March 2, 2010

One man's heaven is another man's hell

Most human beings do not create dreams independently. Most of us lack information as to where we should be heading in order to attain maximum satisfaction, and we form goals that are often dictated by society- our parents, fellow students, relatives and friends. We want to be doctors or lawyers, or actors because these are respected professions according to what people around us tell us. We want to be respected. So, we choose one of them as "our goal". However, most often than not, we were nudged into such goal by nothing but peer pressure, and advice from people who know, or think they know, better than we do.

The same goes for countries. Few people venture into unknown/uncharted territories. Most of us want to avoid countries that are seen as "bad", unprestigious or unknown. That is why we want to go where everybody else goes, someplace that is classy and "in", so that next time when we are at a dinner table, and are telling our friends that we had been living in such and such a place, they will say "Wow"! If we work in Rome, or Hong Kong, or New York, or even Dubai, it is better than being in Bratislava or Asuncion,or Libreville; or so we think. No one will say "wow" if we go there. Plus, human nature prefers something known to something unknown, so we follow the crowd. By doing that, we often end up in expensive places where job competition is high and where people are unfriendly. Or worse, we find ourselves living in cultures where we do not quite feel comfortable with the people, hence, our stay there becomes miserable.

A friend of mine is an old-time resident of Thailand, and, for years he had been convincing me to move there, find work and live a happy life ever after. He sang praises to the country, the friendliness of its people, the beauty of the women and the exquisiteness of the Thai culture in general. So, since he was one of my best friends, one day I decided to take the plunge, and obtained a job in the Kingdom. It proved to be a disaster. I am very good at languages and I became fluent in Thai within a year. I studied the culture thoroughly, but, in spite of all my efforts, I could not help feeling that I made a severe mistake by moving there. Something about Thailand and "me" simply did not click. My personality, my character, my whole set of values were completely different. Thais like quiet and discreet people. I am gregarious and talkative. Thai people like neat and polite people. I am by nature sloppy and straight-to-the-point. Thai people do not like intellectual discussions, but prefer to speak "ngai-ngai" -just chit-chat. Knowledge is a personal thing to them. I am very much into knowledge, expression, conversation, etc. They are not. Thai people like people who dress in nice clothes; I do not dress in nice clothes. I can adjust to the culture but it implies changing myself too much. It goes against everything that I am. Hence, they did not like me so much. And the feeling was mutual.

In other words, it was a complete mismatch. Thailand and I simply did not connect. This was when I realized that the Thai dream was my friend's dream, and what was good for him was simply not good for me. Duh! One man's meat is another man's poison, as they say. No matter how hard I tried to live a normal life in Thailand, the culture was as alien to me as it could ever get. And it was not just the East/ West thing. I lived in some very traditional areas of Japan and I seemed to relate to people quite well. With Thailand it was just total incompatibility.

When I arrived in the Philippines some years later, a country that is not on many a travelers' list, I felt like I was a hand, and the Philippines was a glove. I fit right in. The way people behaved, talked, acted with friends, the way they sang songs and carried on discussions was very similar to the way I did the same things. Filipinos dressed modestly, so did I. They were intellectual, so was I. They enjoyed someone who was a joker, a talkative and gregarious person. Unlike in Thailand where they would always tell me to "shut up", the Filipinos wanted me to talk more and would sit there and listen to me for hours. They liked me and I liked them. I was like a star to them. Or so I felt. Whereas in Thailand I always felt that I was somewhat of a nuisance.

When I invited my Thailand-based friend to come over to the Philippines to visit the country, he did just that, but he felt out of place. He and the Filipinos simply did not "chime". Something was missing for him there. He became distressed and ended up going back to Thailand. So, while Thailand was good for him, I wound up living in the Philippines on and off for 15 years after that. We ( the Philippines and I) simply 'clicked'. Thailand and I, on the other had, did not click at all.

The moral of the story is this: just because a country is in the news and everybody including your best friend is singing praises to it, it does not mean that it will necessarily be a good country for 'YOU'. Go there and see how you and the people there "jive". It may or may not be a good match. Ask yourself how you feel there after a few weeks or so. There is that certain something that you will feel. It is kind of like ' love'. An affinity.You will feel the same when you meet a person of the opposite sex that you are considering falling in love with. Either there is chemistry or there isn't. If you force it, it will be pure misery, even if your parents think it's a match made in heaven.

Do not live another man's dream by blindly following him to a country X. You may adopt bits and pieces of the dream, maybe, his general approach to making such international dreams come true, his pioneer spirit and courage to move to another place, but it will have to be tweaked somewhat to fit your own requirements, including going to a whole different country to live, if necessary. What may be a good place for him, may turn out to be a total hell for you. Also, try and venture a bit off the beaten path. A job in Lithuania rather than in the Czech republic, for example, may be the best thing that has ever happened to you. Everybody was going to Prague, but you found out that Vilnius was where you belonged more. Some of your friends grimaced " Where is that?" , but you did not shrink away from the place because it was not as glamorous as moving to Prague. Later, you may learn that it may have been the best decision you have ever made.

Dare to be different. Follow your dreams even if you do not know 'where' they will come true. It is still better than blindly following another person's itinerary.

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2 comments:

joey said...

Ldislav
How can I find the right place for me,be welcomed,without having to travel much and waste all my money?
I`m from Portugal

thanks

joey said...

http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/uncertainty-avoidance-index/
Lad
Here you can see why Thais are so different from Philipinos.
Its all about Uncertainty avoidance and Masculinity index(ego centred,show off encouraged in MASC countries)