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.