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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Medellin, Colombia

Oct 30, 2017
Submitted by medellinappartments

Medellin, Colombia

An expat in Medellin talks about adapting to the manana way of life, starting a real estate business in Colombia and the friendly Colombians.

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?


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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?

I planned to take Spanish lessons as soon as I would arrive. My Duolingo app is very helpful.

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

Not really, I like to take things as they come.

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

Well... I must say I am not used to the manana-thing and the startup and registering of my businesses went painstaking slow due to the extreme level of bureaucracy, then some real estate agencies tried to scam me for over 50 million pesos so I decided to register my own agency to be able to start the apartment rental business that I had plans for.

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?

After a good month I almost decided to leave because a lot of Colombians gave me the feeling that they see a Gringo as some sort of money-for-the-taking-possibility... Later, I realised that my own behaviour caused most of it. Waving with money is not cool over here.

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.

After two months I finally started to understand the whole tranquilo/manana-thing that caused me so many frustrations, going against the grain is not the way to go... Learning to speak Spanish is also really helpful if you want to find your way over here ;-)

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

Lots of really friendly people in Colombia, If you are lost you must not be surprised if someone escorts you for half an hour to take you where you wanted to go.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Finding a balanced social network can be difficult when you only hang with the Gringos.

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

Beeing blunt-honest like people in my country is NOT the way to go!! ;-)

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

Go with the flow!

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