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In the current era of globalization, cheap communication and fast international travel, many people are choosing to make their homes in foreign countries. Whether one is considering a new career in a distant nation about which he or she knows little or is considering a language program in a country he or she has studied for years, there likely will be much to like — and a little to complain about — in his or her new home. Some of the positive aspects of living abroad include being able to learn a new language, experience another culture and taste different cuisine. There can be some negative aspects, however, such as language barriers, cultural missteps, dietary difficulties and maybe even becoming homesick.
Language is often a difficult area of life for people living abroad. If someone can’t speak the local language, even simple tasks can seem daunting. This language barrier, however, can also be seen in a positive light. Someone who is interested in learning the local language will be in the perfect environment when living abroad. Indeed, almost everyone he or she meets will be a potential language partner and tutor.
Like language, culture also plays a significant role in the life of a person who is living abroad. The rules of social etiquette in a foreign country might be very different from those where he or she grew up. For example, knowing the proper way to show a dinner host that one is pleased with a meal can be difficult. If a person isn't familiar with local cultural cues, he or she might be in for some misunderstandings.
Food can be a source of great satisfaction or great disappointment, depending on one's tastes and the foreign country where he or she is living. In some countries, for example, the local cuisine relies heavily on the use of seafood. Someone who doesn’t or can’t eat seafood will have his or her dining options significantly reduced. On the other hand, for someone who enjoys seafood, the variety and quality available that country might bring quite a lot of enjoyment.
Even if one enjoys the cuisine in his or her adopted country, he or she might occasionally crave familiar foods. Yet, in some cases, it might be difficult or impossible to buy such foods locally. Many people are comforted by a taste of home and are disappointed when they can’t have it.
Another topic to consider is the cost of living abroad. Often, people who are pursuing careers in foreign countries tend to live in capital cities or cities that are involved in international finance and business. Typically, these are very expensive cities. Someone living a major city such as Paris, Sydney, New York or Moscow might find that that his or her leisure options are limited by his or her income. On the other hand, someone living in a smaller city or in a developing country might find that his or her money goes further than it did at home.
A final issue is much less significant now than it once was: distance. With the availability of cheap communication technology, it is easier than ever for someone to stay connected with his or her family and friends across great distances. In the days of airmail and transoceanic passenger ships, living abroad meant a certain amount of isolation from one's home country. With the aid of a computer, however, one can now keep up with his or her friends and family easily, even speaking with them face-to-face through a video chat if the appropriate computer equipment is available. If one becomes truly homesick, he or she can always book a plane ticket and be home for a visit relatively quickly.
It is safe to say that virtually every person will find both pros and cons to living abroad. This is, however, perfectly natural. After all, most people can find plenty of pros and cons with their home country, too.
Heavanet, I had a friend in college who was a French major. She loved the culture, and mastered the language perfectly. When she graduated, she got a great job in France, and has loved every moment of living abroad.
I think that the language barrier would be the biggest challenge when it comes to Americans living abroad. However, if you know the language of a particular country and have an opportunity to live and work there, it would most likely be a very rewarding experience.
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