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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Nueva Gorgona, Panama

Submitted by JSBS

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

Nueva Gorgona

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

None

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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?

We speak very little Spanish. My husband speaks more than I. We are learning every day and getting along so far.

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

No

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

Not very. Very similar to living in Hawaii.

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?

Not really. Normal frustrations with government red tape that most of us experience no matter what country we are in. Striking difference in the two Altos del Maria stories. We just moved here a couple of months ago to a condo on the beach in the Coronado/Gorgona area. We started researching Panama in 2012 when we first got the idea to retire here one day. On each trip we stayed longer and longer. We traversed the isthmus the first time, staying in different locations for a few days each that we thought we might like. Best thing we ever did. On one trip we stayed half the time in PC and half the time in what turned out to be our now home. We met locals and expats along the way and developed contacts we felt we could trust to give us referrals on banks, attorneys, all the ins and outs. Invaluable. Our transition, when we finally made it, was quite smooth and we have had no surprises and very few challenges. Our language skills are limited but we are learning every day. Getting along fine and feel blessed that we are able to retire with no change in life style on our limited fixed income.

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.

What we have enjoyed most so far is the beauty we have found in our exploration of the country, the friendliness of the people who so graciously help us out and the opportunity to learn a different culture. They do not think as Americans think and it is refreshing and interesting to learn their perspectives and mindset.

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

The food. The appreciation for and enjoyment of everyday life and family. They are not as driven by the dollar as people in the USA. Their many celebrations and traditions and their enjoyment of them.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning Spanish.

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

One comment...locals are not servants. They are not here to do your bidding. We are guests in their country. Whether you hire a mechanic, lawyer, doctor, housekeeper, landscaper, etc. You are hiring their services period. Pay them according to the value of their work like you would anyone else, and if you want to invite them in to eat or for cultural exchange, do so. Anything else is arrogant, rude and shows no class. We expats are not the end all, be all. If you want things to run the same as they do in your country, stay there. Do not come here. That is my two cents.

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