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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Pereira, Colombia


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?

Not at all!

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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?

They speak Spanish, but I do not. I had a basic understanding of Spanish, but it turns out that it was Mexican Spanish...trust me when I say there is a BIG difference. The LL sound in Mexican Spanish is pronounced Y, whereas in Colombian Spanish it is pronounced J. People love asking me my address because I still pronounce calle as cayay instead of cajay. I have started Spanish lessons, but not soon enough.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I was aware of culture shock, but wasn't particularly worried. I studied culture shock as part of my degree and knew what to watch for.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

My culture shock is still on-going and IS extremely significant.

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?

Honeymoon phase: This didn't last as long as I would have preferred. Possibly a week. I loved everything and everyone.

Irritation-to-anger stage: This was probably my most interesting stage. I was lucky enough to instantly make friends here and only had them to talk to. They weren't too thrilled with my complaining. I whined about being stared at, about how the food has NO spice, how I nervous I am, etc. I didn't pull through this until I realized that I was isolating myself.

Rejection of the culture stage: I still feel like I'm somewhat in this stage. I am still refusing to wear Colombian clothing. To me it is too revealing. I also had a hard time forgetting my culture's food. Finally, was my rejection of Colombia's sense of time management. I still expect everything to happen on an American time schedule.

Cultural adjustment phase: I am just beginning this phase. On some things I am willing to conform to a Colombian time schedule, but not always. I have also fully embraced Colombia's food.

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 had a decreased appetite. To the point that people had to remind me to eat. My caffeine intake exponentially increased along with this. I suffered from daily, almost debilitating, headaches from overload.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

The people! The people I have met here are the most sincere and kind people I have ever met. I am from the Mid-West (USA), but have never experienced the level of hospitality that I have here. Colombians never take themselves too serious. They always take the time to enjoy life and explore its possibilities. This is something that I am hoping I will learn while living here.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

I have the American sense of time ingrained in my very soul. I am really struggling to accept that things don't always happen when I want them to. I purchased a refrigerator that was promised to be delivered the next day at 4pm. 4pm came and went with no refrigerator being delivered. I then called the company and they assured me that it would be delivered by 8pm that night. Again, it was not. This pattern continued for several more days, until it was finally delivered. It didn't HURT me to wait, but was extremely frustrating for me.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

My use of Mexican Spanish is a constant embarrassment. People love hearing me use it and often laugh. It's all in good humor, but is something I am always conscious of. People also love my gringa accent. I'm always getting asked to say certain words because I struggle pronouncing them.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

This to shall pass...

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Comments about this Report

Sep 8, 2010 23:10

do you know any place in this city to learn spanish. and how much cost to rent a room/ thank info4u@3000@yahoo.com

Nov 2, 2011 09:32

Hi, Nov2,2011 I am in Pereira, Colombia at the present and would like to meet up with other expats. Please drop me a line Norm

Jul 23, 2012 14:02

I have a different experience. I am Mexican American, and when we speak, I can readily understand everything between the two cultures . As a matter, of fact, I think it took about a month to catch up to the speed of the locals. I think you're right. Time is somewhat minuscule here. I had to wait a 1 1/2 to get a deposit back from a broken real estate deal. I am lucky to have gotten the money bank. Note: deal with attorneys in all business matters. I was in the Santa Marta area for over a year. The heat was unbearable and with no air conditioning it was excruciating. Crime has risen dramatically in this area and no doubt unemployment and the loss of the global fleet of cruise ships is compounding the problem for work and commerce. As of this writing, I am heading back to the Armenia area. Pre-visits to the areas are not only important but crucial to moving out of the country. I do miss my jalapenos and all the spicy food when I travel there. The strangest thing is that McDonald's carries the jalapeno. Colombia is beautiful and inexpensive. Exciting and filled with great expectations.

Nov 21, 2013 00:02

Great post!

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