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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Mexico City, Mexico

Nov 18, 2013
Submitted by BetsyLewis

Zocalo, Mexico City

Dive into the culture. Just go ahead and feast on the country's native food, see the country's movies, and visit ALL the sites. Even dress with the traditional clothes once in a while, just to really get into it.

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

Mexico City

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

Since I was raised traveling, I never had any training about living in a new country prior to moving there.

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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 understood a little Spanish, but I had to learn the language when I got here. It wasn't easy for me to learn how to be fluent in Spanish, since for some people, learning a new language is seldom easy. The trick was to emerse myself completely in the culture with spanish-speaking freinds, newspapers, books, movies, etc. Just dive in, and learning the new language will be easier. Furthermore, people will help you learn if you ask them for their help.

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

I was very worried about culture shock, and let me just say it took about two years to adapt. If I had dove into the cultre with more confidence, it would have probably taken less time.

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

At first, every little thing was seen as odd and difficult to process. But once I learned to see the adventure and exotic nature of oour differences, it became fun! My advice to anyone moving anywhere is to stop looking at the negative and odd, and start seeing the unique and interesting, the exotic, the adventure and realize you have an opportunity to have a very special living experience that many don't have.

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?

At first I was frustrated and upset, but once I adapted, the honeymoon phase came and it stayed there! I recommend seeing Out of Africa with Meryl Streep. Now there is someone who adapted, and made the most out of her stay. If you read the same book by Isak Denesen, you will reap the knowledge of how someone was able to see the romance behind the experience of living abroad.

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 was angry at first, and maybe even a little depressed. Learning the language was not easy, and so I also felt frustrated. Little-by-little, as I made friends and began to travel within the country, I slowly fell in love with it's amazing and rich culture. Now I love it.

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

The history is amazing, and you have the pyramids on one side, the beautiful beaches on another, the perfect climate, the warm and affectionate people, and the food tastes great.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The frequency of the crime is never easy to adjust to. It's much better now, but when I moved to Mexico for the first time, smog was a big problem. There seems to be a lack of organization in the way the country functions. But if you look at it with a sense of humor, it's almost charming. No one likes corruption, and it's a problem here.

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

When you meet someone for the first time, you usually say the formal address of you, which is "usted". Once you know them, saying "usted" is almost an insult! I've done that a few times. Now I call everyone "tu", which is the informal "you", and everyone welcomes it.

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

Dive into the culture. Just go ahead and feast on the country's native food, see the country's movies, and visit ALL the sites. Even dress with the traditional clothes once in a while, just to really get into it. You're here, you might as well live it up and enjoy it as much as you can. You will be glad you did!

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