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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Vientiane, Laos

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

Vientiane

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

I had visited here before moving here so it made it easier.

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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 speak a little of Lao... I recommend people having lesson either when they arrive here or before hand. More and more Lao people know a little English so its getting better. Knowing a little Lao can get you a long way! Remember though to speak SLOWLY, if you speak to fast they don't understand!

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

Of course as I brought my family with me.

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

Not a lot being we have visited previously.

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?

Yes, we went through the "holiday" mode. We then got a little frustrated as we had to rely on others to help quite a bit with certain things. I then went through a period of feeling isolated as I didn't get out much (couldn't drive/ride and had no sense of direction!). Now I know my way around I feel much better!

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.

I did get a little stressed which led to me being a little snappy! I did feel a little depressed (as I felt isolated). I constantly feel frustrated but you always will in Lao!!!

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

The food, the people, the culture, the way of life...

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning Lao, shopping at the market for food, making sure the family is happy, getting my sense of direction (which is terrible).

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

Lao goes slow so just go with the flow.. When driving/riding..if you think they are going to do it (cut in front) they probably will.. Smile, a smile here goes a long way! Don't drink too much Lao Cow (rice wine)..have the first one as a sign of respect..after that just say NO!

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