May 6, 2010

Happiness by Comparison

When you arrive in a new country, you feel happy because it has many things that your old destination does not. Some SE Asian countries have many beautiful women that you can look at every day and be just happy feasting your eyes on them. Some VNese refugees to the US would say that ‘every day in America was a holiday” for them. Many people from Egypt living in Australia would be ecstatic about how uncrowded and organized the country was.

However, happiness and joy by comparison does not last. OK, you are happy because the new country has so many new advantages but very soon you start taking them for granted and stop noticing them. Six months down the line you start remembering the good things about the old country that you used to take for granted there but they do not exist in the new one. American expats in the Third World begin to realize just how inefficient everything is, how bad the customer service is, the food and other products are of low quality and that there is no place to go and complain about it.

Those moving from Third World countries to the First World ones; after half a year or so, begin seeing just how cold and impersonal everything is, how hard it is to make friends in the new place and how utterly boring life there can be. They also realize that many things that were either free or very cheap back home now cost big money. Sure, they now own a car but they can no longer buy a cheap boat, for example or have servants as they used to back home.

As always, happiness by comparison only lasts for so long. A wise PT expatriate learns not to be swayed either by the initial ecstasy or by the disappointments that set in later. He or she take everything, good and bad, for granted and since he/she is always on the move, the ability to take the good and the bad from every country in stride becomes their shield from serious disillusionments when living in all these different places.


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