Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
La Redorte, France
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 am now retired, so the move was at our own choice/expense. Our preparation was in fact spending 6-years of annual leave visiting France in summer and winter and reading up news items, books, reference documents etc. to help complete as much preparatory work before leaving the UK, i.e. obtain a certificate of conformity for the car while still in the UK, etc.
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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?
My native tongue is English and where we have moved to there is a French dialect which is heavily influenced by proximity to Spain so many words are different as is pronunciation.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
No. We lived in the USA (Michigan and Florida) for nearly 10yrs, (15yrs. ago) so moving and living abroad was not a new experience for us.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
It was not. As per above response, we had prepared ourselves / spent as much time in France as work/leave permitted.
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. French administration is notorious and lives up to its name. However, we have always found official staff in face-to-face situations to be extremely helpful. Not necessarily so when on the telephone when they seem to speak faster when they know you are not French. We make a point of speaking French (even though it is not very good at present) and that effort is well received. We also attend weekly French classes and have been welcomed by our neighbours, including being invited to a family wedding in June. We also attend as many of the 'official' events (budget report, End or year Review etc.) organised by the local Mayor's office.
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.
Not exactly culture shock, but the stress of having to get so many things done in the first few months after arrival. Not being company- sponsored we have had to deal with a host of things an employee being sent abroad would not have to be involved in, eg. driving licenses, car conformity, accessing the French health system, top-up insurances, removals, etc.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
Being a small village, everyone, yes everyone acknowledges us when out walking in the village whether we know them or not. There is an old-world, gentle courtesy which is wonderful to experience again.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
It is learning the language so that we can converse more easily with people we meet. This is something we are making some progress with, but accept it will take a while.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
We are very blessed with our neighbours who try to ensure we do not commit any blunders. What I am finding difficult is having had it drummed into me at school that one never uses 'tu' always 'vous', to now start using this with our neighbours is taking a little while for it to roll off the tongue.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Be pleasant and friendly but not pushy in new company. Don't be opinionated or pontificate and be very sensitive to the cultural customs of your new surroundings. You are the visitor now and need to respect their ways, strange as they may sometimes seem. Be prepared to listen and learn, but don't be backwards in offering assistance if a suitable opportunity occurs. Learn their language! Even excrutiatingly bad attempts will be well received especially if your listeners realise you are more than happy to be corrected and learn.
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