Saturday, 1 February 2014

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Old World Or New World: Which Do You Prefer?


It's a stupid question, isn't it?

Because it shouldn't matter. Any country or region has its own strengths and selling points. Why should you care whether your part of the world is better than the other part? Why should you care that the place you want to live in is a better choice for you and your family?

Because it can matter. When it comes to the Old World and New World, there are differences. And if you've living abroad or have thought about doing so, you might wonder what those differences actually are.

You might make comparisons in terms of history and culture. Or as relates to lifestyle and job prospects.

I've lived in the New World for the past eleven years and, for me, the main difference comes down to attitudes.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (anjakb)

Old world, new world

The term 'Old World' was originally coined to cover Europe, Africa and Asia, while the 'New World' represented the Americas (North and South) and, eventually, Oceania.

In effect, the Old World was the part of the world known to Europeans before the first European contact with the Americas.

The terminology is largely historical but over time has been used to represent the differences in traditions and values, cultures and opinions, people and places. The old versus the new.

Modern day comparisons relate to working life, health care, crime rates, cost of living and other such factors. When you talk about the Old World, a distinct set of behaviours and beliefs may jump to mind. With the New World, an opposite set might come forth. Or not.

Modern day differences

In reality, the differences between the two are probably few and far between.

You could argue that the Old World Europeans have a more generous work set-up with annual holiday allowances set at five weeks in the UK and a combination of statutory leave and bonus leave giving employees in France almost ten weeks. By comparison, Australia, Canada and the US have much less and a "work hard" mentality is prevalent.

You could argue that the cost of living has been much higher in the Old World if you take cities such as London, Paris and Berlin. However, the New World has equally expensive cities with New York, Vancouver and Sydney three of the planet's most costly to live in.

Welfare provision in Europe is traditionally strong, where as the US falls woefully short. Health care and education standards can be a bit of a mixed bag, while unemployment rates and economic growth fluctuates between the two.

What interests me most aren't the difference above but the perceived differences in people's attitudes.

Divided by our attitudes

The Old World is a part of the world where the values, traditions and social make-up are embedded in hundreds of years of living. And this can come through in the attitudes of the people.

You might say that the Old World has a conservative mindset and sticks to established notions, where once they were entirely new. There is a common tendency towards negative thinking, a lingering sense of seeing life's ups and downs as setbacks and issues, rather than potential opportunities.

You might say that the Old World doesn't always embrace change, preferring to keep things the way they've always been because why fix something when it ain't broke? The Old World is seen as set in its ways, determined to stay the course, steadfast in its opinions and views.

By contrast, the New World could be seen as an embodiment of the present and, some would say, of the future. There is a sense of anticipation, the view that anything is possible. You might say that the New World looks at life through a different lens, preferring to see what could be improved upon and fixed, rather than putting up with things the way they are.

You might say there is more of an open mindedness in these parts and memories are short, people living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past. Positivity is the word of the day and anything can happen if you choose to look at life in that frame of mind.

You might say there's no difference at all. It's more about the individual and the way you choose to look at life. And how you choose to live it.

If you're considering a move abroad and are keen to know more about differences like these and individual experiences, I recently contributed to the HiFX Expat Tips page where expats from around the world share their tips for living life in both the Old World and the New.

The most important advice I ever give is to try before you buy because the differences are there, on the surface or hidden just below. Plan a fact-finding trip prior to your big move and you'll see those differences head on before they sneak up and surprise you.

So which do you prefer and why? The Old World or the New World? Or does it even matter? Do share your thoughts below.


10 comments:

Laura Fortey said... Add Reply

Great thoughts here Russ! I've always thought it was funny in the New World when people always ask "whats your background?" We are never "Canadian" we are Dutch, (as in my case) or Russian or Italian or for most people, a mix of British, Scottish etc etc. But you woyld never ask a Brit what's your background? I suppose thats a major difference I see. I wonder if that will change through the generations..
Also, I think the work hard mentality comes from a new country having to prove something for themselves. And to be able to be part of a contribution to making and shaping a new country is something we can definitely be proud of! We are in control and have the option to make our new worlds better !! :)

Chris Wright said... Add Reply

True, I think it also depends on if its an old or young population.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

That's true, Chris. I think that would have an impact on people's considerations.

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks Laura! And interesting that most Brits would probably have a mix of backgrounds but wouldn't class themselves in that way as such. Agree very much with your last comment - and work hard is often closely followed by play hard! My sense in Australia is that people are proud of their achievements but keen to keep building. The same was true of Canada and Canadians too... when you could get them out of Tim Hortons ;)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Hi Pei, I'm sure Carrie will reply but I'd add that it's a fear of mine too - imagine making that huge move back and then regretting it, only to want to return back to where you came from. One thing I might do is to keep property where you are so you can go back if you need to. Another thing is do the research - maybe go back for a visit. And finally remember that nothing at home has changed but YOU have - it can mean the difference between loving being back and not liking it at all. Not easy, is it?!

Rob H said... Add Reply

Great post Russell! I think we were talking about something similar before, the new world can definitely feel lighter! Thanks for putting out some pointers everyone can relate to :)

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

Thanks Rob. Definitely lighter! Cheers for the comment :)

John Gorge said... Add Reply

Nice and catchy question, If given a chance i would prefer the old world due to nice environment. But the advantage of the new world is unquestionable. Everything is easy as eating a piece of cake.

Carrie said... Add Reply

Interesting piece Russell! I also think it is up to the individual and what s/he chooses in terms of her/his mentality. You can find New World people in the Old World who have never lived in the New World...it's just that they prefer to use a different lens to view life. And there are probably people in the New World who are more akin to the Old World. But I do see there are subtle differences between the two in general. Fascinating!

Russell V J Ward said... Add Reply

All about the lens. I agree. Comes back to attitudes and how you look at life. I found once I broke out into the New World, my mentality shifted and I saw things much more positively but you can certainly have that outlook wherever you are in the world. I call this post my 'big generalisation' piece! ;)

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