Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Practical reasons to live and work overseas. Or not.

Pretty good read on why young Americans should work overseas.  Mark Manson writes,

I should start off by saying the reasons laid out in this article on why young Americans should work overseas are practical and not ideological. This is not a liberal argument or a conservative argument — it’s a life argument. For two centuries, if you were young, ambitious, and college-educated, North America offered you the best opportunities. But the tides are changing and that’s no longer the case.

The odd thing is that no one in the United States seems to realize this yet. People haven’t caught on. And what does that mean? Opportunity. Tons of it.

Further along he comments on overcoming media hype and getting over small differences.

There’s a lot of alarmism in the media these days. Iran is going to start World War III. War between China and the US is inevitable. A bunch of rag-tag tribesmen in Pakistan are going to wrought nuclear annihilation on all of us. Drug runners in Mexico are going to chop off your limbs. Bizarrely named African rebels are going to drink your blood.

It’s time to get over the hype, move beyond the overblown cultural differences within the human species, and to get over, as Hitchens quotes Freud as saying, “the narcissism of the small difference.”

Living abroad has been one of the biggest personal growth experiences of my life.

A former TASOK colleague of mine, Brad Kremer, responds:

There’s a lot of truth in this article. Consider for a moment the following: I am a school teacher. In the US I would struggle financially for most of my productive adult life. Here in Tanzania my job provides 100% of health care costs for my family, housing a few blocks from the Indian Ocean, private school tuition for Aidan and Alexi, 3 international round-trip tickets each summer, and a take-home salary on par with the pre-tax salary I’d earn in the US. I come home every day to a spotlessly clean house with all laundry done and errands run, I’m able to save money for retirement and kids’ college, and I still have enough disposable income to take my kids to places like Bali, Thailand, and Italy for holidays. My experiences here are not unusual by any stretch. Job opportunities are rapidly dispersing across the globe, and young American people will have to accept that if they want to compete in a 21st-century economy.

I’m with these guys. Totally.  Living abroad is highly appealing for all of these reasons. I’ve done it. Liked it.  I’m back in America again and am very open to the possibility of Anga and I doing another overseas stint.

But I don’t think it’s for everyone.  And I do think that many international school teachers can get a chip on their shoulder that somehow makes their work and life superior to American teachers in America. They turn their noses up at those foolish, insular, unadventurous people who never leave… I for one had that attitude after a few years in Congo.  But since then I’ve grown to have a much deeper respect and appreciation for the humans of the world who stay put.  Whether they’re in Alexandria or Kabuye.

I think there is something to be said for people who dig into their own village/city/state/country.  People who grow deep roots.  I can see just as much value in that (if not more?) than dropping everything to live the expat life.

So where do I stand?
I guess somewhere between the roots and the branches.
A trunk, perhaps.
How fitting.


4 comments on “Practical reasons to live and work overseas. Or not.

  1. Stephie @ thriftandstyle
    February 10, 2015

    I am totally torn between living abroad and living in the area I grew up. I love both for so many different reasons. Maybe we’ll decide to go abroad again in a few years, who knows!

  2. Marcia
    February 10, 2015

    Having lived abroad and then returned, I am a part of the culture Sara and Stephie discuss. However, being of “a certain age” I would remind everyone that these don’t have to permanent choices — choose one, then do something else; choose one and stay with it.

    At a minimum, I do think we as Americans need to spend more time abroad even if it leads to a point of view like “there’s no place like home.” There is no true knowledge of what you have or what you don’t have until you’ve tossed your gear in a knapsack and headed off to see somewhere/something/someone else. My advice — I don’t care who you are, go for it.

  3. Sally
    February 11, 2015

    While I have never lived overseas, I have visited 11 countries and enjoyed every eye-opening journey. I think it’s very healthy for people to travel or live abroad in other countries, especially those significantly different than our own. Certainly it results in personal growth, appreciation of other cultures, diverse friendships and more. Not to be a naysayer, I would challenge you to search out and read some other writings about the positive side of living in your own country, living closer to family, etc. What precisely are those benefits? The economics and cultural advantages of living abroad may seem very compelling, but to have a more balanced picture for yourself, the same about of reserach and consideration needs to given to the down side of living abroad and the up side of living in your own country. Further, people’s preferences and priorities change over the years, so what you prefer today maybe the oppositive of what you will prefer in years to come. One of the few constants in life is change. No need to draw a line in the sand and decide to stand on one side or the other, although I’d say it is costly (in more ways than just dollars) to try to do both too often. Just my 2 cents ;-).

  4. Pingback: Snow, tofu & emigration curve balls | Beans & Rice for the Soul

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2015 by in life, teaching, travel.
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