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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Valparaiso, Chile

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What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Valparaiso

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

I'm not sure what this means, but I was definitely aware of what i was getting myself into. I had travelled and volunteered in Canada, India, and throughout South America already, so I understood many things about entering a new culture.

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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 here, and I didn't know much when I first travelled here. I learned a little bit of it while volunteering here, but didn't speak it until I went back to Canada and had decided to move to Chile. That's when I really decided to start learning the language. When I was finally living here is when I became more comfortable speaking the language, and I picked it quickly. Having a Chilean partner really helps!

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

No, not really. Chile is very forward and, in a lot of ways, very similar to North America. Language is a bigger factor, I think.

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

Insignificant.

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?

Not really. I had to adjust to the change in temperature, the language, a different eating pattern (lunch is the biggest meal of the day), and crazy drivers. Other than that, I felt very comfortable from the beginning entering the culture.

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 was a bit frustrated with not having many people to talk to. Chileans can be friendly on the surface, but difficult to get to know. So, of course, this made me miss my own friends in Canada. Once I found work, I felt really good.

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

The focus on family! It is the most important focus of everyone's lives here! Also, the sense of community. People here seem like they are united when it's important to do so - during the earthquake, a political issue. They are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, nor unite during times of turmoil. I admire the nationality of this country for these reasons.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Getting to know people. How strangely people look at me when I prefer to drink a glass of water instead of a "bebida" (pop/soda), and when I want to use my own bags at the supermarket instead of getting the bag-boy to give me a new bag for every two items I buy.

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

The best thing is to stay motivated and positive and go out and look for people to talk to, things to see, things to do, all in very social settings. Realize that you're here because you want to be here. It's your decision to be there... unlike most people in the country you are in. So make the most of it!

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