September 2005, I arrived at Brussels airport. A new beginning was knocking the door: Moving to Belgium. I had no idea about the language, the weather or the culture here. Love, excitement and curiosity were my sole companions at that time, and that was enough!
Now, after 10 years living abroad, I acknowledge all I have learned and achieved along this time, and I ask to myself if it was worth it. Well… YES, it was!
From family point of view is a totally win, no questions -or details- about it. Today, I want to SHARE what have I learned from a personal perspective, and if you are planning to live abroad, take a look. You might also consider this.
Language = Integration
I remember my first group-conversations with local people. The first minutes were in English, everybody was curious about my country and the Latino-culture. After one hour, the language turned into something different: “Flemish” (a Belgian version of the official “Dutch”).
After a few months, I realized that they would NOT switch their language because of me. Why should they? That is the native language, and is a habit to speak it in the home-country.
It’s impossible to understand a culture without understanding its language.
If you want to interact with Locals, speak THEIR language. Is not only integration, is also RESPECT.
At the beginning, I was a little disappointed about my results on making new friends. Over time, I understood that people behaves and responds different than in my country.
Be patient. To build a new relationship requires TIME AND DEDICATION. You will not be alone!
Discrimination?… Is more a matter of attitude!
In 10 years, I have never had a clear -or direct- situation of discrimination. Or maybe there was, but I didn’t notice
To find a job has not been easy and some people tells me is because of discrimination. May be. But that assumption was NEVER a reason to stop looking for the job I wanted!
If you feel discriminated: don’t sweat it!… The way you look to yourself is the way the others will treat you.
There is no distance, only lack of contact
Besides my family, my 2-best friends were the hardest thing to leave behind.
After 10 years: my 2-best friends are the same than in 2005!
There is no distance, is the dedication that you INVEST in a relationship.
PS: Nowadays, technology makes it easier. There is NO excuse to let a friendship die.
Opportunity knocks once
My father once told me: “Opportunities are bald” (las oportunidades son calvas). If you have one, take it from wherever you can. I did!
I have never regretted my decision, and if I go back to 2005, I would do it AGAIN!
If you want to live abroad: DO IT!… from ANY point of view, the experience totally WORTH it.
If you already live abroad and you are NOT happy… MOVE ON, look for the conditions you desire somewhere else, instead of complaining about the host country. Remember: YOU asked them to come in.
And last but not least:
THANK YOU BELGIUM, for these 10 years of learning and happiness!!!
Originally published at karinaquinonez.com