living in a country where u dont know the local language

2 Dec

london 11.10am 4C sunny thursday 2021

today is forecast to be 0C at around midnight. then the temperature rises . it is one of those short lived dips of coldness.


i read today about what expats think of living in london. it has published other articles that covered other countries , all from the point of view of expats. it concentrates on the cost of living for expats and how easy it is to get jobs, or accommodation.  its not insightful really on what the daily irritations that expats can expect in those countries , for eg, when talkingof the european countries it never mentions that french, and spanish shops will close for a few hours during the middle of the day. or that they close entirely all of sunday. i have just come back from a lidl shopping trip, and it brings to mind how convenient uk shopping is. they seem to cater to the customers’ convenience, rather than in europe where they seem to favour the employers. they could have kept the shops open all day, by allowing some staff to take early lunch breaks, but that is not really the issue. the real issue is their keeping to their tradition of a siesta . and sticking to the tradition of sunday being a day of rest. even though to people of non christian faith, sunday is not special. 

another fact they dont mention is that if u dont speak or read the local language u are making life very difficult for you;.  that applies to all foreigners. and it can make you miss the bargain offers or special reductions in the shops. for eg, today i know lidls has reduced garlic and other things at reduced prices, but that is because i read it. if i dont know the language, i would have missed them. and it is frustratingly awful if everyday u have to deal with people speaking another language you cannot understand. simply asking people for directions, or where things are placed, or whatever , becomes like a huge obstacle course. it wears you down over time. i think even if  a lot of people in that country can speak english, it still will not make u feel at home if u dont know their national language. 

i dont realise how important it is as i have lived in the uk for a long time and know english better than malay or chinese. so all the time i live in uk,  i never felt the frustrations of living in a country where i cannot understand the people . but i have lived for a month in brazil, and there it brought to me how awful it can be to live in a country where i dont undrstand the local language. you have to live in a foreign country where u dont know the language to speak or read it;for a certain length of time,  before u realise it and how much stress it is giving you.

i dont think being an expat is very good for anyone. wait, let me rephrase it. i say this with one caveat, if u can speak the local language fluently and read and write it, than it does not apply. to me it means you are not an expat.  that is why even though technically i am an expat in uk, because i am more fluent in english than any other language, even the language of my home country malaysia, i am very much at home here than in malaysia. and so it works out well for me. but if u dont speak that language of the country you are in, than you really are an expat, and  i think it can affect u if u live that expat life for a long time and never get to speak that language fluently. 


and deep down, to anyone who says otherwise. that they dont know the local language and yet are very happy living there. i would say you wont live there permanently.  haha. no matter how hard they tell themselves they enjoy it and it is rewarding etc, and it is true for now, but one day i know they will realise it cannot be permanent. i think at the end of the day, they will realise they will never settle in that country.  the important point being they must speak the language and read and write that language of that country if ever they are to feel at home in it.  i think that is the most important factor to ever deciding if u will ever like living in that country permanently. this is my opinion, that is brought on by my own experience but maybe there are some amongst you who have different experience , who have lived in a country that they have adopted, but do not speak the national language of that country and still say they have accepted it as their home. but hang on, maybe it does not matter at all . if someone is happy for now living in their adopted country so what does it matter what they will feel in future. as they say live for the now, nevermind what the future will bring. 

TRAVEL: Expensive cities

this one showing what are the most expensive cities to live in for expats shows hongkong and singapore in the top 8. its telling that london is not there. 

i was in lidls and could not find the sultanas, so i asked the server and she pointed at the next aisle i was in before, then i heard her mutter, ‘oh, its baking goods’  and she turned around and pointed across the aisle we were in. i was thinking, firstly that i know the language to ask her, and most importantly understand what she is saying, but also i know the culture here of putting sultanas under baking goods. haha. if i were in europe, or spain, or france, i doubt whether it would have worked. i would not ask anyone where the goods are for one thing, since i dont know what sultanas are called in spanish, or french, and also  i know i wont understand their reply.

i know i will never find it on my own as  i would not know  what category they will be putting the sultanas. the frustration i know i will experience will be enormous i suspect.

4bulbs of garlic for 49p.

you might think isn’t this rather small beer to be bothered about in whether one likes living in a country or not… but you would be surprised at how all these so called small irritations can really amount to quite big stress levels over time. especially when they will occur everyday , every hour sometimes. this constant drip drip of even though small irritations will be intolerable i think over time. 

2 Responses to “living in a country where u dont know the local language”

  1. Garfield Hug Sunday December 5, 2021 at 5:02 am #

    I feel that cost of living in London or Brighton is relatively cheaper than in Singapore. I say this in terms of food cost as our consumer items have sky rocketed indeed. When I read your posts and you share groceries you buy, it is much cheaper than what I spend. I suppose you are a savvy shopper too as I shop when I need to and just grab all without thinking of sales etc as I do not have the extra time.

  2. alifesgayventure Sunday December 5, 2021 at 8:25 am #

    here in uk, we have the choice of buying economy branded goods, rather than branded goods. that is something i dont find in other countries and especially in all the supermarkets here will feature these cheaper basic goods, or their own brand ,which are just as cheap; and their prices are kept low even in these times of rising prices. i buy them, that is why my grocery shopping costs have been low, even though they all say prices have gone up. also, i seldom buy from express stores, they are small convenience shops put up by all the supermarkets where they can charge higher prices than their superstores. and i have noticed they dont stock the basic ,economy brands either, so another reason not to buy from them. not many realise this, but there is no VAT, on fresh food in uk. that means immediate saving of 20%, right away.

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