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Old 12-16-2006, 07:51 PM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,407 posts, read 10,518,367 times
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I've been debating for some time making a move abroad. I want to experience living life in another country, at least for a short time. I was curious to hear from others who have lived abroad. Where did you live? What brought you there? Why did you leave (if you chose to leave)? What did you make of life there as a whole? What did you miss from the U.S. and what do you now miss from the country you once lived in?
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Old 12-16-2006, 08:06 PM
 
Location: Springfield, Missouri
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Well, I lived in the Philippines through my work for a period of time. It was a bad fit for me. I hated the food, the mentality of the people which is to try and con you out of anything they can (no exaggeration), and the lack of hygiene. To be fair, other Americans liked it for the beach resorts and sunshine. If something is mailed into the country from the U.S., when you go to pick it up, it's been opened and ransacked at the post office. When you want help at the counter, if they don't feel like serving you, they don't. I took out my camera and began taking pictures of them reading tabloids with their feet on their desks which got them moving quickly. I HATED the Philippines and will never go there willingly again.
I've also lived a stint in Germany and I loved it. It's clean, people are friendly, the country is stunningly beautiful and I like German food. In Germany I always felt welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed living there. I could live in Germany six months out of the year if I had the money...no problem.
But... no matter where you live, there is no place like America. Things you never noticed and take for granted become noticeable by their absence overseas. Our customer service is far better than any you'll find abroad, including Europe (though I think part of the reason it's so bad there is that the customers are haughty too). We have so many more options in life to choose from than anywhere else, including Germany, the UK and other rich countries. When you talk to people overseas about their lives and careers and what they're goals are, what we have and take for granted they consider unbelievable luxuries. We can pick up and move and go anywhere in this HUGE land we want to, they can't. Most live in urban tiny apartments and their jaws drop that most of us have washers, dryers, dishwashers, two + cars, etc. We live better than most people elsewhere, even those overseas who are wealthier than us. Money goes further here in most of the U.S. and our quality is better. You also notice the sense of belonging in America after you've been gone and come back. It's unstated most of the time, but it's far stronger a bond than what you find elsewhere. Americans are extremely patriotic and I think they genuinely love America than other people in other countries love their own nations. It's palpable. You see American flags here everywhere. In Europe and most other countries, you see their national flags on government buildings but most could take their countries or leave them...and if they can leave them, many do. I think the only country I can think of comparable to the U.S. is Australia in mentality. They love their country, have a genuine sense of nationality and they know they're in a special place that exists nowhere else. That's America too.
Americans are friendlier too I think. You notice it when you come back and think...how could I have not noticed that before. I don't mean individual against foreign individual, but in general. Also, we have a rite of passage growing up that's found nowhere else. How we mature through grade school, into high school, college, and all the rituals that go with it...you could be in Florida, Maine, California, or Iowa and it's all the same.
And... America, believe it or not, is CLEANER than most other countries. I've been to some where you step off the plane and the whole country smells like it farted. Honest. We're so freakin' fortunate. But, going abroad to live and immerse yourself gives you an insight to the world that makes America stand out in sharp detail as well. It's well worth it!
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Old 12-17-2006, 12:43 AM
 
Location: Lake Forest, CA
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I saw a website called www.escapeartist.com for Americans who want to go live somewhere else. The website does too much america bashing for my taste but has lots of info about living as an "ex-pat" (ex-patriot, or outside the US).

The experience of living in a different country can make you better understand and appreciate your own country (as well put by MoMark).
I went to high school for a year in Vina del Mar, Chile as an exchange student 36 years ago. I did not speak English during that entire year that I can recall, to the point where my thought process including dreams switched from English to Spanish. That has stuck with me because even now when I speak Spanish (many times per day here in southern cal) I don't think or translate into English. I got to feel at home in an interesting country that was different in a thousand ways from California, and to this day I count that as one of the best experiences of my lifetime. In the late 70's I went back to Chile for a visit, but decided to drive my pickup from California through Mexico, Central America and South America to Chile (including boat crossing to get from Panama to Columbia). 4 months later I arrived at the tip of South America in Tierra del Fuego, the literal end of the road. Should have written a book about that one, but I was young and immortal at the time. Every few years I crave the adventure of going to a place that is far removed from our sheltered, homogenized, high tech, high speed lifestyle, and seeing if I can unwind and enjoy the place for a bit. I have a short list of favorite places that I like to visit, places where in a few more years after retiring from my cubicle bound tech job, I might even considering living for a while. Bring an open mind about things and embrace the differences if you decide to live in a place that is far removed from life in the US. If a different language is used in the place you want to live in, make an effort to get some basic skills ahead of time and become more fluent after you get there. Dont' consider moving to a place for an extended period that you have not visited for at least a couple of weeks, and really felt that you could enjoy and immerse yourself in. It has to be a place where you can find simple little adventures that spark your senses to life - that is what living in a different place is about. These adventures are not about jumping out of planes, they can be as simple as going shopping in a little town marketplace or having a beer with the locals at a sidewalk stand. Communication is the key ingredient that can make or break your experience of living outside the US if you are on your own. Most people get homesick after a while but I have met a handful of "ex-pat" Americans who haven't been back to the states in years (maybe they were fugutives?). Yes, we live in a wonderful country here in the US with unequalled freedom, variety, prosperity, scenery, and opportunities. At the same time I admire many people I have met in far away places - people that have very little of material wealth who live a simple decent life, and who have shown extraordinary kindness and hospitality to a stranger in a way I have never experienced in my own land. It humbles me and gives hope that the world is not an entirely hostile and forbidding place for Americans and there is good in many places where you would least expect it.
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Old 12-17-2006, 05:27 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,327 posts, read 30,288,691 times
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The only time I lived abroad was as a nanny many many years ago.
I basically just spent a summer in Spain. The only thing I really missed was peanut butter, and I am sure you can get it there now. I loved the adventure of living in Spain, every little thing we did took more time and trouble but the rewards were incalculable.

