More Insights from Living Abroad: 5 Eye-Opening Learnings that I had Globetrotting Planet Awesome


One of the best parts of studying and working in other countries is that you gain unique and eye-opening insights from living abroad. Insights that shape you and make you grow as a person. Insights that help you look at your own life, your particular ways of doing things and your own perceptions from a broader global perspective. Insights that might turn your own belief system upside down and that challenge the way you grew up.

I believe that putting your own perceptions to the test and opening up to new viewpoints is utterly important in life. In fact, training and maintaining an open mind helps you navigate your own life better, it helps you to stay curious and to connect with others not just more easily, but also on a deeper level. It helps you to change your outlook on life – for the better!

The earlier you start diving into your own lessons in life by stepping out of your comfort zone in Germany and by jumping into new intercultural experiences head-first – the better! So if you’re reading this article because you’re planning a gap year abroad after high-school: A warm welcome and keep reading!

In this article I want to share some more eye-opening lessons that I – as a German – have learned from six years of living, studying and working abroad. In countries like Thailand, China, Australia and the US. And if you’re a frequent visitor of my site and were wondering: Yes, this is part 2 of my article Cheers, Planet Awesome! 5 Mind-Blowing Lessons Learned from Living Abroad!

Cheers, Planet Awesome! 5 Mind-Blowing Lessons Learned from Living Abroad
Access Part 1 by clicking on the link above or the image and we’ll take you there ;-)

In part 1 I shared my learning with you that Germany is not in all regards first class when you compare us on a bigger scale. And, that German punctuality is real but not always needed in this world. We also learned that you can survive without coffee and bread (if you try) and that material things are totally overrated when what you really want in life are experiences. If you haven’t dived into it yet – make sure you do!

But now, let’s kick it off once again with part 2, coming to you by popular demand! As a fact, there are many more insights from living abroad than I was able to cover previously or will be able to bring to you here! So there might be a part 3 – stay tuned! ;-)

So, sit back and enjoy reading! And do keep in mind that each and every learning I had from living abroad is one that can possibly come to you, too! How? If you’re brave enough to step into the unknown and embrace the lessons that Planet Awesome has up the sleeve for you! Let’s go!

Stop overthinking! Grab your opportunities now or miss out forever

Let’s start with number 1 of my insights from living abroad that I have lined up for you in this amazing article. It’s one that truly does challenge our deeply rooted beliefs as Germans and that’s why I think it’s absolutely worth sharing with you. So, what is it about?

Having grown up in a German family in Germany, these are the principles I got instilled with from a very young age on: Make sure you have everything planned, so you don’t fail in life. Don’t take too many risks and make sure you have insurances (just in case). And: Think everything through properly to avoid making decisions that you will regret later. Don’t rush anything ever!

I don’t know how your family ticks. But to be very honest with you – spontaneous actions that haven’t been thoroughly thought through or discussed to death were not part of my experience in life until I started embarking on international adventures.

When you leave your cultural comfort zone (and your parents) behind for a while, you come to realize that how you were taught to handle things or make decisions is not always the best approach if you want to enjoy life or succeed on an international stage.

Here, there, everywhere! Number 1 of my insights from living abroad: Don't overthink or you'll miss out on all the fun stuff!
Here, there, everywhere! Number 1 of my insights from living abroad: Don’t overthink or you’ll miss out on all the fun stuff!

One of my most valuable insights from living abroad is: In other countries, decisions are made a lot faster than in Germany. Also in a less bureaucratic way, which is not really surprising, is it? And: Abroad, opportunities come around the corner very spontaneously. What does this mean for you?

It means: A great opportunity might come up fast when you’re out there in the world. And what you have to do then is grab that opportunity quickly if you want to be part of the game. You have to say yes at lightning speed – or you’ll miss out forever! Here are some examples:

If someone you meet in Mexico spontaneously invites you over to their house for a Mexican fiesta with their friends and family – stop overthinking and say yes! Otherwise you’ll miss out on a truly unique cultural experience (given that this person is trustworthy though).

Your Thai friends ask you to hop on a bus in one hour to spend a spontaneous weekend on an island? Stop thinking about possible disadvantages. Stop worrying if you have the right swimwear or whether or not you’re done with your weekend chores or if there might be mosquitoes and just say yes! Pack your bag and go. NOW! Otherwise they will go without you (and might not ask you out next time)!

If you’re in Vietnam and get invited to a spontaneous village get-together in the middle of nowhere – don’t make your new friends wait! There is no time for you to pull a German and say „Let’s see!“ or „I’ll let you know later…“ or „Let me check with person XY first…“. No, friends!

You have to stop overthinking and need to start saying yes to opportunities when they come up! Otherwise you’ll miss a chance that may never return. Some chances come to you just once in a lifetime. And that’s when you need to grab them! Fast.

Got a spontaneous opportunity to go on a trip with your Thai friends? Be quick and say yes!
Got a spontaneous opportunity to go on a trip with your Thai friends? Be quick and say yes!

