Abroad While Black: GK Life Lesson #1

Abroad While Black: GK Life Lessons is a custom list that we created to highlight some of the advantages and benefits of living and/or working abroad while black. The list will continue to grow regularly, so don’t forget to check for updates.

In the last few years, an unprecedented number of black millennials have hopped on international flights and discovered parts of the world their parents had never even heard of, let alone considered traveling to. Social media sites have emerged with images of black travelers doing some of the most stuntastic things you can imagine while on vacation: that one guy dabbing while on a camel ride in the Sahara dessert, or those girls whose entire clique was in formation while posing on the highest summit in the Himalaya’s wearing #blackgirlmagic t-shirts. We could go on.

However, living and/or working abroad for an extended period of time is still somewhat of an uncharted territory for most blacks. If you happen to be the type of black person who was courageous enough to fly across the world to take on that one-year assignment for your firm, or start an International Business masters degree at a South Korean university, you’d be hard pressed to find other black folks doing the same thing. The good news is, we are definitely outchea, just hard to find.

The next time you find yourself in a rut where you are either unenlightened, unchallenged, unhappy, or unproductive, we’d recommend leaving for a while. Here’s why:

  1. You will have an immediate impact on the perception of Black American culture.

We all know that the novelties of black culture always find their way to mainstream American culture, which always finds its way to other parts of the world. American music, TV shows, and movies are surprisingly often times being broadcasted in the nooks and crannies of a foreign country where you would least expect it. We once walked into a café, let’s just say there was an overwhelming majority of “European descendants” present, and heard an entire playlist that consisted of the latest Boosie album without one black person being in sight. Talk about globalization. This must be what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about.

There are many parts of the world that see the same negative images of blacks that are broadcast daily in the United States. The same programming is being consumed by an audience where most of them do not have any real exposure to, nor have they even come close to interacting with a black American. For many, their perceptions of blacks are solely based on how we are depicted through whatever choice of American entertainment or media they consume.  

We can assist with changing this by making ourselves present. Yeah, of course it gets annoying when you’ve been the only black person in a given situation. Especially when the white person you’ve been getting to know pretty well turns to you and says the dreaded, “you’re not like other black people.”

However, when someone who HAS NEVER MET A BLACK PERSON IN HIS OR HER LIFE tells you that you are not what he or she had expected because they assumed you to be more like the imported caricatures of black life from the United States, that is a breath of fresh air. It’s a positive learning moment when you have consciously decided to leave your comforts behind and then have someone tell you that you’ve taught them something they might not have been exposed to before getting to know you.

GK Life Lessons: Abroad While Black

See number 2! 

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