What did I learn, by interacting with people from over 100 countries?

10 years ago, I joined Facebook with a single objective, “To interact with people from other countries and improve my outlook towards other cultures.” I have always been a curious person, interested to meet different individuals. To me, every Human is a different computer program and requires a different approach to initiate a conversation, finding common ground, building mutual trust, and further ever-lasting friendship. Unlike a computer program, interacting with a fellow human being is totally unpredictable, cannot be pre-programmed but it is very exciting.

In the last 10 years, I took my curiosity to another level. From Uruguay to New Zealand, Sudan to Siberia, Venezuela to Japan; I got the opportunity to speak individuals/professionals from more than 100 countries. Be it an informal meeting at the Airport, or someone sitting next to me while traveling through Bus, through pen friendship, beginning a conversation at an online discussion forum or in the several events I have participated; I used every such opportunity to connect and further broadening my horizons.

So what did I learn from this experience lasting for 10 years? Is there anything you can take away from my experiences?

1. Better Listening & Observation Skills: Just like me, every non-native English speaker has a distinctive accent many times overlapped with their native tongue. Initially, it was very difficult for me to understand everything, even though it was said in English. Lot of confusions, misunderstandings, and laughable scenarios became a routine. The solution to this problem was indeed very simple.

I started paying close attention to every word, taking notes more frequently, observing variations in the sound, and asking other people to repeat/write in the event of any confusion. It has made me a better listener and better focused during conversations, maybe 1000 times better.

2. Developing a simple language: Even though English is used regularly by many people across the world, the usage of vocabularies is not the same. Some words are more recognizable across different regions than others. For example, more people recognized ‘buy’ as compared to ‘purchase’, even though they have the same meaning. This is true for many other words. Through continuous interaction with non-native English speakers from Central Asia, South America, Japan, China, France, Russia allowed me to reflect on my own English style. Still learning but today my text contains much easier, simpler words than before.

3. Becoming a global thinker: Interactions with natives on social, political, economic topics helped to understand these countries better. Some of such topics were: Discussing Ageing population in Japan, Business development opportunities in far east part of Russia, Revival of Maori language in New Zealand, Rise in Mobile Payment in Eastern Africa, Language variations in South Africa, Social impact of reduction of oil prices in Venezuela, Urbanization in China, Immigration crisis in Europe, North-South divide in Sudan, Territorial disputes between Bolivia and Chile to name a few. Such discussions made me a ‘global thinker’ and also helped to develop a network of trusted friends and colleagues.

4. Making peace with time zone: Making your schedule to work with different time zones is a fun-filled mathematical exercise if done without an online scheduler. Slightly crazy at first, though it will turn into a good brain exercise later.

Hopefully, my experience will help you in some way or other to become a better individual and a successful professional.

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