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Thread: US citizens living/working abroad

  1. #1
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    US citizens living/working abroad

    where are you now? how'd you get there? how is it (or how was it)?

    i'm trying to figure out my options if i find myself in the future in the position of choosing to live & work abroad, and would like to hear experiences of people (if it's relevant, US citizens) who've made this happen, whether these periods were temporary / short-term or permanent / long-term. i thought i'd might as well ask here, since travel seems to be a big interest here.

    edit: should've taken "US citizens" out of the thread title, but too late, sorry.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 05-30-2015 at 05:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Pull the strings! Architect's Avatar
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    I've done temporary assignments (months time period) in Europe and Asia. Sounded romantic, but it taught me to stay home. I don't travel much anymore, don't see any point in it.

    Other places are just slightly different and more limited versions of what I get in the U.S., is what it appeared to me. Ones that, deep down, I never really fit. Ultimately what's the point of travel? Taking short term trips is mostly an experiential S activity, a big logistical situation. For me it just takes time away from doing something meaningful. Longer term trips add whole new logistical problems. In exchange for ... different products? A different landscape? People that act slightly differently? Well you can get all of that in the U.S.

    Just my opinion, I didn't find anything magical about it.

  3. #3
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    2 years in Honduras, ending in a couple of weeks. I'd like to do more international work, and might, but I need to spend some time in the States for various personal reasons.

    I teach (which is my profession/training in the US) at an English-immersion school. Schools like this are a big thing here, so I could easily go work at another one. I may actually do that in the future if I don't find something I like better in the US. It should serve as an interesting bit of padding on my resume, I hope, but mainly I wanted to spend a large chunk of time outside the US because I'd never done so before.

    I think it's a different sort of experience than just traveling. On a trip you see the sights and sample as much of the ephemera of a place as you can fit in with the logistics and your own interests, but living somewhere is obviously more immersive than that.

    If I didn't have a child--which complicates things, although it's been a phenomenal experience for him (he's fully bilingual now) and I'm very glad to have been able to provide it--I'd probably be spending the next several years just hopping around to different countries for a year at a time teaching English. A coworker from last year worked in Qatar this year, and I think I'm jealous of him. My brother taught in Japan a few years ago, and I'd really like to do that, too. Earlier this year I was trying to look for jobs in Chile. (Another friend has lived there before.) I'd still like to spend some time in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland at some point, since I spent all those years studying the language just for the hell of it.


    I have a very strong "novelty-seeking" predilection as a personality trait (an instinctive desire, bordering on a need, to regularly experience things that are different from what I'm familiar with in most aspects of life) so personally I get a lot of enjoyment out of the foreign-ness of all manner of little mundane elements of life here--everything from food to architecture to minor interpersonal interactions to the natural flora and fauna. (They probably don't occupy exactly the same ecological niche, but hanging out in my backyard I see these shiny blue-and-green iguanas instead of squirrels, which I get a kick out of because the place where I grew up doesn't have a climate that supports very many species of wild reptiles.) Everything looks and sounds and feels just slightly different from what I'm otherwise used to, and that by itself makes me happy.

    This is probably obvious, but people are people everywhere, you are still yourself, and so forth. Nothing is going to be radically different about your life or the people in it, in my experience, unless (maybe) you make that happen through particular choices about where you go and what you do. I'm not on a Peace Corps assignment or anything. (The Peace Corps' basic mission is still to promote infrastructure development in places without much infrastructure, so participants typically are way out in the rural boonies of whatever country they're sent to, which seems like it probably involves the greatest possible amount of cultural difference from one's home country.) With some exceptions, I live here pretty similarly to how I live in the States, and that includes using internet access to stay pretty plugged-in to my American social circle and American cultural goings-on. It's best thought of as a change of scenery for the same life you've always been living, which of course is a perfectly valid reason to do it if that interests you.


    When I first started telling people I was going to move down here, someone sent me a link to this and said it was worth keeping these things in mind. (The guy who sent it was the one who'd lived in Chile.) Some of it rings really true to my experience, and some doesn't.

