Did you know that cultures can be roughly divided into ‘peach cultures’ and ‘coconut cultures’? People in peach cultures are ‘soft’ on the outside: they smile at strangers and chat easily with people they’ve just met. But their true self is hidden away beneath this friendly exterior and is only revealed to a small group of people and just like the stone in the centre of a peach, that layer is difficult to crack. The American and Australian cultures are typical examples of peach cultures. In contrast, people in coconut cultures are ‘hard’ on the outside. They rarely smile at strangers, do not tend to engage in conversation and may look not at all welcoming. However, if you manage to break through their hard outer shell and get to know them better, they tend to become close and loyal friends. Russia and Germany are two typical examples of coconut cultures. The friendly behaviour of peach cultures can easily be misinterpreted by people from coconut cultures as being shallow and fake. Meanwhile, people from peach cultures often perceive coconut cultures – in which the public and private spheres of life are kept distinctly separate – as being cold and distant. So now you know the difference between these two types of cultures, where does your own culture fit in? Are you a peach or a coconut?
When Hans and Brigitte and their three children moved from the Netherlands to France because of the nice weather, beautiful scenery and good food and wine, they did not expect to face any cultural problems. They were caught completely off guard by the paternalistic parenting methods and attention to manners that they encountered in the French schooling system, since things were much stricter than what they had been used to in their home country.
In 2017, a commercial called ‘All That We Share’ on Danish TV showed a group of people who were initially subdivided into four squares drawn on the ground: one for people in suits, one for people in uniforms, one for immigrants and one for people on welfare benefits. Once the participants were standing in the square with their ‘own type’ of people, they were asked a series of questions, ranging from ‘Do you have stepchildren?’ and ‘Have you ever been bullied?’ to ‘Have you ever saved a life?’ and ‘Do you feel lonely?’. They moved to different squares depending on their answers, forming new groups of people each time. These questions revealed just how much seemingly different people can actually have in common.
We all know that people are often either dog lovers or cat lovers, but did you know that there are also two types of homesickness: ‘dog homesickness’ and ‘cat homesickness’? When you move to a different country, you may become homesick because you miss certain people – just as dogs are attached to their owners and suffer when they are apart. Alternatively, you may feel homesick because you miss your familiar routine and surroundings – just as cats are attached to their territory and don’t like being uprooted from their home environment. So now you know the difference, which type of homesickness are you more susceptible to?
Have you ever heard of the Paris Syndrome? This condition got its name when a number of Japanese tourists visiting Paris fainted upon discovering that – like any metropolis – the city was crowded, noisy and dirty, thus shattering their idealized image of nothing but beautiful buildings and immaculately dressed people. The shock of this disillusionment caused a physical reaction in some tourists, who experienced disorientation, palpitations, dizziness and sweating, and in some cases even passed out.
This checklist is aimed at everyone who is planning to move abroad – from any country, to any country – and therefore does not focus on country-specific details or practicalities such as visas, insurance, schooling, housing and so on. For country specific practical knowledge I advise you to consult a relocation agent in your host country.
A Dutch reality TV programme called Ik vertrek (‘I’m leaving’), which follows people who move abroad to start a completely new life, is a big hit in the Netherlands. Viewers have seen some jaw-dropping examples of people spending all their savings to buy a property – such as to start a bed & breakfast – in a country they barely know, often without even speaking the local language. They often run into countless problems and sometimes give up and return to their home country with their tail between their legs. However, others – usually the go-getters who have bundles of energy and optimism– actually succeed in establishing a happy life for themselves abroad, despite all the setbacks.
What impact does living abroad have on your happiness? Through research and own experience, we found out that every person is driven by specific factors in life. The factors that will be impacted when living abroad, can be grouped together in four main needs. Does living abroad makes you happy? To feel happy living…