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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Siguatepeque, Honduras

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An expat in Honduras offers her views on managing culture shock in the Central American country, including the challenges that remain even after you learn to speak Spanish. An interesting read.

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

Siguatepeque

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

No, but I lived in Colombia for many years in my youth.

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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 speak the language very well. I learned it as a youngster when I lived in Colombia.

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

Not much, since I had lived in Latin America before.

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

Much more than I expected. Honduras is much poorer than Colombia, with much less infrastructure and fewer amenities. Also, I had not lived in Latin American for many years,

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?

Yes. The first few days were delightful, if disorienting. Then I got very anxious and fearful, especially since I am by myself. I do find some things irritating, but I don't get angry much.

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.

All of the above, except drinking (I don't drink). Also loss of appetite. However, on the bright side, even though I regained my appetite and am not watching what I'm eating nor exercising much, I lost weight. Fewer processed foods.

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

Friendliness, non-materialistic--that is, no one cares what kind of car you drive or how big your house is. As odd as it may sound, I appreciate the lower standard of living, and the fact that everything doesn't have to be enormous and fancy. I also like the freshness of the food.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Backwardness, bureaucracy, security and safety. Also, because I don't know how things work, the most basic task can be very daunting--buying groceries, opening a bank account, even taking a walk.

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

People think that because I know Spanish so well, I know what's going on, but it's not always true. Sometimes I am totally bewildered. Also, while some of the food is familiar, it's all called by different names, so I am always asking, what is this called? People think I'm crazy--it's a banana, for crying out loud, don't you know? No, sometimes I don't.

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

Ride it through. This strange, bewildering place will come to be familiar and comfortable. Really.

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Comments about this Report

dulcimer05
Jan 10, 2017 14:19

I can attest to the stages of culture shock. My wife and I spent two years in Sigua and my first stage was the excitement and wonder at everything new. Then after a week or two we started getting irritated at some of the cultural differences-everyone 45 minutes late, trash in the streets and stray dogs everywhere. People so caught up with "appearances". Paperwork that had to go through at least three levels and stamped four times after being notarized. The indifference of the rich toward the poor. Then we started adjusting slowly and appreciating the differences. Finally we came to love the closeness of friends and family, the happiness, celebrating the holidays, open Christianity.

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