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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Quebradas, Costa Rica

Oct 09, 2013

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An expat in Quebradas, Costa Rica was shocked that so few other American expats tried to learn the language. She encourages other expats to learn the language. And says that it makes all the difference, greases all the wheels.

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?

Have lived abroad many years as a child. Lots of cross-cultural training growing up.

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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?

Learning the language is crucial. I arrived already speaking Spanish and work every day to improve it.

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


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

I experienced it as delightful and stimulating.

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?

Frankly, my only shock was how ill-prepared and naive my fellow Americans here are. Am horrified they have not even bothered to learn the language and befriend the locals. Shocked at Ugly American examples which abound. Americans are getting only the icing -- never the cake.

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.

Because I live in a very remote part of Costa Rica, I think I suffered more from loneliness than culture shock. I drank and ate too much at first. Having pets helps a lot. Never have felt homesick.

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

Kindness, warmth, concern for fellow man, fact that they wage no wars, their appreciation of fresh foods, their curiosity about my country, their eagerness to learn English and their Pura Vida Attitude.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Their cavalier attitude toward animals/pets. Their tendency to lie rather than hurt feeling.

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

Was dating a Tico - seriously - and he told me when I moved in with him, he could let go of his cleaning lady. I responded that if I moved in with him I would bring my cook/cleaning lady with me! The man and I broke up soon thereafter.

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

Language, Language, Language. Makes all the difference, greases all the wheels. It is disrespectful and insulting to move someplace and expect everyone to speak your language.

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