With a supportive community of both expats and locals, it might seem that culture shock is not something you have to deal with when moving here, but culture shock is a reality when making any international move even for those of us who are already familiar with a particular language and/or culture from past experience. Any time you make a big life change, it will shake things up for you and your loved ones. Understanding and accepting this reality can actually help to smooth out the transition somewhat. Pink Pangea, a women’s travel site, gives an excellent synopsis of what culture shock looks like and strategies to help you through the transition period. The writer, an experienced traveler who loves her new Mexican life, still had to contend with her own culture shock, because as she points out, moving somewhere is quite different from visiting.
According to Wikipedia, many who suffer from culture shock do not realize that this is what is bothering them. If you are relatively new to Mexico and are feeling anxious, homesick or worse, you may want to consider whether those feelings are possibly related to culture shock.
An additional consideration for those of us who are older than this intrepid expat is that relationships with your family left behind will change. Family dynamics could be better or worse, but they will certainly be different and it may take time to work through the feelings and opinions of everyone concerned, including your own. Like any family change, when family members are accustomed to a certain relationship and lifestyle, your move can upset the proverbial apple cart, which may not be a bad thing ultimately, but can be tricky to navigate.
Social media in a time of transition can be your friend and your enemy, because some expats have a tendency to shame those who post anything other than positive feelings about their new culture. Better to gather some trusted friends in your new location that can support you in those times when you’re not feeling like you’ve arrived in paradise. And don’t spend too much time on social media, which can be a big time suck and can tend towards the negative.
Culture Shock Passes With Time
The best thing about culture shock is that it doesn’t last forever. Many years ago I moved from Paris, France to Lima, Peru. I did not speak Spanish at the time and suffered through six months of intense culture shock without even knowing the term. To say the least, it was no fun at all between language difficulties, stomach upsets and general malaise over moving from a sparkling city to a third world country. But after those six months, I found myself warming to the people and the culture, and after three years I felt at home (yes it did take three years). And it might have been easier had I understood more fully what I was going through.
One of the best strategies to deal with culture shock is to be patient with yourself and give it time. How you feel today is probably not how you will feel tomorrow. Self-care in a time of transition is even more important than usual, so get that massage, go to that yoga class and live in the moment.
Finally, if after giving yourself plenty of time to adjust, you find yourself re-thinking your decision to relocate, don’t beat yourself up. Give it some time, try to get to that place where you have a cool head, and make the decision you feel is right for you, whether it is to stay or to go. Lakeside is not for everyone as we pointed out in the Noisy, Dirty and Dangerous post, and you should not feel ashamed if you come to that conclusion. Happily, most Lakeside expats make the transition successfully and enjoy rewarding lives in their adopted country.
By Bette Brazel, Focus on Mexico Content Manager
Focus On Mexico offers 6-Day Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico. Join us and learn why thousands of Americans and Canadians chose to retire in Lake Chapala.
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