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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Submitted by donmeme

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

San Pedro La Laguna

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

None whatsoever

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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?

Spanish is spoken and fortunately I learned in High School

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

No, the idea of culture shock never even entered my mind

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

I didn't actually feel anything different from the norm. I just accepted that was the ways things are done in Central America

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?

The most difficult of "phases" was being an American (USA Citizen). Everyone having their hand out because I came from the US of A and supposedly was rich. The feeling of being treated unequally and not fairly and always feeling that someone wants to take advantage of you

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.

Definitely frustration because of dealing with a culture (Mayans in particular) that is uneducated A deep feeling of sadness for poverty stricken people. A profound understanding of poverty through the experiences of others and on a personal level

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

If anything the rebelliousness towards their corrupt government and their acceptance of a day to day optimism of life. I found that the poorest of people generally seemed to be the happiest.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Being accepted into it! Understanding why it is the way it is.

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

Sure, such as being at the cash register and telling the cashier when she was bagging the carton of eggs,"Ten cuidado con mis huevos" which translates to be careful with my balls. Foreigners tend to put the possessive on things, like my car and my eyes and my this and that which translates certain phrases differently in Spanish as noted in my example.

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

Mostly that one should go with the attitude of politeness and that you are going to make blunders until your learn differently. The locals are very understanding that YOU are the foreigner and are not accustomed to their ways. When I first started shopping in the local markets I would try and stand by some old lady and watch her do her transactions and then do my best to follow her lead. Watch, observe and then copy and eventually you will fit in. As they say in spanish, "Sigue el corriente" follow the current.

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