveling to a neighboring country now is a 1-2 hour train and I am in a completely different culture, with a different language, different food, etc.
That Last Bit...Might Wanna Rethink?
I'm still American but living in west/central Africa since 2007.
Negatives about being here: there's not the variety of restaurants found in the states. Health care often isn't very good, though it is really cheap (root canal $80 for example). Many cities don't offer a wide range of activities either.
Positives: I can afford a housekeeper twice a week to clean the place and do laundry. Restaurants and bars are really cheap. 24 oz. beer is a dollar. People are very social and easy to meet. There really isn't a lot to spend money on so I save quite a bit of my salary. I can piss along side of the road if I need to and nobody cares.
Moved to Switzerland 5 years ago. The biggest difference is that there is more vacation time and higher salaries. This causes lower stress in general—people are always talking about their next holiday. In fact it's hard to get together with friends sometimes because someone is always on holiday!
Less road rage and better drivers and public transit goes absolutely everywhere. We drive much less here and didn't have a car for the first three years.
Subsidized pre-school (spielgruppe). No school on Wednesdays. Two hour lunch breaks. All the shops are closed on Sundays and holidays.
No Mexican food :(
We cook a lot more because eating out is incredibly expensive. We also lost about 10 lbs each from walking everywhere / eating better.
Minor Things Get Fixed
I've lived in a few countries outside of the US: Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Georgia (the republic)
Main everyday benefits are public transportation is really easy, convenient, and cheap to use every day. I also eat out a lot more because it's much cheaper and more relaxed.
I haven't had to deal with health stuff much, but when I have, it's awesome and life changing. For example, I recently partially dislocated my shoulder and am able to afford out of pocket service at one of the best physical therapists in my city. In the US, I can't afford insurance and would just not see a doctor since it isn't extremely painful or life threatening.
Not me but my brother. He moved to Austria and loves it there. One thing that's changed though is that it's absolutely messed up how he speaks English. He's learned a lot of German but English is so widespread over there it's still what he usually uses. But all the people he talks to have a somewhat thick accent when they speak it which he's kind of adopted over time. He has to put a lot of effort into how he talks when Skyping with our mom or she can't understand a word he says.
It's Always About The Healthcare
I was living in Hong Kong for a few years but returned due to the protests.
The best things were public transit, having fast, reliable public transit and just getting on a double-decker bus after work and spacing out on my phone or jumping on a train and being on a beautiful mountain ready to hike within 40 minutes was amazing.
The food was incredible. I think a lot of westerners go and get pizza or pasta or whatever they're used to but it's expensive and not very good. The little dumpling shops and random Sichuan noodle places though can't be beat.
And of course healthcare. There's an inexpensive public option that you have to wait for and also an expensive private option that still has to compete with the public option. So the prices aren't bad at all even with the private doctors and you get something for the extra cost. I never waited more than a couple minutes for a scheduled appointment and the care was far superior to anything I've ever dealt with in the US.
A visit for food poisoning and flu ran me $45 USD with prescriptions. $80 USD for the dentist. $700 usd for 3 months of concerta and a meeting with a specialist. Now I'm back in the US, my wife had to go to an appointment at the nicer local hospital. We waited for an hour in a dirty waiting room with furniture that's falling falling apart for a scheduled appointment that lasted all of 15 minutes, and talked to the doctor for just 2 minutes. $650 without any medications.
Living Got Easier
Still American, been living in Barcelona for 17 years.
On balance it's been a great experience. Mostly as a result of sheer luck I wound up in a place where my shortcomings weren't as big of a problem as they were back in Seattle, and I really came out of my shell. I discovered new talents, started a successful business, met a nice boy, fell in love and got married.
How has my life changed? Well, I have fairly severe ADD, and that kept me from being successful in my chosen IT profession. Here I found a passion for hospitality and opened a burger place that has now become a top-rated mini-chain in the country. Due to the high cost of opening a business like that in the US, I never would have been able to manage it. Here I did.
Quality of life is better in general: good free healthcare, public transport everywhere, awesome food and wine, great climate and weather. Cost of living is generally pretty low compared to the US, even though I'm in one of the most expensive real-estate markets in the country.
On the other hand, something I've noticed and discussed with my American friends is that by comparison, life here is harder than the US (depending on where you are there). By hard I mean so much is a hassle. Those cute mom-and-pop stores here are great until you actually need to buy something and have to go to six places and they are all out of it because they only stock one so you've wasted half a day and still won't get the thing you need until next week. So much paperwork and bureaucracy, city governments and state agencies with entire hierarchies of functionaries who only exist to prevent you from doing what you need to do. Sooo many lines to stand in. Supermarkets that are anything but super and keep bankers' hours. Sky-high taxes. It costs thousands of Euros and the better part of a year to get a drivers' license here, but everyone drives like a drunken toddler so what was the point? I could go on.
Life here is great, but I suspect we'll wind up back in the US in a few years.
Capitalism Hasn't Taken My Life Away
I'm still an American, but I have been living outside of the US for the better part of the last decade.
It's nice to have affordable medical insurance and to be able to go to the doctor without worrying about the price. It's also nice to have amazing and affordable public transportation, not just in my city, but throughout the whole country. Other positives include low crime, clean cities, not a ton of aggressive homeless people. Apartments are also extremely affordable, even in the most desirable parts of town.
On the downside, I'll always be a foreigner here, and the air pollution is way worse here than in the US. Also, fresh produce is way more expensive here than it is back home.
My Life Isn't Dependent On My Wealth
I am a Norwegian-American and I have lived in Iceland, Norway, and the Faroe Islands. I am now living in Moscow, Russia, waiting for my residency to be processed. The main change from moving from the States to Russia is the availability to great health care without buying health insurance. I had an MRI done for $20 and they gave me a thumb drive of the scans so I can take it to whichever other clinic I might want to. Then I had 3 ultrasounds during one session, with blood work, and it all only cost around $45 dollars. These appointments were all done on the same day I called to make them and within a 5 mile radius of my home. This was all with a private healthcare clinic too, which is more expensive than just the State run healthcare. So yeah, it's amazing to have that. It's also nice to be able to buy a nice apartment and Summer house without taking a mortgage. I'll just add that life in Russia is much more similar to the United States than it ever was while living in the Nordic countries that I had lived in.
It Really Is All About Healthcare
I no longer have to determine if I'm sick enough to go to the doctor or ER because of costs. Medical treatment here is almost entirely covered by taxes, and it's an amazing feeling after living in the US. I won't lose my savings if I get cancer or have a car accident. If I don't feel well, I just pop down to my doctor for a free visit. (Yes, I know nothing is truly free.)
I have more free time and less stress. Work-life balance is valued more here. No one questions or cares if I take a sick day or need time to go to an appointment. I'm able to pursue hobbies and have a decent social life without other areas of my life being impacted. Life is just more laid back. It took me about five years to adjust to it, but I've fully embraced it now. When I visit the US, I'm always very glad that I no longer live there.
With the sociopolitical climate being what it's been lately, I'm pretty sure a ton of you dear US readers have grumbled (some more seriously than others) about potentially moving to Canada.
Have you ever wanted to talk to someone who actually did it and get their take on it? Now's your chance ... or at least as much talking as an awesomely informative Reddit thread can be.