Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Fortaleza, Brazil
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 moved on my own and was not transfering for employment.
Moving to Brazil 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?
I didn't speak Portuguese at all when I came here 6 years ago but although I am still not fluent...a story in itself...I can get along in most situations.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No, for some strange reason, I wasn't really worried about Brazil because my research showed the Brazilian people to be very social and accepting of expats.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Well, for sure there was some. It actually continues because of the different levels of society between my wife and I. But overall I have been very happy with my choice. I could not have found a better partner than Thieny anywhere else in the world!
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 cannot actually identify with these, now that I think about it. I do recognize the honeymoon phase though, and I think the adjustment stage is on-going!
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.
Surprisingly, I have had no homesickness. Maybe that has to do with the VERY toxic environment I escaped from in coming here!
I have gone through some of the emotions listed, but not because of the culture in particular, but because of events.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
I think the Brazilian people continue to amaze me with their resiliance! Their lives, in most cases, are very hard, from our point of view, but as I noticed when I first came here, and had heard from others before I arrived, they still find a way to laugh, party and socialize with friends and family, particularly on weekends.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
In my case, trying to adapt from the North american mentality, where we worry most about making more and paying bills and relaxing more. It has to do partly with the fact that life for many Brazilians is much harder than middle class North Americans experience.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
You do have to remember things like the "this is my space" issue with Brazilians. They are different from us in that way. Also in conversations, they seem to interrupt all the time without even thinking about it.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
I still think it's important to make a life changing move like this to think well in advance, if possible, and to learn a little of the language.
Also try and come with as open a mind as possible and please realize that this is NOT the US! There is NOT a McDonalds on every corner and the customs and levels of society are different. Be accepting.
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