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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Athens, Greece

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

Athens

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

When there was a British Empire the persons who were to live and work abroad received 3 months full time training in the local language and practical cultural etiquette. Learning this from locals themselves. Day to day stuff not just a vague training saying cultures are different. Who cares. It is the practical day to day stuff that is important. How to interact with age groups, genders, social, business and formal occasions.

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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?

If you are English or Celt then remember that learning a foreign language is harder for you than other cultures. Most nations will have English speakers. Do you need the local language to work and live in the area you go to? For the British cultures learning using the Rosetta Stone / John Thomas audio appears useful as the British adult dislikes the classroom environment mostly. Give yourself a break. Learning a language takes 2 full years full time immersion with a lot of grammar and spelling thrown in. Greek is hard as it is two entirely different languages - Spoken and Written (formal).

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

As English and Celt you will, in the main, not have been. Don't worry. In Athens there are many social groups to join and make friends to help you through the day to day life in Greece. There is no cultural common ground between Greek and English / Celt cultures. You will learn to adapt a bit at a time, for what you need over time. You can get Brit TV on satellite. Easy email contact with home. English pop groups come to Athens for shows.

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

Observed by this Anglo Greek over a long life time is quite a bit of Culture Shock by the English and Celts. Just accept that folk abroad will be entirely different and will not change. You'll not change from being Brit just by adapting to the ways of the locals when dealing with them or in public relationships. You cannot. It doesn't happen in human psychology be reassured. But Brits need each other, so you need not to be alone but make friends as soon as you arrive.

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?

The stages of culture shock, 2nd irritation to anger (it got my goat stage) and the rejection of local culture (through steep learning curve of trying to adapt all at once) can be prevented altogether.

1. Forget any irritation and just accept local culture is different and nothing from your culture is the same as it.

2. Don't reject local culture. Just accept their ways and make no judgement calls. Adapt. See, the stress is gone.

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.

By acceptance and adaptation, whilst keeping in contact with own culture friends and family either in Athens or back home, it can be guaranteed that you will not suffer the psychiatric stress of Culture Shock.

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

Greeks are assertive, have a culture of education so can speak lots of languages, and have the highest number of university degrees in the population. They are a useful sort to your company, business and governmental liaison. Loads of languages and having global languages and some may have spent a lot of years in England, either at university or university and work for a while. Even more useful.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The whole body language, facial gesture, hand stuff that is entirely unknown in the more restrained, reserved English cultural ways.

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

So what! You learn from your mistakes not when things are plain sailing. The Greek will probably not tell you. There'll just be misunderstandings. But watch for the Greek national and personal pride and leave well enough alone.

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

All the above can also be useful thoughts about American and Greek cultural differences and how to cope. There will be Greeks who went to American universities / work there for a while.

Using such trans-national Greeks can be very useful to firms.

Talk with Expats in Greece

If you're not involved in our Greece Forum, it's a great place to meet others in your area, get answers to questions about moving to Greece or offer advice to a newcomer.

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