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Lessons from living overseas

July 22, 2013

A great post entitled 10 Important Life Lessons You Learn From Living Abroad, has been making its way around the interweb. Having lived overseas, the items on this list definitely resonate with me. Two of my favorites were:

5.  How to question the status quo

All those things you grew up thinking were written in stone?  Forget about them.  There is almost nothing you’ve learned that is incontestable—everything from table manners to hygiene is culturally relative.

I have been well trained to be polite in the American sense, and if there is one thing I knew never to do, it’s yelling indoors.  But to get the attention of a waiter in a Vietnamese restaurant subtle hand signals or eye contact won’t cut it: it is imperative that you shout “Hey you!” as loud as you can.  Did this make me feel like a jerk?  Absolutely.  But after a few weeks, I decided that it makes me feel like less of a jerk than sitting around waiting to be doted on like a princess.  It’s all relative.

Yelling at wait staff was never my cup of tea, but I’ve picked up other ideas from living abroad that have taught me to question the givens in my life.  Once you’ve had your expectations turned thoroughly upside down, you start to see that there are other, sometimes even better, ways to do things.

10.  How to empathize

Living abroad puts you on the outside looking in.  For most of us, it is a unique experience to be on the margins of society.  And for most people living abroad, it’s a temporary situation.  Still, it’s not always easy.

Living abroad can be frustrating and embarrassing, and finding hair in your food, going on fruitless outings to try and find tortillas or shoes in your size will make you wish for a time when things were straightforward and familiar.  It can’t help but make you appreciate life on the periphery.

With a better understanding of the difficulties circumstance can cause in our lives, it is easier to empathize with those who, for whatever reason, find themselves marginalized.  After all, the opportunity to look at life through someone else’s eyes is one of the reasons we travel in the first place.

See the rest of the list

If you’ve lived overseas, do the items on this resonate with your experiences?

[HT Pretty much everyone]

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 23, 2014 4:55 am

    I loved this! I am from the US and have been living in the UK for the past three years. I don’t think there are any I don’t identify with.

    I have just discovered your blog and am really enjoying it. Thanks for all the though-provoking posts!

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