The main reason why everyone should live abroad at least once in their lives is all about gaining a little more perspective through slowly acquired knowledge and understanding of a foreign place and a foreign way of life.Living abroad is the best education anyone can ever experience. It teaches you things about yourself, others and the way in which the world really works from a first-hand perspective.
Newspapers share information with us, we can listen to music, eat food and look at the differences in the styles of clothing in other cultures. These “actions” give us an idea of what it’s like to live in a foreign place, but nothing can replace the experience of actually moving to a foreign country and experiencing everything from within.
If we break down this education into ten single segments, the detailed reasons as to why everyone should live abroad at least once in their lives might look something like this…
1. Experience what it means to be foreign
Once you’ve lived abroad, you know exactly what it feels like to be foreign. Feeling foreign, out-of-place, different, like you don’t belong, etc. is a tough situation to live through. Even if you have a fantastic experience living abroad, the “outside” feeling that all foreigners experience won’t ever go away and it’s that very same feeling which teaches cultural, racial and national respect. The world would be a much kinder and more tolerant place if more of us knew what it felt like to be foreign.*
* Naturally, not everyone has the opportunity to live in a foreign country, but those of us lucky enough to make the move should make the most of the possibilities at hand.
2. Make friends and build a community network from scratch
Living abroad forces you to start from scratch. You need to make new friends, build new relationships at work, find new hobbies or projects of interest and build a new life in new surroundings. The challenges that are faced in achieving all these things is character-building and can help us learn a lot about ourselves and how we treat others.
3. View your native home objectively
Once you’ve lived abroad for at least six months, you can start to view your native home in a more objective light. You might find that what you once chose to moan about suddenly becomes something that you appreciate about your country/city. Living abroad helps you to see the positive elements of your native home.
In the same way, life abroad can help to bring to light certain negative aspects of your native home that you hadn’t really noticed before. When living abroad, you start to think in a more global way. You begin to see how the actions and activities of your home country affect the rest of the world.
4. Live under the ruling of a foreign government
It’s incredible to think that in the US guns are legal, that in Chile abortion is illegal, that in Argentina single-sex marriage is legal and the UK is one of the very few countries in the world which has a completely free national health care service for all. Government decisions and political regimes affect lives on a daily basis. Living under the rule of a foreign government will teach you many things and open your eyes to the inequality which exists in the world.
5. Experience the effects of a foreign economy
In a similar way, if you’ve only ever lived in one country, you’ll only ever really know how the economy works on a local scale. Earning money in a foreign currency, paying foreign taxes, dealing with the inflation of foreign economies and experiencing the financial controls/restrictions of foreign economy on your life every single day, helps to understand how wealth is distributed (poorly) on a global scale. The difficulties of foreign economies can only ever really be understood by those people who earn a wage abroad and place their wages in foreign bank accounts.
6. Learn foreign customs, traditions and experience foreign popular culture
One of the most fun things about living abroad is the practice of foreign traditions and getting to know the ins and outs of popular culture from your new “home”. Living abroad is an enrichening experience.
You might return to your native home after a year or two, but you’d probably end up taking a few “foreign” traditions or customs back home along with you. You might form a strong bond with the drinking of mate (a hot tea-like beverage) if you decide to live abroad in Argentina, for example. It’s a tasty, little number and highly addictive…. beware!
7. Share your culture with others
Living abroad doesn’t have to mean living your native life behind completely. You’ll bound to find that people in your foreign home are more than happy to hear about what life is “really” like in your country.
People will want to hear about traditions, different kinds of foods, what the job situation is like, what people do on festive occasions, etc. You’ll be able to carry a little bit of the “native you” around with you wherever you go. Sharing the best and worst of what your country has to offer with others can be an incredibly fulfilling experience.
8. Responding to misconceptions others have about your country
Living abroad is also your chance to share the truth about your country. Misconceptions are a worldwide problem. When you live abroad you have the chance and the responsibility to put the record straight about what your country is like, what it’s like to live there, what the people are like, what the problems are, what the infrastructure is like and what things need changing.
You also get the chance to “change” people’s ideas of your native country for the better. By living abroad and developing positive relationships with those around, you can be a positive real-life beacon for your native home.
9. Take a risk, teach yourself to be ready for and welcome change
Life is full of changes. If you take the plunge at some point in your life and live abroad, you’ll know what it’s like to take a risk. Being ready to take risks and to make changes in life is a really positive way to live. Changes can come along at any time, not only when you want them to.
Being ready for change and accustomed to risks from new experiences means that you can also be ready for whatever life decides to throw your way. Living abroad is a strengthening experience. It opens your mind to a world of possibilities and helps you to be far less fearful of the natural progress of life.
10. Is your native home where you want to live?
Everyone has to be born somewhere, but nationality is a relative concept. There are lots of people in the world who choose to live in a foreign place because they’re happier there than in the place where they grew up. Some people go through life always a little on the sad side, but never really knowing why. What if the reason behind their constant, but subtle, sadness was nothing other than a problem with location?
Living abroad can help you to see things a little clearer, just like taking a holiday also gives you a fresh perspective on everything. Living in a foreign country is worth the experiment, if only to find out if living in your native country is truly the place where you feel most happiest in the world.
You might live for about 80 years or more. Taking time out to live abroad for just one of those years isn’t really any kind of risk at all. For more information about taking the plunge and living abroad in Latin America, contact Connecting Worlds directly. We’ll be more than happy to help you generate a plan.
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