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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Villavicencio, Colombia

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 I did. Originally I was born in Colombia, but I left in 2001 to the U.S. So I was somewhat aware of my own culture. I came back to Colombia in 2008, and it was, shock.

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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?

Yes I'm fluent in both Spanish and English, When I moved to the U.S I was very young, so English became my first language as time went on. When I returned to Colombia I didn't think the language barrier was going to be a problem. To my surprise, I was told my Spanish was a awkward. and this was of course said by the locals or family members. I think the reason was that since I think in English, I translate it in Spanish...which isn't always accurate.

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

Not entirely.

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

It was some what significant. Because I realized that Colombians tend to not take themselves too seriously.

Also privacy is a foreign language to most, sometimes it feels like they need/want to know every aspect of your life. I've also realized being reserved won't get you many friends here. People like to talk a lot, so if you don't say much it will isolate you. All in all Colombians are very kind people, most people are hardworking and courteous.

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?

My honeymoon phase didn't last long. After we arrived at EL Dorado and took a taxi. The Taxi driver almost ran over a woman trying to cross the street. It was intense.

The irritation phase lasted the most. What really bothered me and still does is how unpunctual people can be here. Say you plan a meeting with three people at 5 pm. Yet no one shows up until 5:30 or later. I guess I still have the idea that time management should be the same as in the U.S. but sadly, it isn't. The Adjustment phase is where I am at right now, I've come to terms with a lot of aspects that makes Colombian culture the way it is.

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.

Homesickness was one. I miss Wal-Mart and buying organic produce. Some sweets such as Pop-Tarts. Everything that's imported is hella expensive. A jar of peanut butter will cost you about 5 dollars.

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

Everything, especially how Colombian deal with relationships. Since relationships are so close, and everyone talks, there's more gossip. But in the end people do care and want to help any way they can.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Transportation. This really bothers me at time.

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

Rule of thumb when coming to Colombia - expect the unexpected. Some things will marvel you, others might shock you, but most of them will surprise you.

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Comments about this Report

Jul 20, 2011 16:54

Very interesting and helpful.

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