To make a long story short – the lesson I learned from living abroad is: Overthinking kills opportunities! There is a chance for failure if you say yes to a spontaneous opportunity, that’s for sure. But the risk of continuously missing out on experiences and all the fun stuff when you overthink and don’t act fast is far bigger! The cost of inaction is high, friends!

If you want to enjoy your time abroad or make the most of life in general, it is necessary for you to stop pushing thoughts back and forth in your head. It’s time to train your brain to say yes without hesitation and to embrace opportunities! Once you have trained yourself, you will have the best times abroad that you can possibly have. :-)

The Thais really know how to enjoy life

Number 2 of my insights from living abroad is somewhat related to the learning that overthinking kills opportunities. My lesson learned is pretty straightforward: Thai people really know how to enjoy life! Why is this and why is it worth mentioning?

So, after my Bachelor’s degree I decided to jump into the unknown by signing up for an internship in Bangkok, Thailand. To date, I had never been to Asia and I really had no idea how this international adventure would turn out for me. Whether I would love or hate it. Whether I would be able to really dive into a culture so different from mine. And what my insights from living abroad in Thailand would be.

Looking back onto my time in Bangkok my insights are very obvious to me. My biggest learning from my stay there is: There is a huge difference in mindset and ways of thinking between Thais and Germans. And this difference in mindset leads to the fact that Thais really know how to enjoy life (and they do)! Let me give you some examples.

Number 2 of my insights from living abroad: The Thais really know how to enjoy life!
Number 2 of my insights from living abroad: The Thais really know how to enjoy life!

While Germans still overthink their weekend options, Thais are already on the bus to the beach. While Germans still worry about the price for a dinner or whether or not it will give them diarrhea, Thais are already having starters. And while Germans work hard with very little fun, Thais make work life enjoyable by planning abundant lunches with the entire team and fun trips on the weekend.

It’s not just for those insights from living abroad and more life lessons that I truly recommend you to spend a few months in Thailand. There is so much more that Thailand has to offer! To get the whole picture, make sure you read my article 90 Days in Bangkok: Warum ein Praktikum in Thailand auf deine To-Do-Liste muss! :-)

One of my biggest lessons learned from living abroad in Bangkok is: You enjoy life more when you worry less! And this is a way of thinking that’s deeply rooted in Thai society. There is a phrase in Thailand that is used pretty much all the time and in all situations: Mai pen rai!

If you have been to Thailand, you surely know it. „Mai pen rai“ can be translated as „Never mind, don’t worry about it“. So what it expresses is: If shit hits the fan – don’t worry. Let it go and move on! So if someone screws up your dinner in a restaurant and you accidentally receive the wrong meal, a Thai person would probably say „Mai pen rai“, which reassures the restaurant staff that they don’t mind and everything is fine.

Getting yourself a „Mai pen rai“ mindset is my biggest lesson learned from living abroad in Thailand. Because it helps you to really enjoy life. By not making a big deal out of things that are out of your own control, you keep your peace of mind at all times. You worry less when you tell yourself that it’s not worth arguing over little things or messed up situations that are not even worth your energy.

Swing away your worries in Thailand and you'll enjoy life a lot more!
Swing away your worries in Thailand and you’ll enjoy life a lot more!

When you think to yourself „Mai pen rai“ instead of getting worked up over things that go wrong, you start enjoying life a lot more. And this is exactly what Thai people do. They worry less and enjoy more! They turn every meal into a food celebration. They cook with love and eat with devotion. They enjoy the beauty of their own country by travelling around and playing on their beaches.

They indulge themselves in dinners under the sky with their feet in the sand. They enjoy light shows and barbecues, island snorkeling trips and all the fun stuff Thailand has to offer. And if something goes wrong or not as expected, they just smile it away with three little but powerful words: Mai pen rai – and keep playing! One of the most useful lessons learned from living abroad, don’t you think?

You don’t need to speak a common language to understand each other

Number 3 of my insights from living abroad is a really powerful one. Why? Fact is: A lot of people are held back from travelling the world or living their best lives abroad by their own fears of not being able to communicate in foreign countries. And this is the biggest mistake one can possibly make in life.

The reality is: We as people on this planet don’t need to speak the same language to understand each other. This is a lesson I learned from living in countries like Thailand and China, where it was simply impossible for me to understand people or communicate on a pure linguistic level.

Number 3 of my lessons learned from living abroad: Cross-cultural communication always works somehow!
Number 3 of my lessons learned from living abroad: Cross-cultural communication always works somehow!

Meaning: I was not good at speaking Thai or Chinese. In fact, I wasn’t able to say more than a few very basic words in Chinese or Thai. In addition to that, I often visited areas or places in Thailand and China where people didn’t speak English. So what happened? Actually nothing! Did I get lost? No. Was it embarrassing to not be able to communicate in Thai? Not at all. Did I make people feel uncomfortable by not speaking their language fluently? Again no.

Did I still manage to communicate in these countries and enjoy meeting people? Yes, very much so! I even lived with people who I wasn’t able to understand at all, language-wise. Did we still get along and have fun? Hell YES! Why? Because when you live abroad, it’s on you to improvise and make it work. And as soon as people realize that you don’t speak their language, they will make an effort, too, to make conversations happen with you. Simple as that.

