A few days ago, a friend asked me how living beyond borders had changed me. Vast question. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was what I’d learnt that had changed me.
Each and every experience living in a different country comes with its learnings. Anything from new skills to fun facts and all the way to major life changing lessons.
Looking back through years of memories, 5 words came to my mind.
Living beyond borders is an amazing opportunity to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds. Doing so with an open mind will bring the obvious to life: we are all humans. Wherever we come from, wherever we grew up, wherever we live, we all seek the same things and feel the same emotions along the way.
Coming across significant cultural differences, for example when I lived in China, has definitely made me more tolerant than I was when I first left home full of judgments and preconceptions.
There are days everything seems to go wrong. When you’re abroad some issues that would have been trivial back home suddenly seem insurmountable. Taking the time to work through them whilst in a foreign environment and bouncing back will, with no doubt, help build up your resilience.
When my only bank card was withheld by an ATM after I’d just moved Norway at 18, the first thing I did was call my dad in tears. There was nothing he could do to help. Working through this hurdle, however insignificant it seems now, showed me that I had the ability to look after myself anytime and anywhere in the world.
Countless articles have covered this topic recently. More often than not, success doesn’t fall from the sky. It comes after weeks, months, years of continuous hard work. The same goes for being beyond borders. If you’re ready to give up and go home, consider giving yourself a bit more time. Something awesome might be just around the corner waiting for you.
After less than 6 months living in China, I was ready to throw in the towel and run back to Europe. Looking back two years later, I’m so glad I persisted. It wasn’t easy everyday thereafter but the amount I learnt and the people I met made it all worth it.
Things that you’ve been used to doing in minutes might take hours in another country. Or perhaps they’ll be done quickly but in a completely different way. That’s ok. Breathe. Each country has their own approach. Be patient with everyone around you as well as with yourself. You’ll pick it up quicker than you may think.
This has been a key learning for me, one that I still struggle with now and again. Having just relocated to Australia after spending two years in China, I still expect restaurants to serve food as quickly as I’ve gotten used to. A few times, I’ve had to refrain myself from raising my hand and screaming “waiter”. Normal procedure in China but totally unacceptable down under.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, every country has their own sense of humour and jokes might seem cryptic or even pretty awful when you first arrive. But the important thing isn’t to get all the local jokes, it’s to be able to find common humoristic ground. If that requires making a fool of yourself, do it! You’ll make friends instantly.
When I first arrived in the UK, I remember watching some of their comedy shows thinking they weren’t funny at all. Countless times, I pretended to laugh at colleague’s jokes. But after a while, I took the liberty of making fun of the French, including myself, and they found it hilarious! Common ground found.
There you have it, 10 years of learnings summarised in 5 fundamental words: Tolerance, Resilience, Persistence, Patience and Humour. If you’re wondering whether to take the leap and move abroad. If you’re wondering whether an experience beyond borders would be worth it for you and your family. Hesitate no longer, what it’ll teach you will be invaluable.
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