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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Chinhae, Korea

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?

Yes - before 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, planning on lessons

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


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

Immediately upon arrival - significant shack. HOWEVER, my wife and I believe this was due to the extreme fatigue preparing for the move and the actual travel time. Extreme exhaustion combined with an environment where you don't speak or read the language is not a good combination. This does fade in the 10 jet-lag recovery period though. Additional stress induced by the dog relocation process did not help in the first 48 hours either.

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?

We have heard this analogy. For us, it really has been a matter of mindset. We have only been here in Jinhae S. Korea since the beginning of March. It has been a significant benefit to have each other through the process. What we realized is - people here are doing the same thing people back in the states are doing: working, shopping, fixing dinner, going out, spending family time, etc. It is just that the language barrier makes things challenging. The reason we left our San Diego, CA home-life for Korea was to experience the international life. We have found that maintaining that openness to experience, makes things more enjoyable and less shocking.

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.

Periodic homesickness for simple things like a THICK hamburger or steak, an actual drink of brandy, a draft microbrew!

We avoided homesickness for American TV by employing the aide of a Slingbox before relocating. A quick netsearch on slingbox will provide any info you may want. After watching Korean TV in Korean for a while, language becomes noise. So this was one of the best things we could have done.

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

VERY family oriented culture. VERY helpful people, although reserved to strangers. Hierarchal-based society. Very proud, hardworking people.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

In direct opposition to positive behaviors, once behind the wheel of a car, very few rules apply! Imagine LA or Chicago traffic on steriods!

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

Tipping...there is NO tipping in South Korea - period. Not for waitresses, taxi drivers, Concierges, Room Service, ANYTHING. They take pride in what and how they do things they are paid to do. Tipping is an insult.

Business Cards are a BIG thing. When given a business card, actually take 30 or so seconds to look at it. Put it in a shirt pocket or your wallet. Do NOT put it in your back pocket and sit on it. The card is a reflection of the person!

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