The great thing about living abroad is immersing in a culture which is by definition, foreign. Even though we live somewhere where English is spoken and the US dollar is accepted, there are still cultural differences, both good and bad, that require we adjust. For one thing, there’s less of an emphasis on work and meeting deadlines than in the States. That’s not to imply a poor work ethic, lazy people are found everywhere, more, it’s an attitude that little in life is truly an emergency, if it doesn’t happen today, it’ll get done tomorrow…or you know, soonish. That can be frustrating for someone who needs a little more structure in their world; actually, it can be frustrating even if you’re not that structured.
For me, that’s been a bit of a challenge. I always considered myself pretty relaxed, but everything is relative and here they redefine the word. Take for example trying to get my wife covered under my health insurance (a process we were told, back in May, would take “a few days”). Over 2 months later she was finally covered, but towards the end I was calling daily or following-up in person (when I told HR it wasn’t acceptable she didn’t have coverage I was told to “think good thoughts, nothing bad will happen if you stay positive”). Now, I’m a pretty positive guy, but I’m also positive if a truck hits her and she doesn’t have health insurance, none of these people will help cover her expenses. Later my wife was asked by a co-worker if I am always this neurotic. She was speechless.
The experience reminded me of the most important trait in anyone who travels or lives abroad, remaining flexible. If you’re too rigid you’ll drive yourself nutty. Pushing your comfort zone is part of the experience and for us, that’s the beauty of travel. Hearing foreign languages, navigating a new city and learning the culture broadens our horizons and opens our minds.
Oh! And if you’re wondering if I’ve received my insurance card telling me my wife and I are in fact insured, ummm, not yet. I’m told I’ll have them by the end of August…or maybe September.