A Surprising Truth About Living Abroad
Some people move abroad to ‘find themselves’, while others simply want to have an adventure to tell their grandchildren about. Whatever the reason, it is an undeniably great way to find inspiration, see new things, and challenge your conceptions of certain places.
For me, both times that I’ve moved abroad have been very humbling. I’ve been able to look at things with a fresh perspective, but, most of all, I’ve made a surprising discovery—that all cultures have different prejudices, and noticing them makes you reconsider your own.
Because I grew up with an English mother, I didn’t think that I’d find living in the British culture too much of an adjustment. How wrong I was! Despite many commonalities, there are so many cultural nuances that I’ve learned about from making friends, reading the newspaper, watching television, and travelling around the country.
The other day, I was searching for a radio station to listen to and landed on BBC Radio 2. I was happy with the songs playing as my background music until my partner came in and asked me if I realised that I was listening to ‘the old people station’. This in an example of how being a foreigner can be humbling; despite living in England for five years, I still find things that I’m unfamiliar with.
Digging a little deeper, there have been many stereotypes and prejudices that I’ve become familiar with since living in the U.K. A big one is how every accent is loaded with connotations. This, of course, is the case in every country, but I find that it is much more poignant in Britain. You might be branded ‘posh’ or ‘rough’ simply by the way that you speak, which seems awfully unfair as an outsider. Now, however, I can navigate the connotations of these accents like a pro...common opinion will inevitably become familiar.
I was much more prepared to face cultural differences when I moved to Spain. One of the first things I noticed was how homogenous Seville is. Being so close to Africa, you would think that there would be a very diverse population in the city, but, disappointingly, I found the opposite. Being ethnically Spanish is the norm, and if you aren’t, you will at times be treated like an outsider.
The biggest shock to me was that if you are not ethnically Spanish but you were born in Spain, you may still not be considered truly Spanish. It gave me an appreciation for how the United States is so diverse and was built on immigration. I have so many American friends who have parents from different backgrounds (myself included!), but no one would question the fact that we are American.
Living in a new country renews your innocence in a sense. You observe everything with fresh eyes, and your preconceived notions are swiftly challenged. Living in different countries has allowed me to reflect on the things that I like and want to challenge about my own culture, but most of all, it has forced me to consider my own preconceptions. Noticing how much these prejudices vary around the world gives you a sense of how ridiculous the prejudices that you grew up with can be.