The Psychological Affects of Living Abroad: Lisa Steiner

psychological affects of living abroad

A PowerPoint by Lisa Steiner about living abroad.

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2 thoughts on “The Psychological Affects of Living Abroad: Lisa Steiner”

  1. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” (Charles Darwin)
    I love getting outside and exploring the natural world, so getting away from the city is definitely my kind of adventure. A language travel is the right choice to learn about diverse people, country and culture and viewpoints. It is the best way to be immersed in the language and culture of the host country and get to experience life as a resident, not as a mere tourist.
    To reside in a country for a while is not evident. 13 years ago I lived in France and had the chance to study and work there for 3 years. It was an ideal combination of studying (Master of Political Sciences) and teaching abroad (English and German literature) at the same time. I got to know my husband in France – he is Hungarian by the way – so the homesickness did not play a significant role in this period of my life. We shared common background, culture and language. Somehow the new surroundings and the French people became more familiar and my feelings of homesickness has gone away. As a student I experienced life abroad totally differently as a mother of 3 children. To leave your family behind is not easy neither for them nor for you. But it is important to have fresh air and say: I need emotional and intellectual impulses, improvement and thus help and support them in another way than from home.
    I am particularly interested in whether living abroad and learning about the cultural practices of people from another culture would make you more creative or not. A series of studies prove that reminding people about their cultural learning experiences increased their creativity. Other studies demonstrated that asking people who have never lived abroad to think about learning something about a new culture did not increase creativity. These other studies also demonstrated that the key aspect of learning something new about another culture is understanding why people do what they do.
    When you go to a different culture, there are often subtle differences that you have to learn about. A short example for this and the culture shock with different values, believes might be the following: in the US, if you go to someone’s house and they offer you a drink or snack, you respond “Yes” or “No” depending on whether you want a snack. In Russia, though, it is impolite to say “Yes” the first time something is offered, and so you refuse the first request. The host asks again, and after a brief negotiation, you may settle on having a snack. A Russian visiting the US for the first time might refuse the offer of a snack, only to be surprised that she is not asked a second time. Eventually, she must learn that the practices are different.
    Success in the modern world requires understanding something about people from other cultures.

    Living in another culture and learning the practices of that culture may enhance the psychological processes that make people more creative.
    If I were asked to think about personal experience in another culture in which I learned something new and also learned the reason why people did what they did, I would mention the following:
    1.) The majority of the French has no deep understanding of geography. They mix up Budapest with Bukarest, although a Hungarian would never mistake Paris with London….
    2.) The French people always ask: “ca va?” meaning like “how do you do”? To tell the truth 3 years were not enough for me to get to like and ‘use’ this expression. If the French aren’t eager to have an answer for they question why to ask? It remains an ‘empty’ question without a real answer. My understanding is that politeness reflects not only in our behaviour but like in this case in the language as well. I always missed the real interest behind this question. This small cultural different shows that even if we are straight forward and ask something to really know we have to accept the different culture and values hiding behind the language.

    Conclusion: There’s a clear benefit of living in another culture. There are few experiences in life that require you to really re-think the many aspects of life that you take for granted. Living in another culture and adapting to it is one of the most powerful of those learning opportunities. Living successfully in another culture then helps you to be creative in a variety of other circumstances.
    All these explain the facts why do I have so many creative, foreign colleagues at the school, where I teach.)
    Enjoy your travel and be creative!

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