Dreams take us all over the world. Dreaming that you’re in a foreign country isn’t trivial. They can mean that you’re exploring things you haven’t explored before. They can represent something new for you to learn. There are various things you can look at when interpreting what the foreign country represents in your dream (I’ve mentioned some in the tip box). In the body of this post, I want to focus on just one thing: language.

Understanding Foreign Countries in Dreams

When visiting a foreign country, the issue of language is a big deal. It’s the difference between being able to communicate with other people there and not being able to communicate with them. When you’re surrounded by people who don’t speak your language, it can be an incredibly isolating experience. The dynamic in dreams is similar. Even if you don’t come into contact with anyone who speaks a different language in a dream, the implication is that you’re exploring a part of yourself that you’re not able to understand.

I believe that our Self/identity becomes fragmented as we move from childhood to adulthood. It’s extreme in many trauma survivors like me*, but it exists in all of us to some degree. I think Carl Jung spoke of this with his concept of individuation. It’s a natural thing because as we grow up, we take on different roles in life. Some of those roles feel natural and some less natural. The process of individuation is a process of wholeness. We work to integrate the fragmented parts of ourselves, and dreams are one way we can do that. This also translates into embracing parts of our lives that we’ve been neglecting or suppressing.

Castle in Japan surrounded by a moat

In a series of dreams I had, the one in Japan symbolized the point where I was not understanding the messages from my fragmented Self. Matsumoto Castle in Japan. Photo by 663highland, courtesy of Wikimedia’s Creative Commons.

So foreign countries in dreams can reflect interactions with fragments of your Self or aspects of your life that aren’t integrated. But being in the country is already a good sign. It demonstrates the first step towards integration. Sometimes dream characters will speak to you in a foreign language, which shows that these fragments were in close contact with you on some conscious level but you didn’t really get their message. Other times, you’ll just observe things they do, and these can give you some clues as to what you need to integrate or are trying to integrate.

Tip

Although language is important when dealing with foreign countries in dreams, you shouldn’t forget to explore personal associations to these countries because they can give you some insights into what the country represents to you as well. Personal associations to countries include the following questions:

  • Have you ever lived there? If so, the country could represent some past issues.
  • Would you like to live there? If so then the country could represent some desire or goal you have.
  • Would you never live there? If so then the country shows something you’re trying to avoid or are avoiding. Consider what it is about the country that makes you not want to ever visit it. For instance, if you think it’s not a secure country to be in and you dream of it, you might be dealing with issues of insecurity.
  • What are your assumptions about people who live there or the lifestyle there? These characteristics could indicate some issue you’re dealing with. For example, if you assume most Africans live in poverty and you dream you’re in Africa, this could represent concerns about your financial state or a state of emotional poverty (such as a negative attitude to life).

Language in Dreams

When it comes to the language aspect of foreign countries in dreams, there are two basic situations:

  1. You don’t understand a word of the language.
  2. You understand the language but it’s still a foreign country.

You may find that as you gain greater understanding of these “foreign” parts, you move from countries in the first category to countries in the second category. For instance, I recently had a series of dreams with the following locations:

  1. My country of birth, where I know the language.** This is a foreign country that represents past family issues. I can understand this part of me but only through the language of the past. This began the process of integration.
  2. An unknown country. This can represent a transition into a part of the mind that I haven’t explored before.
  3. An unnamed country in the same region as my country of birth where I don’t know the language. This shows moving gradually away from the past issues that have caused the fragmentation. I can’t quite understand what’s going on here, however, because I can’t speak the language.
  4. Japan, where I don’t know the language. This is a more dramatic representation of fragmentation because I can’t understand the language.
  5. Germany, where I don’t speak the language. I’m still struggling to understand what I’m being guided on.
  6. England, where I understand the language. It’s still a foreign country, but I can understand something of what’s going on.
  7. San Francisco, where I used to live and understand the language. The process of integration is progressing because San Francisco was the place where I made a major break from my past.
  8. Home. The integration has progressed enough so that I can understand what this issue is all about.

Integration can take a long time, and you may find that you’re going through these dream “travels” several times as you deal with the same issues. Environmental details like location are one of my favorite aspects of a dream because you’ve got concrete ideas to work with. Please take the trouble to explore what underlies foreign countries in dreams because they can help you become whole.

* The most extreme case of this is dissociative identity disorder. Fragments of the Self actually take control of consciousness, and the primary identity is partially or entirely unaware of them. Note that a high percentage of people with DID are survivors of abuse and other traumas.

** For privacy reasons, I prefer not to mention my country of birth publicly.