Have you ever been lost in a foreign city? A place where… You have no friend by your side. You don’t know the language or the architecture. The cars follow strange new traffic laws. The clothes look, feel and fit wrong and even the smells that surround you each day are nothing like home. I have. It can be a lonely place.
It can also be the best experience of your life if you let it. Through my experiences, I have made mistakes. But I have also learned a lot about myself and about the way I want to live the rest of my life. From what I have learned here are two tips on how to make living in a new culture better. Not only for your present situation but for the cultivation of your soul.
Don’t hide behind technology.
Don’t get me wrong, technology can be a great tool, but it should not be the purpose of our lives. Google Maps may be able to navigate you to the nearest McDonald’s. But it won’t be able to tell you that “The Stag” has the best burger in Cardiff. You know who can tell you that? The girl sitting next to you on the bus right now. The one you’re avoiding by focusing on the phone in your hand because you worry what she will think of you if you talk to her.
Maybe you’re worried that you can’t communicate well in the language of this new city. Google Translate can tell you how to say a few phrases that can help you in a conversation but that’s about it. And you can’t have a very good conversation with Siri either. But the guy with loud friends who lives in the apartment above you. He and his friends are obviously great talkers. It is the people around you and not the phone in your hand that will help you be at home in a foreign place.
Don’t feel stupid for not being fluent.
You want to order a fancy coffee drink at the local café. But you don’t know all the specific coffee-related words. You have two choices:
You can apply all the language study you have done and use the words you do know to express yourself creatively. You can connect with the people behind the counter. The ones that are smiling at you waiting for you to talk so that they can show you how helpful they can be. Then they will ask you why you are visiting their city. You will share your story and they will share theirs as they make you a coffee drink like none you have ever had before. Taking that risk will make the coffee that much richer.
Or…you could mumble something under your breath and point at the item on the chalkboard that you want. They will shrug their shoulders and make it for you in silence. Then you can hurry to a table in the corner and wonder what might have been if you had been brave enough to talk.
It can be uncomfortable and scary to be so far from home. But it can also be an adventure when you take risks and discover that a “strange land” does not have to be strange. I hope you choose adventure!