6 Truths I Didn’t Know Until I Lived Abroad


Summer is the time for traveling and experiencing new cultures, and even though I would consider myself a pretty experienced traveler, there were a few truths I never realized until I lived in another country and worked with people from other cultures. Check out these 6 truths below and let me know if you are as surprised as I was when I came across them!

1. Animals make different sounds in other languages.

I know this is kind of a funny truth, but it is one that still cracks me up! I came across this when I was reading a bilingual book we had of Clifford on the Farm. We read it through in English with all the familiar animal sounds that I had grown up with, but then when I read it in Spanish I realized instead of the Chickens saying “cluck, cluck” they say “pio, pio.” Or instead of the rooster saying “cock-a-doodle-do” they say “qui-quiri-qui.” Now, every time I hear a song or read a book in Spanish with animals, it makes me smile to know this little truth.

2. The date is written differently.

In Latin American countries at least, the date is written with the day, month, then the year. For example, instead of 7/2/2019 you would write 2/7/2019. I know this might be another funny truth, but trust me it plays tricks on your mind when you are trying to figure out if food is expired!

3. Country names are very different depending on the language.

Once I realized this, I had one of those duh moments, but I have to share it in case you are finding yourself in the same situation I was in. I remember thinking about this when we were watching the Olympics and Russia was on the screen wearing their warm-ups. Written across their chest was the word Россия. I sat there dumbfounded why they would have that written, not Russia. It wasn’t until I did research that this is the word Russia in Russian, which is obviously what they would call themselves in their own language! It became one of those moments that I realized how much I still had to learn about the world and different cultures!

4. The world runs and thinks in the metric system.

This is one of those mysteries of life for me, why the US (and a few other countries) felt the need to stray away from the Metric System… a system that makes sense and is used by almost every other country! This has been so hard for me to relate to what people are talking about when they refer to the weather being 25 degrees and it not referring to it being cold! Or every time I take my daughter’s temperature I have to figure out if 39 celsius is a fever or not. Or when I fill up my car in liters, how much that is when I am used to gallons. I’m sharing this more to let you know this is how life is in most countries, so have your students who come from other countries help make sense of that to the other students when you touch on the metric system during math!

5. Each Spanish speaking country has its own accent and some differences in vocabulary.

I knew that there was an obvious difference between a Spanish speaker from Spain and a Spanish speaker from Mexico, but I had no idea that between the Latin American countries there was such a distinct way each country speaks. For a non-native Spanish speaker, you probably wouldn’t pick up on it, but for a native Spanish speaker, they can quickly tell where someone is from just by listening to them speak for a few minutes. I was so surprised by this! It was also fun to learn that there are a few words said in one country that are harmless but when they are said in another country they can be very vulgar.

6. There is a debate about how many continents there are!

During my first year teaching at an International School in Panama, I had the awesome opportunity to be on a team with 2 Panamanian teachers, 1 British teacher, and myself, the American. We had a great time working together, and I learned so much from their perspectives and experiences, but every once in a while something would come up that we could not agree on how to teach. One of those topics was the continents. I adamantly said that there are 7 continents, while the Panamanian teachers said there were 5 because North and South American were just considered the Americas, and the British teacher claimed that Europe and Asia were really Eurasia and Australia was Oceania. I can’t even remember what we decided on, but this memory has stuck with me! Even after research, there are a lot of differing opinions, so it was a reminder that just because I learned something one way growing up, does not mean it is always the correct way.

So there you have it! A few things to make you ponder this summer as you might be traveling around. I’d love to know which of these truths you found most surprising and any truths you’ve come across as you’ve experienced different cultures!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Find a variety of best selling resources created specifically with the diverse needs of ELLs in mind.