Before then, and since then, I have traveled around in Europe, but never Asia. There is indeed a whole world of ex-pats. Many of them are happy and productive people and some of them are merely trying to get away from external or internal problems. Indeed many of them eventually become homesick. A stint abroad should be an enhancement, not an escape.

My son spent his junior year in France (that is when he became fluent), then spent his first year out of university again in France, and after he gets his Master's in May, once again he will return there. He loves being over there; the only thing he really misses is Mexican food. I brought him salsa some last February when I visited.

In terms of standard of living, dishwashers and washer/dryers and suchlike are not as common as here. (But I will take an Asko dishwasher over Kitchen Aid any time!) In terms of transportation, Europe is much, much more efficient. The quality and freshness of goods at the open markets is unsurpassed in Europe.

Last summer we were in Germany for the World Cup and France for the Tour de France. There were people from all over the world gathered at these events. Lots and lots of flags.
I saw plenty of patriotic fervor, but also mutual respect. When the Swiss met the South Koreans on the field, the energy was crackling.
The French were so kind to us at the Tour. A woman invited us (total strangers) into her apartment to watch the race begin. Coffee and pastries were served. My French was minimal, as was her English, but we communicated.

Europeans are simply not as open and loud and casual as us. There are certain courtesies, which, if you take the time to learn them, can really make for an easier time. Obviously there are jerks in any place, just like America, but it really helps to "do as the Romans do" when you are living in another country. Dullnboring, if and when you decide where you want to go, it would probably be helpful to study up on the culture of that place. (Duh--I am sure you already know that. )

To me, the best part of being on your own in any new place is what you end up learning about yourself.
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Old 12-17-2006, 12:25 PM
 
Location: Central Jersey
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I got to live in a couple of places in south east Asia free of charge back quite a few years ago. I wasn't fond of the humidity, plumbing facilities, dinning choices or the hospitality Does that count?
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Old 12-17-2006, 12:45 PM
 
Location: on an island
13,327 posts, read 30,288,691 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by exhdo1 View Post
I got to live in a couple of places in south east Asia free of charge back quite a few years ago. I wasn't fond of the humidity, plumbing facilities, dinning choices or the hospitality Does that count?
IMHO it counts for a lot.
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Old 12-17-2006, 03:27 PM
 
Location: Tennessee
1,459 posts, read 3,042,716 times
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Default south east Asia

Quote:
Originally Posted by exhdo1 View Post
I got to live in a couple of places in south east Asia free of charge back quite a few years ago. I wasn't fond of the humidity, plumbing facilities, dinning choices or the hospitality Does that count?


Sounds like you and I were sharing Paradise in the same neck of the woods.
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Old 12-17-2006, 05:18 PM
 
Location: Outer Space
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I just flew in Thursday to the US after 31 continuous months in Germany. The most bizarre thing is just how I just slipped right back into it all immediately. It was like the 31 months I was gone almost never existed. Well, except for yesterday when I was reminded of added sales tax, getting the z and y confused on the keyboard, and keep trying to turn on the bathroom light from the outside. Otherwise, it is just almost unsettling. I figured there would be more adjustment necessary. Maybe I need more time.

I liked Germany well enough, but I can't find real work there like I can in the US. It seems doubtful that my husband would also find good work there. So back I am coming in March and him in September. I could easily see going back or maybe somewhere else like Canada, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand etc. It is just that I would like to work wherever I go and not for total peanuts because I have basically been shut out of the job market due to my lack of *proper* education. Note, I have a BA and several years of experience. Doesn"t mean anything, apparently.

