“ The reasons for travelling abroad are many and various. They range from routine business trips to annual holidays, and from religious pilgrimages and sports competitions to military interventions. Each journey has immediate linguistic consequences: a language has to be interpreted, learned, imposed and over time a travelling trend can develop into a major influence. If there is a contemporary movement towards world English use, therefore, we would expect it to be particularly noticeable in this domain.”
Here we are starting from an interesting concept suggested by David Crystal in his book. Certainly this is a curious point of view, focused on the immediate effect of the English language. But this time we are going to talk about something more complex that is Identity. Identity of people often change depending on influences and circumstances of different environments.
When we are in a foreign country for the first time our consistency is tested and our habits and behaviour need to be balanced in a determined way.
How do you feel when you’re abroad? What sensations do you have?
It is not the first time you have travelled abroad but your legs are heavy and your mind seems to be in the middle of the fog. You have just arrived in another Country.
The signs of the shops are written in another language, advertisements and restaurant menus are difficult to understand together with safety instructions and directions along the streets and the voices of people around you. Perceptions are different, seeing landscapes you’ve never seen before and you can hear foreign people from all over the world, apparently self-confident in their environment. Even food and drinks have a different taste and you already miss something.
It is not a film, it’s just something you don’t know, that’s why panic is one of the first feelings.
Probably you think you are lost, and you really need to use your self control and intelligence.
At home you’re always brave and determined but now you make a call to your mom saying everything is fine, trying to laugh and be calm at the same time. May be it is not your fault, but the environment is dominating you, consequently you behave in a different way.
And then the strange thing is that you’re scared about something you don’t know exactly. There are many new factors and threats affecting your personality abroad. You tend to be shy and you lose your social role because nobody knows you and you’re nothing to them. The last person arrived here, powerless, searching for help. Foreign people know that.
You’re alone in front of a society which has social rules, habits, features, traditions and strong roots.
Take a big breath and be conscious of this.
At the beginning you have no friends at all, and you meet people ready to judge you. Selecting people is not easy even because they are in groups and much stronger than you.
Starting from that point you must build up a sort of new personality, adapting your manners in order to be accepted in that community of people. Sometimes it’s strange because you behave differently in many situations, but your unique goal is being respected and appreciated.
Try to learn how you can cross cultural barriers and stereotypes talking with foreigners, taking into consideration their opinions and points of view. Remember that if you’re not curious nobody wants to know you and your identity risks to be blurred. Time goes by and good reputation is all you need if you want to survive away from home. But at the end what’s the advantage?
You become open-minded and you probably acquire new skills. Your orientation in the city has increased and your communicational ability has improved. Stereotypes are still alive in your mind but now you can see beyond them. You have really learnt to stay alone getting through difficulties and you know how to ask for help when you need it. A period abroad could represent an important step towards maturity: solving every day problems and difficulties could be helpful to you in order to acquire independence and autonomy.
Experience is the fuel of a brand new identity, which becomes more complete and valuable.