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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Purepecha, Mexico

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


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

I planned my move for about a year. Just researched on the internet. Knew fluent Spanish 35 years ago, was hoping it would come back.

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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 language of my country is Spanish. I speak enough to get by. I studied Spanish in elementary, jr. high, high school and college.

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

No, because I was shocked by American culture and looked forward to moving.

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

None at all, I was so happy to be here. Then I realized that my friend's family were not my friend. I was too trusting and lost a lot of money, fell in the rental house trying to get the paint spots off the floor after cleaning for 2 weeks straight. The woman lived in Guadalajara and would not negotiate with me. I was happy for the first 2 months living in a hotel on the beach. Fracturing my wrist was the biggest shock of all. And being taken was not pleasant.

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?

It was the culture on the island where I first lived that I rejected. Too much like Americans, anything for a buck. It was ejido land. Yes, I was angry when I moved into the rental house and found every drawer and cupboard filthy and filled with junk. She is an old lady, but knew better. Thus began the irritation stage. Her sister claimed to be my friend but ended up stealing my brand new bike and when I asked her to see could I get a refund of the 5 months I paid in advance, she put some woman on the phone actually yelling at me to not involve her. Well, by that time I had moved to the mainland and saw red. I went to see her immediately very angry. I had left the keys to the rental house with her. I was livid and had given her so many things, and asked for my bike and she brazenly lied about it not working.

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 at being so mistreated and not inspecting the house by opening drawers. If I were in the U.S. I would not have been so trusting. I was in actual shock when I fractured my wrist and in order to get a ride to Red Cross I had to go and stand in the market and wait, whoever treated me did medically wrong. I requested to see a private physician, but it wasn't up to me. I felt helpless and alone.

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

The culture of the island is nothing to appreciate except for the hotel owner who left to work in the states. Where I live now, people say good morning or good afternoon when they ride the cambis (little buses) The children are so obviously loved and I haven't heard a swear word since moving here. This is Purepecha country, the indigenous people who farm and make crafts to sell. I appreciate being among people who have a similar take on life--don't worry, don't hurry, don't take yourself too seriously, trust in God.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Finding friends in my new neighborhood.

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

I hired a taxi driver to take me to the immigration office in Morelia (where he lives) and unbeknowst to me at the time he took me to the wrong place and said it was closed. It never occurred to me to research the correct address myself!

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

This is a beautiful country. It is illegal to chemically alter the food and there is no pollution where I live in the mountains. No one except the military and poice are allowed to have guns. People have manners and patience.

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Comments about this Report

Mar 1, 2012 07:47

David,Thank you for your cmoemnts. I agree with you that Maslow's hierarchy works as well for reverse culture shock. I think that in addition to Levels 1 and 2, there is also serious dislocation at Levels 3 and 4: social and self-esteem. This has to do with expectations: we are used to relating easily to our familiar social groups, and we are used to being acknowledged for our accomplishments by members of those groups. When returning from abroad, though, these expectations are often unrealistic: we have changed so much, while our peers and loved ones may not have, and the enormity of the accomplishment of having survived, and perhaps thrived, abroad, is often completely lost on those closest to us.Thinking about it this way, it's no surprise that reverse culture shock is often experienced as an even bigger dislocation that initial culture shock: our entire pyramid is being rocked, not just the foundation.Thank you for helping me see this.

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