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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Northern Virginia, United States

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Kids Riding Bikes in Arlington, Virginia

Be as open and as friendly as you can be. You may find friends that are a different age or nationality from those you had at home. Treat yourself to the odd magazine or candy from your home country and skype.

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

Northern Virginia

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

Yes, a company rep came to see us to tell us about the different measurements and how to look for a doctor. He was quite practical.

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

Yes.

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

Quite significant, especially for the kids who had to attend the American school system.

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?

Definitely. It took almost three years before I can say I felt OK to be here. I still wonder if it is a good idea to stay here as a pensioner, because of the medical costs.

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.

Loneliness. I could not go back to teaching unless I did a full time MA course again. I felt my qualifications were not recognized here. I decided to get a part time job at a local community college teaching ESL. This saved me in so many ways. However, it was in the evenings and took time away from my kids who were 8 and 10 at the time.

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

There is so much more opportunity here for you children. The schools in this area are very good and there has been some wonderful art classes for me to attend.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

We have a different sense of humor and we have friends individually, not as a couple. It has taken a while to make friends. We are not in a very diverse area and in hindsight would probably have bought a house elsewhere. It is ultra conservative here and we are not. So be careful where you choose to live. It does make a big difference. We have got used to it and we have found some people similar to ourselves but still I would still move in a few years time.

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

I had to stop saying some of the English slang words!

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

Be as open and as friendly as you can be. You may find friends that are a different age or nationality from those you had at home. Treat yourself to the odd magazine or candy from your home country and skype. Keep in contact with your old friends if you can. Try and avoid the expat from your country that constantly complains about everything in the new place. It could depress you. Find other friends from all over the place by doing something you love, be it painting, softball, knitting etc. Or volunteer in the local animal shelter!

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