Settling in: #4. Don’t compare


A major-ish road in Phnom Penh with a large shoulder. I love riding a mountain bike down that shoulder.

There are two dangerous comparisons that I musn’t make living overseas. The first is don’t compare the new country with the one back home. Instead, live each country as its own entity rather than wishing one was more like the other.  Thoughts like “I wish Cambodia was more like Australia” are not helpful. Comparison is a slippery slope towards resentment and burnout.

Of course it’s okay to compare. I just need to think about why I’m comparing and in what spirit I’m making the comparison–less grass is greener comparison and more healthy respect for both places. So comparing, when contented, is healthy and normal and even helpful. But if I’m tired or stressed or not going well in the new place, then I should not compare. At these times I just need to let each place be what it is.

For example, I could look at the above road and wish the roads were more like Australia, where the roads are paved right to the edges. That’s the sort of comparison I shouldn’t make. A more healthy comparison is to see that the upshot of these roads however, is that when they are packed with traffic, and I’m riding my mountain bike along the side, guess who slips straight past the traffic (even past all those tuktuks and motos)?

The second comparison that I shouldn’t make is with other missios or expats (people from other countries). The reality is that every single expat is from a different place and is here for a different reason and a different length of time. These multiple differences will affect all the choices they make and will mean those choices differ from mine with varying degrees. Comparison is helpful when you are aware that there is going to be a healthy and normal difference–where we are all just trying to make decisions in light of our own background, circumstances and purposes.

This comparison thingy is also particularly evident in language learning. I often need to tell myself “DON’T DO IT. DON’T COMPARE. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE.”

I suspect I’ll need to remind myself not to compare for many years to come.

5 thoughts on “Settling in: #4. Don’t compare

  1. wise thoughts mate, you might be encouraged to know that the great missionary to China, Griffth John, was an exceptionally good student of biblical languages but when he arrived in China found that ‘the language is a colossus’, i.e. the level of difficulty was far higher than what he had encountered in other languages. He persevered and actually produced a translation of the Bible for the Scottish Bible Society that was far ahead of its time, approaching the language along the lines of dynamic equivalence. i imagine his perception of difficulty was a part of his keen insight into the intricacies of the language. hang in there mate –


    • Thanks mate. Encouraging thoughts. Persevering at language is the goal. Started learning some of the script yesterday and today. Exciting to begin. Will need more encouragement when the excitement wears off. How’s dutch going? Not so I can compare … 😉


  2. I was talking to my Middle Eastern hairdresser the other day who is frustrated that the roads in Australia are so narrow. In Dubai, they are often 4 or 5 lanes each way with a separate road for trucks! It’s all a matter of context isn’t it? I think comparison rejects God’s good provision too. Aren’t we saying to God that what He has given us in inadequate when we compare?


  3. Pingback: Settling in: Still settling in |

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