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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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

Rio de Janeiro

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

No none at all. We decided to move after a quick decision and had both left the UK within 3 months.

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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 didn't speak any Portuguese. I studied a little on my own before leaving the UK. When I arrived I took a 1 month beginners course. I am just about to start another months course. I have been here nearly 3 months now.

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

I wasn't worried about getting culture shock before I came to Rio. I was excited about experiencing the new culture. I was worried about difficulties communicating because I did not know the language.

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

The first few weeks I was fine. I was happy to be back with my fiance and enjoyed seeing all the new places and visiting the beach. My fiance had family here so I spent allot of time getting to know them. I also arrange volunteer work at a language school which was great as it made me enter into a more normal way of life straight away. If didn't have this job to get me out of our apartment during the day I would have been more nervous doing things alone in my new city. Culture shock set in in my second month. I really started to see the differences in people and culture and really missed my own family and friends. My old Home London became the best place ever in my mind and I just wanted to go home. Now I feel I am over the worst and I am slowly starting to accept the change. It helps me allot to know that I will be visiting home for christmas. I have been here nearly three months to date. Im sure I will feel more culture shock over the next few months.

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 I do feel there are phases to go through before you adjust to the new culture. I also believe that it depends on the individual. Some people are more prepared than others. I really wasn't prepared because moving was a quick decision for us so I had less time to prepare myself mentally. I also haven't travelled much in general so it was a big shock how different things where here in Rio especially compared to such a cosmopolitan city like London where we lived before. My fiance is half Brazilian which helped. Without his support I would have been very lost here.

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 noticed I was depressed for no reason, very Homesick, fustrated with the differences in the way the city runs, angry and unpatient with my partner and generally unhappy and confused about why we had made the big move.

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

I appreciate the more laid back approach to things. I also enjoy the fact our lifestyles are healthier here compared to London. The geography of Brazil is amazing. I look out of my window and I can see a massive green mountain and the weather is nearly always good (even now its winter). There is plenty to see and do in Rio if your short on money which is cool. Lapa is great for live samba and lively bars. Its a really colorful and interesting place. The beach is so easy to get to and its so nice to go and relax there whenever you feel like. I love being tanned instead of pasty white! I know there is allot to experience here in the future.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The service in shops and restaurants here is very bad compared to London. People can come across rude and ignorant sometimes. The difference between rich and poor is very obvious here and it can be quite upsetting to see. I find the food bland and there isnt as much variety. Things are very expensive here. Especially clothes, electrics and food.

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

Visit the country you want to move to before you migrate there. If it is possible stay there for a few months so you really get to know the country before hand.

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Comments about this Report

Aug 3, 2011 16:51

Very nice. There are pros and cons and ups and downs in everything. Sound advice too, try before you buy.:-) Wolfie

Jan 30, 2012 18:13

When somebody from the UK says the food is bland, ITS BLAND!!!!

May 20, 2013 09:18

Interesting story. I have been here for 6 months now, and experiencing all the 'culture shock' aspects. What stands out for me, that despite the friendliness and laid back way, it is a lonely city.

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