Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Becoming a Citizen of the World

Many Americans are not very worldly in the international sense of the word. Where people in other countries are bi- or tri-lingual, dance to American songs, and make foreign travel a part of their annual vacations, less that 30% of Americans even have a passport!
The world is shrinking exponentially--the customer service person you talk to is more than likely to be from a third world country, your next door neighbor could very well be from a foreign country, and Americans are even heading overseas for what would be costly surgeries here in the US. It is important to be knowledgeable and comfortable in the world, not just in your little town in the US. Here's how:
  • Get a passport. You never know when you may want to travel outside of the country (or leave the US in a hurry).

  • Learn a foreign language. There are books, CDs, podcasts, community and college classes, foreign movies/radio stations/TV shows, and a variety of other ways to acquire a new language.

  • Go to ethnic restaurants. This is a great way to learn about the food of different countries and meet people who work at the restaurant that are from other countries. It is best to find restaurants that natives of the country actually eat at (ie: if you go to an Asian restaurant and all of the diners are white, you may want to head to a more authentic place in the Chinatown of your nearest big city).

  • Meet people from foreign countries. This may happen by volunteering to teach English to people new to our country, by hiring someone from a different country (many people hire Latinas to watch their kids and also teach them Spanish at the same time), or by chatting online with people from other countries.

  • Get out and see the world. Many people go to Canada or England as a first trip out of the country so that they won't have to wrestle with a new language. Others make a quick day trip to Mexico to experience a new culture (a word of caution if you plan to do this--many places in Mexico are like a war zone these days). The point isn't where you go but that you go.

The bottom line is that being able to travel to a variety of countries, get along with the locals, solve problems that come up, learn something new, stretch your idea of what is "normal", and get yourself back home with a new appreciation for the world and the people living in it is a very valuable skill, not only in the traveler sense but in the prepared for anything sense. Also, the world is getting crazier by the day--there have been plenty of people contentedly living in their own little world when something radical happens like a war, coup, natural disaster, or other event that forces them to leave their country and start their lives over in a new country...this way you will be one step ahead should worse come to worse.


  1. And just what is "normal"? If I have to act like the rest of the world, then I don't want to be part of the world. And if I have to fgeel guilty for "not having a passport or traveling outside the homeland or speaking some other language", then screw the rest of the world, too. I will not and do not feel guilty for not traveling outside my native country, nor will I feel guilty for not speaking another language- especially when the illegals coming here refuse to learn to speak the language and even require educational systems to waste precious dollars hiring bi-lingual teachers.
    Insofar as 'learning what it's like in third world countries'- guess what: Wait six months and we'll be living in one.
    Just because one does not travel or speak some foreign language is no indictment to being 'uncomfortable' in a foreign land.
    As to leaving the country in a hurry: and to which country would one leave to that would be better off than their homeland? We're speaking U.S. here, of course. If there were 'better countries', the immigration rates would plummet. If someone wanted to visit a foreign nation, all they need is a ticket to L.A., CA- and they'd be in a war zone as well, no need to visit Mexico. As to eating in ethnic restaraunts- good luck finding one in most American cities, and if you do, the cuisine is probably more American than you imagine.
    Finally, hang around another ten days and see if there's a coup in the U.S.ofA. Seems to be heading that way unless the House and Senate are overwhelmingly voted GOP.

  2. There are many lessons that can only be learned while traveling overseas. These lessons are invaluable, and can be critical to preparing for any eventuality.