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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Nassau, Bahamas

Feb 05, 2014
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Paradise Beach in Nassau, Bahamas

One expat in the Bahamas advised those considering a move there to visit the island several times before making a commitment to live there, make sure the paperwork is in order and know what they getting into prior to coming. She went on to explain that the island is quite segregated and prices are extremely high.

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, I had a Bahamian boyfriend and had bought a time share before moving.

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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?

No...unless Bahamian-ese is considered a language. The dialect is different but it's still English. Takes a bit of getting used to and understanding. I still ask my husband "Huh? What did you say?"

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

No, I was a bit naive. I simply figured I'm Black, they're Black, how hard can it be? It was extremely challenging!

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


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?

All of them. As a tourist I was in the honeymoon + irritation stage. When I first moved here, I was often in the irritation + anger stage. Now, several years (and a couple moves back to the US) later, I'm in the adjustment + acceptance stage.

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 very lonely and depressed back in 2006 when I first moved here. I ran back to California as fast as I could! But I loved my fiancée and we were having our first child. I still remained home as I wasn't ready to come back yet. When I had my second child and finally married, I moved back.

Although its still a little lonely not quite fitting in with the locals, I've got my expat group and my family...I'm happy.

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

Their appreciation for their history.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Lack of professionalism, laid back attitude in industries that should move swiftly, prices, customs duties, lack of activities for children.

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

Yes, too many to name but the one that stands out is refusing to pay 15% gratuity on service/no service and complaining on a regular basis to managers!

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

Know what you are getting into prior to coming. The island seems pretty segregated. I'm from California and lived in Miami where everyone got along, mixed and mingled. I see that rarely here and it's bothersome.

Visit the island several times before making a commitment to reside. Make sure to have your paperwork in order.

Understand that anything you order and have shipped it will be charged duties and freight charges. If you use recoup one or receive discounts on items and those savings are listed on an invoice, you pay FULL PRICE regardless of the discount.

Prices are extremely high for everything. Cash is better than using credit cards as both the Bahamas and your bank will charge you ridiculous fees. Don't use your credit cards without keeping notes and track of where you used them. Check your account daily as credit card number theft is high.

Everything shuts down by 10:00 PM. There are no "7-elevens" or Circle K's here. If you need food, fast is your main option after 9 PM. Bars and restaurants may be open later but not much.

Traffic can be a nightmare. People drive how they want, not how they should or what's dictated by law.

People expect to get tipped for everything...pumping gas, bagging groceries, etc. be aware that when you buy food, they have youngsters pack the bags and carry them out. Be prepared to tip up to $5.

Prices on shelves are NOT reflected on the items you may purchase. Be aware that shelf prices are not changed regularly.

Prices on items are not the prices you will be charged. If a bag of chips have $3.99 stamped on them, rest assured you'll pay $5.99 for them or more.

You won't find gas prices posted. You'll have to ask. Most gas is over $5 per gallon.

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Comments about this Report

Feb 16, 2015 10:23

I have visited several times both Nassau & Freeport. My fiancé is Freeport and we're seriously considering the move. I love his family & they love me, so i don't think the social aspect would be as bad. However, what about jobs & schools for my children? Do you have any take on this? You have two children, right?

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