I think the pros and cons of living in another country depend a lot on a person’s personality. There is a psychological test call the Big Five personality test. It gives people information about their personality. One of the things the test measures is openness to experience. People with a high level of openness really like new and different things; people with a low level of openness prefer familiar and normal things.
When I took the test it said I had a very high level of openness. I get really bored if I’m not learning about or doing something new. I love to learn about new cultures and their histories. Even though I’m not good at languages I find different languages very interesting. I also love eating many different kinds of dishes.
I think living in another country gives you the chance to better understand other places in depth. If you just go to another country as a tourist, I don’t think you get the same experience than if you’ve lived there. For example, a tourist might visit some famous places and then leave. Someone who lives in a country will have more opportunities to try the local food, go to local festivals and see local culture.
For example, I regularly go to a local izakaya in my neighborhood where the people know me. It’s a very nice experience. Also, when I lived in Africa, the chief of my village died and I witnessed the local funeral customs which, honestly speaking, involved too much alcohol. If I didn’t go to other countries, or only visited them as a tourist, I would never be able to have such unique experiences.
The disadvantages of living in another country are difficulties that come from cultural differences and communication problems. One big issue for a lot of Americans is that Americans are known for being very direct and not reading between the lines. People in other countries sometimes try to tell me something but it is not direct enough for me to understand. On the other hand, I sometimes try to say something and I’m being too direct.
Of course speaking different languages can be a problem. My Japanese is not very good and my French is only barely passable. I often have trouble communicating. In these situations, I think it is best to take it slow, try to explain things in many different ways, draw pictures and try to always stay calm. That said, it can be very stressful.
Another issue that was a bigger difficulty when I lived in Africa was the level of contact. In the country of Togo, it was common for people to hold hands as they talked. Close contact is much more common in Togo than in the US or Japan. Of course I did not have a problem with the culture and if one of my neighbors held my hand as they talked to me, I would not stop them, but it usually made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Personally, I think the pros of learning about new cultures and other countries far outweigh the cons. That said, I know many people who would say the opposite. Therefore, it really depends on the person.
psychological (adj.) – of or relating to the study of the mind
in depth (idiom) – in a thorough or complete way
witness (v) – to see (something) happen
funeral (n) – a ceremony held for a dead person
read between the lines (idiom) – to try to understand someone’s real feelings or intentions from what they say or write
outweigh (v) – to be greater than (someone or something) in weight, value, or importance
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