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What’s common in playing and living abroad

In this post I want to analyze some aspects of mobile life from a different point of view. And reflect with you on what playing and living abroad have in common.

I practice Linguistic Empathy and I expect you to do the same. Please bear with me if my English is not perfect. Read the Italian version here.

I’m pretty sure that in your mind playing and living abroad don’t come together spontaneously. In fact, to find correlations between two dimensions so apparently different from each other, one must have a good reason, or be excessively passionate about both. 

Both are my cases. For me it is of great importance to connect playing to any dimension of people’s lives, because I am deeply convinced that playing can change the world. Playing is also ever present in my personal and professional life. As I have repeatedly said, it has always been a constant for me, as a child, as is logical and normal, but also as an adult and especially when I became a mother.

Photo by Christian Varsi
On a professional level I have always used games in my intercultural training and in my coaching programmes. More recently I have created webinars to teach new games, always in the hope that these will gain prominence in many spheres of common life, basically contributing to a better world.
The connection between playing and living abroad became clear to me after relocating several times, especially in countries with a culture very far from mine.
All these moments have made me realize how the process inherent playing a game not only fits perfectly who I am and the things I believe in, but it easily finds correlations in the type of mobile life I have led so far.
I am deeply convinced that the expatriate experience can undoubtedly be compared to that of a new board game. How many times, arriving in a new country, have I passed through that phase during which, not yet knowing the rules, I was groping around and with partial results? To get, after studying and discovering all the social and cultural rules of the country, to better and better results?

This is exactly what happens when we play a new game for the first time. At first the rules may seem extremely complicated. We don’t understand them, because we haven’t seen them in action yet and we can’t contextualize them. Even playing seems like a burden to us, we feel like aliens in front of the game board and maybe we even get a little knot in our throat, and would like to be able to tell our playmates that we prefer to throw in the towel.

Let’s bring this example into the context of a relocation, and tell me if you’ve never felt this way at the beginning in a new country. I certainly have. Always, upon arriving in a new destination, I clearly felt the sensation of not having the tools to move around. I simply did not know, as is logical, all the rules that organise a life in common in a shared space.

How do you take the bus? Do you pay on board or before boarding? How do people greet each other? How can I access the bank? Should I look into the eyes of the people I pass on the sidewalk or is it better to avoid them? Can I call someone’s house after nine in the evening? They invited me to dinner, what can I bring? Flowers, wine, a gift for the children? But then, what time should I arrive? Do I have to be on time, late, early? I’ll stop here but I think I’ve made the idea.

Photo by ImmagieFotografia
When learning a new game, if we manage to overcome that initial phase of estrangement and commit ourselves to understanding and applying the rules, we will be able to relax and fully enjoy it. Unless, of course, it’s a game whose contents are totally opposed to our values ​​or tastes. Perhaps, however, even in that case we will choose to continue playing, to please a loved one.
Same thing happens with a new country: upon arrival there is a tiring phase in which we have to absorb, learn, decode. It is only when we understand a certain number of rules that we can relax. And then we realize that the new country no longer scares us, it no longer puts us in a position to feel incapable and unsuitable, but we like it a little, we enjoy participating in its daily life.
And if it happens that we really don’t like that country, we can always decide to leave, or to stay to allow our partner or sons and daughters to have an experience they care about. But here we enter the individual cases, that sphere in which personal differences make generalizations difficult.
What I wanted to tell you is that perhaps, if like me you love to play and also love living in different cultures, it is because there is a very strong correlation between the two situations. Try to pay attention to it, in your daily life abroad, and tell me if a day in a new culture cannot be easily compared to a round of a board game 🙂


Claudia Landini
November 2020
Main pic by ImmagieFotografia

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