As you begin to examine countries up close with an eye to thinking about living there, a myriad of question topics emerge. Life is complex, and there are many important parts of life to be considered as you think about places where we would like to live. Those are even more varied and crucial when you are considering living in a foreign country.
One of the factors to be considered is the importance of religion in your life . . . And how the countries you are considering align with those beliefs. To some, religion is not particularly important. To others, it is a very foundational part of life.
For those for whom religion is not important, the questions center round the predominant religion in the country and how it might affect certain areas of their lives. For instance . . .
Does the predominant religion limit my freedoms in any way?
Some religions prohibit certain behaviors by the general population or particular behaviors for certain genders or racial groups. If you enjoy the use of alcohol and do not wish to relinquish that activity, then you wouldn’t want to move to a country where alcohol is prohibited. Or, certain countries restrict the activities and freedoms of women. Is it worth that for me or my family?
It is imperative that you investigate both the cultural laws and the governmental laws of the country under consideration. As we’ve said before, get on forums and ask questions. Look up these topics on the internet. Contact people who have lived in the countries and ask the questions.
For those who practice a particular religion regularly and consistently, the questions are a bit different:
Does the country of choice freely allow the practice of my religious beliefs publicly?
Are there laws against the practice of my religion? Will I able to meet with other like-minded people without repercussions? In some countries, while there may be no laws against other religions, there may be subtle or even blatant prejudice against those who practice certain religions. Would this be a source of stress for me?
Are there other people in the country who share my religious beliefs and how important is it for me to be able to meet with these folks?
For my wife and me, being involved in a group of religiously like-minded people, both with other expats and locals, has proven to be an invaluable source of strength, community, and meaningful relationships in three different foreign countries. We have experienced the positive impact of this in very poor communities in religious meeting places with dirt floors and scrap metal walls; and in communities who meet in the most modern, upscale facilities; and in groups that meet in private homes in small groups.
If your religious beliefs are an integral part of your life, you need to – and I know I keep saying this because it’s so important – research, talk to people who live there, and inquire through your church or religious organization regarding practices in the country(ies) you are considering. If religion is important to you, make sure you can freely engage in it and enjoy the benefits of it in your life in your new country.
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