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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Kabwe, Zambia

Jun 08, 2015
Submitted by JoannaV

Find out what it's like to move as an American expat to Zambia from Germany. That makes for a lot of different cultural dynamics... see how this expat makes it work!

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, before we moved we attended a week-long course on cultural sensitivity. It was not specific to Zambia, but rather an in-general cultural training.

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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?

The official language in Zambia is English, but there are multiple tribal languages. I am slowly picking up our local tribal language at the market.

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

Not very much. I have lived overseas before, and have a cross-cultural marriage, so I wasn't too worried. I've done this before. ;-)

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

Very minimal, this time. Lots of feelings of road-rage. Otherwise, it was pretty easy adjusting.

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 definitely had the honeymoon phase and the anger stage (all directed at the traffic!) and even the rejection (lots of yelling at other drivers) but I feel like I've adjusted now.

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 living in Germany before coming to Zambia, so the increase in sunshine has had a huge positive impact. Much less struggle with depression.

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

I love how people-oriented they are. They will chat freely in the market, and they love connecting. It's every extrovert's dream. ;-)

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The lack of internet is a challenge. There are also few options for good schools here, and those that are good are incredibly expensive boarding schools. It can be annoying how long it takes to get anything done here (unless you bribe).

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

Not yet, but I'm sure I will.

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

It helps to know what you're moving to. Read a lot about your destination and if possible, get advice from people who live there on what to know, what to bring, etc.

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