Last time I´ve written about 6 Problems That You May Encounter When Moving Abroad. Yes, immigration is not easy, but one should not forget about the perks of moving to another country. In fact, the benefits are so great that they easily outweigh all the drawbacks (at least in most cases).
I don´t want to sound pretentious or dramatic, but immigration indeed has changed me a lot, and in many ways made me a better person than I was before.
To my mind, major benefits of immigration are related to the intangible aspects of life. You might get some material advantages by moving abroad, but it mostly depends on the standards of living in the country where the person moves in contrast to those standards in the country from which a person emigrates.
We saw that language creates problems in the immigration, however, it is also language that offers huge benefits to the migrant. There is no better way to learn or improve a language than living in the country where the language is actually spoken.
I was always somehow jealous of the bilingual or even trilingual kids. How easily and naturally do they acquire a new language. Our neuroplasticity and so the language learning curve decrease every year.
It doesn´t mean though that you cannot grasp a new language as an adult. Of course, you can. The difference is, however, that: first, much more efforts are needed in order to learn a language, and second, methods of learning are completely different.
Children don´t need to learn grammar rules to properly construct a sentence. Their brains are able to adopt the grammar, syntax, and morphology of the language without special exertion, i.e. they do it intuitively. The famous linguist Chomsky referred to the “child´s innate general language learning ability” called as the “Language Acquisition Device”
Lucky kids, aren´t they?
But why am I writing this anyway? Because the language immersion provides us with a small but still a chance to pick up a language in a similar way as a child, i.e. not actually learning, but rather acquiring intuitively.
Yes, our brain doesn´t have the same plasticity as in the childhood, but when you are continuously immersed in the language environment, you start learning the rules of the language, without noticing it. For instance, in order to master a grammar rule in your country, you have to “cram” for it, memorize it, making boring exercises, whereas, in the country where the language is spoken, you learn it just by hearing the natives and understanding the context for the appropriate use of the rule.
I still didn´t find a scientific base (essay) proving this assumption, but these are just my personal impressions and experience.
The accent is also gradually settling in your mind. Although, language accent is another interesting subject, that I will cover in another post. I´ve noticed that regardless of the age and duration of stay abroad, people have very different abilities to take over the local accent.
The brain is definitely the winner from your moving abroad. All the new experiences that the migrant gets abroad are advantageous for the brain. Let me show you this in the next two points.
Moving abroad, you simply cannot stay at the same level of narrow-mindedness that you were at home. I understand that everyone will have different degrees of openness to the world, but it is impossible not to become more tolerant and open, having moved to a foreign country.
One can object to this assertion, saying that “some people/cultures/nations” are not able to adapt and open up to the world.
I would rather not write about politics, but I must admit that I am a hopeless optimist. Even if I may not always agree with the actions of the German government towards foreigners, I believe in the long-term effectiveness of melting pot. There are people who change and broaden their mind almost instantly, and then there are those who need generations for it.
Moreover, the era of globalization makes the melting pot out of the whole world. For instance, let´s take the case from recent news about Saudi Arabia lifting its ban on women drivers. Who could imagine this would be possible in this country a couple of years ago? It is very likely that it was Uber and its lobby who “subtly contributed” to that change. And here we are not talking about people changing due to the immigration but about the western influence via business company inside a country. I find it to be a demonstrative case.
Having moved to Europe, I was surprised to find out how many persistent stereotypes about everything I have. In fact, it is very difficult to determine whether some knowledge is a pure fact and a given or is it merely an opinion imposed by society/regime/context.
By the way, I´m not trying to say that stereotypes are bad. They serve an important social function, and without stereotypes people would lose all the guidelines in life.
However, immersion in a new culture with other prejudices and traditions teaches a person to distinguish, detect clichés and decide for himself whether to maintain it or not. (Clearly, moving abroad is not the only way to get rid of stereotypes, but it’s, let’s say, one of the most accessible ways).
3) New Perspective This is one of my favorite, magical perks of moving abroad. You start to see things differently.
Now I´ll give you a weird comparison, let me apologize for it in advance.
When I was 13 years old I spent 3 months in Germany and another 2 weeks I spent living with a French family in France. I can clearly remember one of my main impressions afterwards.
If you stand on your head and look at your room, you can see that everything looks completely different. Not just for the reason that everything is turned upside down, but rather because you start seeing the same things differently, noticing what you didn´t before.
(I was 13, standing on my head is an acceptable silliness for that age. Okay, at my 26 I still do it from time to time)
So moving abroad is the same as standing on your head. It feels like someone replaced your eyes (or brain), and you´ve got the new perspective on the usual things. Moreover, you suddenly start to see things that you did not notice before.
When I came back to Russia for a vacation a year after my departure, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Why didn´t I see this before? How could I have missed it?
4) Professional Advantage
Let’s go back on feet, let´s get serious. A new perspective on familiar things (thinking outside the box) is one of the most valuable qualities for the employer. This will be useful in any scenario:
– if you decide to return to your country and search for a job there, then you will significantly increase your chances for a good job and position (language + extraordinary thinking)
– if you stay in a foreign country, it will be difficult for you to get ahead of the natives in language. However, you have your own bargaining chip – an additional language (which might not be useful in every place but at least in international companies) and this extraordinary thinking (as a foreigner, you will have a “fresh” perspective on the environment).
Another perk of being a migrant, which is helpful both for work and for life. The new country generously teaches you to be stress-resistant.
It seems to me that the immigration dulls the fear of failure in people. Hence, you don´t dramatize problems, and it´s much more difficult to take you by surprise and throw you into a state of panic.
The environment in which you have to speak in a foreign language teaches you to quickly find an alternative solution to the problem. For example, let´s say, during an important meeting or an interview, you completely forgot one word in the middle of the conversation. Most likely you will be able to explain the same thing in other words so that the interlocutor will not notice that you were almost dumbstruck.
You feel more relaxed about mistakes and imperfections. A foreign country teaches you self-irony and an easy-going attitude towards life.
6) Communication skills
In the last post, I´ve written about the desocialization problem as a side-effect of immigration. But the same aspect has another angle of view – positive one. The immigration makes you a great communicator, in the sense that, you learn how to approach people with different mentalities and get along with them.
Most probably, a migrant doesn´t have any connections in the new country, so he/she has to build it from the scratch by himself/herself. So even if it might be difficult in the beginning to network and build your own circle, you improve your communication skills twice as fast when networking in a foreign country.
Getting along with a person from another culture is not the easiest task. It requires extra tolerance and willingness to understand the person and its mentality. Is also more difficult to find a common subject, since there is probably little in common between you and your new acquaintance.
But every effort you make and every confusion you go through will teach you how to become a better communicator.
And finally, moving abroad gives you an opportunity to meet a variety of people from every corner of the world. It is actually easier to become friends with people who are expats as you, than with the locals, as you do have one thing in common – immigration.
Room for discoveries that you can make by communicating with people living abroad is truly unlimited.
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