overcome culture shock and become a citizen of the world
Leaving your home country for the first time to live abroad is usually not easy. You will most likely experience culture shock. The various stages of culture shock have been well document. These stages are characterized by different emotions. The exact progression and types of emotions experienced varies between individuals.
Upon arrival in your new home, you may feel a sense of relief and accomplishment. Those feelings may be accompanied by moments of euphoria and disbelief that you actually did it. As you explore and get to know your new surroundings, you may feel giddy.
However, the difficulties of living abroad soon set in. If you don’t speak the local language, you will feel frustrated by your inability to communicate. You may also begin to feel isolated. This feeling of isolation may be exacerbated by the locals who tend to define you by your otherness. Cultural differences may cause resentment to blossom inside you. Resentment may serve as the fuel that triggers moments of intense anger. In the most trying stages of culture shock, some foreigners crack and go ballistic, yelling and lashing out at those around them.
If you make it through the adjustment period, the emotional roller coaster ends. You will come to accept the way things are in your new home. Acceptance is the final stage. After acceptance, many things that initially rattled you won’t phase you or have only a minor effect on your psyche.
Overcoming culture shock is the first step to becoming a citizen of the world. I don’t mean this in some kind of legal sense. What I mean is that you will be able to go to new and far flung destinations and feel more at ease. You will be more flexible, more patient, and more connected with yourself and those around you. You will adjust rapidly to each new destination. Furthermore, you may find that the nationality in your passport has little relationship to your identity, as you strike out merely as another human being exploring the world.
replace ignorance with direct experience
We live in a world divided by political borders. When immersed in the everyday existence and cultural bubble of one’s homeland, there is a tendency to develop and maintain ignorant or narrow viewpoints about the rest of the world. By living abroad, you move outside of your home country’s cultural bubble.
Direct experiences gained through living abroad or long-term travel can replace ignorance and narrow thinking with knowledge and accurate perspectives. Direct experience replaces the limited narrative of your home country’s stereotypes and news coverage of foreign lands. By living outside of your home country, your understanding of the world naturally and inexorably expands.
One may try to learn about the world by reading books and watching the news. However, the passive acquisition of information is no replacement for direct experience. Watching the international news segment on TV is particularly inadequate for understanding other places. Mass media around the world do a great job of focusing on bad news. Not only that, international news segments are divisive, tending to pit countries against each other while failing to separate governments from citizens. Additionally, the news media rarely focus on the everyday lives and human stories of people in other countries. Living abroad facilitates a direct human connection between you and a whole new group of people that cannot be achieved by watching the news, reading books, or watching documentaries.
Living in a foreign country can really test your patience. Things that were easy to do in your home country can become absurdly difficult to accomplish in your new and foreign home. Each time you feel like you’re going to hulk out and mash people up, you have the opportunity to practice patience. However, you must consciously recognize each opportunity to practice patience. Once your animal fury overtakes you, you become unconscious and act out of your lower self, and the opportunity to practice patience is lost. Being vigilant to not allow anger to overcome you is essential to practice patience. Perhaps nothing else tests your patience like living abroad, especially in a place vastly different from your home country.
gain a better understanding of your home country be leaving it
While it may seem paradoxical, you can gain a greater understanding of your home country by leaving it. As an expat, you are free to ponder your home country not only from a physical distance but also with a detachment that develops with time spent living abroad. A little bit of detachment goes a long way in seeing things with greater objectivity, rationality and clarity.
As an expat or long-term traveler, you will find out how other countries do things. It is inevitable that you will spend some time mentally comparing your country with the others you experience. You gain an understanding of your country’s true standing in the world. You may develop a stronger appreciation for certain aspects of your place of origin, while other aspects may forever irritate you.
From a distance, you will see through the absurd mottoes and political rhetoric of your homeland. Furthermore, you will better understand the society from which you came, both its strong points and neuroses. With that understanding, you can then strive to create a more sane way of living and being.
discovering new levels of awesome
When living in your home country, you know the things that you like. You may have a favorite food, a favorite café, a favorite night spot. But you are limited to what’s available in the confines of your local community and more broadly your home country. When you venture to other countries, you may discover a whole new level awesome. Perhaps you find a tasty foreign dish with flavors that you didn’t know existed. Perhaps you hear a foreign instrument being played and are immediately and forever entranced by its sound. Maybe you will go to a dance club in a foreign land to discover members of the opposite sex who have a different and completely awesome way of thinking and being. You just never know what’s out there until you go and find out. A whole new level of awesome is most likely waiting for you.
exposure to new ideas and ways of doing things
Think outside the box. I always hated hearing that hackneyed and vacuous expression thrown about in the corporate world. If you really want to think outside the box, then get the heck out of the box. Living abroad or engaging in long-term travel will expose you to different ways of thinking, different ways of being, and different solutions to life’s challenges. Every country has its own ethos and ways of getting things done. You gain knowledge by going abroad. You gain new perspectives. You learn new ways of reasoning. You acquire new ways of coping. You add to your problem solving repertoire. You boost your intellectual library. You become smarter.
“A man’s got to know his limitations”
Of course, Dirty Harry’s famous words also apply to women. If you really want to find out what you’re made of, put yourself in difficult situations and see how you do. Most people are surprised at how adaptable they can be, when taken out of the comfort of their familiar existence. However, everyone does have his or her limitations. As valuable as knowing what you are capable of is knowing what your limitations are. By knowing what your limitations are, you will avoid creating situations that you can’t handle. Living abroad can help clearly define one’s limitations.
incredible social networking potential
Forget the virtual nonsense of Facebook and other remote, removed, internet-based, inorganic and phony social networking websites. Go organic. Create real connections through face-to-face encounters with people from around the world. A new social network of real people is easily accessed with one plane trip overseas. Think of the incredible benefits of creating a global network of real friends. You may wind up with dozens of people to visit in other countries almost anytime you want.
learn a new language and give your mind a boost
We all have a voice which we use to express our thoughts and feelings, a voice to represent who we are. In our home countries, we don’t think twice about our ability to communicate in our native language. When using that ability is not an option, life becomes very complicated. Few things are as mentally challenging as learning a new language as an adult, especially if it is your first attempt at learning another language. Learning a foreign language is time consuming , frustrating, and even frightening.
When attempting to use a new language for the first time, people often feel shy, embarrassed, fearful, and anxious. The first time I tried using Spanish with a stranger, I felt a tremendous amount of anxiety before the first words even left my mouth. My heart was pounding in my chest, my mouth dry, and perspiration was dampening my skin. I was terrified. This experience is common among language learners. Simply trying to speak to strangers using the language you studied can produce massive amounts of anxiety. It’s all part of the often painful process of acquiring another language. Yet, the effort and uncomfortable feelings are worth the prize. Learning another language connects you with a whole new group of people. Not only that, language learning is excellent exercise for the brain. Language learning stimulates parts of the brain that can help keep your mind clear and sharp well into your life stage as an ornery geezer.