Outsider Perspective

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If everyone were required to live for a time in a country where they don’t speak the language or know the culture, I wonder how that would change the world. There is something very humbling about being completely ignorant of your surroundings and how to navigate and negotiate to get your needs met. Other senses are triggered when you don’t understand the language being spoken…listening for tone and timber of voice, watching body language and facial expressions, observing interactions between the people around you, all clues used to help figure out what the heck is going on! Some people thrive in unfamiliar environments, but for those of us that don’t, the experience of being a foreigner, or in my case in Germany ein Auslander, can be extremely stressful. The relief that comes from the kindness and generosity of native strangers, or assimilated expats, cannot be overstated. Luckily, I have encountered many of them.  But most of all, at least for me, I feel much empathy for others that are in similar situations.

Living in the United States and specifically California, I frequently have known immigrants who are struggling in similar ways, many times even managing without the privileges that as an immigrant I enjoy, such as a safe and nice place to live, a formal education, financial security, etc. I like to think I have always been kind and willing to help a stranger to my land. I hope I have. This experience is teaching me how vulnerable one feels in such a situation, how important an empathic gesture can be.
More empathy in the world has to be a good thing.
Auf Wiedersehen
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2 thoughts on “Outsider Perspective

  1. Hi, I found your website about 3 months ago (searching for information for new team members from abroad) and I was delighted to read that you will move to Karlsruhe – which is a beautiful city, I live here for almost 20 years now!
    Anyway I spent last year a couple of months in the UK and I remember how difficult and exhausting the first days (even weeks) can be, everything is different, strange or sometimes hard to understand.
    I would love to make the start a bit easier for you, what do you think, should we go for a coffee and a chat somewhere in the city?
    I think we are about the same age, I have older kids, too.
    It would be nice to hear from you – and welcome in Karlsruhe 🙂

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