Rumena Zlatkova has been one of the most prolific and excellent commentors on this site and I've learned a lot from her and always been grateful for those insights. We started corresponding a bit by email recently, and there were some real gems of insights in her writing.
We were talking about work and advantages from having grown up in one culture and now living in another. Here's Rumena -
Yes, the skillset / mindset that you can develop having lived in Bulgaria and then moving to the UK is quite unique and gives you a very different perspective compared to the other people around you. For me, so far it's been very useful in identifying 'black holes' and things / aspects of society that I don't want to participate in - so having the perspective on why for example Bulgaria is a messy, unorderly place, while the UK is the most structured country I've been in so far, also gives some insight of why it's that and what purpose it's helping. I mean, in Bulgaria people always complain they are not taken care of by the country, that everything is left pretty much to the laws of the jungle (I don't know of you're familiar with any Eastern European country, but it's part of the culture there - maybe a little less harsh than what you've been describing about Mongolia), but that gives you the unique skillset of being an 'all-around' person (also because the country is poor, we don't 'hire' someone, we try to fix things ourselves). You don't just trust or 'buy in' what the State / or overpriced business is selling to you - and you know you have only yourself to rely on if you want something done. Whereas in the UK, people are so much taken care of, that they are too relaxed, and probably unadaptable. I'm guessing you can also relate to that coming from a country such as the USA, where most things come easily and you don't need to think too much (or that's what it looks like).
I thought that was interesting - observing that people feel like they're not taken care of, yet simultaneously don't have the resources and trust to get skilled professionals and get the benefits of a division of labor. I asked Rumena if I could share, she said yes and kindly shared some more insights -
Here is another point that might be of interest for you or your readers that I have been thinking about recently: individual vs. team work.
In Bulgaria, no one really teaches you how to work in teams (probably because it's not part of the culture - the unwritten rule that you can't rely on anyone). Everyone is for himself, and people don't really trust others. So most of the people describe themselves as 'individualistic' - especially in terms of work. Most do things on their own, don't like asking for help or feedback and if they happen to receive some comments, they are terrified that someone 'has found a flaw in their work'. Modern organisations try to introduce 'team work', especially western companies with Bulgarian offices. But what tends to happen is the 'team' is actually a collective of individuals with delegated tasks.
Whereas here, in the UK, team work is the 'default setting' in a project. Even for tasks you would expect to be given to a single person, there is an element of team involvement.
I have had some wonderful collaborations this year, and for the first time I'm learning to rely on others and to enjoy working 'in a team'. Also, the combined energy and talent is more than the 'total' of the team members' individual input. You can have real 'synergy'. It's a very different experience for someone coming from a culture of 'individuals'.
So yeah, I'm happy I chose to travel and get exposed to a different society and culture. If you are able to see and appreciate the different values and you are open to change, it really helps you to gain perspective. You can equip yourself with a very interesting and unique set of skills and insights.
It also helps you to see there is no 'right' or 'wrong' - different approaches work in and are part of different cultures and contexts.
You can find Rumena's blog at http://rumenazlatkova.wordpress.com/'
She describes it as, "It's a place where I write about media, society and lessons from my involvement in media projects. I tend to be very descriptive but hopefully insightful - I'm investing a lot of time, energy (and of course money) in this education (I'm studying Media Production), and I'm determined to learn and to get to know myself in the process." Thanks again for the cultural contrasts Rumena - fascinating stuff.