7.949 kilometers is the distance between Caracas and Barcelona, the 2 cities that I can call home. They are more than a decade apart as my residence place.
Apart from the obvious fact that we all change with time, the experience of travelling and migrating to another country has had a transcendental effect in me that I’m pretty sure would not have taken place otherwise.
Here some things I have learned:
1.- It doesn’t matter what people can tell you, how much you study other cultures and how many pictures you see, it is never the same as travelling:
It is like someone telling you how sex is and not making it. Nothing to add about it.
2.- The stuff from your country of origin are not necessarily the best in the world:
The truth is I don’t want to get too much into this topic, because it can touch sensitive spots, but for me it was a huge revelation.
We have the tendency to think that our things are the best in the world. “The food of my country is the best in the world” (well, maybe Italians and Peruvians can say it?), “the chocolate from my country is the best in the world”, “the professionals from my country are the best in the world”.
The truth is that once you open your mind, your taste, senses and your professional field of action, you discover there is much cultural “relativity”, that you identify yourself with whatever you have consumed your whole life and you obviously think it is the best.
The best approach is to understand that there is a lot of variety out there and there are different things, not better or worse than others, they just have their own identity and own charm without making other stuff lesser.
Between all topics, the one that bothers me the most -I was the first one of those people- is when someone speaks about personal and professional capabilities: “we are the best, we are everywhere, even in NASA”. And yes, there may be a Venezuelan there, but there are also Mexicans, Japanese and many other nationalities, and maybe even in greater numbers.
It’s very important to be very proud of your cultural baggage, but it doesn’t make it the best in the world over other regions. You have to promote it, but with great humility. We have to be open to other cultures and acknowledge their strong points.
3.- Europe is very open to cultural diversity:
Although Europe is not built by immigrants, like for example USA, the openness in this sense is pretty much generalized, it is a society widely inclusive.
There are big immigrant communities coming from all continents and they are integrated to society, their contributions are widely appreciated: Food, music and other arts, for saying some of them.
For example, in Barcelona there is a big celebration for the Chinese New Year and even the major of the city ( Ada Colau) has joined the event.
4.- Several European countries are very liberal (and that’s awesome!):
The personal style of everybody is very much respected, there are less “non-written” social rules. In general, there isn’t an exacerbated and unnecessary moralism. This brings as a consequence people being more authentic, there is a real feeling of freedom.
Topics like sexuality, your fashion style and music, for example, are very well respected. In general, you are not judged by superficial stuff, not socially, not professionally.
5.- Without swimsuit is better:
Related to the previous topic, once you discover how liberating and nice it is to go to the beach butt naked you can’t stop. Naturism that they call it. Yes, it is difficult to break the barrier with some friends and the family, depending on the society you come from. This implies a big mindset change, although it seems superficial.
6.- Speaking without filters is amazing:
Also relative to the freedom of the European culture, they have more or less filters when speaking, depending on the country, but in general they are much more direct when saying things and that makes communication easier. You lose less time in silliness and euphemisms.
This caused a big impact on me at first sight with some people from some nationalities, as since I wasn’t used to it I was thinking those people were rude. Then I understood that they are eager for you to communicate the n the same way.
7.- There is 2 kind of travelers, the ones that see the cultures from inside and the ones who see them as a theme park:
While travelling I have learned a lot of things, for example history, art and ways of doing things, which no doubt have changed me. I’m constantly evaluating other points of view about what I always assumed as unmovable maxims or just didn’t ever question.
But in the same way that I have met many travelers and immigrants that see it like that, I have also met those who go to other places, other cultures and see everything from behind a barrier, as if they were behind a glass in an amusement park in which they are mere spectators, they don’t get involved. It is missing an outstanding opportunity to grow.
There is a quote that says:
Travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse. — Thomas Fuller
I don’t consider myself wise, but for sure travelling has opened my eyes to a world I never imagined.
8.- You don’t need to have a university degree to be someone:
In many countries like Venezuela, where I come from, there is the perception that if you don’t go to the university or get any high education you will be a loser.
And it is somehow true, as being a country with such a small middle class having a university degree used to guarantee a good job. That was before all the political and economic disaster going on in the present.
In Europe this is completely different. Barcelona is full of waiters, shopkeepers and customer service agents that have one or more university degrees and in the same way you can also find managers and businessman that have no formal high education. To have an idea, a locksmith, that may look as a trivial profession, may earn lot more than an academic.
Your educational level does not determine the kind of job you will get, neither your income. There are different variables at play, between them the unemployment level of the country where you live in Europe, the most demanded professions, the needs of the market, you abilities beyond education and some luck.
Most of the jobs, regardless of the preparation they require or the recognition they can grant, could perfectly provide for a “normal” life -depending on your household situation-. That would include travelling, having free time and resources for your hobbies.
9.- Living better is possible and it is not an exception:
This is no doubt the most important topic of all and the great summary of my experience and the reason which motivated me to open this web.
I arrived here coming from a third world country. By that time I had only been in USA and Canada, although several times. I was looking at the the functional countries as the exception. I assumed life was in that way and those were very, very few. I guess it may be the case for a lot of people from
Now, with a more globalized overview, I have seen how even in countries considered as low income it is possible to live decently, with a functional society, with all the needs covered in a safe environment. If so many countries can, everybody can.
We have to question the present, our living conditions, demand more from ourselves and our leaders, there is no excuse for having countries with the ongoing situations. We can change that together.
This are not the only things I have learned in this priceless experience of migrating, but they are relevant points I wanted to share. Of course this is a very personal experience and can be very different from one person to another. I will return with more!
Originally published at https://en.asiestalavaina.com. This story has been moved here permanently.