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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Hastings, Barbados

Dec 17, 2018
Submitted by Robbai


Barbados

An expat in Barbados talks about what it's like living on this beautiful island. Adjusting to a more laid-back lifestyle isn't always as easy as you'd think, but can be liberating. Friday nights at the Oistins fish fry are a must!

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

Hastings

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

No, we decided to move there on a whim. We had two young children and a third on the way a the time.

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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?

The Barbadians (or Bajans as they say locally) speak English but with an accent that is quite hard to understand at times. We already spoke English.

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

We were leaving a European country that spoke a different language at the time so we figured the culture shock would be minor compared to our previous move. We were not completely right as we had a whole new set of things to get use to.

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

Life is lived at a very different pace in Barbados. Do not expect things to be done too quickly or you will just become frustrated at the natural pace of things there. It is better to accept it and learn to slow down and go with their pace. It becomes much less stressful. Also once they see you are not so uptight they tend to help you out more as they are now not afraid to be around the foreigner who wants them to work faster.

In addition do not expect to have access to all the same things you did in your home country. This is an island, besides Rum, Beer and a few foods not much is produced locally so most things have to be brought in. As a result some weeks you can not find good steak and some things you will simply never find available locally.

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 never went through an angry stage. The people are very friendly and they will accept you quickly if you adapt to their ways and are respectful. I found that most people will help you out given the chance and treated well.

As an example I had a mango tree in my yard that bore many fruits. I gave bags of mangoes to my friends when it got to the point that I could not eat them all. They appreciated it so much that soon they were bringing me all kinds of stuff and helping me on different projects.

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 was never angry or depressed in Barbados. The people were just so friendly and the weather so nice that I could not be in any mood but a good one.

You do tend to drink more but its on a social level as you go to the fishmarket on Friday nights (a social gathering) and have a few beers with crab balls and sauce or take part in the cropover celebrations that include quite a fair amount of rum and dancing.

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

The friendliness, the openness, and the love of life. The Bajans enjoy life, they don't take work as seriously as we do in America or Europe which can be frustrating but also can be liberating depending on how you approach the change. If you learn to relax and live a slower paced life you will enjoy the island life here in Barbados.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Getting anything done in a timely matter. Do not expect quick service for anything from restaurants to building a new home. Everything takes more time then you would be use to in America or Europe.

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

My first time at the Oistins fish fry I saw "Dolphin" on the menu and was a bit upset at the thought of eating dolphin and went on a bit of a rant about saving the dolphins... only to find out that in Barbados "dolphin fish" is actually Dorado or Maui Maui and not a Dolphin at all!

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

I have lived in many different countries now. No matter where you go you are bound to experience some differences from what you are use to. The best thing is always to approach them with an open mind first and remember you are the visitor in their land and it is up to you to adapt, learn to live with or leave. It is not up to them to change to the ways you are use to.

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