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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Cali, Colombia

Aug 10, 2015

Cali, Colombia

A soon-to-be expat who is moving to Cali, Colombia to be with his Colombian girlfriend talks about how visa issues are forcing him to have a permanent residence in Nicaragua. He discusses culture shock as well.

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?

All my cross cultural training if you want to call it that comes from a visit to Barranquilla, Medellin, Bogota and Cali in June 2014. I roamed the streets alone with never a problem.

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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?

My Spanish is of no consequence. I do expect in time to learn because I have a Colombian Girl Friend now to travel with me.

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

Not worried about culture shock, except in Cali I ran into the problem of no hot water in the sink.

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

I haven't moved yet but am going on Sept 3rd, first to NICARAGUA to look at several areas, then go on to Colombia. I can only stay in Colombia 183 days total each year so we plan to have a house in NICARAGUA as a residence and live at her house in Cali when we go there to visit her family.

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 also travel alone a lot in China without speaking the language. I just try to understand and adapt to the local culture so it has not been a problem wherever I go.

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 have as many friends in each other country as in the USA so none of those things apply. Spanish looks like an easier language, but I get messages in Chinese daily on WeChat which is popular in China.

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

I ask for the girl friend's mother and father's approval early on and got approval from the whole family even though I am much older than she.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

The most challenging may be that she is Catholic and I am Christian. But Saturday is my Church day and Sunday is hers so we can work that out.

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

If I did, I'm too dumb to notice. I'm always polite and gentlemanly and find that Colombian people like to practice their English on me.

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

I would say try to listen, you will learn more. Too many people are so busy thinking what they want to say, rather than listen to the other person. It will be appreciated.

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