If you are considering traveling abroad you will be amazed at how different your life will be after your journey. Taking time away from a busy life could prove to be an antecdote for a well-meaning, but patterned life. Before living in Korea I had spent much of my time striving for a life that I thought I should have, while ignoring the longing for a life that I now lead.
Interacting with people from cultures, other than our own, forces us to be authentic with ourselves and those around us. As women of color we are often defined by the world around us, from a very young age. The disadvantage of this comes when we have a desire to do something that falls on the outskirts of what our society tells us is okay, for us to do.
Imagine telling your family & friends that you will leave the comforts of US living to live in China, Tunisia or Norway. For some of us, our families and friends may be supportive because they love us but when that isn’t the case there are added challenges. Under all circumstances, there will be challenges that come in redefining your life’s purpose (because your purpose it will change).
5 Things Every Woman of Color Should Consider When Living/Traveling Abroad
1.) Stay Curious Find ways to look at flowers in new way. Sure, you’ve seen a rose before but have you ever seen a red rose in the beginning of a Korean Spring? It will look different and most of all will make you feel different.
This is my favorite of the 5 because you can do this anywhere or anytime you are feeling homesick or have a case of the doldrums.
2.) “We” Are (not) All the Same: The fortunate and unfortunate truth is that “we”, women of color, represent the masses. Many cultures have limited -direct contact with women of color from the US, therefore, their interpretation of us often comes from the media but also from word of mouth. The importance of being respectful to cultural differences is paramount for a successful travel experience. The fortunate aspects of being an uncommon entity lies in our ability to teach people about who we are- -letting people know that we are diverse and we have something valuable to offer.
3.) Learn the Language A simple sentence, “Hello, My Name is….” can go a long way to making friends. Language exchange affords us the opportunity to navigate daily activities. People are more willing to assist you, care for you and engage with you when we make attempts at learning the language. Plus, it could save your life!
4.) Date! If you are single and inclined to test the waters- – do so, safely of course. Dating offers great insight into local culture. Everything we know about dating in the US varies greatly around the world. I think dating outside of our culture can be helpful in recognizing things that we may or may not be doing well in our own dating lives. We never like to admit that we don’t have it going on but observing dating culture can offer insight into our personalities.
5.) Eat with New Friends The joy of breaking bread with friends is a long standing tradition for many cultures. The greatness of eating new foods with new people is that, you too will feel “new”. This is where you find out new food likes and dislikes. People tend to be most cordial when eating. I’ve shared meals with people in places like Vietnam, Korea, and Italy and all have different ways of sharing foods with friends but one common thread is that there is a curiosity in the way we eat. For some reason, we are often observed for our eating style and tastes. I fully recommend accepting invitations to eat with the locals. Avoid being too picky and do your best to keep up with the best eater at the table.
Living abroad can be a wonderful experience if you want it to be. Remember to smile, give out good energy and mingle with the locals. The world is smaller than we think.