Three Reasons Why You Must Move To Another Country.
You’re unique, fascinating, and amazing… anywhere but here.
I’m an expat. My father was an expat. His father was a factory worker. Moving abroad can be a very fast shortcut up the social ladder. Yet moving to another country is usually seen as scary, or as a great risk, which is why there is great potential for arbitrage.
Reason 1: Arbitrage
Arbitrage: noun ar·bi·trage \ˈär-bə-ˌträzh\ : the practice of buying something in one place and selling it in another place where it is worth more.
Many people are afraid that they won’t be competent, or won’t fit in. In my experience, these fears are misplaced.
The theory is this: You’re worried that the people over there have their own way of doing things, they know the lay of the land, and they’re competing hard at a game they’ve been playing together since they were born. Whereas you barely speak the language, don’t know the social conventions, and have no connections. What chance could you possibly have of making money or making friends?
That makes sense to you, because here at home, you’re competing hard against others like you, and it’s tough, but at least you have the keys. You can’t even begin to imagine how tough it would be if you were without these keys, in a place where you can’t even tell what is or isn’t a door.
In practice, it’s the opposite: Against a wildcard like you, the locals don’t stand a chance!
In another country, you’ll find that you suddenly have cultural superpowers. Aside from language, an outsider has the best perspective on how to improve and benefit from another culture. Your background gives you a different, unusual look on things which makes you interesting and exotic. And since your accent is cute, you’ll be forgiven most of your blunders.
Simply by virtue of being so mysterious, you eclipse locals who are ultra-competitive conformists… often without even trying!
Your education, your working style, your experience, which are typical at home… They are suddenly unique and refreshing. That can be parlayed into an advantage. By traveling, you turn your cultural background into a rare, exotic commodity. It’s like trading silk or spices, but since it’s culture, it takes less cargo space.
Reason 2: Discovery
When you move to another country, and let it be your home for a while, you get the new country’s cultural values in trade. You learn not just language and customs, funny quirks and traditions, but also a deeply different approach to human relations. You learn to see life itself in a different way.
You learn a new set of priorities. You’re appreciated for qualities nobody even notices at home. You overcome limitations that were invisible at home. You discover pleasures, delights, beauty and emotions that were locked deep inside of you, never before having found fertile soil to germinate, grow, and blossom.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — St. Augustine
You find out — and this is both tragic and marvelous — that your home country’s culture covers just a small fraction of the vastness of human experience; that there are a million thoughts, feelings, emotions and visions that simply can’t be expressed in English. And you would have missed all of it, your whole life through, by staying home.
You will notice this when you see two world travelers talking with each other. No matter where they come from and where they’ve been, there is a recognition in each other’s eyes: They both know how vast reality truly is. They’re aware that the current culture in which they meet is not the whole picture. They respect each other’s ability to see the world with more perspective, on more wavelengths, and with more resolution.
Reason 3: Amalgam
Amalgam: noun amal·gam \ə-ˈmal-gəm\ : A combination or mixture of different things
As an expat, the cultural asymmetry, and the richness of discovery, are valuable tools, and they will change you for the better: Life will be entirely full of novelty and discovery. As someone who has lived on four different continents, I can attest to it: Each new move is a chance to reinvent yourself, to become a new person. In a new context, with a new language, if you allow yourself to be changed by your environment, you will become a new person: Enriched by the experience, more nuanced, more insightful.
Two things in life will radically change you: The birth of your first child, and moving to another country.
Ask anyone who has lived longer than six months deeply immersed in another culture: “What did you think of the experience?”
You’ll get a variety of answers. Some loved it. Some hated it. Some are addicted to that change, some would never do it again. But you will almost never find someone who regrets having tried. Even if the experience was unpleasant, even if they don’t want to repeat it, they’ve learned so much about themselves in the process that it’s become a major part of who they are.
This evolution of yourself as a person is something you can bank on, whether you stay in a foreign country, move on to more discoveries, or simply return home. Wherever you go from there, you’ll forever be unique, different, and fascinating, because you’re now an amalgam: A unique alloy of two different cultures. Nobody else has the same experience. Nobody else can compete with the unique mix of skills and perspectives that you have become.
In the US, among my professional circles, I’m known as The Frenchman… and appreciated for my passionate approach to creative critique, for my classical education, for my orthogonal perspective which offers breadth to tired and narrow arguments. And when I visit old friends in France, or work with startups in Switzerland, I’m known as The American, and appreciated for my carefree approach to entrepreneurialism, for my modernity, for my focused perspective which brings energy and drive to aimlessly broad arguments. No matter where I go, I’ve got something unique to offer.
You Can Do It!
Sure, there’s a caveat, that you shouldn’t underestimate: recurring pangs of heart-rending homesickness for the first couple of years at least. It does hurt, no doubt about it… but it’s very survivable.
If you can get through that, you’re playing in an open field for the rest of your life. Staying home, and playing 100% by the rules, only guarantees that your playing field will be too crowded for you to get any breaks. Where the market is irrationally risk-averse, take risks, young padawan!
Go where you are most interesting, which may be far away from here.
Whatever happens there, you’ll come back more interesting to the people at home … and more interesting to yourself.
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