Life from an outsider's perspective…

Advice on emmigrating to another country

alien-coincidence.gifIf you’re truly open to another culture, then once you move out, you’ll never look at your homeland the same way again. Because you’ll soon be able to recognise the faults or flaws that exist in your own country. You also won’t be so quick to take for granted many things that you might have done before. Be prepared to literally become a different person. If you have always felt like you don’t fit into your own society and secretly wanting to expand your horizons, that’s the best reason to distance yourself from it.

On the other hand, if you’re a stubborn person not open to change, then you probably won’t gain much by living somewhere else. Moving to a place because it has sunny blue sky is a pretty shallow reason to settle in another country, especially if it means you have no incentive to integrate. Really question your motives for moving to another culture. If you have no interest in learning Spanish or any other foreign language and your only intention is to take advantage of the local people, then you’ll only find deep-rooted resentment amongst them.

One problem expatriates persistently face is that you can never really experience both places at the same time. You’re either in the one place or the other, living one of two different “life modes”. It’s commonly believed that you can look at everything with two alternative yet opposite perspectives: optimistism and pessimism. It is my belief that living in another country amplifies the bipolar nature of this thinking pattern. What happens first is that you’ll constantly be comparing your new home and your old one and then asking yourself if your decision was the right one. You can either look at the big move as something positive or negative.

While the ‘experience’ of living in another country is enriching and rewarding, you also stand to lose much of your patriotism. And if you think that you’re not prepared to give some of that up, you won’t have the capacity to truly integrate into the host country. Of course some people go the opposite way and become more patriotic than ever before.

Certainly there will be several positive things about your new home. But what happens when you start taking this life for granted? Typically, you can look at your host country (in my case, Spain) and relish the food, the society, the culture, the simple life. Then you can look at your donor country (in my case, Australia) and look at all the positives there: possibly stronger economy, job security, family, money, transport infrastructure, more places to see. But my point is that you can never have both places at the same time. The further away from home, the worse it becomes. That’s already one major negative aspect of being an expatriate.

Originally, I wanted to live in Tenerife 6 months of the year and Australia the other 6 months of the year. I soon realised that that sort of ‘lifestyle’ is just not very practical or even possible without being extremely well-off financially speaking. Now I aim to visit my homeland once a year, but that too is very difficult to realise.

Another important thing to consider- when you move to another country, everything changes. Language, food, customs, contact with friends and associates (old and new), right down to the shape of the powerpoints on the walls. For some people, it’s too much change all at once. Change equals stress; too much stress is never a good thing because it usually only leads to physical or mental sickness.

It’s no suprise to learn that within 6 months of moving, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Within a year I was taking 50mg prozac daily, 60% of the maximum recommended dosage. Although the word “chronic” never surfaced, I’m sure that’s what it was. Being the hyper-optimistic person that I am, I never thought this would happen to me. So I’m convinced that moving to another country precipitated that condition, which was until then in a latent state.

Age creates a significant barrier; once the neocortex is developed after adolescence, people’s attitude toward change is less plastic. There is no doubt about that in my mind. I think that’s why second-generation immigrants tend to integrate better than their parents, as they’re open to learning from the very beginning of their lives.

Well at the very least I feel I have shown my adopted Canarian family that not all tourists are alike. Because I have the distinct impression that many of them have forgotten what brings the tourists here in the first place. Yes I do feel they take that very much for granted. I am not your nomal “gidi”

One final note:
An expatriate is someone who is born in one country and chooses to live in another. The definition of an immigrant is essentially the same thing albeit with somewhat derogatory connotations. The only difference in my mind is the context: Western people who are moving call themselves expatriates; the people in the country you’re moving to will still refer to you as an immigrant. Keep that in mind.

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