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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Semey, Kazakhstan

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?

No, only the experience of living in another previous overseas country.

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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?

The predominate languages are Kazak and Russian. I did not learn the languages before moving. I have learnt a little Russian and I am planning on taking lessons.

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

I was not really worried about culture shock, but was was slightly aware that it was pretty much unknown territory.

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

I would say that I experienced a high level of culture shock due to the language barrier.

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?

I think I experienced and still go through most of those phases on a regular basis.

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 a big factor. Also feeling a sense of vulnerability.

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

The hot chai and the willingness of the Kazak people to help in different situations.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The language barrier and being one of the few westerners to live in the city . Also, it is difficult to not be able to get a lot of the regular groceries.

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

I think my humorous blunders are usually related to me using charades in my endevours to communicate. For instance, asking for chicken breast fillets and leather bags can be embarrassing to say the least.

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

My advice is to be kind to yourself. If you have time then learn some basic language but really culture shock cannot be totally prevented, only managed.

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Comments about this Report

Feb 21, 2015 22:23

An interesting caveat is that recruiting agencies and the local employers do little to minimize the cultural acclimation issue. Nothing is said and nothing is done to assist the expats coming into the area. You are on your own. It is so sad.

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