“Perhaps the most counter-intuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you’ll get. Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.” – Kevin Kelly

As travellers, wanderers, nomads or expats, it’s not often we think about how to give value to others when overseas. Much of our focus is placed on ourselves as solo beings looking to navigate our way around less familiar terrain.

But the counterintuitive premise is that the more we turn our focus outward instead of inward, the more we seek ways to help others, the more likely it is that we ourselves can reach our goals, achieve successful integration and maximise our lifestyle design in a new land.

Here are seven ways showing how to give value to others abroad.

How to give value to others abroad

1. Teach your language

It’s no exaggeration to say that a language is a gateway to a new life.

If you’re a non-native English speaker reading this blog, you’ll know how true this is. Even more so if you learned English to a good level only as an adult as you’ll understand the doors it’s opened for you more than someone who’s had it in their life from a young age.

Teaching a language therefore is one of the most empowering things you can do. Your native tongue is a quick and potent social currency (see below) that you possess.

Of course English is the most sought after language to acquire. If you’re proficient in it, you can likely find opportunities to teach it in some way (bear in mind however that being a fluent speaker doesn’t automatically equate to good teaching skills).

But there are many opportunities to teach other languages abroad. When I lived and taught English professionally in Japan, I bumped into teachers of all stripes and languages. One Spanish guy managed to find a job teaching old grandmas English and Spanish even though his English wasn’t advanced!

Formal language teaching is of course the ultimate standard. Yet you don’t have to pick it up as a profession to give value overseas. Gone are the days where the only way to learn was in an academic classroom. There are a multitude of people worldwide that have learned languages during meetup exchanges, informal coffee lessons, or from simply hanging out while breaking bread.

Whether you’re a newbie or have years of experience under your belt, the key is holding a mindset to enhance a learner’s life with the communication skill you’re passing on. As I wrote in ‘How To Successfully Get Into Language Teaching And Move Abroad’:

“Language teaching is a noble profession. At its core, it’s empowerment of communication skills for international use, enabling people previously bound by a single country and language to relocate abroad, connect with other nationalities and broaden their horizons.”

When thinking about how to give value to others abroad, don’t underestimate the power of teaching your language.

When you teach someone your language, you’ll also teach them aspects of your home country’s culture too, which leads me to my next point.

How To Give Value To Others Language

2. Showcase your culture

What’s one thing that only you and people from your home country are the authorities on?

Your culture.

It isn’t your native language—as we’ve covered, people of different nationalities can acquire and even teach a language to others that isn’t their first.

But your culture can’t be appropriated with any meaningful success by outsiders. Only you know what it’s like to live, breath and express it with authenticity.

Authenticity is the key word—people want the real deal when it comes to cultural experiences and learning. Sure, as a resident of Japan for more than two years I could show someone the ropes when it comes to Japanese food, hot springs, etiquette and more. But I could never convey what it’s like to be Japanese. Locals always have an advantage in showcasing nuances only they understand.

And you’ll always have something meaningful to share. I’ve said before that one man’s familiar trash is another man’s exotic treasure:

“Since everyone’s culture is unfamiliar to someone else in the world, everyone’s culture is exotic to another person in some way. This means that your culture will be intriguing to certain people whether you currently realise it or not. Chances are some aspect of your country/culture is fascinating to many people in the world — as a representative of your country/culture, this can be advantageous for you.”

Think both about what your country is famous for and lesser known tidbits that’ll draw surprise. You can showcase them during events or just in regular conversations. If it doesn’t lead to downright fascination, at least it’ll intrigue them and go some way towards broadening other people’s minds about your country or ethnicity increasing respect, tolerance and knowledge.

How To Give Value To Others Culture

3. Leverage social currencies

Any conversation about how to give value to others should include social currencies. These are (mostly) non-financial assets we possess that we barter, trade and exchange throughout life in order to build connections with others and navigate our way in the world. As such, they embody the concept of giving value because that is what they are in a nutshell.

Social currencies can be physical such as your tangible assets and resources or they can be non-physical such as your personal traits and ability to provide different types of services.

One social currency you should absolutely leverage when you can is your ability to be a connector and grant others access to social possibilities they would otherwise lack. I call this ‘acting as an emissary’. In being the person that links others in meaningful ways, you become a social nexus and you’ll benefit from the network effects of doing so.

As social currencies encapsulate value giving, you’ll certainly have a few that you can fall back on overseas to enhance someone else’s life. Make a list of the ones you have and think about how you can better other people’s lives abroad with them.

