AAGS Worldwide Movers

Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Guatemala City, Guatemala

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

Guatemala City

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


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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?

No, I am currently learning Spanish

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


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


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'm still in the irritation-to-anger stage. We have been in Guatemala for 3.5 months now.

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, mild depression, anxiety, frustration, quickly irritated about small things that go wrong.

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

Weather is nice. There are some nice places to visit (lakes, vulcanoes, coastal area)

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Security (18 murders per day, many robberies), understanding people (learning a new language), not working.

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


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

No, I would like to get some advice how deal with it.

AGS Worldwide Movers

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Comments about this Report

Aug 25, 2010 22:19

hello . I found this article very interesting. I have been to guatemala 3 times and have adopted 2 teen age girls from the rio dulce area . when I get frustrated with them not seeming to understand me, I put myself in their situation and ask myself if I woul fare any better . If I was uprooted, put in a strange country with a new language and culture, what would I do ? the biggest challenge I have still is the concept of time . I like to plan ahead. they say they will do something with their friends and there is not a time; just when ever it happens . it has caused several problems. as I am a "white" American and all of their friends are from Hispanic families, this has also carried over to their parents and my relationships . someone is having a party which is to start at 4p. at 7 my dtr calls me to tellme that the party is just starting then as the friends have just arrived. I just remember that I am the one with the ulcer. so I try to be a little more patient and tolerant. sue

Aug 28, 2010 20:09

I think Americans, of all people, have the most difficulty dealing with culture shock because they expect things to be like they are in the USA. Lower your expectations. Then, lower your expectations. And then, after than, lower your expectations. It reduces disappointment and and frustration dramatically. Let each day just happen. Enjoy the pleasantrys and what did not happen today, will happen manyana, manyana meaning of course, not today. I have hundreds of friends world wide online. This helps keep your thoughts in place while you learn language and customs. Set your heart on doing things their way, not yours. They will delight in your efforts and you will make many new friends.

Oct 6, 2010 10:03

You want advice, what are you doing there ? Go back as it is very very depressing living where you see crime every day, death on the streets and possibly be a victim also. Guatemala wasn´t like that about 10 years ago... In which city are you living ?

Nov 17, 2010 14:34

Where are you living to see 18 murders a day? I am going to Guatemala here shortly, I have done 3 months research. The only place I saw not to live, work in was Guat. City...I am really surprised by this report. It is so oposite to everything else I have read. How to deal with it...I cant say for fact as I am not there. I have made plans not to live in Guat. City, for mayhem is not my cup of tea. Which is why I live in Mayberry, US and not L.A. After 3.5 months and you are still having issues with the language....Did you take spanish school? Its cheap and it works wonders from those reporting their experience. I would not even consider this adventure without attending Spanish School for at least the first 6 weeks there.The weather, is my only problem...I do not do well with temps below 70. I figure I will move to The warmer areas when needed, the higher areas when they are not as cold...Plus a fireplace is definitley on my wish list when renting. Not working...I am taking my work with me..I am doing work on web for cookie jar money while there.I have to ask if you are not a spouse who is there not because you want to be...but have to. If that is the case you might not ever be happy there...I suggest counseling. As far as going back to where you came from...the problems you are dealing with in Guat. are in every country.Look at U.S. even Mayberry has crime to some degree. What specifically is your anger coming from...over what incident. You did not say.

Dec 29, 2010 14:30

When in Rome... The Guatemalan people can be very nice but it is a cultural thing they will lie to you before ever saying I don't know. I have lived in Guatemala for about 2 years to illustrate my point, it was about 6 months after I arrived that I finally understood a comment in Lonely Planets guide book about "what goes on under the surface is harder to pin down". One day me and a friend stood outside of a business. On one side of the double doors was their sign, we stood on the other side and ask people if they could tell us where was ...the place we were standing in front of. Only two people out of 20+ said it's right there, the rest gave us directions to everywhere else. Not one person said I don't know. I think it is a cultural thing, because if you say I don't know, you may be missing an opportunity to make some money playing the middle man. There are other irritations, the general lack of training and customer service, and the move it or loose it attitude of drivers. As they say in Spanish no hay cortesia. Hang in there. You cant change things so you have to practice acceptance or you will go Mad.

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