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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Baku, Azerbaijan

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

Baku

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

No

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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 want to learn some Azerbaijani (as opposed to Russian, which is widely used. I prefer learning in a class with other students, but have not been able to find one in Baku so will start one on one tutoring. There are many tutors available.

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

I was concerned by published reports that it is not acceptable to smile at strangers and that people would think you daft if you did smile. Happily that turns out to be not so true-people (strangers) are friendly--especially outside the city

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

I have lived many places overseas, so I wasn't expecting a shock. But in fact it was a bit shocking--notably our apartment's decor and furnishings, the difficulty of shopping, the limited choice of fresh foods

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?

The first week or so was rough--irritation-anger--not in reaction to culture but rather living conditions. Talking with others and starting to learn my way around helped adjustment.

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.

Anger gradually faded to a feeling of settling in. Like the vast majority of expats here, we focus somewhat on looking ahead to our next trip outside the country...

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

People enjoying the many parks and fountains--makes you forget that the place is bascially a desert. People are very kind and helpful when asked. Those who have studied English are bold about using it--which is unlike other places and can be very helpful. Public transportation is quite good, and inexpensive.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Of not the culture but the place: the wind is overpowering and dries the skin terrbily; the food, especially for a vegetarian, offers little choice/variety. Bureacracy is cumbersome and mysterious--you need to know someone to get the proper paperwork to get things done

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

Do some reading up on the culture before you come. Once you have arrived, remind yourself that the learning curve is steep at the beginning. If possible plan travel both within the country and abroad--it will feel more like home when you return from a trip

More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Azerbaijan

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