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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #8: In all things be flexible

In all things be flexible

When relocating to a new place there are so many things to consider, so many new impressions, so much to take in, and oh so many things to learn. Even though we’re constantly told that today we are living in a globalized world and that the distances between us may seem wide, and reality, new technology has brought us closer somehow. But all considered, and perhaps despite the ever-evolving, ever-growing technology, there’s still a difference.

Novelist Herman Hesse said: “Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and cruelties.” Through centuries we’ve grown accustomed to certain kinds of conventions, some passed on by older generations as a kind of “we’ve always done it this way” and some just grow out of nothing until they become significant.

Can you learn culture? Probably! But it does take a while, and it demands a lot of patience, and the risk of embarrassing yourself and others, when cultures clash, and our differences become obvious. It’s in these kinds of situations you might need to be flexible, and open to new experiences.  Even as simple as buying some bread at the local bakery.  Not knowing how to buy the bread there can be a tiny bit stressful (i.e. not knowing how the queue system works, not knowing how to ask a question in the host country’s language, not knowing how to respond to the person behind you in line who starts talking to you in the host country language, etc.).

Waaaaaaay back when we were taught that to survive we somehow had to adapt. We were never the ones to lay down the rules, there was always something stronger than us. Since then we have desperately tried to prove that we are greater than we think, but we’re still bound to be flexible. We still have to compromise every now and then. When you have just arrived at your latest international school posting, there is much you will have to compromise!  Luckily, there are the teachers who started at that school the year before) who are able to help you along your way trying to be flexible in every situation.

When you are new in some strange city that seems like anything you’ve ever seen, you have to have an open mind, maybe re-evaluate a little, and take things as they come. The easiest thing to do is just deeming everybody wrong, and yourself the master of right, but it really won’t get you far. In many international school locations, you might be living in a new apartment that might not live up to the standards you are used to, but still, you have a roof over your head, and a bed to sleep in, and we all need to start somewhere. And then the grocery store, they don’t sell the same items you’re used to, so you have to be inventive and creative. Everybody speaks a different language, the cars drive on the wrong side of the road, there’s no Starbucks, and the cinema’s more expensive, and so on and so on. A lot of things can be wrong or bad if you don’t learn to compromise and learn to be flexible. You might enjoy the little peculiarities, it might even broaden your view, and you gain more than you, at first, might thought, you’d lose.

I’ll leave you with some wise words from author Ayn Rand: “Man’s unique reward, however, is that while animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself.”

Take care, you…

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member. Check out the rest of the 10 Commandments of Relocated Overseas here.