“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
In August 2010 I Moved to China.
Why not, right? I worked for a year after I graduated university, wanted a change of scenery, and then decided to move to China for an indefinite amount of time. (Side note: that “indefinite” time lasted 1 year before I ran out of money, and didn’t want to teach English to stay there).
No Biggie. Here’s Why You Should Too:
- You are forced to learn way more than you ever ordinarily would in a year
- The potential use of an added foreign language is enormous
- It’s a guaranteed way to escape the everyday-is-the-same blues
The degree to which you are able to learn a lot of material quickly usually depends on the urgency or how often you use it. In a new place you’ll be learning subway & bus routes, the general lay out of the city in which you live, your new house or apartment, new people, a new culture, and potentially a new language.
Learning the language is potentially one of the most telling signs of whether someone knows the culture or not. I’ll talk about that a little later.
Yeah moving to a new place is nerve-wrecking, and troublesome, and at times overwhelming. But that’s the point. Only once you get beyond the boundary (the “I already have this skill down pat” boundary) do you begin to evolve. Stay tuned for my post on FLOW, which will go way deeper into this idea of seriously accelerating learning of skills, improving quality of life, and providing you with daily reasons to be happy. It’s ridiculously important.
我喜欢吃狗肉 (Translation: I like Eating Dog Meat)
Regarding the myriad potential uses of another language:
From fun to practical:
- It makes you seem wordly (and you become worldly in the process)
- Awesome benefits while traveling (useful, fun, meet new friends)
- It makes you feel accomplished. You’ve just learned a skill.
- More job opportunities (Contingent upon what language, and what location)
- Huge insight into the culture in which it originated
Escape the 9-5 Zombie Blues
Remember when you were little and everything was exciting, life was fresh and every time you woke up there was an adventure to be had?
What does it feel like today? I’d bet you feel like…. most of the rest of humanity. Monotony. Boredom. Routines. A little spice here and there. But mostly it’s that “content” everything is fine feeling.
And that “fine” feeling is insidious, because you think it’s okay. If someone were to ask if you were happy, I bet you’d respond “Hmmm.. yeah, I think so.” Really convincing.
A while back I read an article discussing theories as to why life becomes less fresh and captivating over time. A theory that stuck out to me was this: As we get older, new experiences become more and more scarce.
Seen that flower. Seen that dog. Played that game. Learned to ride a bike. Seen this scenery 500 times. I know how to get around town.
Living abroad is an opportunity to be brand spankin’ new. Although there will be routine, there will guaranteed be fresh experiences every day, there will be serious connections that you make, there will be guaranteed learning, and you will most certainly escape the “worker bee” feeling.
Cheese Cake, Chocolate Mousse, Tiramisu… Too Many Options
The last reason I’d suggest moving abroad? Exposure. Exposure to a greater variety of things gives you the potential to find something you really latch onto and are passionate about.
And this is the single greatest reason to live abroad for any period of time.
Greater exposure to ideas, people, and opportunities will without a doubt leave your mind awake at night with possibilities. Who knows, maybe you’ll stick around longer than you thought.
The potential for “aha” moments (regarding ideas) and connections (regarding people) is huge. Remember, more experience means more connections for your brain to make.
Why Languages Are The Sum Total of Culture
There are a couple reasons why a language gives you huge insight into the culture. I’ll briefly jump in and give you a few personal examples:
- Sayings and idioms in a language often have historical and cultural roots. E.g. Chinese has 成语, which are idioms usually based upon historical tales。For example, 塞翁失马 (“The Old Man Lost His Horse”) comes from an old Taoist story, and essentially means something along the lines of a “blessing in disguise”.
- Languages have idiosyncrasies that often tell much about a particular culture’s way of thinking: e.g. words that are untranslatable. 关系 Guanxi is a good example in chinese, because it means much more than simply “connections.” Guanxi also forms a massive part of Chinese culture, even in modern China.
- Languages are obviously how the culture’s people interact, and thus are necessary if you want to get the inside scoop
What Do You Think?
Have you lived abroad?
Do you plan to live abroad?
Is it worthwhile? Are there reasons not to? Any horror stories? Feel free to share..
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