When you start pointing and speaking with your hands, people all across the world will understand. So a few words in the country’s language, an open heart and mind, and a little bit of sign language and improvisation will go a long way!

And you know what – people love the fact that you as a foreigner reach out to them to communicate. In return, they will go above and beyond to make that conversation with you flow. And that’s where the magic of living abroad really begins.

By the way – here’s another one of those valuable insights from living abroad! A few basic words in the country’s language will really add to your experience and how locals see you as a foreigner. Even if you just know two words in Thai – Thai people will love you. Because they appreciate that you made an effort to talk to them. They will reply in Thai and then realize that the conversation has come to an end because you simply don’t understand what they are saying.

But it doesn’t matter. You will make people smile with your two words in broken Thai or Chinese. Your two words will tell people: Hey, I am here because I am interested in you and your culture. And even though my Thai is bad and I only know two words, I made an effort to connect with you.

So, guys and girls: Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation when you’re abroad. It’s part of the experience. You never know where it’s going to lead you. And if you’re afraid, then remember number 3 of my insights from living abroad in Asia: You don’t need to speak a common language to understand each other. All you have to do is learn two simple words and throw yourself out there!

Smiles open doors and hearts

Next on the list of my personal insights from living abroad: Smiles open doors and hearts. And this one, friends, goes for every country on Planet Awesome! Well, at least for all the countries that I have visited and lived in so far. I don’t think there is much to explain here. The rule is pretty simple:

If you live in a foreign country or travel the world, don’t forget to be friendly and never – under no circumstances – forget to smile! Ever. Why? Because smiling will bring you closer to people. If you speak their language or not, it doesn’t matter! The universal rule of thumb is: You smile – you win!

Number 4 of my insights from living abroad: You smile - you win! Thumbs up for this one!
Number 4 of my insights from living abroad: You smile – you win! Thumbs up for this one!

You win people over and you make life in another country a lot easier for yourself when you smile. So smile as much as you can! ;-) I am exaggerating now. But the gist is: I have noticed that my own friendliness and curiosity opened doors to the houses of people I didn’t even know. I got invited to private dinners and local festivities just because I smiled at people and was friendly.

People in other countries are generally interested in meeting foreigners – my personal experience! And when you smile and show yourself open to their culture, then you gain access to people’s hearts and will get the best local experiences you can possibly have. The language doesn’t really matter here either, by the way.

I got invited to people’s houses and festivities in China through friends of friends of friends‘ neighbours. Why? Because they saw me on photos (no kidding!) and invited me to stay with them in their city in China. Why all that effort? Because they wanted me to have a great experience in their country and because they wanted to meet me for an international experience of their own. Did they speak very good English? Nope. Did it matter? Nope. Did we laugh about German-Chinese stories until our stomachs started hurting? Oh yes!

I didn’t know them personally, but they came to pick me up at the local train station, showed me around their town and took me out to dinner at their favourite restaurant. Their aim was to make me feel like a part of their community. And that’s exactly how I felt! Which made me smile even more.

Dinner with a stranger: We didn't know each other but had a great night out laughing together!
Dinner with a stranger: We didn’t know each other but had a great night out laughing together!

So what’s in it for you here? The probably simplest of all insights from living abroad: Smiles open doors and hearts. And much more. That’s all I can say. If you have a bad day – don’t take it out on others. If you have a good day – go out and meet people in this world! They will love you for your smiles and friendliness and they will go above and beyond to make your time in their country truly unforgettable.

The world is full of friends waiting to meet you

Alright, friends! Here we go! The last insight on my list of insights from living abroad. Let’s make it a quick one. The lesson is: You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to meet you.

After six years of living abroad and countless trips to various countries around the globe, this is the last lesson I want to share with you as part of this article. I want you to keep in mind: Whenever you go on international adventures, you are never by yourself. You might leave Germany on your own, but as soon as you set foot in another country, there will be friends waiting for you.

The thing is: You don’t know these friends yet. But you will get to know them! When you remain curious and keep your heart wide open at all times. And if you don’t let fear or worries hold you back. Remember: Travelling and living in another country is not so much about the places you visit – it’s about the people you meet. The people you cross paths with along the way make your experience more memorable than any sight or attraction ever could.

Number 5 of my insights from living abroad: The world is full of friends waiting to meet you!
Number 5 of my insights from living abroad: The world is full of friends waiting to meet you!

So, one of those truly eye-opening lessons learned from living abroad is: If you’re thinking of travelling or moving abroad after school, remember that the destinations are just the icing on the cake. It’s the people you meet along the way that make the journey unforgettable. It’s the friends you make in a different country that make your stay there feel like home.

And these are the memories that will last a lifetime!

What are your insights from living abroad?


Anything you would like to add to my insights from living abroad? Yes? Don’t be shy and message me: hi@dowhatyouloveacademy.de! I look forward to it. If you’re new to this page, make sure you follow my account on Instagram and sign up for my newsletter (in German) to start receiving the latest news and updates! Talk soon!

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