There is a lot to be said about growing up abroad. People discuss the positives and negatives of spending your childhood outside your parent’s or passport countries. And while there are definitely things that can make this kind of life complicated, I believe there are far more good things than bad ones that come from it.
Today I am sharing three things that growing up overseas has taught me.
Growing up abroad puts you in contact with many different perspectives from a young age. You soon discover that not everyone holds the same values, beliefs and traditions that you do. But far from being a bad thing, this opens you up to new ideas, new perspectives and different ways of going about life. It helps you understand people even if you don’t agree on everything. You come to learn from them and sometimes adopt parts into your own cultural practices, whether that be foods, celebrations or expressions.
It also makes you more willing to listen to new ideas or try new experiences. When you don’t dismiss things right away but instead take time to explore what possibilities they offer, you gain a richer experience of the world and learn to appreciate the value of ‘different’. By not immediately dismissing the other as wrong but instead seeing it as different, we gain understanding and empathy for those who think or act in ways we ourselves might not.
Growing up abroad you learn that not everything always goes to plan. There are frequent surprises along the way. This teaches you to be flexible, to change plans when needed and not get mad when things don’t work out as you’d hoped. You take a deep breath and figure out what to do instead. Or just flow with whatever is happening now rather than what you’d hoped would happen.
By being flexible and adaptable to situations as they happen, you learn to live in the moment, enjoy the adventures, even if at the time everything feels crazy or in fact is rather crazy. In years to come you will look back and remember that moment with fondness, another great story to tell. Or perhaps a lesson to share with someone else further on, helping them avoid the same mistakes you made.
As with adaptability, creativity comes from having to make do with what’s available. Sometimes you have to improvise and when your usual go-tos aren’t at hand, you have to get creative. Whether that’s in finding a substitute ingredient for a recipe or figuring out how to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language, creativity is built into your daily life and can come in handy many times.
Also, if we think of creativity as being more artistic, you will find that many people who grew up abroad explore creative expression of some kind as a way to describe their experiences. Whether through dance, painting, writing, photography or cake decorating, there are plenty of creative ways to transform the skills and experiences from growing up abroad into something beautiful.
So there you have it. Three things that have been part of my experience and that are still a part of my life today. If you grew up abroad or even if you moved as an adult, what are some things you have learnt from living in a different country or countries?