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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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

Amsterdam

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

No. It was not provided as part of my relocation.

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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 hoping to learn more solid basics than I know, but no, it was not offered as part of the relocation program with my company (unfortunately!)

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

No, I was too busy packing up to think about it.

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

For me, significant. Despite the fact that Amsterdam is an english speaking city and many of my friends indicate that they did feel as much 'shock' themselves, I did, in a huge way!

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. I'd say first was complete shock at the fact that I wasn't a student doing it- that I was making the transition as an adult, in a full-time, high pressure job. That was the hardest part- having that kind of transition without my usual support system in place. The, honeymoon phase- I figured I'd never move home. That lasted for months. Then, frustration, a sense of being overwhelmed at the fact that the honeymoon had ended, and I needed to build a more permanent life in the new country, and all from scratch. Now, I've been working at integrating more into new social circles for months, and it's finally paying off! Starting to settle in, and to just feel a sense of appreciation at the opportunity, and a desire to make the most of my time here.

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'd say probably all of those listed- not drinking/eating heavily though. I was too tired for that. But definitely all the others. And I would isolate more at times- when I felt overwhelmed.

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

Openness, liberal attitudes and acceptance of all. Friendliness towards expats living here, extremely genuine, happy, family and friend-oriented people.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Language. I'd say that's the big one!

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

I fell off my bike late one night when I was lost. That was the worst.

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

Prepare for it. Research it, plan for it, plan for it to put stress on you, your family, and your relationships, but also know that it will pass, and that there are resources available to help you through it if you need them.

Also, biggest learning for me: Don't wait until the honeymoon phase is over to work on making friends and integrating. Learn the language immediately. Show up at 'meet up' groups and social gatherings immediately. Even if you don't 'want' new friends now, you'll need them, and the worst is when you need them and don't have any, and have to start from scratch during a time when you could have had people to call on.

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