Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Guadalajara, Mexico
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?
Yes, I read up on Mexico and took Spanish starting 2 years before I moved here. I also worked with an "agency" to help me with the proper papers, what to bring, etc. They were more or less helpful, but I've learned most of the important stuff on my own.
Moving to Mexico 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?
Yes, I can speak Spanish. I took classes before I left, and while I am here I'm taking private lessons. It opened things up for me in a much greater way. I didn't feel like I was in a box once I began to answer back when being spoken to.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Yes, I was concerned but I did a lot of reading up, I studied the language and I felt like I was up for it. But I got kind of homesick after a time. I'm still here though after a year. I have definitely gone through all the stages and some again and again. I haven't adapted as well as I would've hoped. But I'm sure I will. It's either that or go home.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Pretty major, after the honeymoon stage. I'm in Guadalajara, a big, loud, dirty city and I don't find it pleasant at all, but there are a lot of teaching opportunities here, so for now, I stay. But I have plans to move this year.
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 went through them all, and thought I was pretty open-minded. But I went through the irritation and rejection stages several times. I feel like I'm bucking the acceptance stage, but perhaps it's just that I need a change of scenery.
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 went through all of the above except my eating decreased - I have had a lot of anxiety and panic attacks (it's very noisy here, so that didn't help). It's just not the right city for me. I haven't drank more or done drugs, I do smoke but not much. The frustration has been incredible. Some of the things I have seen here are real head scratchers.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
The language is fun to learn, the food is great, a lot of people I've met are really special and I've made some friends, although it hasn't been easy. They are a close-knit culture with their families and don't accept gringas very willingly, but I'm okay. There are astoundingly beautiful places that I could never see the like in the States.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
Too many to name.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Sure, I tried out new words I thought I had learned and made a fool of myself, but I just laughed with everyone else and it was fine. Also, I fell twice in the street 'cause the streets are so broken and uneven and felt silly, but a nice lady helped me, very kind.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Try it out for a few months before you move here. It's not for everyone. It beats cold, Wisconsin winters, but the culture is both baffling, lovely, surprising and shocking. I can't believe I've made it here a year. I must be stronger than I thought. You can feel very alone and isolated, or you can feel surrounded by many. I guess it's a choice. I've done both. But take care and don't bring expensive things that you'd hate to see stolen. I have been very lucky (blessed) but many I know personally have gotten attacked or robbed. TAKE CARE and use common sense.
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Mexico