Two Approaches to Moving Abroad
My family doesn't live in Portugal; we are expats in Sweden. I compare and contrast constantly...mostly out of intellectual curiosity, but also because we moved here for a better life, and I need to convince myself that a better life is indeed what we are having. ;) Of course, my opinions are biased because I am human; but, I am also evidence-based and data-focused, and that helps ground my conclusions in some sort of reality. This process also helps me attempt to make sense of the world by studying how humans behave in various environments...but I am still utterly confused by humans, no matter where I live. :)
This is a great post. We tend to compare everything to our previous experiences rather than entering new experiences with a beginner's mind, particularly when the comparison is a negative one. A lot of Americans feel entitled. Having lived abroad in the past, I hope this time around, when I move to Portugal, I will have learned to observe more and compare less.
I have lived abroad in a variety of countries since I was a young child. I maintain that you don’t even begin to understand a country until you’ve been there six months. That’s about when your initial perceptions start to be overturned, but only if you are really living that country’s life rather than a self-imposed hybrid.
It’s true that you’re unable to get an authentic experience as a short visitor in a new place. This is a great reminder to just soak up life rather than always comparing (how can one ever enjoy if we’re always comparing)..thanks Nancy!
Once deep in the Amazon River delta our guide poised the question, “are you tourists or travelers?” One couple admitted they were tourists and were not enjoying the immersive travel as much as us. Your post definitely reflects our response to our first two months living in Portugal.
Nancy, thanks for another thought-provoking post. We've been in Portugal for six months and can confirm that we have had a much richer experience than we would have ever had as tourists, even on extended stays. What's been striking for me is getting to the place where I look at everything around me and think, "This is normal". Much of what we see now is no longer "special" or "foreign". It's just our day-to-day experience. We walk to the park with the dog. We go to the supermarket. We ride the metro. It's just where we are. Is it different from where we lived before? Yes. Is it better or worse? There are moments every day where we do a comparison, but that doesn't define our life here. Of course it's different. That's what we wanted. When we talk and write about it, we try to simply reflect what we are seeing. We leave the "better or worse" judgement to the reader.
Great article. My wife and i have visited may countries in Europe but we will probably never "experience" the countries. It has however, opened our eyes and given us some insight and understanding of the different cultures that make make up this place called Earth
Ok, and I couldn’t love this one more, either! Making my way through your blog posts. What a treat today, celebrating a year and a half of living here. I tend to note comparatives like an anthropologist and then just file them away for future reference! Happiness is not letting these differences derail my experience of joy in living here…
Nancy you are such an eloquent writer. I appreciate all your insights and enjoy your writings. Keep up the great work. Paula Fochesato
Experience or compare says it all. Great post. Thank you....cruising in bars? Oh yes. I remember that.
Nice thoughtful blog.