Abroad – As you want it.

Posted on November 20th, 2014

Abroad – As you like it.

Why does a person leave his native country? It can be the result of a professional opportunity; hunger for new, different experiences or the mere desire for a complete transformation of one’s life. For a Western citizen, the choice of a destination can be many folds: a highly developed territory such as Hong Kong or Singapore, which displays standards of life similar to one’s country of origin and offers high income. Or a destination where one is faced with more challenges, a developing country such as India. My opportunity to live and work in many European, Non- EU and Asian countries has provided me with a varied database of interesting experiences and insights, from an expat point of view mingling with other expats, but none of them are comparable with the encounters I have come across in a culturally rich and dynamic country such as India.

Some people will choose a developing country because they have simply just fallen in love with it and wish to learn from its culture and way of life. Some find developing nations to be easy destinations where one can start a new existence, sometimes without too many qualifications, often with standards of life higher than what they can afford at home. Some will just come for a job and won’t really care for the country they end-up living in.

Ever since I’ve settled in South India, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with varied people who fit in the dynamics mentioned above, and sadly I have seen a big share of them getting lost in the overwhelming schemes of a new way of life.

Those running away from themselves or certain aspects of their existences will quickly be disappointed. Denial is a strong state of mind, but whatever you think you leave behind, whichever aspect of your life or personality you wish to escape from will always catch-up with you in the end. For the only true way to reboot one’s life is to reinvent oneself. Those complaining all day about their lives at home are often the same that end-up complaining all day about their lives abroad. Change is a state of mind!

More often, I’ve met Westerners who’d just come to the country for a temporary gig and had little, if any, interest in the country. To be honest in my observations of those who decide to root themselves in a country like India, all have one common and simple expectation: to maintain an upper class exterior in a poor country, rather than being a middle class citizen in a rich country. Soon enough, they will get sick and tired of hectic traffic, power cuts and the apparent humbug of Indian bureaucracy among other things. How easy it is to become judgmental when diving into such a different culture, where people communicate, live and work in ways so different from ours! How easy it is to see India as nothing but a dirty, noisy, corrupted country! How easy it is to complain about everything and nothing, from dawn till dusk!

If you’re an expat in Chennai, there’s no way you haven’t met them: disillusioned, bitter expats who do nothing but have the monotonous drone of repetition about how ‘lame’ India is, how incompetent its people are, how tasteless its food, how insecure its dark corners… I have met some Germans who went as far as to refuse buying any local products, (as if Indian detergent or salt, butter, weren’t as good as ours!). These are the individuals who swear by the sacred word “import” (I have seen those order lists!), trying to import everything they need in their daily lives no matter the cost! I have met others who’d rather waste themselves and their families in a bath of toxic chemicals in order to fight mosquitoes, when a mere net and a little bit of organization will just do fine.

Then there are a category of expats who won’t mingle with anyone local or alien, preferring the safety of a “bubble” populated only with fellow citizens. Some will become party friends, seduced by cheap booze and the routine of expat parties. These are the groups that will undeniably miss out on the beauty and richness of the fascinating Indian culture, a culture older than ours and much deeper than it looks at a first glimpse.

I have patiently leant an ear over the years to many expatriates who have shared their experiences in a foreign land, and they all seem to fall into the same trap, of focussing on the negative, and ONLY the negative aspects of the new environment.

Here the question that arises for me is this – if these expats are not able to manage their families abroad, who have not found a common ground in sharing and mingling with locals, and have only had one aim of creating a peer group to badmouth and talk ill of the conditions of the new land – then they have made a wrong choice to live in this country.

I have come across many who felt that making a move to a new country was the most fulfilling and transforming experience in their lifetime. It is the choice of how you accept the circumstance. A different environment will hand you a diverse lifestyle but if you choose to be solution oriented then the question of being trapped in innumerable problems doesn’t annoy you anymore. You need to focus on being solution driven and not problem oriented.

But my point is not to judge these people: They do what they do and it is true indeed that adjusting to a new culture is a challenge for each and every one of us, as is the daily annoyance of power cuts. My point being that either one does something or doesn’t, but if you’re going to give up on your old life and start anew, you’d better embrace the experience, live it in full, or you’ll end-up living half a life!

Being an expat offers many rich opportunities, and to savour each moment in a new land, it is necessary to change your perspective and stop being narrow minded! It’s all about adjustments, one’s capacity to be happy under any circumstance and stand the test of change! If you have a family, ask yourself what kind of a message you’re sending to your children. In a world that’s becoming more and more globalized every day, it’s likely they’ll have an even more nomadic lifestyle than we did, that life will take them to many unexpected places. Whether they will succeed will often depend on their capacity to adjust to new environments. When faced with a disturbing situation, they’ll need to try and find the most appropriate solution, rather than moan about it all day.

On the brighter side of the spectrum of new environments, what resonates is the principle of “cause and effect”, of “action and reaction”. It is very easy to understand that any action performed produces an equal and opposite reaction, which directly influences our very existence, so either making these actions supportive or being despondent is your personal choice.

Change Your Attitude to Focus on the Positive!

Thomas A. Pallushek (2)

Focusing on the negative aspects in life is never going to get you anywhere.  Change your perspective or change your pattern to reach what see yourself accomplishing. Look at the amazing opportunities and exciting things that you can accomplish while you’re here, and exploit them! It’s your attitude towards the new change that matters. There is always a path which can be taken; you just have to sharpen your senses.

There is so much you can accomplish and do in the time you are here – whether it be a few months or a few years,  and setting exciting and motivational goals to work towards is a great way to take advantage of opportunities for personal, academic and physical growth.

If you going to party every night at the cost of your health and chant mantras about how life sucks, there’s no need to come this far: this can be done in the comfort of your home! Going abroad can and should be an intense and rewarding experience, a unique opportunity to meet people from all over the world and discover new ideas and lifestyles (enjoying the beach won’t hurt either J). Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, at their deepest, teach us that one should say yes to all that is first, after which try and figure out what needs to be worked on for improvement. This is one of many lessons a foreign land can teach us and the key to a meaningful expat experience.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, focus on the good things in your life around you and embrace every aspect of what you’re going through, and you will notice that the world will open up to you and you will find new opportunities and solutions.