27 June, 2017

Some keys to living overseas

Free photo from pixabay.com
There are lots of things that are challenging when you move (or even travel) to other countries. Some are more obvious than others. For example, eating breakfast can be a challenge or being able to get around in a country where you don't speak or read the language are pretty obvious.

Here are a three less obvious challenges I've been reminded of in recent weeks.

Not knowing or understanding
The total sum of what we understand about Japan is much less than Australia, it always will be. Additionally, on a daily basis there is a lot less that we understand about what's going on than we do in Australia. I can't read all the signs, I don't get all the jokes. I'm pretty ignorant in many ways, compared to the average Japanese citizen, about life in Japan. That's something you need to become at peace with in order to live here long-term (although possibly I'm too relaxed about it).

We also need to have a trusting attitude, rather than second guessing everything, thinking that we know better. Some cynicism is good, but too much is unhelpful for being able to live here long-term. Not trusting produces increased stress. In order to survive here, I have to be fairly trusting, especially seeing as I don't have all the information that I might otherwise have had access to in Australia.

For example, I often don't understand everything the doctor says to me. That would be totally unacceptable to me in Australia, but here I do my best and get the essence of the important stuff: diagnosis and treatment. That works in a relatively simple medical situation. I may not know exactly what medicine I've been prescribed, but that's (generally) okay.

Not black or white
I read this recently in a blog post about resilience
Sue Takamoto wrote of a transformation that takes place in successfully adapted missionaries—“a move from black and white, egocentric thinking to an ability to become more flexible and open.”
This is so true. Things that are done differently here to my home country aren't wrong because they're different. They might be strange or mysterious to me. They might even be less efficient or inconvenient to me, but a willingness to accept them anyway is needed to stay sane if you're living here. 

For example, if I got upset because I had to wait an hour for a simple medical test result because there was no appointment system, that wouldn't help my stress levels. I'm not hankering after the medical treatment I might have had in Australia, because here is where I live. And of course that ties in with trust and not-knowing. I trust my doctor here, even though I don't understand everything he says.

Over the years I've seen foreigners struggle with these three things while in Japan. Because we've adjusted to living here long-term, probably people who've spent their whole lives in one country struggle to understand us now too.

1 comment:

Shirley Corder said...

Interesting post with really good points, Wendy