    I haven't had the "no one wants you here" problem whatsoever--there is intense demand for my professional skillset here, and IME Honduran culture just really isn't xenophobic or nationalistic the way American culture is. At least they feel this way about Americans--lots of Hondurans have lived in the US, have family in the US, and so forth, and their attitude is more intense curiosity than anything else--but it seems like more generally there's little to no cultural aversion to the idea of people coming here from other places and bringing elements of their native culture with them. (Religion might be one area where that's a problem, but it doesn't apply to me since I'm not religious so I don't know.) My brother said he ran into a fair amount of this in Japan, however--that people were generally very friendly and polite and hospitable, but this came with a strong undercurrent of "just don't forget who and what and where you are, and by the way, let us know if you need any help buying your plane ticket home when you're done serving your purpose to us."

    The "culture shock" has actually crept in slowly for me, rather than being a full-force immediate kind of thing. Honestly, initial adjustment (things like learning the most crucial bits of the language and the local etiquette for common interactions) was substantially easier than I was imagining. To some extent I'm feeling more "shock" now than I was at the beginning of last year--it's mostly work-related stuff involving things like students', parents' and Honduran coworkers' attitudes about education. (Ideas about what the purpose of school is, what it's normal for teachers to expect from students and vice versa, etc.) Some of it I've come to understand--virtually no one thinks this society is a "meritocracy", so school is not a way to prove yourself and "get ahead" but more a communal experience of acculturation into your social caste--but a lot of it is still frankly baffling to me, and has only gotten more so as I've gotten more familiar with what the unstated customs and beliefs actually are. ("Let's make a big show out of blatantly ignoring the teacher and disrupting class, but then afterwards let's all sheepishly line up to ask him for personal tutoring sessions to review the same material.") That somewhat more personal part of my life is actually where I feel the most alien and out of my element.

    The "you are just going to end up hanging out with Americans" thing is true even for the longer-term expats I know who are very well versed in the local language and culture. I don't think it should be made out as some sort of problem, though, honestly--I mean, yeah, the reasons that big American cities have a "Chinatown" and a "Little Italy" or whatever make perfect sense, and there's no reason the reverse won't be true for expats/immigrants/etc. anywhere else. You're not a tourist, so you'll be looking to mix comfort and rest into your more adventurous endeavors, and of course things that are familiar are a source of comfort. You'll obviously be getting plenty of exposure to the local culture, and you don't have to avoid local extensions of your own culture to make this happen. I don't feel any urge to talk to every American I see here at all--most of them are tourists, and since we have nothing in common besides being from the same country that one fact isn't a reason to strike up conversations--but yeah, obviously most of my closer friends are people in a similar situation to mine, since commonalities are generally how you make friends with people.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  4. #4
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    my long-term personal plan/goal (not yet fully formed) involves becoming fully bilingual, as in not illiterate anymore. this seems necessary for me since it'd probably be hard for me to just get a job teaching english or something, and that doesn't sound very sustainable in the first place. i'd have to get my language skill up to par and need more specialized professional experience in order to attain dual citizenship (in one country i'm looking at; need to research more) and reap healthcare & other benefits. it could take like a decade or more to really get there, which would likely include getting tip top educational credentials too.

    i originally wrote a long, detailed, complicated post about this but reality smacked me in the face and that's ok. what makes things complicated is that i have a life here too with people i care about, and i don't really wanna leave but i don't necessarily see life getting better (not for me but say you end up having/gaining family) if you're just stuck in one system in one place (US). if i'm successful immigrating one day it'd open the door for my partner at least.

    part of this is due to my love of novelty and interesting, rare experiences, of course. i get that travel bug pretty hard.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 05-31-2015 at 05:43 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico View Post
    I'd still like to spend some time in Germany , Austria, or Switzerland at some point, since I spent all those years studying the language just for the hell of it.
    I don't know if it's reflected in their immigration laws, but Germany could use some young immigrants.


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    Me and my partner wanted to transfer in Canada and built our future there, but we've been advice to engage a career before migrating. Can anybody give some tips?

  7. #7
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by antonybontot21 View Post
    Me and my partner wanted to transfer in Canada and built our future there, but we've been advice to engage a career before migrating. Can anybody give some tips?
    Where are you from? I used to help migrants to Canada.
    Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent. - Mao

  8. #8
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    hi antonybontot21 Migrating in Canada is a toughest decision to make, but it doesn't mean that this will be a hindrance into your better way of living jobsaloon.com can help you decide, too.

  9. #9
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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  10. #10
    Bringer of Jollity MoneyJungle's Avatar
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    jobsaloon sounds helpful. What better place to find a job than a saloon be it hand or blow?

    Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?

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