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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Belize City, Belize

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

Belize 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?

English is the main language, Spanish is also used. I spoke both before I moved.

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


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

Somewhat significant.

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?

First two months were honeymoon phase while we got our QRP (qualified retired persons) states sorted.

Irritation to anger stage came about 8 months later when we were trying to process trade licenses for a guesthouse under the QRP and BTB (Belize Tourist Board) groups. We were ill advised, a costly mistake. All very frustrating.

Rejection of the culture.... well this is our home for life, the first place we can really put down roots, we wouldn't even entertain the thought of rejecting the culture.

Cultural adjustment phase... I think after 9 months we are just about there. Happy and content.

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.

Shortness of temper (could be because we have both just retired, so we are also adjusting to new 24/7 living situations)

Increased eating (heck yes... the food is great over here, and the fresh fruit and vegetables second to none). We are eating much more at home nowadays for two reasons: firstly: there are no fast food restaurants in Belize City, except for a couple of Chinese restaurants. Secondly: we don't go out of our home after dark for safety reasons.

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

The laid back.... it will happen when its meant to happen attitude. You can't help but relax.

The food...... wholesome and homecooked.

The friendliness of the people. The ability to communicate in English makes living here so easy. The multicultural aspect of residents and tourists that you meet every day from all different countries. Conversation flows, and is a constant learning opportunity.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Newspapers.... frontline news is always about murders etc. so it does scare you a bit.

Newspapers.... each one is very politically orientated. So you get very one sided views.

QRP (Qualified Persons Package).... can hold you back from doing things you might want to do. It does get frustrating.

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

Not yet, but I am beginning to SWEAR a lot more, which I have never done in the past.

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

The irony is: you will have more CULTURE SHOCK when you go back to your original country, than when you settle in BELIZE.

You'll get so used to this laid back, rule-bending country and love it so much...... you won't want to go back.

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Comments about this Report

Oct 11, 2010 21:26

Can't say I am too impressed with the "we don't go out of our home after dark for safety reasons" part. Is it really that dangerous?

Oct 11, 2010 21:39

I would not move to a country or city if going out after dark seems dangerous ! The lack of balanced view newspapers seems a drawback !

Oct 12, 2010 14:12

I quickly figured that Belize City would not be the right place to settle (for me). As a typical port town one quickly sees all sorts of predators looking for a mark. However, with that said, I enjoyed my time in Belmopan and San Ignacio and will visit again but not Bz City.

Oct 17, 2010 08:20

Driving in a car at night to specific destinations is perfectly safe in Belize City. Walking at night in the city, is not recommended. It's no different than if you were in New York City, Caracas, Costa Rica etc. You just have to take sensible precautions. It's best not to drive in areas you don't know. The roads are small, narrow, victorian city layout etc. with canals either side. (Easy to fall into, or ditch into when drunk!) Certain areas of the city should be avoided, (southside), as there is a prevalent gun culture going on in this city.

Nov 3, 2010 18:05

I wish I could sell my property in cocoa beach fl, I have been trying to move to San Pedro for 2 yrs now. And i know I would not move back to the States, Im from London England. And i hate the States

Apr 21, 2011 18:40

I’m curious about basic services… such as potable water from household water services; medical services of all kinks; ease of owning a vehicle - price of gas & insurance; corruption in government services, such as police or postal services..? I don’t suspect anything like my current US standards, but for far less cost (I suspect) I could handle less services, as long as they were trustworthy and somewhat dependable. Anyway, I appreciate your comments and moxie for having made the move!

Sep 1, 2011 00:18

Why would your QPR hold you back?What part of the country are you living in?

Oct 17, 2012 09:39

To begin with we are comming to Belize next month to check things out. If I didn't know better I would think that was written by me when we moved to Mexico in 1995. I had just retired and brought my father who was an invalid from strokes. Everything was so different and I was also swearing more. Frustration is a word that is mild. Then one day while in deep thought, all my questions about why don't they do this and why don't they have what I need etc,etc. It was simple. This is Mexico and not the US. I learned to accept Mexico for what it is and my life became easier. If we do decide to move to Belize I think our transition will be much easier.

Mar 30, 2013 16:11

curious is your guesthouse up and running? if so where is it located i plan to travel to belize in the near future i would love to have a contact an place to stay

May 15, 2013 10:54

Can you expand on the comment "QRP (Qualified Persons Package).... can hold you back from doing things you might want to do. It does get frustrating."?

May 15, 2013 17:48

The QRP means we cannot take the work of a belzian. To open a hotel, bed and breakfast we must have a belizian signatory and a belizian manager, we cannot do that ourselves. Many QRP have very successful businesses, it's just this business would have been in our own home, like a B&B and as such we have no need or desire of a Belizian manager. BTB encouraged us to open a B &B, but at the last minute refused our application without naming a belizian manager which, on principal, we refused to do. We only wanted to be legal to make sure the correct visitors tax was paid and the govt received its proper tourist tax... It was for their benefit, not ours. It's their loss, we charge nothing for friends to stay, and request that a visitor makes a donation to the belizian charity of their choice, in lieu of any payment to ourselves. This benefits Belize in the long run, being our original goal in the first place. Most of our friends work for ngo's and non profits, so our concept to share the blessing of our house, works. These are friends, not strangers, and they all have to be here for the good of Belize, we had no intention of running or advertising a business etc. in the first place. So it works.

Aug 22, 2015 17:22

I like the format. There are plenty more questions to be answered but these are well thought out and answered truthfully. Is there any info about life styles for handicapped tourists? My adult son is my dependent and we are concerned about access to buildings and interior doors. He must have 28" clearance plus room to maneuver in the bathroom. If we build, it will be with accessibility in mind. If we build cabins/hut for rental income, they will be primarily for handicapped tourists. Also interested in another specific item. When looking over Costa Rica, I was told there was a Veterans Assoc. hospital just over the border in Mexico. Have you ever heard of this? I am a disabled Vet myself though I am fully mobile. Thank you, Dominic

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