This post deals with the question of how to live in another country. I’m not talking about short holidays, but actually moving long-term.
How to live in another country – introduction
Whether as a teacher or a student, you might find yourself moving to another country as a result of language learning.
This is a wonderful opportunity to discover new people, places and cultures. But be careful – there are a few pitfalls that you should avoid.
The topics below are based on personal experience. As an immigrant in Germany, these are things that I apply on a daily basis. They are based on pragmatism and realism, not idealism. Personally, I think that people should be allowed to live where they want, as long as they respect these four ‘rules’.
I should point out that I’m not referring to refugees. They have enough to deal with and need all the help they can get.
This is possibly the most important aspect of how to live in another country. It is described first for a good reason.
Don’t form ghettos – learn the language, embrace the culture and immerse yourself in it.
Not only are ghettos bad for society in general, they are bad for you specifically.
Take the time to learn about the culture and customs in the new country. This is really important.
You won’t be able to make the new environment bend to your preferences – you have to change to fit in with your new way of life. After all, if you wanted everything to be like your home country, why did you leave? There is already a place just like your home country, namely your home country.
As a somewhat silly example, when I moved from England to Germany, I didn’t try to get everyone else to drive on the left – I had to get used to driving on the right.
This doesn’t mean that you have to throw away your sense of identity. Be proud of your roots, talk with other people and learn from each other. If someone is interested in knowing about your culture, help them to appreciate it. I find that cooking new and interesting meals is a very good way to do this, as well as making friends generally.
Accept that different doesn’t have to mean right or wrong, better or worse – it can just mean different.
Don’t turn up at the border and hold your hand out for welfare. This will make you very unpopular. Some countries might not have a welfare system and you run the risk of being homeless and hungry.
Make sure that you know the cost of living and are suitably prepared.
If you intend to work in the new country, it’s a good idea to have a job lined up before you move. If you don’t like that job, getting a new job is much easier when you’re already there. You will know people and be more familiar with the area. Local papers will have job opportunities.
You will need somewhere to live, so add that to your list of things to sort out before you move. Your new employer might be able to help, or at least make suggestions. With modern communication, finding accommodation is easier than ever before. For example, there is almost certainly a Facebook group specifically for people looking for accommodation (or tenants) in your new location. Google is also your friend.
Religion and the law
Don’t break the law and then claim religious intolerance when you’re caught. Your religion will not trump the law of the land and your invisible friend will not help you.
The new country might be a lot more restrictive than your home country. Make sure that you are aware of the differences.
You don’t want to walk around in shorts and no shirt in a warm country and then find that you’ve broken their decency laws.
Alternatively, you might be offended and shocked by the sheer amount of skin that is on public display.
There might be unexpected laws that you will have to respect and it is your obligation to find out. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
For example, in some countries, it is illegal to be part of a Christian gathering. Others countries have the death penalty for drug dealers. Curfews might be in place. Homosexuality could be an imprisonable offence. The list goes on …
Don’t underestimate the problems that different religions can cause. It is a valid reason to question your decision and even avoid certain countries.
I hope that the time will come when this is no longer a problem, but I’m not holding my breath.
Leave your problems behind
If you leave a country to escape problems, leave the problems there.
It might sound harsh, but your new neighbours probably won’t care and will already have enough problems of their own.
You won’t make friends by making a lot of noise about issues that don’t concern anyone else. Be happy that you no longer have those problems and start enjoying the new ones.
If you prefer a positive spin on this, your life will be better if you look forward instead of looking back (and you’re less likely to tread in dog shit !!).
Also, don’t spend all your time complaining about how everything is so much better back home. The locals will not appreciate it.
How to live in another country – summary
So, those are my thoughts on how to live in another country, based on my own experience.
Do you agree with the statements above? Did I miss anything important?
If you live in another country and would like to tell us about your interesting experiences, please use the comments section below.