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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Annaba, Algeria

Mar 21, 2014
Submitted by zerari

A woman who moved with her Algerian husband to Annaba, Algeria shares some of the challenges she has faced adapting to life in Algeria. She was expecting it to be an easier transition, but has experienced a great deal of culture shock. She has had to adjust to the fact that women rarely leave their apartments (i.e. men even do the grocery shopping); the lack of museums, parks or zoos for kids; and the fact that it's normal to litter and rubbish is everywhere.

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?

Yes, my husband is Algerian, we lived abroad for a while then decided to try to live in Algeria and meet my inlaws.

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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?

People here speak French and Arabic, I don't speak any of those language. I am learning from everyday life, I understand a little bit but hard to speak.

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

Not at all because I thought I would be completely fine, my husband is a local. But I was wrong...

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

I got depressed for few months, even my husband see me totally different from the real me.

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 am still on this stage of culture shock! My origin country is not the cleanest place in the world, but I consider myself as a clean person with high level of hygiene. So it is hard to witness such a beautiful nature get very dirty by ignorant people. Rubbish are every where, note: EVERYWHERE! even on the hills, where the grass are green, rubbish become the flower.

Houses are very expensive here, rent flat too. I believe they don't hire consultant to build house and apartment. The first time I saw my inlaws' bathroom and toilet, I was going to cry, and when we rent flat and I saw our bathroom, I cried!

One thing that I don't understand until now. Almost all family here use their rooms mostly as display room. For example, one family has 3 teenagers, live in an apartment with 4 rooms and a kitchen. They use 3 rooms as a display room (all of them has a TV, a display wardrobe full of ceramics etc, and some short of sofa that has mattress on it.), another room is bedroom for parents. Those teenagers don't have bedroom (or any space for their belonging) they will sleep wherever they want, just take the mattress down to the floor.

Another thing, It is hard to have fun with family here. We can not find a zoo, or a museum, or a park for our kids, nothing like that. During the weekend people visit family or friend, not just 2-3 hours visit for dinner or something like that, they stay over night, even 2 nights! All apartments and houses are not big enough, so women will sleep together in one display room with mattresses on the floor.... just hard for me to get used to it.

Talk about dinner or meal time, all family members will eat together from one plate, they just need spoon for each person. Food will serve in one big dish, and everybody dig food from the same dish. If they have guests, they will get 2 dishes, one for women and another for men.

Speaking as a woman here, I go out of my flat only 2-3 times a month! Because women should stay home as much as possible, even to get groceries is male job!! Especially if the woman is young and a foreigner.

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 gained 12kg in just half year! But I can feel, I also gained inside. I became more tolerant, patient, and open-minded than I was.

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

Family stick together strongly, and acceptance here is high between family members. Doesn't matter how troublemaker you are, or how bad is your personality, or how strange is your idea, your family especially parents will always love you, accept you, and support you unconditionally.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Personal boundaries! I lost it completely here.

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

I went to a store, and speak English, the seller yell ' eee sinuiyyaa', which means, she is a Chinese. I am not a Chinese, but here people call all non-european foreigners Chinese.

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

Cover your body as much as you can for women. If you see no woman in a store or restaurant or cafe you better stay away or people will stare at you. Watch and learn before act...

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Comments about this Report

Jul 22, 2015 20:55

I am an algerian from England, currently on holiday in Annaba. Yes, I could imagine what you must be going through, given I was born and raised abroad, then coming here to experience life with family in Algeria. It takes some time to get use to things but overall it isn't a bad country. There are many nice places and people that are friendly. A change in location to a better place may help out, as the place I'm at has a nice scenery. If you want to talk about anything, you can contact me.

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