It really isn’t a surprise that most young people these days have an ambition to travel the world and get familiar with new cultures and places. We are all exposed to a very specific multicultural environment, merely by being a part of various online communities and active internet users. There is hardly a chance that you’ve never run into a photo of a beautiful, far away country and got the desire to pack your bags and just get going.
Still, moving for business or education purposes, for longer periods of time can seem scary to a lot of people. It is a big move to relocate to a completely unfamiliar environment, and not everyone has what it takes to just get up and move. This is actually a big waste since the benefits of living abroad are numerous and significant. It makes the person richer for a very significant experience. There are numerous studies that show how experiencing life in a different country can make a person smarter, wittier and more charismatic. Let’s see what some of those benefits are.
1. You boost your independence
Moving away from home and starting to find your way around a new and unfamiliar environment is a bit trialing, but just like living alone, it will force you to become more self-reliant. There is nobody around to help you out and you need to adapt to different circumstances, which often means acquiring new skills along the way. Young people in particular can benefit from this, as they are left to their own devices, being responsible for everything from booking hotels, ironing clothes and organizing a fun evening, to haggling over prices and keeping everyone in the group safe.
2. You get more creative
Deciphering an entirely new cultural and social context helps a person develop valuable problem solving skills. The goal of any foreigner is to figure out the new environment as quickly as possible and view it as a social and cultural puzzle that needs to be figured out, and this hones your creativity. You start finding new ways of communicating with people, you are inspired by the local cultural sites, and you learn to improvise when faced with an unfamiliar situation.
3. You become more flexible
Being in a new and unfamiliar environment makes your realize that most social norms and cultural specifics are not set in stone. You realize that you are in a different environment and that the rules that you are used to do not necessarily apply. Since the majority of people around will be following a different set of social rules, you will adapt more easily and realize that the way people interact can be very different. This experience will prepare you for future encounters of similar nature.
4. You get more tolerant of others
Intolerance usually has roots in fearing the unknown. It also applies to other cultures and nationalities, and if you are uncertain on how to approach people that are of different origin or how to understand them, you are going to benefit greatly from this. There is no better way to learn how to understand a culture than to spend some time living in that particular environment.
Even back home, you begin to open up to different types of people and are more willing to learn about their lifestyle choices. In other words, you start being able to not simply tolerate, but explore and understand worldviews other than your own. People no longer fit into neat little categories like Conservative or Liberal, Weird Vegan or Gun-toting Redneck – you start seeing the nuances and are open to learning about different cultures and sub-cultures around you.
5. You get more interested in other cultures
Once you start getting to know new cultures, you are never going to stop doing it. It really is like opening an entirely new part of your brain that you never used before. You get a new perspective on life and start treating it very differently. It’s not that you become addicted to travel, but you do start to feel an urge for further exploration.
6. You become able to find your way around unfamiliar places
Most people spend a big chunk of their youth in one place. They know their home town or city quite well, but if you drop them in an unfamiliar place, they start panicking and have a hard time navigating their way around. Moving abroad will let you overcome these kinds of lacking really quickly. After all, your alertness level will be much higher, and you will be forced to learn your environment quickly. Don’t be scared by the word forced, it happens pretty naturally.
7. You learn a new language
No matter if you are attempting to learn a new language or not, you are bound to pick up at least some of it. Sure, if you put in a conscious effort to learn it, you are going to progress much faster. The best way to learn a new language is to be exposed to it on a daily basis. Learning a new language actually has plenty of benefits other than being able to communicate effectively across a bigger part of the globe, so the super effective crash course you get during your travels can really pay off.
8. You develop new interests
Sports, cultural events, music, hobbies, all of these things and more can be quite different on different continents and in different countries. You are bound to fall in love with something from your new surrounding and develop a passion for things you paid no attention to before or didn’t even know about.
A lot of people who considered themselves lazy came back from their trips with a new passion for martial arts, yoga, rock climbing or rafting, while some who were always a bit clumsy and socially awkward fell in love with a particular form of dance. Many have also delighted their friends back home with their newly developed cooking skills, serving up exotic dishes and making tasty treats. You never know what skill or hobby you might pick up and how it can affect your life, but one thing is for certain – it will make you a much more interesting person.
9. You develop skills to use in multicultural environments
If you move to another country for work or education, chances are that you will not be the only foreigner there. Being able to exchange experiences with people from different cultures can have a lot of benefits for your professional and private life. After all, professionals that have spent time in this kind of culturally diverse environment are highly sought after by multinational corporate conglomerates.
10. You will fear no challenge thereon after
Moving abroad is a big thing and it takes courage, planning and dedication to achieve (in most cases). When you manage to get through something as challenging as this, you will not be afraid to tackle anything.
11. You get the context on global issues
Being up to date with the news is one thing but talking to people that are experiencing the effects of global issues directly can help you get the insight into things that you understood only superficially before. First-hand experience with global issues is definitely a great thing.
12. You learn how to deal with culture shock
Culture shock is a very real thing and can be a traumatic experience if you are not prepared for it. Still, it is not something that is impossible to overcome, and going through it once helps you meet all other similar situations head on. Still, you need to be careful and watch for the culture shock not to overwhelm you. Simple things like chatting with a friend from back home to watching a TV show that you liked to follow in the past.
Websites like zoogtv.com will allow you to watch streaming Web sites that are blocked outside of the US, like Netflix and HBO GO, no matter where you are in the world, while the National Geographic Web site can help you find out more about local culture. This way, you have a slice of home for comfort and a few pointers on getting used to different cultures.
13. You learn to find your way in different business environments
Business etiquette is different from country to country, and something that is proper conduct in the western culture can be outright rude in interaction with eastern businessmen. A chance to get acquainted with different rules for different business environments is priceless and expands your horizons significantly. You can get plenty of chances to network and develop strong business connections abroad. And knowing the language, culture and code of conduct among businessmen from different areas of the world can significantly improve your career in the future.
14. You get another perspective on life
There are more than a few ways to live one’s life. There are a lot of people that are not aware of this fact because they have never really met someone that is significantly different. Lifestyles are different from country to country, and spending some time somewhere else can broaden your horizons and possibly change your life completely.
15. You become more charismatic
You don’t need anybody to tell you this is true – you know it is. There few things that can develop your personality more than becoming a world traveler. Your mind and your soul become richer, and you become more appealing to everyone. A host of interesting stories, experiences that helped changed the way you felt about issues and shaped you into who you are, that knowing gaze and welcoming smile all experienced travelers share – these are all things that can help you improve your social and love lives.
Photos, the sights you see, souvenirs, everything fades in comparison to the experience that changes you from your core. The change is always for the better, and it is always a cherished memory for people in the end. Don’t let fear hold you back – go out there and meet the people of the world, it will be fun, I promise!
Featured photo credit: Young woman walking on stairs of small street of Vernazza town. Italy via shutterstock.com