Living Abroad (as a Coping Mechanism)

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melbi
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29 Jun 2010, 8:29 pm

Moog wrote:
This sounds like a great idea, I'm off to the north pole tomoz.


:lol:


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Kiseki
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29 Jun 2010, 11:18 pm

For anyone scared of moving or attempting to live abroad...I was the same way. After HS I REALLY wanted to go to art school a few states away but the thought of leaving my familar environment freaked me out too much. I stayed in the same job for 10 years, went to college 20 minutes away, lived with my folks until I was 26.

It is often that AS people just take a little longer to meet social timelines than the usual person.



pbcoll
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29 Jun 2010, 11:33 pm

I spent about a third of my life outside my native country, and frankly I have no desire to live elsewhere again (though it must be said I had bad experiences that were not the result of living abroad per se, but of my particular individual circumstances). Yes, you do get cut some slack for being foreign, but it's also very isolating because it creates an extra barrier. It's not the same everywhere, but here's my experience on fitting in, etc (no offence meant to anyone):

Places I've been in extensively:

USA: Felt, mostly, neither outright hostility nor being welcome. However what did bother me is that in my experience way too many people felt entitled to tell me what to think and how to live, and I found the place too conformist. A country I respect but wouldn't want to live in.

England: Mostly OK, but also a bit of subtle hostility from some quarters. Lots of total indifference as in the US, but seemed less conformist and judgemental.

Scotland: Mostly very good. Friendly, but not intrusive or overbearing.

Places I've been in more briefly:

France: Paris is by far the most hostile place I've ever been to. Speaking French isn't necessarily a huge advantage, as it means you can understand the insults. Urban mentality has nothing to do with it, other cities, even bigger ones, aren't like that. I wouldn't dream of living there.

Italy: Northern Italy is fine, but in the South as soon as they detect you're an outsider everyone seems out to con you, cheat you or take advantage in some way, even Nordic tourists.

Switzerland: Rather cold and reserved, but at least nor hostile nor intrusive - not welcoming either, but overall fine.


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fleeced
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05 Jul 2010, 4:30 am

Things are easier around foreigners. I can't get to close to them because of language / cultural differences, i identify with them feeling like an outsider, i don't hate my voice as much as i do talking to someone with english as a first language, i usually feel more accepted.



FTM
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05 Jul 2010, 1:08 pm

I left my home town when I was 20, I lived in Holland for 1 year then moved to Norway. I started working in Norway for 6 months in the summer then back to London for 6 months in the winter, I did this for about 10 years and they were the happiest years of my life. At 52 I'm still seriously thinking about moving to Norway permanently.



TechnicalPacifist
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05 Jul 2010, 1:42 pm

Kiseki wrote:
MotherKnowsBest wrote:
I moved to Sweden and my husband and daughter, both AS, have found social acceptance and friends here. Of course that could be because here the social norm is very Asperger's like. :D


Sweden sounds like such a great country, from what I've heard. Do you feel happier and more at home there than in your home country?

Honestly, Japan's indirectness bothers me something fierce. I can hardly put up with it some days. I think I just enjoy living here as an outsider because, back home, I was made to feel like an outsider in a place I shouldn't have felt that. But here it is natural for a foreigner to feel that. So I don't mind the feeling much.


What the heck are you guys on about? Are we talking about the same Sweden?

8O



bee33
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05 Jul 2010, 10:23 pm

I find that once I've learned to mimic "normal" social responses in one language, trying to speak in another language is much more difficult and awkward, because I don't know the common phrases that are used to make small talk or respond to a greeting. (And I'm someone who is good at learning languages.)

However, when I was in elementary school, being from another country gave me an excuse for being such a weird kid.



coatesdj
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05 Jul 2010, 10:48 pm

I agree with the OP. I lived in Japan for a year and a half during 2006-2008 and found that the Japanese, at least, were very tolerant of some of my typical quirks. From the people I interacted with, it seems that near-obsessive levels of interest in fairly narrow subjects is considered normal. (In fact, the question "what is your hobby?," as if you could have only one, is a staple of the English curriculum in public schools). So I latched onto the crazy notion that I wanted to visit all of the castles of Japan and collect all of the cool things you can buy there to prove that I had been, and the people I knew were overwhelmingly supportive of this goal. It was actually a great way to make no-risk social interactions with people...I would spend a weekend in some small town that had well-preserved castle ruins or something like that, and invariably when I returned to work it would turn out that one of the Japanese secretaries had come from that town or had family there--a good conversation starter.

