For me, the best benefit of living overseas is the personal growth that comes from observing different values and beliefs. So why not give it a go sometime? You might like who you become.
You could tell George and Amara loved each other. They never said so, but they didn’t need to; you could see. They treated each other with the respect and care of a couple that was in love.
For me, it was a powerful insight into marriage because, unlike my preconceived notion of marriage where love is everything, they were wed without love.
George and Amara owned the house we rented in Jordan, where we lived for a year in 2011-2012. George ‘met’ Amara when helping his brother paint her father’s house. Once the job was finished he went back and proposed to her. They married shortly after.
In the Middle East, love and relationships are done a bit different than in Australia. Over there, relationships come with well-defined roles, so people don’t have to figure out how to live with each other; both parties know what they have to do.
Unlike in Australia where marriage is all about working out how to live with someone you love, in the Middle East people often need to work out how to love someone they marry.
I know this is a very broad generalisation and not always true, but it was my observation and George and Amara’s experience.
For someone living in the 21st century in Australia, this might sounds archaic, something our grandparents did, or Jane Austin lamented about. But for George and Amara, along with countless other Jordanian couples we knew, it worked.
It isn’t perfect, there are many faults with the predefined roles, and it can leave some parties grossly mistreated. But, there were also positives to this system. I’m not saying that it is the best way of forming a relationship, only that it has merits that should be acknowledged and drawn from to improve our personal values.
Which is what happened to me.
Seeing George and Amara’s relationship changed my personal notions about love and marriage.
And I feel a better person for it. More tolerant. More open minded. More pragmatic. More able to care for my wife across our entire life.
Learning new values
This type of personal development is what I value most about living overseas, and why I think every Australian should try living overseas once in their lifetime. Living abroad exposes you to new ideas that challenge your conception of ‘truth’.
You can have a similar experience if you learn a new skill, join a new group, move to a new city, or change jobs. But, it’s more intense when you move overseas. You are immersed in a different society, and the values you never even knew you had are vividly contrasted with everyone around you.
For my personal growth, the biggest changes have come from seeing a person thrive while living in a way I ‘knew’ to be ‘wrong’. For me, this has been while living overseas.
It’s easy to think that our personal values help us get ahead, and sometimes they do. They are usually built on social norms and years of trial and error. They are good to have, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to continually reshape them. Moving overseas helps this process of critical exploration to refine our values and beliefs.
Different ideas expose the weakness of our values. Not so much to discredit them, but to help us reform them into something better.
Gain a new perspective
If you’re looking to move forward in life and change the way you perceive and interact with the world and people, try moving overseas. You might learn something new and become a better person for it.
And it’s not just about changing your views on more profound things like love and marriage, even quite basic assumptions can be challenged by living overseas.
In Malaysia, I regularly buy fresh pork from the market. The various parts of the carcass hang completely unrefrigerated and in open air. Something you would never see, and most people would never dream of buying, in Australia.
But, here in Malaysia it kinda works. People don’t get sick, and it actually seems cleaner than buying meat bleached and plastic wrapped from an underground supermarket.
Don’t get me wrong. I love refrigerators, plastic is a wonderful use of 500 billion-year-old leaves, and supermarkets are great. But, picking a fresh pork leg off the hook and getting it split in two makes buying meat much more real.
In Timor-Leste, a country we lived in for two and a half years, there is no such thing as a school night, or a work day for that matter. If you need to party – then party! Instead of not doing anything five nights of the week because ‘I’ve got work tomorrow’, people don’t work hard because ‘I’ve got more important things to use my energy on’ (e.g. family, friends, stuff around the home).
Sure, Timor-Leste is probably a little bit toooo far down the ‘let’s not work too hard’ path, but Australia is too far down the ‘work is the most important thing ever invented’ path.
These are just a couple of examples of how my values and ideals have changed by living overseas. There are many, many others as well.
Apart from adventure, new friends, wacky opportunities and quality of life, living overseas can help you become a more tolerant, rounded and adaptable person.
Why not give it a go sometime? You might like who you become.