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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

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

Bahia de Caraquez

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

No, other than visiting before we came and alot of research about the cultural differences and language differences.

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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?

We tried to start to learn the Spanish before we came but we were always so busy finishing up everything in our home country we never got a good start on the language. We have been studying the language since we got here and are learning from the locals who are extremely helpful, friendly and try to help you one word or phrase at a time. I am already finding that I can speak some to them and they work with me on what I cannot understand yet.

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

Yes, a little. We had visited, liked what we saw. Loved the people and Bahia and felt that we were up for the challenge.

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

It has been a little frustrating to not know enough of the language yet, but that is our problem not the locals. We are learning and we will learn to be fluent or at least fluent enough to live here without feeling uncomfortable. If you say hello to people you pass and smile, you get the same in return. Smiles go a long way and we are making more and more Ecuadorian friends.

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?

We are settling in to the new culture very well. We take walks which is what everyone does here. We go into all the stores so the people get a chance to see us and we try to speak a little with them. We go to the market regularly and the vendors now know us and are so willing to make sure they get us the best product they can. If you don't know how much it is and you put your hand out with change, they take the amount that is correct. Both of us looked at each other the other day and said, Can you believe we live here? I think that is a pretty good feeling to have about a new home in a very foreign country. Wished we hadn't waited so long to move.

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.

We miss our children and grandson, but talk to them each day with our magic jack. This would not be because of culture shock, but because we are not with them. We find ourselves happy and getting much more exercise. We didn't have time when we were in our home country, and now we have time to do the things we want to do. We have not experienced any anger or depression. If anything we are eating less and enjoying more.

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

The lovely slower pace of life. People here take time to enjoy family and friends. They work to live which then gives them a better outlook. We feel very fortunate to have found Ecuador and love Bahia. We can go to Manta or Quito or Guayaquil if we need a fix of modernization. Along with it goes more stress and a more hectic pace of life although they still know how to take time for family and friends.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

We are struggling with the language but that is getting better on a daily basis. Sometimes you think of what you were planning to say but it is later than you wanted to say it. People still talk to you like you understand, but they are patient and they don't get angry because you cannot speak their language.

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

Not so far, but I am sure there will be some along the way, and I am sure it will be more than one.

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

Come to Ecuador with an open mind. It isn't your home country. Try to integrate with the local people. They will appreciate you trying and you will meet so many wonderful individuals along the way. If you weren't looking for change you would have stayed in your home and not taken the challenge of changing countries. Live Life. You only have one. Don't just associate with Gringos. You could have that at home. Learn the culture here. It may not be what you are accustomed to, but it is their culture and it is beautiful and they are proud of it. It is definitely like going back in time.

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