Living Abroad…and the lessons learned

Living Abroad

A Column

Immanuel Kant once said that “it only makes sense to travel in other cultures if you’ve already made sense of your own, but doing the former will help you notice the shortcomings of your own culture (as described here)”. Indeed, traveling and living abroad for a significant period of time does not just help us to get a lot of new insights, but mostly teaches us valuable lessons to learn, such as to understand and get to know other ways of “how things are done around here” – especially when it comes to corporate culture (i.e. discovering certain business practices you would´t have otherwise considered).

No matter how far away from home or which passion one is planning to follow in the country of his/her choice (e.g. a new job, doing your masters degree, the surfing instructor you met during your summer holiday etc. ) one thing will be for sure: There´s no school in the world who can teach you the following lessons:

  1. Small problems appear less dramatic: Imagine the following situation (…well, if your office is located in a region where earthquakes are quite common): You are sitting in a conference call discussing Problem XY with your fellow workers from HQ and you suddenly find yourself in a situation saying “Sorry guys, just a quick pause. We currently have an earthquake here, I´ve got to leave the room for a second.” What may sounds like a “my dog ate the homework” excuse in the first moment, is quite common in large parts of the world (and yes, afterwards usually the telephone network breaks down as well…solving Problem XY thus needs to wait).
  2. Learning to value things that always have been taken for granted: Some countries are not used to days where it keeps on raining cats and dogs – and so isn´t mother earth´s soil in these specific regions, causing the water supply to be interrupted for an unknown number of days in the worst cases. Well, for sure that situation makes you reconsider things and ….
  3. Enables you to handle uncertainty: After the water incident one needs to react (in case there is still time) and get creative quickly (e.g. filling up your bathtub and used water bottles…).
  4. Getting lost is not (always) a waste of time: Well, who hasn´t been there? One moment your were looking for the special coffee place everyone was recommending to you and all of a sudden you find yourself in a scary street, surrounded by some barking street dogs. The only way to flee from this rather unpleasant situation is this shabby looking small “bistro” next to you, which after studying the (sticky and laminated) menu and giving the Cheeseburger a try, turns out to serve the best hamburgers in town. Strike!
  5. “Brave” will become your second name: Earthquakes, no running water and barking street dogs almost everywhere? Well, there is nothing more to add to this point on the list…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Funny, I have posted a similar article a few days ago, I guess wanderers think the same 🙂 all true, from lessening drama to learning to handle uncertainty! 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comment! Interesting to see, that we share the same experiences. Great website btw, cheers

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