Twice I have now lived in another country. (Three times, if you include Scotland!.)
Everyone should do it. I think because it broadens the mind and will increase your sympathy for immigrants in your own country at the same time.
Moving to Texas was not at all easy. You would think the US was an easy place for a Brit to go and live but let me tell you something. It is an alien world. It took an entire calendar year to even gain a sense of the rhythym of life there. Texas has its own culture and that involves everything from general expectations to mindset. Customer service though wonderful can be annoyingly over the top. People are superficially cheerful and this can grate on your nerves too. I realized very quickly how negative we sound just in our choice of words…
“How are you?”
“Wonderful thank you. What a glorious day. How are you?”
Not bad. Sounds OK in the UK but in the US it sounds….. negative.
There is a superficial side to life in the USA I found. Everyone is superficially happy and providing wonderful service and attention. Yet, deep, intimate and lasting friendships seem rarer to me there than in the UK.
Of course, these are generalizations. Yet, the US culture is very different. Impermanent, fleeting even. There is little history and nothing really seems built to last. It is quite material and the spirituality on display is often very fundamental christian, reminding one of its roots. I had never thought of the word ‘damn’ as a swear word but for some, it is a deeply offensive swear word at that. There even is a falseness about even that spirituality at a certain level as well in that the flamboyant TV evangelists are plainly and obviously hypocrites in the main. Yet despite that, there is also often a genuinely simple spirituality at work in their flocks.
Distance is another thing. Everything is big and things are far away. Convenience is an aspect of life that perhaps helps to balance this out. It’s a long way to the bank but when you get there, you needn’t get out of your car. There are many other areas of difference – sports, vacation time, dining and more. It took several years to blend in. But, I almost always enjoyed it.
What did I learn? I think in the end I learned that material possessions do not make you happy. In fact, they sort of put you on a treadmill to hell as you work faster and harder to keep your status of things… I also learned to try to speak more clearly and to value friendships more as something rather special. I think I also learned something about poverty and wealth in the sense that in the USA some have everything and many have nothing at all – and I’m not talking about possessions but health, education and even hope….
The Czech Republic on the surface would seem an easier place except for the language barrier. People have more of a European attitude. But after a while, you notice that many Czechs are well…. dour. Unsmiling and not very friendly. Customer service is rare and it is mostly a fight to get any attention whatsoever in a store. The workers seem interested only in getting to go home having dealt with as few other humans as possible.
Over time, you also get a sense for the game playing, jealousy and spite that some exhibit. With some Czech’s it seems near impossible to have a normal and straightforward relationship. Everything is a battle or a game in which they are determined not to let you benefit or get ahead and if you do, they will work behind your back to undermine you. Smiles are rare until alcohol is involved. Insults are perceived in your tone, word choice and actions that simply didn’t exist and they want vengeance for those perceived insults.
But the longer I live here, the more I get a sense of something deeper. Some flaw in the nation’s psyche. Many seem to not want to be happy and they do not believe you should be either. The games go deeper and become more subtle. Cheating on your partner isn’t just normal but expected. Their comedy movies clearly show this just as the Carry On films exposed British attitude’s towards sex.
Again, it’s a generalization. The more people have travelled and the more interaction they have had, the less this culture seems to be in evidence. The younger generation are not afflicted the same way as the older although this behavior begins in school and is exhibited even by the teachers – I have observed.
Again, I like living here. Its a nice place to be and it lacks a lot of the woke, PC nonsense that so infects the west and makes life miserable. Again, it is hard to describe without sounding negative.
What did I learn? Here I have learned to be happy and that happiness comes from inside of yourself. It is not given by things nor by wanting things. It comes from a sense of well being and self love (in a positive way) that glows within you. Yes, there I times I forget but the dourness of the Czechs at times reminds me – I am who I am and it is fine and you know, I am happy. I have also learned that holding a grudge, being jealous of someone else’s success of possession is something that drags you down and darkens the soul. It is better to be happy for others success and to boost their confidence.
At the end of the day, I’m sure every country has it cultural negatives and positives. In experiencing these and contrasting and comparing, I think and hope it makes us better people. More accepting and more tolerant. Dealing with living in a foreign country simply broadens the mind.
In both countries, I have found a vibrant culture that has profoundly impacted the way I look at life. In a sense, it has adjusted the lenses I was given to see through by my upbringing and now I see things a little differently. In the US, I found the value in self responsibility and hard work. In Czechia, I have found an aspect of spirituality outside and inside of myself that I was unaware of previously.