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Highlighted Article: 4 Rules to Live by for Ex-pats

4 Rules to Live by for Ex-pats by Pico Iyer

―My own first rule is to look for the distinctive good in any place and try to learn from it. The nature of expatriation is to live in a place very different from your own. You can either rail against these differences, or you can exult in them. In Japan, for example, the people around me are much more comfortable listening than speaking (especially with strangers), and they know how to make silence eloquent. I, therefore, though a verbal person, try to do without words in Japan.

―A similar rule is not to spend too much time in the company of other ex-pats. Fellow traveling foreigners can always afford a sympathetic ear, good counsel and a remedy for homesickness, but they can also wrap us in the particular fretting of an alien. Because the conditions around us will never change, the thing to do is to accept our circumstances and make the most of them.

 

―An ex-pat also has to develop, in most places, a strong sense of himself, as he would not have to do at home, where he is more or less typical. Part of the challenge of being an ex-pat is that those around you are likely to see you as something special, a symbol of opportunity. The hazard of being an American is that we come from the place that, to most of the world, is an epitome of power and influence. We can seem glamorous, or desirable, to those around us – as someone to be envied, or, more dangerous, befriended – and the ex-pat must neither be outraged nor flattered.

 

―Perhaps the most important rule of all for being an ex-pat is that you must learn to see the world through the other’s eyes. That is the whole point of travel. Of course, but what can be easy and exhilarating on a two-week trip to Mexico can be more punishing when one is sent there for five years. You are a guest in someone else’s house, in effect, and you must accept the host’s assumption – how he sees and decorates his world.

Reprinted from the article “Somewhere Man” by Pico Iyer, p.74, Modern Maturity, May/June, 2001.

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