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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Bogota, Colombia

Oct 17, 2016

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Bogota, Colombia

An expat in Bogota, Colombia provides some perspective on the process of settling into the Colombian culture, and the value of having lived abroad before.

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

Bogota

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

None. However, I lived abroad before my time in Bogota.

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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?

Spanish. And yes I do. I have a bachelor's degree in Spanish. I also lived in Antigua, Guatemala as well. That said, nothing can prepare you for the speed. That comes with time. It helps to be in a relationship with a native too.

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

Not as much as my first time. I knew there would be some adjustments. It still required a lot of courage and knowing that there would be some adjustments and a plan as to how to cope.

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

The first time. It was pretty overwhelming. The second time was noticeably easier but still a challenge.

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?

Absolutely the first time abroad, but I assessed what happened the first time so I could recognize those stages the second time.

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 would isolate myself on occasion. I also would fall in to the trap of making comparisons too often. Some depression was evident as well.

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

The language enrichment, new friendships, extensive travel, ford and drinks. You learn to embrace the unknown and learn a lot about how to solve problems from a different perspective.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

In Bogota, the number of people, noise, poverty in the streets, petty crime, dating culture

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

Mostly language related. I once said I need to shit my phone instead of charge my phone. Another time, much to the surprise of my girlfriend's family, I made mistake of saying I had a lot of experience in a gay bar when I intended to say someone else had.

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

It's easy to say to be open minded. You need to get a handle on the language the best you can and as soon as you can. Also, keep in mind why you are going. Those major cultural differences you see are going to make you appreciate what you have back home. Finally, live in the moment. Turn your cell off, take less photos, ask open ended questions and really listen. These memories are going to make a part of a new you. A better you. Good luck!

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