The Perks of Living Overseas

Maybe the title would be more accurate if it said “perks of living in Northern Iraq”, but many of these things have been true of other countries we’ve lived in too (probably wouldn’t be the same in Europe, though).

  • You can get a Snickers for 40 cents.
  • You can find these lovely little strollers that will make everyone jealous (seriously – I think at least 30 random people at the airports, zoos, stores, etc. in the U.S. asked where we got these… I don’t think our answer helped them very much – haha…)

Mini Strollers!

  • You can pick up wide varieties of fresh, cheap spices.
  • You learn how foreign names are REALLY pronounced. Iraq, for example, is not pronounced “I-rack”, but more like “Ir-rock”, with a short “i” sound at the beginning…
  • When your government does something that utterly embarrasses you, at least you’re more than an ocean away!

On a more serious note… we’ve experienced many benefits as a family.

Cultural exchange is at your back door. We constantly meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, on their own turf. We learn how other people think and do things. We become more flexible and adaptable in things that we aren’t used to, but don’t really matter (like using a generator for back up electricity, or turning on the water pump to fill up the tanks every few days. We become more aware of things that are an essential part of our identity, our values and beliefs. We receive a lot from the countries we live in, and we contribute as much as we can…

We learn more about how others perceive our own countries. I’ve been amazed at some of the different responses I’ve received about the U.S., and hearing foreign perspectives has broadened my own understanding of my culture and country. Putting my own knowledge and experience of the U.S. together with how other people experience it from the outside gives me a bigger, and hopefully more accurate, picture.

It’s a minor point, but I’m glad our kids are getting exposed to multiple languages. This would have happened anyway, since Arabic is Eddy’s first language, but their exposure is even broader since we live in a foreign country and they hear foreign languages around them all the time (including Soureth, which is modern day Aramaic – the closest language still used to the language Jesus would have spoken.). I’d heard before that when little children are exposed to multiple languages from birth, it takes them a little longer to build their vocabulary (essentially, they are building two sets of vocabulary at the same time), but they develop abstract reasoning sooner. I am definitely beginning to see this happening in Charbel.

We have been able to establish ourselves well as a family. By living in a third country that’s neither my home country nor Eddy’s, we’ve been able to establish our own family’s identity the way we want it to be, without the constraints of a particular culture’s way of doing things. We aren’t a traditional “Lebanese” family, but we aren’t a traditional “American” family either. We’ve found a nice combination, taking the values and traditions we appreciate most from both sides, and starting some of our own family traditions that didn’t come from either… We could have done this even if we were living in Lebanon or the U.S., but with being in a third country, we escaped some of the pressures we might have faced while determining what we wanted for our family…

Finally, as a person of faith, it’s been wonderful to move around the world and see all that unites Christians around the world, no matter where they are living. It’s fascinating to see both the cultural differences  and traditions, and the core beliefs and practices that characterize the Church around the world…

Hoping other families that have spent time overseas have also grown as a family and learned a lot!

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