Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Bien Hoa, Vietnam
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?
I didn't get any pre-trip training. Nor did I seek it out, which was my mistake. I had lived in SE Asia for a couple of years when I was a child, so I didn't expect to be "shocked".
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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?
I knew nothing of Vietnamese before I moved there. I didn't even know which writing system they used. I spent six months there & tried very hard to learn the language, but it was very difficult to learn, not only because the language itself is difficult, but it was difficult for me to meet Vietnamese people to practice with.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No. I didn't expect to be "shocked" at all. It was only later that I realized that the frustration I was experiencing was culture shock.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Pretty significant. I was so unhappy there that I moved away after only six months. I didn't realize that my frustrations were due to culture shock. If I had known that while I was experiencing it, I might have been able to stay there longer. It's important to understand what culture shock is to be able to recognize it in yourself.
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?
Sure. At first I was excited to be living in another country (honeymoon stage), taking lots of photos & describing my daily life on my blog. Then found myself increasingly irritated at the cultural differences, & I moved away before I reached any of the other stages.
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.
Frustration, homesickness, anger, depression.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
I love being able to ask how old someone is.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
It's very difficult to be a Western woman living in Vietnam. The Vietnamese culture is very male-oriented, so it took several months before I was able to make any friends - & then it was just one friend. I felt lonely most of the time.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I probably did, but you get away with a lot in Vietnam. They just figure you're weird because you're a foreigner. For example, Vietnamese women don't drink or smoke unless they're prostitutes. But I could do both without consequence because I'm a foreigner.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
I think the most important thing when dealing with culture shock is realizing that you're dealing with culture shock. You're not crazy. The frustrations that you feel are a normal part of the process of adjusting to a new place & a new culture. Once you understand that, it's much easier to handle.
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Vietnam