I have spent almost 4 years abroad on my own. Full immersion. I arrived with the knowledge of technical English (I could understand and support a conversation on the condensed matter and nuclear physics topics) and nearly 600 freshly learned GRE words on my tongue. Before landing on the American contitnent, I firmly believed that my language was great, as well as pronunciation. Those were somewhat illusory when I was facing daily survival activities. Time passed by, and per ardua I developed into a functional society member who can deliver their thoughts with wit and has a decent skill of contextual understanding. And these days, I am being bluntly told by Russians that I have no Russian mentality, that I am a stranger and a foreigner. I started thinking on what defines the mentality and whether it even can relate to the national aspect. It can be specifically investigated through the experience of assimilation in a different country.
Undoubtedly, living in another country does something to a person. It is true that to get an advantage of the full spectrum of opportunities your new environment can provide, one needs to get adapted (language, law, etiquette, work ethics, etc.). Alternatively, a newly arrived person can join the local national community and be somewhat limited trading the range of freedoms for cultural comfort. However, there is something much stronger than national differences that gives rise to the new, previously non-existent personality.
We are all born free and beautiful, with no prejudice and paradigms. One can visualize a new-born personality as a smooth reflective sphere. Then, dependent on the type of comfort our family is seeking in society, we are learning the patterns. The sphere starts getting polished flat grains, which represent strong opinions, narrowing previously accessible range of receptiveness. However, evolving in the ill surroundings, the sphere that was initially able to have such a diverse, crystal-clear native interaction with the radiance of the world folds into some ugly shape being bombarded with narrow-minded opinions and judgements driven by fear and daily fight with the environment that expresses abjection to the mere concept of personal happiness. Yet, such externally deformed mind can communicate with other minds around it on the same form-defining bases. And yes, such mind can submit to this shape and build some sort of existence from that nasty starting point. Actually, obeying to the toxic social codes against one's personal lawful preferences and desires is what I would define as dysfunctional, unhappy mentality.
To be fair, in the past, my sphere just cringed and wrinkled to minimize its area exposed to the external factors. Moving to another country was one of the decisions that paved a path to the personal happiness and recovery of the shining unrestrained mind. In this context, the change in personality, in "mentality", that was rather triggered than caused by changing the society and environment revealed itself as an unfolding of the freedom of a beloved child. To quickly adapt, you really need to open up to learning lots of new things and codes in the same manner a toddler would do it. You need to probe how new surrounding world receives you, the way your mother would, vulnerable and open. I gradually came to realization that I have a huge playground and toys in my hands, that I have multiple parental figures around me that are willing to guide me in my new state of mind, that my energy now serves creativity, not fighting with the windmills. At the same time, one of the most challenging tasks was to learn to feel safe when everything is good, while I had been previously trained to feel safe only in a permanent distress.
This transformation, unfolding of a free mind was not momentarily. In addition, it was associated with a tremendous shift in the mindset. Sitting in a swamp, one may feel very secure, but sitting on a beautiful tree, there is a hazard of falling down. To make that beautiful tree a comfortable place one needs to become a bird. One needs to strip away all burdens and calluses of the previous embodiment. For instance, prohibit nostalgia and contemplation on "what if", as well as any destructive (i.e., non productive) thoughts. Learn to value the time, energy and learn to enjoy productive problem solving. Get into a habit of questioning any externally arriving paradigms and previous teachings that are sitting in one's mind as undeniable rules. Practice validation of any coming information through the prism of one's personal harmony. Learn the beauty of listening to one's own desires and wishes. Open the mind to multiple points of view and accept an idea of diversity and appreciation of others. Develop a sincere respect of someone else's freedom.
Incorporating all these tools into my daily life, over time I started harvesting very nice fruits. On the one hand, I simply returned to my inherent personality in order to adapt to the new life efficiently. On the other hand, I released a lot of power to bring a new harmonious mindset to being. Exercising the mind and unfolding it from the defense state was so necessary to find those beautiful ways with which I can now communicate with the world. It was such an essential experience that was enabled by moving to another country. Through that, I realized that there is so much more in common between people than the cultural staples when we get rid of superficial and externally enforced stuff, when we liberate from parasitic societal and ideological frameworks. I feel like "your mentality is not Russian" is a wonderful compliment becasue it just negates one of the restrictions on the mindset.