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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Nassau, Bahamas

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Lucaya Beach in Freeport, Bahamas

An expat in the Bahamas says that learning to throw away schedules and live on island time in one of the most challenging aspects of living in the Bahamas. But, he also explains how the laid back lifestyle and less stressful work environment is one of the most rewarding aspects... you have more time to listen to and be present for your children.

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

Nassau

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

No. But we had visited before and decided to move there wile on vacation there one summer. Two weeks after that decision we were back on a plane moving there with our children.

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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?

The speak English which is one of our fluent languages however the dialect is different and it is often difficult to understand them when they speak fast in that local dialect.

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

We had already lived abroad in other countries so we were somewhat prepared to adapt our ways of thinking and living to our new reality however we were still worried about how it would be for our children to adapt and go to school there.

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

The ways of life on an island are far different in general terms and you need to adapt to their way since you are a visitor in their country. They do not view time the same way we do and are never in a rush to get anything done. You need to learn to live with that reality. We were also not use to the high level of crime that is prevalent in Nassau. We moved there right before hurricane Matthew hit the island and although many communities came together to help those in need their was also a lot of looting afterwards. The murder rate is quite high for the size of the population so that was also something that worried us on a mental comfort level.

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?

Definitely. As I said we have lived abroad before so expected it but you still end up going through some of these stages anyway. We love it here but we also had a hard time dealing with the way they view time. It is easy to be irritated by the repairman who was scheduled to come on Monday, didn't show up or call and has not returned your calls for days and suddenly shows up on Thursday the week after with the explanation that he was "busy". Meetings and schedules are not set in stone here and do not expect anyone to get anything done by the time they said they would. It's not a lack of respect for you, it is just the way their culture views time. That is probably the hardest thing to get use to here, eventually you will learn to accept it or leave frustrated.

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.

Anger and frustration set in at first when you cant get anything down on the schedule you have set. Eventually you have to learn to relax and deal with it.

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

Once you accept the way they view time you realize that you have also relaxed and are not as stressed as you were in your "old life". You may not have your water line installed the day they said they would but you are also not running around stressing the small stuff anymore. You find alternate sources of water etc until it gets done and you go about your other stuff. The children come home happy with stories to tell you and you are eager to hear them because your not tired from a long stressful day at the office.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning to throw away schedules and live on island time.

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

I had to ask people to repeat themselves numerous times because I didn't understand what they were telling me with the local dialect. Sometimes I realized after it should have been obvious but I just was not getting it at the time.

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

Always remember you are the visitor and respect the local culture. When they see you respect them and are not trying to change them they will accept you with an open attitude and you will make more friends and get more done.

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