I liked learning the language to comfortable fluency, the food, the culture. It was more than worth it even if I have been living like a pauper during that time. Now I have my daughter and have to be a bit more practical. Oh well.
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Old 12-18-2006, 01:30 AM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,407 posts, read 10,518,367 times
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Interesting experiences everyone.

I've traveled a bit. Among other things and places, I spent the summer after college graduation backpacking through Europe and the Middle East and even within that short timeframe, it changed my perception on a good deal of things, and there were some things that I found myself missing from the U.S. and other aspects of American life that I was relieved to be away from. While like Sonnewende, I too was surprised by just how easily I slipped back into things when I got back into the country, their were a few issues of reverse culture shock (if you want to call it that). Namely, it was a bit jarring watching the news here, just how violent this country is. I turned on the news when I came on to hear of a slew of murders, rapes, armed robberies, and the sort of things that I didn't hear about when I was abroad watching the news. I liked the freedom that the safety (and a bit of naivete and ignorance no doubt) brought me when I was in Europe where the biggest worry was pickpocketing and avoiding drunken hooligans, and where I didn't have to watch my back walking around by myself at night. Much of what I missed about the U.S. was the conveniences of American life. Lots of little things that I didn't think of that I noticed while abroad such as the lack of air-conditioning, no free refills in restaurants, warm drinks everywhere, plentiful water fountains, no smoking allowed in most places, and the convenience of 24 hour stores. Life in the U.S. on a daily basis tends to be more cushy and convenient, at least in regards to the little things than life abroad. However, the bigger picture was more complex to me. People abroad seemed to enjoy their lives more. They seemed happier and more relaxed. You saw middle-aged people chatting late at night during a weeknight without a care in the world, and there was just something about the way that people carried themselves that made it seem as they didn't have quite the load on their shoulders that Americans did. Architecture is more interesting abroad, the layout of their cities is more pedestrian and bike-friendly, and transportation-wise, they are light years ahead of the U.S. The people themselves I found to be a mixed bag, depending on the country, and think it would require spending more time in a country to be able to truly compare between Americans and another nationality.

After I graduated college, I was accepted into a teacher as an English teacher in Argentina, but the program started acting very shady as my departure date approached and I jumped ship. While waiting the proper paperwork to go through for that job, I was offered a similar job in Turkey that I turned down because I thought the Argentina job was a lock. In the end, I wished I'd have taken the Turkey job, but used that time instead to go on a nomadic trip across the U.S. which may not have been as exotic but was interesting nonetheless. Now, I'm researching again possibly moving abroad. Teaching English is the easiest avenue, and I've looked into the Peace Corps as well althougth that's a time commitment I'm not prepared to make (27 months). Recycled, Chile is actually one of the countries at the top of my list. I would love to go to Latin America to become completely fluent in Spanish. I am currently more or less but not getting enough practice and afraid I'll lose it. What you describe about dreaming in Spanish and communicating without thinking first is exactly what I want. I've thought about Puerto Rico as well just because it's easier to live there as an American since it's a Commonwealth. I'd love to live in Europe but it seems difficult to obtain the proper work visa due to the EU and all. I'm debating when/if I go back to school within the next few years doing so in London because I love it there and that would put me only a short plane ride away from much of the rest of Europe, and would also give me the opportunity to get face time and establish connections that could better position me to obtain a work visa should I decide I like it there and want to stay.

I can't really see myself ever leaving the U.S. for good. There's a lot of things I dislike about the country and in recent years I really haven't like the direction we've gone down but for better or for worse, it is my home, and I think I'd have a difficult time leaving and acknowledging that it was for good and that I intended to make my life elsewhere. I definitely want to see the world, and take a dip in another country, but most likely it will be just a nice little exotic break.
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Old 12-18-2006, 06:07 AM
 
Location: on an island
13,327 posts, read 30,288,691 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dullnboring View Post

. What you describe about dreaming in Spanish and communicating without thinking first is exactly what I want. I've thought about Puerto Rico as well just because it's easier to live there as an American since it's a Commonwealth. I'd love to live in Europe but it seems difficult to obtain the proper work visa due to the EU and all.
.
That dreaming in Spanish happened to me just in the short time (3 months) I was there. But I certainly did eventually lose the language.
Dull, if you get an ESL job it would not be difficult to take care of the paperwork for living in Europe; my kid has done it twice now. My cousin spent about 6 weeks working with kids in Chile and loved it. I know what you mean about some of these ESL programs being a bit shady but sometimes they work out fine.
I agree; I doubt that I would ever permanently leave the USA. Can't say I've never thought about it though.
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