How To Give Value To Others Social Currencies

4. Calibrate to people’s context culture

Sometimes giving value is less about what you actually pass on and more about what you don’t do.

Calibrating to other people’s context culture is a rarity among foreigners abroad. We all know that different cultures have distinctions among them but what’s less known is how to adjust your communication style to get the best out of interactions.

Most nationalities tend to fall high or low on the context culture continuum. High context cultures are less direct in their communication style and tend to value social harmony and collectivist tendencies. Low context cultures tend to be more direct and individualistic.

Being able to adjust your way of communicating is the hallmark of a socially intelligent and internationally savvy person. Locals abroad will appreciate you more from how smooth talking to you seems to be. When you take into account context culture, you’re giving value by making yourself a better person to interact with.

How To Give Value To Others Context

5. Focus on getting the best out of others

Want to know the ultimate go-to heuristic when wondering about how to give value to others abroad? It’s focusing on getting the best out of other people.

We can’t always know if other people want what we’re offering. They might not need us to teach our language, share our culture or receive some other social currency from us. But in an interaction, you will always give value if you focus on getting the best out of the other person you’re speaking to.

As author and entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi puts it in his seminal book ‘Never Eat Alone’:

Stop driving yourself—and everyone else—crazy thinking about how to make yourself successful. Start thinking about how you’re going to make everyone around you successful.

Positivity and interest beget positivity and interest. Sounds simple? That’s the point—we’re too often caught up in approaching interactions with what we want in mind that we forget we can make the dynamic better if we focus on what others want. Win-win situations occur when we’re net value adds (see below) in other people’s lives that they want to associate with us and reciprocate. And it all starts with the attitude and mindset of getting the best out of others.

How To Give Value To Others Focus

6. Your time

We’ve spoken about valuable assets already and there’s arguably none more valuable than time.

Time’s transience gives it a unique quality—no matter how rich, privileged or influential someone is, nobody can regain lost time, it’s one of the few things in life we can’t get back once it’s gone. For some inexplicable reason, time is continuously undervalued compared to money even though it’s more precious (if you doubt that, think about why most people want riches in the first place—to retire so they can have more time).

Bestowing your time to someone then is a huge deal. You’re contributing the power of your hours to the cause of someone else who’s own time is also finite.

Some people may view this as a sacrifice, after all time is the ultimate opportunity cost. But sacrifice implies that you’re taking a loss through an action, at least in the short-term, when in fact giving your time to someone else can be rewarding. Is it really a ‘sacrifice’ to volunteer for charitable efforts or is it gratifying in and of itself? Is it a ‘loss’ to help out at someone else’s event for free or is it a fun, purposeful learning experience that builds a strong contact in your network for years to come?

Give your time in meaningful ways—it’s a resource we all have and never goes unappreciated.

How To Give Value To Others Time

7. Bring your Value Add

Some resources of value are indiscriminate. As shown, calibration, focus and time belong to every one of us and it’s great to know we automatically have methods of value we can share no matter our situation.

But if you want to stand out, if you want to make your mark when thinking about how to give value to others abroad, you’ll want your x factor. Something unique. You’ll want your value add.

Your value add is something specific about you that you can bring to the table that no-one else has. It could be your expertise in a particular trade. It could be the unique way you fuse two different skillsets into one. It could be your polyglottic command of many languages. It could be your charming negotiation skills in closing leads. Whatever it is, find a way to squeeze it for all it’s worth.

Brainstorm something or even multiple things that are your value add(s). What makes you unique? What makes you special? What can you do that no-one else can?

When you’re able to provide this distinct aspect as value to others, you’ll be more rememberable. With nobody else to provide that value in your locality, your value add will be prized and coveted.

In many instances overseas, your value add will be even more underrepresented than in your home country. There are a ton of polyglots in Switzerland but few people can interpret and translate into multiple languages in South Korea or are an AI expert in Vietnam for example.

Find your value add(s) and leave your impression abroad.

How To Give Value To Others Give

SummaryHow to give value to others abroad

So much of success in lifestyle design relies on how to give value to others. The world is an interdependent place composed of social entities. If we want to operate with success we must help others and in doing so get helped in return.

When abroad, particularly when residing abroad, thinking about how to give value to others in unique ways is a way of strengthening our livelihood in a foreign country. Learn how to give value to others abroad and you’ll always find assimilation, meaning and contentment wherever you set foot on earth.

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