Hi, my name is Daniel, I am 29 years old and work as an HR Development Manager for Lufthansa Cargo in Singapore. I have spent most of my working life abroad, exposing me to a variety of cultures. In this blog, I would like to share my very personal view on being a culture hopper.
I think I have always had the travel bug. Despite not yet being able to travel as a little boy, books with pictures of faraway places fascinated and enabled me to visit them in my imagination. For my 8th birthday my father took me on a trip to Egypt. It was the first time that the great unknown became real. Egypt – land of pharaohs, mummies and sheer endless history!
I was hooked. I longed for never-ending adventures and wanted to see as much of the world as possible. I grabbed all available opportunities, went on various exchange programmes, studied in New Zealand, worked in Malaysia, the US and in England. I travelled extensively, adding countless stamps to my passport, each of them telling a very unique adventure story.
Yet, one day I realised that there is a problem with travelling. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with travelling. Travelling is something beautiful and enriching. But it is a feeling I get, every time I leave a place; I always wonder: “What would it be like to live here?”
Travelling is different to living somewhere permanently. Although you occasionally get off the beaten track and immerse yourself in a foreign culture, it only gives you a glimpse of what life could be. Because I really wanted to find out what it is like to live abroad, I decided to grasp every opportunity.
But nothing prepares you for reality. Yes, there are Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Yes, there are culture training courses that are meant to prepare you for a certain cultural region. And yes, friends, colleagues or relatives all have their personal recommendations. But in the end it is individual perception that shapes your personal cultural experience.
Think of living abroad as ascending a mountain, the higher you climb, the more perspective you get. The longer you live at a certain place, you not only understand that place better, it also allows you to learn and reflect about yourself and your own cultural heritage – even more than about the culture you currently live in.
There is a profound beauty in exploring a place long term. It provides you with the opportunity to discover new things in your own way and slowly understand the particularities of a place. Every observation you make is right in its own way and allows you to build your own perception of that culture.
You learn that there is not one truth and that indeed many ways lead to a goal. You begin to accept and even adopt different ways, trusting in the way things are done elsewhere. Being a culture hopper allows you to cherry pick the good values of a culture and maybe let go of “bad” ones in the process.
You become extremely sensitive towards cultural heritage, adapt swiftly to new environments, display a great amount of tolerance and keep your cool in culturally challenging environments. Acquiring these traits is essential for cultural understanding – especially as we witness cultural blending, a trend that will intensify with globalisation.
And then, there is one more thing you learn being a culture hopper. You learn that although cultural heritages may be different, people are all very much alike. Culture just adds a very exciting dimension. If you take culture away we all share a common longing to lead a fulfilled life.
This is my personal view on being a culture hopper, my own personal truth. So, all I can do now is to encourage you, to travel into the unknown, live at a far flung place and leave the comforts of your home. Observe yourself and see what it does to you – I bet it will be amazing!