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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Cordoba, Argentina

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

I had just a few basic orientations explaining the culture, and basic language lessons. It was before the move, when I came here it was up to me to figure things out.

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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 had very basic Spanish skills before moving here, but learning a language in a classroom doesn't mean a lot once you're immersed in the culture. Being in the tough spot of having no choice but to figure out how to communicate with someone is the only way to really learn a language - you have to live it, speak it and hear it every single day constantly. Once the headaches go away things start to clear up and click.

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

I personally wasn't. I had enough experience of living and traveling abroad already and I saw it as another adventure, not a huge obstacle. A positive attitude makes all the difference when you're dealing with culture shock. You can be intimidated and shy away from fear of the unknown, or you can embrace it and free yourself to be open and learn everything you can. There will be good days and bad days where both these opposing attitudes will apply.

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

Very significant, but in a good way. It was so much more different than any other culture I had experienced. And it comes with the good and the bad, but it's just one big learning experience that you have to go through before understanding or being comfortable in the culture. It's part of the process - where you'll learn not only about other people and another way of life, but about yourself.

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. At first everything is new and different and exciting, but eventually that feeling wears off and the homesickness for the familiar sets in, and all the differences become extremely irritating and inconvenient. For me this was mixed in with "rejecting" the culture. People don't realize how much it takes to get to the point of being comfortable or feeling like your true self in another culture. And that it's not about being "yourself" there, because without noticing it, you have more than likely created a new "self" entirely. Then before you know it, you'll go back to where you came from and even that place will give you culture shock. Of course, this depends on many factors - such as amount of time spent abroad and just how different it is from your native culture, and also how much you allow yourself to be immersed. And no matter how long you are living in another culture there will always be little things happening every day that you learn from or have to grow accustomed to. You may feel settled and comfortable but these little instances will always occur and surprise you. That's the best part about "permanently" moving abroad, to feel good and confident about your life there but also have the element of surprise and excitement and learning at the same time.

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.

All of the above. I was angry at some of the "substandard" aspects, comparing them to US standards, in everything ranging from the transportation system to the economy, infrastructure, government, etc... Some days I felt depressed from feeling trapped here in the unknown with no escape, anxiety from having no other choice but to deal with it and somewhat accept it. All this includes frustration and homesickeness.

Like I said, there will be good days and bad days and opposing attitudes of negativity and positivity, it's part of the process and learning experience.

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

The upstanding value of family and friendships, the simplicity of life and sources of happiness, the calm flow of time.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Slang language, city life in general after living for years in the suburbs, learning the different ideas of what is rude and polite, different safety measures and a whole other kind of common "street" sense to develop.

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

Too many to describe!!

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

Having an open mind is key, and allowing yourself to step outside your comfort zone - I know it's scary but it's almost always so worth it.

Crown Relocations

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Comments about this Report

Aug 25, 2010 22:00

Sounds like a typical american, naive and ignorant of the world and other cultures,the world is not the USA, maybe there should be more global education done in the USA dealing with how other people and places work.

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