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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Jul 23, 2018

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

An expat in Ivory Coast talks about the challenges and frustrations of living in Abidjan. She has lived in other countries, but never experienced culture shock as significant as this before.

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?


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?

They speak French. I tried studying using some online courses before we came... but I learned much more by being here. I can speak "survival French" now, but my grammar is terrible! I would like to take some courses here, but they are quite expensive.

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

Not really, I have lived abroad for 8 years previously.

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

Very significant. It was a much harder adjustment than anywhere else I've lived.

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?

Yes, the honeymoon phase was very short - about 2 months. The irritation-to-anger stage lasted about 6 months. And I think I am currently in the rejection of culture stage. I am not sure if I will ever get to the cultural adjustment stage. It is a very difficult place to adjust to.

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.

Frustration definitely - it is extremely hard to find skilled professionals when you need something. Car mechanic, plumber, phone repair... To find reliable people to help you is a daily and constant struggle and is extremely frustrating. I think I have also experienced some depression as I don't enjoy going out anymore... I prefer to stay at home as much as I can.

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

The people in general are actually quite friendly - but many will see foreigners as only a way to make cash and will take advantage of you. But if you are lucky enough to find some that are genuinely kind, they will do anything for you and will treat you like family.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

A couple of things... first has been the corrupt government and along with that, the bribing that goes on here. Currently, Ivory Coast has the fastest growing economy in Africa. But the local people are not reaping the rewards -- only the wealthy and government connected Lebanese and Ivorians are. It is extremely difficult and frustrating to see this very apparent inequality happening right in front of your face. Minimum wage has not been raised for many years and is currently at CFA 60,000/month... which is roughly USD $120. However, the price of electricity, for example, is very expensive at approximately USD $40 for very very very minimal usage in a small home. And high speed internet (2MBPS) is also roughly USD $40. This is not to mention rents, which have skyrocketed in the last 3 years... a modest, old style apartment in an okay part of the city will easily run you CFA 300,000/month. So obviously, this minimum wage is NOT a livable wage. For such a fast and wealthy growing economy - you would think they could do better for the people. But instead, the high ranking officials keep most of if for themselves. This also leads to bribing - which happens constantly and overtly here. I have been stopped 4 times by the police while driving just to "check my papers"... but I am always asked to pay something to them. They don't always give a reason, though sometimes they will make something up like, "your windows are too tinted" or "your tires don't seem to be in regulation with the car". And then they ask you for the equivalent of USD $3-5. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it is the principle of needing to pay someone, even though you've done nothing wrong. This happens all the time. I have been asked for money from the electricity company, the security company at our home, the driving license bureau, the lady who took my blood at the hospital, the guardian at my bank... everywhere. And it is outright and open. They are not ashamed to do it. It seems to be just a way of life - they expect you to give them extra money and they have no problem asking you for it.

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

Not that I know of

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

Culture shock is intense here in Ivory Coast -- highly recommend getting connected into the expat community as soon as possible to help you get acclimated to things and to get recommendations.

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Culture-Shock-in-AbidjanAn Expat Talks about Culture Shock & Living in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

An expat in Ivory Coast talks about the challenges and frustrations of living in Abidjan. She has lived in other countries, but never experienced culture shock as significant as this before.

An expat in Ivory Coast talks about the challenges and frustrations of living in Abidjan. She has lived in other countries, but never experienced culture shock as significant as this before. ...

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