The other thing I really liked is that social interactions in restaurants, shops, etc. are highly scripted. There's little risk you might get drawn into small talk with a clerk or waiter, and so long as you know the proper responses nothing bad will happen, but even if you don't (as the OP suggests) it will be written off as a silly mistake rather than some sort of major social faux pas, as indeed will most linguistic difficulties one might confront (although I eventually got to the point where I was comfortable speaking Japanese, honest!) Even in the classic intrusive-drunk-wants-to-practice-his-English-in-a-bar situation, which has the potential to become very uncomfortable elsewhere, most people's spoken English in those settings does not rise to the level where one might be asked personal questions or other things they might not like, so a bare-bones knowledge of the question-and-answer patterns Japanese are taught in school is usually enough to satisfy one's interoluctor and avoid any social escalation.

The one caveat I have, and it is a major one, is that based on personal experience many expatriates in Japan are downright unpleasant to be around. The people I knew in Osaka, and met while traveling elsewhere, tended to be extremely loud social types who were mostly interested in partying, were not interested in really getting to know anyone, and seriously tended to look down at those who were not as social or who were more interested in purely intellectual pursuits than they were. I won't claim that my experience working for a large chain of English schools is typical for everyone, but I did find that while I could have satisfying interactions with the Japanese people, interacting with other native English speakers was at least as stressful as it is in America, if not worse.

Europe, on the other hand, was rough, but that's properly the subject of another post.



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06 Jul 2010, 12:02 am

coatesdj wrote:
I agree with the OP. I lived in Japan for a year and a half during 2006-2008 and found that the Japanese, at least, were very tolerant of some of my typical quirks. From the people I interacted with, it seems that near-obsessive levels of interest in fairly narrow subjects is considered normal. (In fact, the question "what is your hobby?," as if you could have only one, is a staple of the English curriculum in public schools). So I latched onto the crazy notion that I wanted to visit all of the castles of Japan and collect all of the cool things you can buy there to prove that I had been, and the people I knew were overwhelmingly supportive of this goal. It was actually a great way to make no-risk social interactions with people...I would spend a weekend in some small town that had well-preserved castle ruins or something like that, and invariably when I returned to work it would turn out that one of the Japanese secretaries had come from that town or had family there--a good conversation starter.

The other thing I really liked is that social interactions in restaurants, shops, etc. are highly scripted. There's little risk you might get drawn into small talk with a clerk or waiter, and so long as you know the proper responses nothing bad will happen, but even if you don't (as the OP suggests) it will be written off as a silly mistake rather than some sort of major social faux pas, as indeed will most linguistic difficulties one might confront (although I eventually got to the point where I was comfortable speaking Japanese, honest!) Even in the classic intrusive-drunk-wants-to-practice-his-English-in-a-bar situation, which has the potential to become very uncomfortable elsewhere, most people's spoken English in those settings does not rise to the level where one might be asked personal questions or other things they might not like, so a bare-bones knowledge of the question-and-answer patterns Japanese are taught in school is usually enough to satisfy one's interoluctor and avoid any social escalation.

The one caveat I have, and it is a major one, is that based on personal experience many expatriates in Japan are downright unpleasant to be around. The people I knew in Osaka, and met while traveling elsewhere, tended to be extremely loud social types who were mostly interested in partying, were not interested in really getting to know anyone, and seriously tended to look down at those who were not as social or who were more interested in purely intellectual pursuits than they were. I won't claim that my experience working for a large chain of English schools is typical for everyone, but I did find that while I could have satisfying interactions with the Japanese people, interacting with other native English speakers was at least as stressful as it is in America, if not worse.

Europe, on the other hand, was rough, but that's properly the subject of another post.


Maybe the people you met were young and only interested in staying in Japan more or less as a travel opportunity. I know some folk like that but I also know just as many older expats who are serious and spend their free time studing nihongo or reading.

I agree about the shop situations. Sometimes I find it very robotic and impersonal. Other days I'm glad they don't follow me around asking if I need help. It's very easy to get by here not speaking at all- in Japanese OR English. Except when drinking of course. I get chatted up constantly then but I find it fun, like an opportunity to really figure out these people. They let all their secrets out when drunk.



coatesdj
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06 Jul 2010, 12:16 am

"Maybe the people you met were young and only interested in staying in Japan more or less as a travel opportunity. I know some folk like that but I also know just as many older expats who are serious and spend their free time studing nihongo or reading."

