Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Singapore, Singapore
What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?
No, I received some off-the-cuff informal emails from on-site colleagues. I adapted well but I did appear to the locals as baing somewhat naive.
Moving to Singapore soon?
If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?
British English is the primary business language. In the smaller markets, local Chinese dialects prevail (illegal if spoken in Singapore). Mandarin is the official Chinese dialect.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not really. Having lived in NYC, I felt I could live anywhere. I was unprepared, tho, for the smells and the open hole toilettes.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Initally, I was really challenged to absorb without prejudice. After a few weeks, I became normalized to the sights, smells, and sounds.
Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?
I settled in quite quickly. Some colleagues refused to accept the contrasts - food safety, cleanliness, and body smells were very obviously different from American norms. My friends ate only at Western-style eateries. I mostly ate from the street food stalls. My friends became ill whereas I was never ill once. Must have been all the curry in the food that i was eating.
What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.
I became more broadminded, and I felt that life in America was too protective, too "nice" and too picturesque. The shock of living and seeing the 3rd world was a true eye opener.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
Pushed me outside myself. I feel more comfortable in other countries than in America.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
When I lived in Singapore, the most challenging aspects were leaving behind the lessons learned while in Singapore. Applying lessons learned in my daily life tended to isolate me from my core friends. They did not like the changes seen in me.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Take it all in humor. Remember, we're in THEIR home country...and WE are the ones who are different.
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Singapore