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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Cluj Napoca, Romania

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

Cluj Napoca

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

Yes, before I began visiting two or three times a year. I had lived in Japan, Korea during post war/conflict times. Working with orphans, street kids and impoverished families prepared me as well. I also became friends with a retired physical therapist living in Romania. She "nutured" me along during the post 1989 days.

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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 remain learning the language. I did not learn much of the language before going.

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

I was not worried about culture shock. Probably a few years into my new home I found myself reacting to culture shock in certain areas.

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

The pattern referred to below, next box, is descriptive of my experience. Most of my experiences were after I settled in; most were in relationship to political stands from years past, people from other countries coming in and changing things not ready for change by citizens.

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?

Answer in included in previous question.

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 cried. I became consumed with the children living in orphanages in Romania. I wanted to bring joy, they are so precious and often I cried.

Then I prayed something from the Sound of Music, "LORD Jesus, help me not to be sad that I might help them." The next through the doors to the children I noticed their smiles, and I had incredible joy. Since that time I am not as saddened and I do have joy. At time things are rough, but manageable.

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

1. The positive attitude of the children.

2. Most people have strong family ties.

3. Most people are more than simple hospitality.....families are gracious and welcoming.

4. People do the impossible....even if it takes years.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

For me language and social aspects of racial inequalities. Poverty seems well accepted for some groups.

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

The word for bread is similar to the word for "butt." I blundered several times with this one.

Also time issues. Time, and on time are not such a matter of an actual hour.....more like a round about appointment.

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

Prepare with reading, talking to those who have been in the country and situation you plan on living in/working in. If possible have a mentor from your own country to assist with transition.

Become aware of cultural practices, political struggles and strengths. Of course as much language as you can.....even hello, goodbye...start and add to your vocabulary.

Be realistic, give yourself time to see real needs. To take note before making real friends. Be realistic concerning your expectations of friendship as well as the other person(s) expectations.

If in doubt regarding giving, commitments, or filling the many needs you see wait, pray, and notice. Sometimes it looks like we have so much and give little. Giving is a gift. Please ask for wisdom in commitments and giving.

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Comments about this Report

Apr 26, 2011 10:36

Could you tell us more about your situation, please? Are you American? Are you in Romania to stay? Are you there with your family? Are you retired or if not, how do you make a living there? I don't think there are many expats in Cluj: am I wrong? From what I know, life is very expensive in Romania. Would appreciate your input! Dana

May 11, 2011 14:03

Dear Cluj Napoca, Much thanks for your report! I am interested in possible re-locating from the States to the northern, Dersca region. Helping out a connection there who runs a farm for orphan children and possible teaching english as a second language are on the agenda. Will be there this Summer in August. Do you have any advice on learning the language? Baptism by fire seems the means of doing so far. Would like to exchange English for Romania if possible. Thanks, again! Bob

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