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Moving abroad and gaining a global mindset

Let me be the first to say – welcome to Denmark, and you'll be just fine! Whether this is your first time living overseas or you're a seasoned expat, moving abroad will undoubtedly help develop a global mindset.

Photograph: Unsplash

Text: Lyndsay Jensen

So, what exactly do I mean by a global mindset? This encompasses gaining cultural awareness, becoming aware of your biases, and becoming great at adapting to people from different cultural backgrounds. And while you can prepare yourself by reading books or watching videos, there's no better way to gain a global perspective than living abroad.

My top life-changing benefits that you might overlook at first:

Step out of your comfort zone

Moving abroad is not just about stepping out of your comfort zone - it's more like jumping. Not only will you find yourself in a new city or town, where you may or may not speak the language, but you'll also have to find housing abroad, plan your finances, make new friends, embrace a new culture, and much more. But don't see this as an anxious, overwhelming experience. Most people who move abroad say that they need this boost to understand their true potential or simply to get out of the rut of their everyday life.

Learning to adapt

You might encounter unexpected situations or deeply and culturally rooted perspectives. For example, finding out that almost everyone cycles in Denmark as it's the most popular means of public transport, or learning that you must take a number at the bakery to place an order. The local culture, tradition, and beliefs of people will be different and getting used to these differences might feel uncomfortable. But adapting to these new situations is the best way to integrate. And remember, adapting doesn't mean changing your own beliefs or habits for others. It just means being respectful of others and their culture.

Cultural awareness 101

Living abroad will heighten your awareness of the many fascinating cultures around you. If you live in a small town, you'll experience total cultural immersion, which is much easier while learning Danish. Out in the country, it's harder to switch to English if you're stuck, unlike bigger cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus. Some might see this as a negative, but it certainly sets you on the fast track in the long run. Having a mix of local and international friends will also introduce you to new music, local cuisines, foreign movies or shows, and much more. You'll uncover some interesting cultural habits and find out just how true those stereotypes are or aren't.

The whole world in one place

With so many people working or studying abroad, there are plenty of vibrant expat communities to become a part of. The best part is that these people are in the same boat as you, and connecting and sharing experiences or interests is a great way to make lifelong connections abroad. Also, seasoned internationals have a wealth of experiences, tips, and hints to share! So if you're looking for an opportunity to make new foreign friends, why not spark a conversation at work, join the many student organisations at university, a sports club, volunteer, or take up a new hobby to meet like-minded people?

Juggling relationships

Once you're away from home, you'll learn a lot about keeping up with multiple types of relationships. Not only will you need to remain in touch with your friends and family back home, who may be in a completely different time zone, but you'll also need to set aside time to nurture the new relationships you're trying to make. If you're finding it hard to manage, pick one night a week to reach out to loved ones over Zoom or Wattsapp and try to spend the rest of your time making new friends and figuring out your life abroad.

Verbal and non-verbal communication

Different cultures have different ways of communicating. Some cultures are more expressive with their emotions and hands, while others can come across as cold and very direct, as you may have seen here in Denmark. Living abroad and surrounded by a multicultural group, you'll notice how each person communicates verbally and non-verbally. Over time, you'll become sensitive to these differences and communicate respectfully and inclusively with others. An asset in this multicultural world!

Expanding your professional network

When you move abroad, you're likely on your own and without a solid network. However, when it comes to switching jobs or finding your first job, connections can be crucial. Especially in countries like Denmark, where LinkedIn is vital (I cannot emphasise this enough!), word of mouth and the strength of the professional relationship can often sway who gets the job (sometimes even before it is publicly advertised). So it's essential to take time and be brave when making new professional connections. Attend networking events or add your colleagues and other thought leaders as a LinkedIn connection if you're more of an introvert. Either way, stay in touch and develop that relationship - You never know where your next job will come from!

A famous Monty Python song wrote, "Always look on the bright side of life", and nothing could be more accurate during this transition. So try to focus on the positive and good things about your life in your new country. Of course, there will always be compromises, but as long as you remember the reasons you moved in the first place and appreciate the benefits of your new life and environment, you'll be happy and enjoy your dream of living in your new home country. To show their support to internationals who have just arrived in Denmark, the local municipalities have organised events countrywide in September where you can connect, get vital information and generally be welcomed to Denmark – remember to check out pages 3-7!

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