Living overseas can be a wonderful way to become familiar with not only the country and region you are living in but also a unique way to reacquaint yourself with your home country. If you keep an open mind, the education available to an expatriate is boundless.
Living in country such as Japan can be a situation where you live in one of the wealthiest and advanced countries, with some of the most archaic ["backwoods" as they say in the US] standards in their treatment of women, the disabled and the foreign-born. It was a surprise to learn that the country known for teeny tiny electronics, the CD and incredibly energy efficient cars, would give a tax incentive to married couples so that a husband received a tax break if his wife did not earn more than $10,000 a year. Today's women then have an incentive to not marry if they want a career.
At the same time, it is very enlightening to watch the "news hour" each night, and notice that the headquarters for CNN International news was Singapore rather than Tokyo. Also of interest is that the international news shown in Toyko each day, allows about half of an hour of American driven news. As an American living in Tokyo, this situation provides you with more news and information generated from outside the US and with a non-American perspective within the story being reported.
Anti-Social vs. Putting Yourself Out There
With the opportunity of living overseas, comes the benefit of gaining a tangible understanding of another culture. Putting yourself out there and engaging the citizens around you beyond the expat community is very worthwhile. Even if you are shy, the amount of education you can gain and bring home with you is worth the effort to get outside your shell.
Learning the language of the country you are currently living in will not only give you stronger ties and stability to your immediate environment, but it will open opportunities to gaining friends along the way. Each day you reach out to your neighborhood shopkeepers and taxi drivers with even a short phrase spoken in their language, is an authentic moment and memory.
My former Japanese language teacher who still regularly teaches expats in Tokyo wrote to me today. She is a living example of why it is worth the effort to learn a new language in your new country. She has become a friend of mine and continues to share with me her views and perspective. She continues to educate me on her generation and her country, even teaching me more about mine. She shared with me her views on why Hillary Clinton is a great chief diplomat for President Obama here:
Hillary Clinton in Tokyo
"I saw a TV news reporting that Hilary Clinton, the Secretary of State, arrived at Japan and not only met the government people but visited Meiji Jinguu, the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo University, etc. She looked great and worked very hard to communicate with various people in Japan, which gives us a very good impression. Now is the most difficult time that we have had since I don’t know when. So I hope we make a good relationship to make the world better."