Living Abroad and Body Image

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Having the experience to live abroad and share in a different culture can be an exciting time. Immersing yourself in a different way of living can be eye opening and allow you to experience a new perspective with a culture that may be drastically different from the one you are used to living in.

Whether living abroad for schooling or learning opportunity, a job offer, relocating for the military, or just for traveling purposes, the chance to submerge yourself in a new culture can be a rich and invaluable opportunity.

Seeing Correlations and Comparisons in Other Cultures

Living in a new culture can also be a chance to reflect on your own body image and to observe the cultural correlations that exist with the development of body image. Depending on where you are relocating, you may notice a stark difference in the way that other cultures observe and celebrate their bodies and their physical abilities.

If you are coming from a Western culture that is strongly influenced and immersed in the dieting mentality, it can be a refreshing experience to see a different and positive body image perspective in other cultures.

How Other Cultures Encourage a Better Body Image

Some cultures rightly emphasize self-care and prioritize rest, relaxation and nourishment over other achievements and goals. This may include taking longer for meal time preparation, enjoying meals with others, taking time during the day for rest and relaxation, and doing activities that support fellowship with family members and friends.

Beautiful teenager girl depressed sitting on the floor outdoorYou may also find that other cultures do not emphasize appearance and physical looks as much as they do abilities or togetherness with friends and families.

Understanding Other Cultures

Living abroad for any length of time can be an important time to understand differences in culture and how this influences body image. This may also be a valuable and unique time to analyze your own body image and how your daily practices either help or hinder your ability to build a positive body image.

Take the experiences you have the opportunity to engage in to support a healthy positive body image in your own life.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you had the experience of living abroad in a different culture? How has this impacted your body image? Did you experience negative or positive changes with your body image, or both?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 12th, 2015
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