Travel is a privilege. And, most likely a dream to majority of people in the world. We create bucket lists, wishing we could be at a certain place at a certain time. It all fun once you are into it. Travel is indeed fun. But, how often do writers express realities and challenges they may be facing in foreign countries? Not many. With this entry, I intend switching to an open discussion about realities you might face if you intend staying for a long-term in a foreign country.
I find it distinctive to talk about short and long term stays in foreign countries. When travelling some where for a short period of time you are insusceptible (unaffected by) the routines, ways-of-doing, and the lifestyles at large, of your new surroundings unlike one would if they intended being in a new community for a long term. By long term I mean at least staying away from home 6 months and or more. So basically when you aim staying for a long term, you turn to be driven and sharpened by the intense need to be a part of the culture, language and everything linked to the people which is directly embedded in their society. Meaning, when you stay in a foreign country for a long term, there is often the need to absorbed into the culture and language to understand how everything functions.
Although the process of learning another culture and a new language is often fulfilling, there are factors that either affect your motivation and interest to learn. There are challenges that can change your pace or even perceive everything in the process. These factors are often not considered by those you have found common ground. But generally, there are things that you may find challenging other than being a short-term tourist who often does not concern themselves with setting up utilities at a place they are staying.
In my view I think challenges one would often face include the following:
Foremost, I think it is important to learn basics of a language of a country you intend staying in for a long term. I learned German for two years while I was pursuing my first two degrees with the University of South Africa and University of Johannesburg. Although I had limited time due to my devotions therefore. I particularly learned a lot of vocabulary to help me through basic things like introduction myself, talking about food, house hold things, asking questions, for example, about where the toilet is and so forth. It has been practical to helping me hear the language far better. Although the process of speaking the language can also be another thing. Speaking and trying to learn the vocabulary and grammar can both be acquired differently. The two can actually be learned either simultaneously or either one can be a weakness while the other is a strength. These develop differently depending on people ,countries and the languages. Personally so to say, I found myself to be a good learner through out my life but I have been challenged to learning the German language. The challenge is healthy and I know at times there turns to be excitement with what I can already say and understand so far.
I also think besides the language barrier, there is more than language itself that can hinder one from learning and developing at a good pace. For instance, I think I am improving daily but often think my developing can often be affected by pressure I get from people to speak. I am of the view that, because I myself speak four other South African languages fluently plus English, one can learn a new language by just listening. The practicality can be fully be supported by people´s receptions. I mean, how they make you feel when attempting to speak (positive or negative) and they generally view you as an individual. Another practical example is I find easy to speak broken German with the kids because their receptions is one that is less judgemental and sympathetic. In fact, laugh it off and tell you how to say something correctly.
The need to speak then becomes practical to help you absorb the sentence construction and grammar and not to forget it. But pressure let alone, can shutter you knowledge of what you already know. For example, I can read and write so much German and often join words I know to make sense of what a person is saying but I often cant respond promptly because the spotlight is on me. This can be emotional and mentally tiring.
And, the more intolerant native speakers of a particular language are, not trying their best to step into your shoes, to sympathetic like children would be and also not trying to apply practical things to help you in the process, language can certainly put you on a damper (obstacles) on your day-to-day interactions.
Nonetheless, a solution is finding fun in a new language. For example, I think the German language is not only challenging to learn but it has power in it and when I speak using the power that the words carry, internalising what I say, its fun. Going out with people who are also learning or often want to learn another language from you like English is a good idea. Because not only are you all learning but are imparting knowledge to no other.
This obviously depends on whether you are extroverted or introverted. Thanks to internet for the ability of staying in touch with family and friends back home. Although I would not advice resorting to internet as a good thing, it can also help one communicate with new friends for meet ups or catching up for coffee. The problem of loneliness is that it can either separate you from the real world, constantly influencing you to being a virtual being and not connecting with others in your presence.
The best way to deal with this problem is developing a link of people and developing conversational skills. For example, I have a link of journalists from different parts of Germany whom I can meet depending on which part I am visiting. These are people I can also ask for advises if necessary and ask them to teach me other things in the language. The process of learning is not limited to specific people like at work or home. A network of people can be a group of people who allow you to be just you and to learn whatever way possible.
What is import to note is that you are unlikely to able to change social established customs, no matter how you might have great intentions. Depending on the country or even place, you might find out that people do not greet each other so much. Sometimes even when you have said ´hi´ to them. Or even do not bother to say ´thank you´. Sometimes it might feel like you need to pay a price to acting differently from everyone.
Doing a lot of research before staying in a country can be worth it but much of it can make sense in context. Learning in context more is better because you can observe and understand things from a particular point of view. For example, how do people wear, how do people tip at restaurants, how people treat issues like littering, how people behave on a diner table, etc.
In conclusion, I think what is important is to keep focus on your path despite all challenges. It is through these challenges that you can comprehend people of a specific community and the world at large.