Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
Cap Haitien, Haiti
Being an expat can be a trying experience, and this expat offers a glimpse of some of the challenges to living abroad in Cap Haitien in Haiti.
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?
I was born and raised in New York City and had loads of Haitian American friends galrore.
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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'm trying to learn Kreyol and French. Speaking Spanish doesn't do me much good!
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
There are so many people everywhere and the unemployment is extremely high. It's practically impossible for the average person to find work. Men befriend me constantly and when and if they are unemployed or work at a poorly paid position, they hit me up for money. Many take me as a multimillionaire, which I'm not. It never ends. I had never experienced this whilst residing in Mexico, because the people of Haiti are far more sociable with foreigners than are Mexicans.
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?
You'll make ten friends an hour, unlike in the U.S. or Mexico, and this was great until everyone started asking for money. I became annoyed at friends because they were so persistent about me helping them with green cards and passports via giving them money. within time, I just made sure that I didn't get involved with anyone who was either unemployed or underemployed, just as members of the professional classes do in Haiti.
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 am no longer willing to get involved with the poor monetarily. as far as food donations or volunteering, that's another story.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
I love the courageousness and spirit of the Haitian people and their non-stop, endless optimism!
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
The traffic and the cooking of everything outside with charcoal, which depletes the trees from their leaves and bark.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I made a hand gesture that I was fat, and everyone laughed up a storm.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Most North Americans wouldn't be able to handle the grinding poverty and having everyone stare at them constantly, many with insolence. The French and Quebecois seem to like it in that they can show the world how interested in the exotic they can be.
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