I believe that everybody should have an international experience at some stage in their life. Whether it’s travelling abroad for an extended vacation, or moving to another country for a number of years, exposing yourself to different cultures and languages can help you develop valuable life skills.
For me, I’ve had the opportunity to live in Japan, the US, and now I’m based in France. For an Australian, this has been quite an adventure. Every country has brought about its own unique challenges and experiences, from which I have many lessons to share.
In this article, I will guide you through 5 key lessons about flexibility that I’ve learned on my international journey. I believe for anybody who wants an international career, flexibility is the key to making it work.
Lesson #1: Get Comfortable With The Unknown
The very first lesson I’ve learned along my international journey is to get comfortable with the unknown.
Most of us like to feel “in control” of our lives. We like to know what’s going on around us because it helps us feel we have some kind of influence over our current life and visibility for our future.
But honestly, do you really know what’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, or even in the next hour? Life has a funny way of surprising you. So why stop yourself from experiencing the excitement that a new country or culture has to offer simply because it’s too uncertain or too unknown.
When you’re learning about a new culture, and especially if you’re learning a new language, the challenge of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is something you’re going to be confronted with all the time.
For example, in your home country you can understand 100% of everything that’s going on around you. In conversations at dinner tables, conversations as people pass you in the street, and even in emergency situations you can immediately act, react and make decisions because you understand your environment.
But imagine you just started learning another language. You’re enjoying a meal with your new friends from that culture. Conversation is bouncing around from person to person, then all of a sudden everyone erupts in laughter. You look up from your plate (because eating has preoccupied your attention), and you realise you have no clue why everyone is laughing. Is it at you? Is it at somebody else at the table? Or a completely separate story? What’s the joke?
Your lack of understanding in that language immediately pushes you into the unknown and into a state of incertitude and confusion.
If you’ve ever studied a foreign language you could probably relate to this feeling of being clueless. But at its core, what it really comes down to is being comfortable with uncertainty and being comfortable even when you don’t understand what’s going on around you.
Remember, the only thing that’s certain in life is that nothing is. If you can adapt yourself and adapt your mindset to better deal with uncertainty, then your interaction and experience in other countries and cultures can be much smoother and much less tiring.
Click here to access Lesson 2.