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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Panama City, Panama

Oct 17, 2016

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Panama City

An expat in Panama City, Panama shares her experience with settling into a new culture and how the experience has been a surprise for her given her present stage of life.

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

Panama City

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

Well, I came back and forth and started a business 3 years before I moved here.

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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 did not know a dozen words and all were mispronounced before I moved.

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

Not really but once you actually move in.....it does not really impact you. No matter how much you visit and think you know a place, living there is an entirely different experience (different but for me a good one).

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

I am here 4 years and I think that the older you are the more difficult it is to shed your old skin and comfortably wear your new one

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 never felt the anger. I absolutely love Panama and always have... for me it was more of a realization of ME and how I needed to be more flexible and open minded. I think I have been through the stages moreso that my own country/culture infuriates me for its closed mindedness, misconceptions, misinformation, and propaganda.

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.

To this day, I have not lost my AWE in my new surroundings and how greatful I am for this experience. Do not get me wrong...much of it has not been easy but it has been a growing experience I NEVER expected at this age.

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

The value of others and enjoying/appreciating THIS MOMENT and who you are with rather than things and envy of others.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

For me it has been difficult to learn the language at my age. I try, I make my mistakes, but I am determined and so amazed at what is possible when you want something bad enough. To not learn the language is to miss out on so much.

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

The language for the most part... for example using caliente rather than calor to express the effect of the heat on myself.

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

Just cast aside any preconceived notions, jump in and enjoy. They are a very welcoming, accepting, patient people. Do not have expectations of time in particular. Time means little to nothing here so, my biggest take away has been not to get insulted if someone disrespects your time. To us, time is money, time is valuable so if you disrespect someones time in the U.S., you disrespect the person. Here, how can you disrespect something that has no importance... so what I had to settle on..which has helped me in other countries as well....who gets to define what RIGHT is... RIGHT is only a perspective. Good luck and above all...ENJOY!!!

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