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6 Benefits of Living Abroad for a Year (or More!)

Whether you plan to be living abroad for a year or hope to be an expat more permanently, there are endless benefits to trying out a new place. People worldwide will leave their ‘home country’ to experience other cultures, enjoy new job opportunities, study abroad or simply change their lifestyle. Not only is it exciting, but it’s also good for you as a person to gain a fresh global perspective, learn to adapt and possibly even master a second language. Here’s some wonderful positives of being an expat and living somewhere else.

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Improves Your Mental Health

According to the Harvard Business Review, people who choose to try living abroad for a year or longer can experience benefits to their mental durability. The study mostly deals with a sense of strong identity and self-awareness. Other benefits include things like reducing group biases, career success and enhancing creativity.

Improves Your Physical Health

Not always, but sometimes, when living in a new country, you may have different transport situations than at home. Perhaps walking to work or cycling is more accepted in a new city or rural destination. People who move to new countries often have to find new friends, which could lead to joining more intramural sports and activities. Also, in new countries, expats are inclined to try new, fresh foods that are local and delicious. All of these things can promote better health.

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Helps you Appreciate Your Home Country

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, right? Sometimes a move, especially a drastic one, can help you understand where you’re from on a deeper level. People who move abroad sometimes will miss ‘home’ and seek out ways to re-connect with their culture of birth. Furthermore, people who’ve lived in multiple different countries will see differences clearly and appreciate the beauty in each place.

Cultivates Intelligence

Moving to a new country often means having to learn a new language – or at least the basics! This challenge can lead to lots of benefits, including enhanced creativity, learning about new cultures and even more job opportunities. Simply having to adapt and learn how to get around a new place to live can be a refreshing way to stimulate the brain.

Enhances Communication

Even outside of learning the local language, you usually have to be very clear in your communication. Slang words, colloquialisms and simply different customs all require deeper thought. Communication and respect are key when living abroad for a year or more, which can be great for your job, home life and overall relationships.

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Leads to the Travel Bug!

If nothing else, some time spent living abroad will most likely have you wanting more! People who are expats or move elsewhere often prioritize traveling and exploring. Living in a new country feels like the ultimate trip in itself.

Want to know more about living abroad for a year or longer? Stay tuned, we’ll be covering lots of important expat tips and guides in the coming months. If you’ve already made the move, check out the KITnDO homepage to connect with your culture in your new home!

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What Is Cultural Diversity And Why Should You Care?

KITnDO’s mission, as you might already know, is to promote cultural diversity by helping everybody to perpetuate his/her cultural heritage through local connections. Since this is our very first article on the blog, we thought why not start with the ‘basics’:

What actually drives us to create the community, what’s the motivation behind this project?

Cultural diversity and globalization are the hot topics in the today’s political and social debate. Furthermore, as any controversial subjects, these terms arouse many prejudices and misconceptions. Understanding what entails the cultural diversity and globalization would be the first step in dealing with it.

The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity was adopted in 2001, as an aftermath of the events of September 11th 2001. UNESCO aims to reaffirm that intercultural dialogue is one of the prerequisites in order to prevent the ‘clash of civilization’ and to guarantee the peace. It was the first document of a kind which has addressed the importance of cultural identity, pluralism and this in the context of imminent globalization of the world.

What is ‘cultural diversity’?

Cultural diversity doesn’t have an official definition, it is as diverse as the term implies. The authors of UNESCO World Report generally define it, as the expression of the fact, the awareness that “there exists a wide range of distinct cultures, which can be readily distinguished on the basis of ethnographic observation, even if the contours delimitating a particular culture prove more difficult to establish than might at first sight appear[1]”.

The concept of cultural diversity encompasses cultures, civilizations and most importantly people – transmitters of the culture and civilizations.

“I was born and raised in Russia. When I was 19 I left my country, and came to France to study. Later, I have spent one year in the Netherlands, then I married a Mexican and we are currently living in Germany. How can I identify myself with one single place at this point? Can I ignore the presence of other cultures and civilizations? Of course, no”.

And if 20 years ago, this example could be rather exceptional and rare, today it is not surprising anymore. There is nothing new in the human migration. The cultural exchange exists as long as the humanity does. What has actually changed, is the ease of migration, the speed of culture mixing.

How can globalization be reconciled with the cultural diversity?

The globalization is oftentimes juxtaposed with cultural diversity, as the globalization is commonly associated with the homogenization of society. What globalization does is it impairs the link between the cultural peculiarity and the geographic location by bringing the distant influence into the immediate vicinity[1].

If it is indisputable that globalization involves a lot of risks, it does not necessarily equal the loss of cultural identity and diversity. Quite the contrary, under certain circumstances, globalization presents a source of opportunity for the “preservation and promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures”[2].

To grasp that idea, one should take into account two statements:

1) Cultures are not fixed and self-enclosed. It is in constant motion and change. The static culture is actually more likely to disappear than the ever-changing one.

The cultural enrichment is possible through the exchange and dialogue with the external parties, e.g. outside the culture bubble.

To take an obvious example of the perpetual movement and exchange of culture, let’s look at the language. The language never stops changing, borrowing new words, concepts from other languages and still keeps its identity.

2) Globalization removes the cultural barriers and gives access to the diversity.

Cultural stereotypes are based on the intrinsic human fear of the unknown. They seek to demarcate one group from the alien other[3]. The globalization, however, reverses such process. As Daniel Rothkopf wrote, it “promotes integration and the removal not only of cultural barriers but of many of the negative dimensions of culture.”[4].

Never before had we such a wide access to the foreign goods, traditions, music, books, food, clothing style etc. It is so normal for us to live mixing the cultures, that we don’t notice it anymore. It has become a part of our culture.

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Conclusion

Globalization, increasing migration, urbanization and all the challenges related to it are part of the new reality. The world has changed a lot in the past century and the links between different cultures, entities, and people are so close than ever before.

It is vitally important to find ways how to manage cultural changes effectively.

One can make it with the implementation of the culturally sensitive education, the diversification of the business, introducing new policies etc. But is it enough?

It might be easier for an expat or any other person who gets in a direct touch with a multitude of cultures to comprehend the cultural changes that the society is going through. However, it is not the case for everyone. There should be not only intercultural but also intracultural dialogue.

Instead of pushing people to accept all the cultural differences, we should unveil what’s behind the steel curtain, establish mutual and respectful dialogue, letting them make their own conscious choice about their culture.

It is only by being aware that the responsibility mainly lies on people – transmitters of culture – that the cultural diversity can be nourished, and the intercultural dialogue preserved.

Are you ready to take that responsibility over?

Written by Maria Migalina


[1] UNESCO World Report 2009, p.3 (The UNESCO World Report No. 2: Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue. Executive Summary)
[2] http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13179&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
[3] UNESCO World Report 2009, P.11
[4] David Rothkopf, “In Praise of Cultural Imperialism,” Foreign Policy June 22, 1997