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Comfort vs. Growth: Expats Working Abroad

By  August 4, 2011

If you're moving abroad to work, either independently or because of a transfer within your company, what things are you hoping for in order to be a happy expat?

According to this blog post from CBS MoneyWatch.com, expats want to be as sheltered as possible from their host country. That means living in an exclusive expat community, sending your kids to an international school with other expat kids and eating food from your home country. At least, those are the standards for international housing as determined by the blogger while discussing the best countries to live and work abroad. She ranges housing options from "good" (reasonably priced accomodations in areas populated by both expats and locals) to "superior" (more expensive lodging in exclusive expat communities with Western food, architecture and schools). 

It all sounds very familiar and cozy, doesn't it? ... Or, on second thought, it actually sounds kind of lame.

Yes, it's easier on expats being forced to work abroad by their company to avoid adjusting to a foreign locale, especially if they're only abroad for a short period of time (which seems to be the way the trend is leaning). And, yes, it would probably be easier on any kids being taken along to attend a school in their native tongue and with a familiar curriculum. But what's so great about "easy"?

Living and working abroad is, quite frankly, the best way to engage with another culture. Isn't it a shame to let that pass in the pursuit of comfort and ease? The opportunity to learn another language, if applicable, should also not be overlooked. If nothing else, it would actually increase your employability and job prospects. That kind of internationalization and cross-cultural understanding, as well as language competency, is a worthwhile asset in an increasingly globalized marketplace. So the question is: why would you want to be sheltered when the chance to expand your skills and knowledge is just being handed to you? The answer is: you wouldn't.

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Zalina Alvi

Zalina grew up in Toronto and began her career in journalism at the York University campus newspaper. Before joining Verge in 2010, she worked for a documentary festival, a non-profit organization and various magazines and newspapers. Zalina has had some eclectic travel experiences, including reporting for a newspaper on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

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