One thing that I find I often do when I live abroad is to make comparisons between different countries.
Much of the time it is a comparison between the UK (where I grew up and have spent the majority of my life) and the country I’m presently living in, but sometimes it is a comparison between other countries.
There are a number of reasons why I like doing it. I’ll give you five.
First, it teaches me to be grateful for the things I like about whatever country I am living in and to try to take advantage. For example, I absolutely love the coffee in Portugal, I think it is my favourite of any country I’ve visited. They are so unpretentious about it but every place seems to serve proper coffee made in a coffee machine. In the UK, the best places are simply amazing (the first flat white I ever tried was made for me by a World Champion barista) but the prices are a lot higher and the average quality of coffee served isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion. There are so many things I like about living in Lisbon- the quality of the light, the opportunity to eat amazing fish, the hills that help improve my fitness…
Second, it teaches me to be grateful for the things I like about my home country. For example, despite the fact that many bookshops have now closed, I think the UK is a country obsessed with books and with reading, more than other countries that I have visited. Reading a lot of books when I was younger was, I believe, the best thing I ever did for my education. Being able to get good books at an affordable price is a luxury that I never saw as a luxury before.
Third it reminds me that most things are cultural, not inevitable. There are so many things that when you travel and especially when you live abroad, you realise that aren’t common to all people, they are to do with specific cultures or specific circumstances. A key one for me is the pace of life. Living in London a certain pace of life was the norm. Few cities move at that pace and once you get outside cities the difference is even more apparent.
Fourth, it teaches me useful things for my business and for my life. I particularly learn when I see the things that are common to humanity. Perhaps I am in a place where I can’t speak the language and don’t understand the nuances and rhythms of the culture, but there are common emotions, aspirations and ambitions that I can observe and learn from. For example, my business is about influence- wherever I travel I see people using influence in different ways to get what they want.
Fifth, it helps me think about what is most valuable to me in life. By having new experiences and seeing what people value most it helps me realise what I value and what I want to be part of my future.
What comparisons do you make in other countries and what do you learn?