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8 rules for living in a foreign country

Learn the language of your host country

Don’t believe people who say it doesn’t matter. It matters a lot. Language gives one insight into what really goes on in the soul of a people; the assholery, the boundless generosity, the vindictiveness. What does the existence of the word “brinkmanship” say about English or “schadenfreude” about German? 

Do not judge a people

The temptation to do this is huge. Those Germans! Those Russians! Those Kenyans! Those Indians! But it’s a sure highway to misery. There are nasty and good people everywhere. Concentrate on the nice people. If you are not in a complete shithole country, they should be at least 40% of the population. If there are more, leave.

Find out the nemesis of your host country

Once on a trip to Prague, we were stunned to find out that the Swedish people are considered the most unscrupulous people in the world by the Czechs. If one loses a wallet, they are asked if there was some Swede around. We laughed about the absurdity of anyone having such thoughts about the Swedish but quickly realized that this wasn’t a joke. The Swedes and the Czechs apparently have a history in which the Swedes not only invaded the Czechs but also stole and plundered all their valuable stuff. Back home, Tanzanians generally believe that Kenyans are mannerless and upto no good while Kenyans believe there are no slower people than their southern neighbors.

 

Follow the rules

The unfortunate thing about being a foreigner is that you are often judged as a unit. If you murder someone, all foreigners will suddenly be considered dangerous. This is not only restricted to criminal stuff. There are things you can get away with in a place where everyone looks like you or speaks your language. As a foreigner, don’t even think of it. Being a foreigner means that you are permanently being observed and judged. You are always required to prove that you are trustworthy, that you are competent, that you are not some weird freak. So don’t make your fellow foreigners' lives more difficult by breaking the rules. 

Trust your instincts

They are rarely wrong. If you go to a place or meet people and feel a strange vibe, leave. It might save your life. Your subconscious picks up on cues that might not be obvious to you.

Avoid taking things personally

You will experience different hues of discrimination and racism and it will hurt but it’s really not about you. This is no consolation for the humiliation and the pain that racism will cause but it will save you a lot of energy. Self care is about knowing to let go of other people’s burdens and issues.

Nurture your sense of humor

Try to see the humor in your experiences. It will get you through everything. Maybe not everything but most of the things.

Don't believe everything you are told

Be wary of what anyone tells you about any country. It’s often laced with their own prejudices, priviledges and sometimes even delusions. Strive to make your experiences and ultimately your own judgement.