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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Merida, Mexico

Nov 25, 2017
Submitted by Tuddiepat1

Merida, Mexico

An expat in Merida, Mexico offers some insight into the challenges of settling in and living there. Some of the topics include driving, what it's like there if you don't speak Spanish, and much more. This expat clearly is an optimist and is determined to make life in Merida with her husband a success!

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?

We worked with an Expat Specialist named Adriana at YES (Yucatan Expat Services). For $200 USD, we had 3 hours of time to work with her. We had an hour call at first and asked a million questions and she answered each and every one. Later, once we got to Merida, she helped us with Immigration and we did pay her $190 USD to get all the immigration papers together and file them at the office. We were very happy to just pay her and get it done rather than go to the Immigration office, because we did have to go there once and it was really difficult because they did not speak English. Of course, you could file everything yourself and save the money. Whatever works best for you!

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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 husband and I speak very little Spanish, but we are learning as we go along. We have taken some courses online and will probably be taking a real class sometime soon. If we would have learned it when we were in the USA, I think that would have been really helpful, but Google Translate is something that we use every single day!!

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

No, we were not concerned about the culture shock before we left. We expected that there would be some culture shock.

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

Merida Mexico is a huge city of approximately a million people. The majority of people that we have met have been very helpful and friendly. We have not felt unsafe in the city at all since we have been here. There are a huge amount of stores and restaurants and many that are in the USA also, so that kind of makes things easier. I think the biggest culture shock that we have experienced is in driving and trying to get around the city. Just imagine cars, trucks, buses, bikes, and other vehicles that we have never seen and a ton of motorcycles weaving in and out and trying to get around at the same time. At this point, neither one of us can go out alone, because we have to have someone doing the navigating!! Again Thank You Google!!

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?

We have only been here for about a month and things are definitely different here. I don't feel like we have gone through any "stages of culture shock." My hubby and I have just decided that things are different than the USA, and we have to follow their rules, even though we might not agree with or understand them, "Go with the flow" is our new motto!!

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 think that between my husband and I, we have had times of being angry at each other, but most of it is related again to the driving and trying to get around the city.

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

Most people that we have met have been very friendly. Some going out of their way to help us, Merida is a very historical city and very rich in Mayan and Mexican culture. We have not had any time yet to check out all the history and culture, but are really looking forward to finding all about it.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

I think language is the main challenge. Originally, we were going to move to Playa del Carmen where many of the Mexicans speak English as it is a tourist town. We changed plans and moved to Merida and have found that the majority of Mexicans do not speak English, so it is definitely a challenge daily!!

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

Not that we have noticed yet, but I'm sure that will be happening in the future :-)

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

Wherever you go.........just go with the flow. Life it too short to sweat the small stuff.......Not worth getting worked up over!! :-)

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