Expat Advice: Culture Shock in
May 06, 2019
A newcomer to Ecuador offers an honest view of what it's like adjusting to life in Guayaquil. From finding it hard to understand people, because they speak too fast to feeling depressed and thinking about returning home, she is truly in the midst of culture shock.
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?
Yes I speak Spanish but they speak too fast and use too many local idioms and feel lost at times.
Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?
Yes, but I figured being a Spanish speaker and having relatives would make the move easier. It didn't. It has been a struggle to adjust to their expectations.
How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?
Very significant. I'm depressed and at least once a day I think of going home.
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?
Most definitely. I'm somewhere between rejection and adjustment at this point. I dislike certain things but not enough to leave yet.
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.
Depression over possibly making a bad life decision by moving to Guayaquil, anxiety over my future earning potential and retirement plan being abroad, overeating on American snacks and packaged food because I'm tired of the local cuisine, easily frustrated with bureaucracy and nosy people.
What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?
People's willingness to embrace a stranger, their warm welcoming attitude and relaxed way of living. They face so many struggles on a day to day basis and still manage to go on with a smile on their face. That's baffling and enviable at the same time.
What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?
How normal it is to expect or to offer a bribe. The level of corruption is so widespread that is just hard to digest at times. Also, some people don't perceive new methods as improvements but rather as challenges to their authority. some don't accept constructive criticism.
Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!
I used to translate "you know what I mean" to "si me entiendes" and people would just nod politely but give me a weird look... later I was informed that "si me entiendes" sounds condescending to the other person in Spanish because the context of the sentence implies they are not bright enough to follow my chain of thought-- I was told to use "si me explico?" which translates to "am I explaining myself? " which puts the responsibility of any misunderstanding on my shoulders.
Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?
Visit before moving and try to not make any assumptions. Listen to locals about safety issues. And definitely start to downsize your toiletry needs while still at home. The shock of not finding "essentials" in your new country is very frustrating.
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