Playing basketball overseas was one of the best experiences I've had in my life so far. It not only gave me the opportunity to continue playing the game that I loved, but it also gave me a new perspective on life. Almost everyone I have talked to that has traveled abroad at some point in their lives can attest to the idea of how being around a different environment opens your eyes to many things and you realize that the world is a lot bigger than we think. In this post, I want to talk about some of the differences I experienced between living in the US vs. Overseas.
Initially what I experienced the first couple months of living overseas was definitely a culture shock. Trying to adjust to a new way of living was tough. You are there to play basketball so that was the first priority but outside of that I still had to figure out how to get myself situated in a new country. Below are some of the main things I noticed:
One of the biggest things that took a while to get used to was the time zone. I was 9 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. It took me about 3 weeks to get my sleeping schedule on track, and there were a lot of late nights and naps during the day that helped me get my sleep schedule on track. I wish I would have brought some melatonin! The other hard part was communicating with people back home because of the time difference. Say I wake up at 9 AM, it's 1 AM back home so for the first part of my day people are asleep. If they wake up at 8 AM it is 4 PM and I’m usually at the gym and by the time I get back around 7 PM I only have 3 or 4 hours to talk to people before I go to bed. It sounds weird but you have to get used to talking to yourself because they aren’t too many other people from back home that will be up at the same time. I went from being able to talk to people at all times of the day to only a small window.
Also because of the time difference, I missed out on watching a lot of sports games. For example, the Super Bowl started at 6:30 PM back home, it was 3:30 AM for me and I was sleeping through it. So, you end up watching a lot of highlights the next day. So, when I got back home it was great to be able to watch live sports! On a side note, Netflix was way better than it is in the US. It had so many more options and current shows and movies so that was a pleasant surprise.
Different Appliances, Outlets, Cell Coverage
Before I had gone over there, I knew I had to bring some different outlets with me because our plugs aren't the same as theirs. I had gotten a few of those for my phone charger but that was about it. It wasn't until I got over there and was trying to figure out why my laptop wouldn't charge that I needed to buy a converter. Once I did that, I was straight, but it was definitely a learning curve! The next thing was not having a dryer. I’ve heard that in Europe dryers aren’t as widespread and most people hang up their clothes. You had to plan your laundry days a bit more than usual because of the extra time it took for your clothes to air dry. When I came back home I was definitely appreciative of having a dryer at my disposal again!
The cell coverage was also a difference. I chose not to do an international plan so the whole time I was gone I had my cell data turned off. The only time I would be able to use it for calls, texts, etc. was when I had Wi-Fi. There would be times I would go to text someone and I would be like dang, I don't have Wi-Fi. So, the first thing I would always do no matter where I went was ask for the Wi-Fi! In the long run, it was probably better because I wasn't spending as much time on my phone than if I could text and call all the time.
Relating to Others
Another adjustment was connecting to others. My roommate was an American so that definitely helped especially in the beginning when we were both trying to figure things out. A lot of the time for my teammates, especially the ones that were from the country and never been to the US, they asked us all types of questions about our culture. A lot of what they get of it is from social media, tv, and music. To be in that position where you're essentially a voice for your whole culture was cool and you also wanted to give a good impression of what an American is. On the flip side, we are asked them questions about their culture and learned from them, so it was a mutual feeling at the end of the day.
Overt Staring and Being Black
So, there's a difference between looking and overtly staring. Overtly staring is like a stare and then stare some more until you disappear out of sight. I experienced a lot of that. Being 6'7, you already stick out in a major way, especially because a lot of the people there aren't that tall. The 2nd thing is, being black you really stand out! For a lot of people, that might have been their first time seeing a black person because most of the black people that were there in the city that I saw were players from other teams. A lot of the people there were very curious to see someone that looks so different from them. But once again it's a chance to be an ambassador for your race and culture and show them a different side to what they might be seeing from media.
Of course, going to any new country there is going to be a language barrier if you don't already speak the language. It wasn't too bad and for the most part, the majority of the people spoke English. Some English was better than others and some people didn't speak English at all. Google Translate was definitely a big help, especially in the beginning! When I would go to the grocery I was glad they had people there that spoke good English. Trying to figure out what is what was a challenge because of the labels and I definitely would have been hesitant to try something if they couldn't even tell me what it was.
My coach was an older guy and his English was okay, but we had enough guys on the team that could translate and tell me what he was saying if it was really important. When it came to learning the language, I was actually able to learn a lot from basketball because when they were constantly speaking it in practice or calling out plays, I would ask what something would mean and that's how I was able to get better at their language.
Being Grateful for the Comforts and Little Things of Home
Now that I am back home, I am definitely grateful for some of the things we take for granted. I realized that I don't need as many clothes, shoes, and things like that and all of that stuff is definitely a luxury. A lot of things are convenient and made easy for us in the US and that can be both good and bad. In times of reflection, I can definitely say that I live a blessed life and was glad I got to play overseas, gain a new perspective on life, and I'm looking forward to the next season!