Very true. It was more like there were three basic groups where I worked--Aussies and Kiwis for whom this was just a way to save money (and a rite of passage of sorts), people who were there solely to get drunk, and young men with an Asian fetish. The only co-worker I had I actually got along with was an older guy--a lifer married to a Japanese woman who had two kids--and he and I found out that we had very similar tastes in books and music, which worked out quite nicely. Downside was that many, but certainly not most, older expats I met in more casual situations were very, very bitter about the experience to the point of destructive actions.

"I agree about the shop situations. Sometimes I find it very robotic and impersonal. Other days I'm glad they don't follow me around asking if I need help. It's very easy to get by here not speaking at all- in Japanese OR English. Except when drinking of course. I get chatted up constantly then but I find it fun, like an opportunity to really figure out these people. They let all their secrets out when drunk."

Exactly that. And being able to tailor one's patterns based on to what degree one wants to avoid interactions. In my case, one example was where I ate lunch each day...Chinese restaurant A if I wanted to speak Japanese, Chinese restaurant B if I wanted the chance to speak English to one of the local expats, or kissaten if I wanted to do the crossword and not be bothered. Good times. I still miss it. I'd probably still be there if I could have stayed.



Brennan
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06 Jul 2010, 12:28 am

I would love to live abroad simply to experience a different culture. I never thought that living in a different culture may make things easier in terms of my AS.



coatesdj
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06 Jul 2010, 12:40 am

Brennan, if you think you're up for the task and have adequately researched where you'd like to go, you should definitely give it a try. It's certainly possible to find things like English-teaching jobs in different places or if you have a bit of cash on hand, you could always find a country or more than one with a fairly low cost of living and just hang out for a month or two.

Kiseki, I had forgotten about the vending machines! Another example of what I talked about in my post above...the last place I ended up living in Osaka if I wanted a beer to drink at home I had three choices...if I wanted a conversation in pre-war dialectical Japanese I could go to the liquor store next door...if I wanted a routine store interaction with the off probability of running into someone who spke English I could go to the Family Mart...if I wanted to pay 40 yen extra for the privilege of not having to talk to anyone at all I could use the beer machine on the corner.



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06 Jul 2010, 1:06 am

pbcoll wrote:
France: Paris is by far the most hostile place I've ever been to. Speaking French isn't necessarily a huge advantage, as it means you can understand the insults. Urban mentality has nothing to do with it, other cities, even bigger ones, aren't like that. I wouldn't dream of living there.


Are you implying that French people are hostile? Or do they just all happen to live in Paris? Maybe they picked all the hostile French out and moved them there?
Sorry, I take offense. Ever been to New York or Chicago? It is big city mentality and a big city that is over run with tourists like the cities I mentioned....ever drive in Los Angeles? There are wonderful people who live in these cities but its a survival game they have to play and sometimes it gets ugly.
I personally refuse to live in a big city....we are moving to Lyon but will be living outside the city.



pbcoll
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06 Jul 2010, 1:30 am

liloleme wrote:
pbcoll wrote:
France: Paris is by far the most hostile place I've ever been to. Speaking French isn't necessarily a huge advantage, as it means you can understand the insults. Urban mentality has nothing to do with it, other cities, even bigger ones, aren't like that. I wouldn't dream of living there.


Are you implying that French people are hostile? Or do they just all happen to live in Paris? Maybe they picked all the hostile French out and moved them there?
Sorry, I take offense. Ever been to New York or Chicago? It is big city mentality and a big city that is over run with tourists like the cities I mentioned....ever drive in Los Angeles? There are wonderful people who live in these cities but its a survival game they have to play and sometimes it gets ugly.


I've been to both NYC and Chicago (as well as London and Tokyo), and I grew up in a very big city; the hectic pace and aggressiveness typical of big cities is not the same as outright hostility. I had no problem in Chamonix nor in Grenoble which is why I'm specifying Paris (I've not been to Lyon). I'd return there as a tourist, but I wouldn't choose to live there due to my personal experience of the place.


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06 Jul 2010, 2:20 am

I do not want to sound like a weird guy with an Asian fetish but did female Japanese think Aspies were weird or creepy when they first met you? The only foreigner other than Canadian I ever had flirt with me was a cute Pakistani girl who claimed not to catch my weirdness but I think she was just being polite. She was raised in Pakistan and moved here when she started high school. She claimed she did not date outside of her religion, But she did say she could put me in touch with someone willing to convert me. I think it was her way of saying go away. But It felt really comfortable flirting with her I did not know she was Muslim I thought she was Indian. There was a few Indian girls dating white guys when I was in school.