An alternative to sleeping around
The only thing that stops people from living abroad is fear, writes expat Martyn Bingham who encourages expatriation the right way and likens moving country to changing jobs.The two most common regrets people have when they are on their deathbeds are not having had more sexual partners (according to a government agency survey debated on Radio 2) and not having lived abroad (per a study published in Time Magazine).
I offer no reliable remedy for the first problem. As for living abroad, the only thing that stops people is fear. The other comparable fear in life is moving jobs. Just as some citizens spend their whole lives in Hull staring through their bay windows at rain, dreaming of white sands and turquoise seas, many people spend years working for the same company, in the same position, dying to find greener pastures. Statistics show that people do overcome their fear of moving jobs, and on average, people in Britain from age 18 – 40 change their jobs over ten times. However, less than one percent leaves the UK for a year, and over half of them return within six months. Yet when you move abroad, you face almost exactly the same issues, anxieties, and bones of contention as you when you move jobs -- just on a larger scale.
Will I get on with the boss?
Moving to a new country, and leaving the old one, means accepting a new government and a new set of laws. Newspapers and TV are very good at portraying the evils of regimes and the inside of squalid prisons that you will undoubtedly end up in if you leave British shores. Over the years I have found that just like bosses, governments have their own strange eccentricities. However, the key to living abroad, and getting on with a new boss, is to just be yourself. Behave abroad in the same way you would behave at home. Treat the laws and people with the same respect that you would at home and your new boss will be more than happy with your work.
What if I don’t like the canteen?
When you move to a new country, it is unlikely you will find the same food you enjoyed at home. As with a canteen, try the specials. Eat the food that is traditional and popular with the locals. If you order spaghetti bolognaise in Chad, or English fish and chips in Burma, then you get what you deserve. If you need proof, go home and give your mother a picture, only a picture of Nasi Goreng, or a bowl of Pho, and see what you get. Spaghetti Bolognaise is a fine dish, if you know how to make it and you have the ingredients. In the middle of Ghana they have neither. They will however, offer, serve and charge you for it if you are daft enough to order it. I beg you, choose a dish the country or area is famous for and you will get the same tickling of your senses as when you eat your granny’s apple pie and custard.
The Dress Code
Don’t feel that when you move to another country that you have to ‘dress to impress’. I have never seen a western woman look good in a sari or an Englishman look anything but comical in lederhosen. When you move abroad and are choosing clothes, get a feel for both the climate and the culture, so as not to offend the local population.
What if the company doesn’t have a quiz team?
Your social events and hobbies when living abroad will be different, so you need to adapt. Nightly viewing of your favourite soap is unlikely to continue if you choose to live in Somalia. Don’t be confused when you leave an empty bar on a Friday night in Spain only to see the rest of the population just arriving, and don’t be disappointed if your new ‘company’ prefers softball to five-a-side for recreation. You need to immerse yourself in all that’s new if you are to make a success of your move abroad.
Will my new colleagues like me?
When people contemplate moving abroad, they focus on the ‘strangeness’ of the local population. Mild xenophobia seems to be a natural mindset when British people think beyond the island. Have no fear. When you move to a foreign land, especially outside Europe, you will appear unique and interesting to the locals. People will want to meet you, shake your hand and talk to you. Your quirky attempts to speak the language will appear endearing and the money in your pocket will always be an attraction. Just like the new boy in the office, you will be the centre of the attention, not just for the first week, for the entirety of your stay.
I like my old office
A new country is very much like a new office. Things aren’t organised the way that you like them; you are not used to the layout; the technology might not be as advanced. But those differences are surely one of the reasons why you chose to live abroad in the first place. In the same way that there are things in an office that can’t be changed, you can’t get around cultural and lingual differences and frustrations. When living abroad you have to accept and adapt to the culture, language and laws; but you can control things that will make you settle in easier, like your home, your travel and your free time. Embrace the cultural differences and do minor remodelling where possible.
A move abroad is daunting and full of frustrations and annoyances, but the benefits to you and your family can be life changing. A move abroad is a jump many people think about but never go through with. Take the leap.
On a final note, there is another way that you can live abroad and still enjoy your old ‘office’ exactly as if you had it. You can immerse yourself in an expat lifestyle, because wherever you have expats, you will have Irish Bars, English breakfasts, pub quizzes and football tournaments exclusively for the community. If you follow this course, then you might as well have never left your old job in the first place!
Martyn Bingham’s journey of living abroad started in 2000 “after getting tired of the London Underground and the daily grind of living in ‘the smoke’. I moved to Jakarta and taught English for a year where I met a young Irish girl, who has recently become my wife. We moved to Azerbaijan and spent a fascinating three years in Baku, working in the oil industry. After that we enjoyed six years working for the British Council based in Hanoi, Vietnam and Colombo, Sri Lanka. I am currently working for an International School in Ningbo, China. Our love of travel, exotic locations and strange cuisines has so far prevented us from making any plans to return to Britain."
Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.