4 Ways Living Abroad Makes You A Better Person
Forging a life for yourself far away from friends and family can be tough. Throw in having to assimilate to a foreign culture and learn a new language and things can get rather complicated. As glamorous as it often sounds, being an expat is no walk in the park; it’s a multi-faceted experience that can change you in ways few other things do. Settling overseas may come with its share of downs, but there are many ups to the expat lifestyle as well. In fact, living abroad can actually make you a better person, and here’s 4 reasons why:
1. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
– Mark Twain
One of the best things about living abroad is that it tends to open you mind to a whole new way of life. I can’t imagine settling overseas and still maintaining the same mentality I had back home. When you move to another country, you’re forced to put aside your assumptions and stereotypes and understand the culture for what it truly is. This can apply to a myriad of things, whether it be religion, food, or local traditions. Your horizons will be broadened and you’ll be less likely to judge people at the drop of a hat. As an expat you sometimes are a minority in a nation which means that you have to quickly learn to be respectful of the prevalent culture and realise that it’s really not all about you!
2. “Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.”
— Jodi Picoult
Sometimes you really do have to go away to learn to appreciate what you’ve left behind. While you may be creating a new life for yourself overseas, being an expat truly teaches you to look forward to what’s ahead but to also treasure what’s behind. It’s all too easy to take your family for granted when they live just a short drive away, but when there’s thousands of miles between you, you’ll realise that you’ve got to put time and effort into nurturing those relationships. Since moving abroad, I talk on the phone with my family more often than I did back home! And I always remember to send letters and postcards from wherever I am. Not only will expat life make you a better communicator, you’ll also treasure those trips home for the holidays so much more! Time is fleeting and living far from friends and family definitely teaches you that you’ve got to make the most of it.
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3. “The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.”
There’s a great deal of uncertainty involved with moving to a new country. What if you hate it? What if something bad happens? What if? What if? What if? Just getting on that plane can be really tough, but that single small step has huge personal implications. As an expat you learn to not let your fear get the best of you. You learn to be okay with taking risks and accepting the consequences. You learn to adjust to difficult situations and make the best of them. You learn to live with uncertainty and still have a full life. It takes a lot of courage to make the choice to leave your family and friends and move to the other side of the world, and even more bravery to decide to stay, even when the going gets tough.
4. “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.”
– Anais Nin
Living abroad can gift you with something that’s incredibly important for being a well-rounded human being: perspective. Travel isn’t just about Instagram-worthy sunsets and exotic locales, it’s about understanding the history of each place you visit and seeing the harsh realities of life. When you visit Cambodia’s killing fields, or see a handicapped child begging for rupees in India, the perspective you have regarding your own life dramatically shifts. Suddenly, complaining about not having hot water or not being able to afford certain luxuries seems trivial. You’ll really learn to appreciate the privileges of your upbringing and become more empathetic towards those around you.
What are some of the ways being an expat has made you a better person? Share your experiences with us!