Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
An expat in Nafplio, Greece discusses the positives and negatives of living in Greece. The language, lack of green space and general attitude of the people are all challenges. The weather, laissez faire attitudes of Greek people and carefree lifestyle of children are all positives.
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?
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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?
We were planning on learning the language if we stayed permanently, but have decided Greece is not for us. Whilst here we have learned a few words to get by. It is a very difficult language and I found the worst part is the different alphabet, with some upper and lower case letters shaped completely differently. That is made worse by the fact that the same words can be written in several ways and the assortment of fonts used often make it hard to work out what the letters are. I think it would have taken years to get to grips with it properly.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Not as worried and therefore prepared as I should have been!
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
This time it was considerable. I was expecting more similarities with northern European attitudes, ways of thinking than there are.
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 don't think we really had a honeymoon phase, more a hopeful one. The irritation to anger phase was more disbelief to amusement to irritation to acceptance with even some fondness. I don't know if we would ever have reached the full adjustment and integration phase as we have decided to move on.
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.
Depression definitely. I felt guilty when I realised that actually I don't want to adjust to some things, that I really want to keep various aspects of my previous life. It may seem narrow minded but hey, I'm 60, I've lived all round the world and have learned what is important to me. Frustration, yes. Homesickness - well that was a surprise! I never thought I'd miss the UK! Half my life was lived elsewhere and I like everyone else had moaned about the weather and the NHS. Now I miss English speaking health care professionals, green landscapes and even rain!
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
Oddly the laissez faire attitude is appealing. Less red tape and rules or rather less notice taken of it! Very freeing! Though the same attitude is also frightening in some aspects, like on the roads. Eeek! Not for the less assertive driver!
Making small cameos of spaces attractive amongst the greyness of concrete.
The most wonderful thing has been seeing children playing without being wrapped in cotton wool and overprotected. A real childhood.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
The language obviously. The lack of interest in change and thinking ahead, especially in this time of economic hardship. The lack of care for animals. The standard Greek loo paper bins. Shudder.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
Not that I know of!
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
If you have no choice as to where you are to live, as with a job posting, then I think adaptation might be easier. With choices come judgements and doubts.
If you do have choices perhaps commit to putting aside doubts for a few weeks/months whilst you get out and about as much as possible and try to do as many everyday normal life things as you can.
More Expat Advice about Culture Shock in Greece