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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas

Feb 22, 2016
Submitted by Chui


A Woman on the Beach on the Abacos in the Bahamas

What's it like to move to paradise in the Bahamas? An expat on Treasure Cay, Abaco provides some great insight into her culture shock, an absence of culture, and even the various stages of imbibing as an expat in the Bahamas.

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

Treasure Cay, Abaco

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

No.

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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?

Same language

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

In most ways no. I was born and brought up in East Africa and lived in various countries in my life. However, without the ignorance of childhood and the umbrella of my fathers civil service employment and my ex-husbands RAF employment I was concerned that I might be less prepared than I thought.

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

Middling. The things that have shocked us were totally unexpected. There is actually a surprising lack of a defined culture here, which in a way might even be harder to deal with. The shocks have been more about ingrained attitudes and government.

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 never really went through the honeymoon phase. I loved some bits and not others. My partner did though. We then both went through the irritation to anger, to rejection but then to sorrow and giving up rather than adjustment.

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.

Anger definitely, disbelief, desperate seeking for hope. Increased drinking yes, though that has different stages. There is the initial 'hey, we're on the beach in the tropics lets drink lots of sweet rum drinks' to 'everyone else is drinking' to 'I need a drink after dealing with all that' to 'theres nothing else to do lets have a drink'. We overcame that to 'well that was fun lets drink what we actually enjoy now at times we actually want to'. We both miss and crave culture. There is definitely anxiety and a lot of sadness. The latter both for ourselves in what we are missing and for the locals in potential unfulfilled . No depression per se, but lots of disappointment. Personally I feel a certain loss of naivete in my beliefs and expectations.

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

People here mostly smile and greet you every time you go by, strangers or not. There is a 'help each other attitude' in some groups.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

A resistance to change. Lack of interest in opportunities that both land and sea offer. Lack of use of both. Poor attitudes in any type of officialdom, basically service with a shrug or blank stare. Not caring about standards - the stores happily sell food that is out of date and even rotten. Communication is appalling, phones not answered, messages and emails not replied to, desks not manned. Corruption. Male chauvinism. There is a definite male/female divide here. Of course none of this applies to everyone or every place, there are some lovely people and some places with great service, but it is generally inherant.

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

Not so much blunders as incidents that might be interesting. Eg

A businessman we have to have several meetings with who would constantly ask me (as the woman) to get him another drink etc. Friendly guy but it was just automatic that the woman was expected to do this. My partner finally just told me stay seated and he made a point of getting it instead.

Being on the receiving end of a misogynist joke at my expense in a shop, and me responding with a witty put down. He was somewhat taken aback.

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

A more defined culture is possibly easier to deal with than a watered down version of one you already are used to.

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