I honestly can’t imagine returning to England any time soon. Born and raised, and up to a few years ago I’d spent almost my entire life there. But after taking the plunge of my initial move to Seville in Southern Spain, I haven’t looked back. It’s not that I don’t like English culture, or that I don’t miss my friends or family, and it’s not even the weather. I’m currently based in Berlin after all, which is scarcely an improvement. No, there’s a host of reasons to live abroad, and more and more people are doing so every year. If you’re unemployed or finishing your studies, you really should consider relocation in 2013. Here’s why.
Let me begin by telling you about my friend Dave, who (correctly) decided when he was around 12 that learning to play the guitar would greatly improve his social standing – and possibly even get him a girlfriend. During Dave’s first year learning he improved a whole lot (he was still terrible after a year, but friends no longer wanted to beat him over the head with the guitar). Now, at the age of 25, he’s pretty good – although, admittedly, still single – but he’s improved very little during this last year, despite playing as often as he did initially. That’s because the rate at which you learn things decreases exponentially – so the time spent honing a well-practised skill might be considered (in a very limited sense) less useful than time spent learning a new skill altogether.
Whatever you’re good at: playing the guitar, cooking really great pasta or downing a pint of beer in 4 seconds, the skills you possess will indubitably help you make new friends and even get you jobs (maybe not the beer one). With that in mind, it’s surprising that not more people spend their time trying to learn new skills. A select few do, of course, but others are content to repeat the same activities day after day.
Moving abroad can help with this. While you’re stuck in the same place you’ve been in all your life, unless you specifically dedicate a lot of time to learning new skills, you’re just repeating the same tasks you always have. Your rate of growth is like Dave with the guitar during this last year – you’re get better at what you do, yes, but it’s slow. Why not try something different altogether? If you move abroad you’ll be thrust into a new environment, and you’ll find yourself learning more and more each day. The most obvious example is language: while true fluency will require some degree of study, it’s entirely possible to pick up communicative ability just by going to bars, chatting, and being around people speaking the language every day. I hated German class at school, and I probably learnt more during my first week in Berlin than I did in all three years of it. While language is the most obvious skill you’ll gain, your general knowledge will improve greatly as well, as you become aware of the geography, history and culture of another country. Not convinced yet? Read on.
This article was first posted on January 1, 2013