Remember when I started this series about Things No One Tells You About Living Abroad? Well, as I told you then, once I started writing, it was obvious it wouldn’t all fit into a single post.
Now, in this Part 4 of the series, I’m sure you agree with my original length assessment – ha ha ha.. I guess I had a lot to say on the subject. So, to recap:
- It’s Hard To Adjust – living abroad is very different
- You Are The Foreigner Now – be prepared for some isolation and maybe even being shunned
- You Need To Learn The Language – if you don’t, life is going to be much harder
Next thing that no one tells you in advance that I want to share with you is:
People Are Different
After you move overseas, something happens – every time you meet one of your countrymen, you feel a sense of kinship with them. It’s like you’re brothers. Even people you would never associate with back home, all of a sudden, seem to have something in common with you – the same origins, the wanderlust, or whatever you want to call it.
You also tend to idealize your old country – I’m sure this comes from feeling homesick – and even criticize your new home. This serves to bond people together.
However, in spite of this felt connection, I want to caution you..
Not All Fellow Countrymen You Meet Will Be Good People
We were shocked when we started meeting Americans that turned out to be hustlers, scammers, and generally not nice people.
Perhaps we were naive but, here, we have met people from all walks of life. We have met Americans that are genuine and helpful, and Americans that are scamming the system in every way they can, and everything in between. We met homeless people with really good hearts and rich people that are absolute dirt-bags. In the end, we learned to be cautious with any new interactions, regardless of that comradery I mentioned. Some people come across as friendly and helpful but in reality, they are just in to scam you out of a dollar. They lie and cheat and deceive but you’d never know it because, at first, they talk the talk. And just because they are well spoken, well educated, and poised, does not mean they are for real.
So, I want to warn you that sometimes the worst of people you meet aboard are your own countrymen. Sad as this is, it’s true. Generally speaking, you need to exercise caution because at times (and totally by accident) you may find yourself associated with these types and unbeknownst to you, they have a bad reputation. This can lead to you gaining the same reputation, simply by association.
It is better to take your time and get to know the people you hang out with. Don’t do it just because they are friendly countrymen that appear to be willing to help you or show you the ropes.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the case with everyone you meet but there are some.
Here’s another thing you need to be aware of…
You Will Change
Once you have spent some time abroad, you change. You will find that your own priories change, you look at life in a new way, and your lifestyle becomes completely different. I have seen this happen even with people that are transferred abroad for work in the same type of job. You may be doing the same job and your quality of life may be exactly the same, but other things are not. The local culture, priories, and customs do eventually rub off on you and you may find that you have less in common with people you’d previously call friends.
As a result, your interactions with other folks from your country of origin are different.
Tim and I both worked in an academic environment and we both held positions of power and responsibility but, today, only a year and 3 months later, we find that we prefer a simpler life. The rat-race, the chase of money, the high-powered lifestyle no longer interest us. This changes our interactions with people and the types of friends we have in Puerto Rico. I am sure this is true of many others that moved abroad.
As I said, you and your countrymen are now different. So, be prepared to have different types of relationships with folks and be smart about it.
I consider myself a good judge of character, and it usually doesn’t take me long to figure people out. We’ve done pretty well here avoiding the obvious landmines but there is one thing that is my absolute biggest peeve: Americans that move here and try to scam the locals. Pretending to be gurus in this, or gurus in that (because after all, not many people check the credentials and you can pretend to be anything you want to be) and then taking the unknowing locals for their money. I have seen this here more than once, especially with people that pretend to be experts in one internet thing or another. It seems everyone is a Guru.
They ruin the reputation of all of us, foreigners as a whole, by building distrust and bad will.
OK, off my soapbox now.
Anyway, I think you get the picture. No one tells you in advance to look out for other foreigners (like yourself) and no one tells you how much you, yourself, will change. But, as they say: “it’s all part of the grand adventure!”
See all posts in this series: Truths No One Tells You About Living Abroad