The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico

The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico

The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico

I am a tough woman. I trained for and ran two marathons by myself without anyone there to support me or cheer me on. I shot and killed an elk in the Rocky Mountains and helped butcher and pack it out. I broke my ankle while cross-country skiing alone with my dog, and then skied 1.5 miles out of the woods back to my car. I survived many cold, snowy winters in windy Wyoming with only a wood stove for heat. And three months ago, I sold 95% of my possessions and moved to Mexico to be with my Mexican fiancé. So, culture shock in Mexico? Me?

I pride myself on being independent and resilient. Tough.

I read about culture shock, but I didn’t think it applied to me. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, culture shock is: A sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.”

Three months ago, I sold 95% of my possessions and moved to Mexico to be with my Mexican fiancé. So, culture shock in Mexico? Me?

Alien culture? Inadequate preparation? I had visited Mexico many times before I moved and felt adequately prepared to live there. It is only a short three-hour flight to Puerto Vallarta from Denver, Colorado. It takes longer to fly from Chicago to Seattle! I didn’t think it would be that much of a change. Sure, the language is different, the food is different, the people are different, the climate is different, the customs and traditions are different…

But, I figured all of those differences are what make Mexico new and exciting. It would be an adventure!  I would adapt just fine. And on top of that I was (and still am) in love with my wonderful, charming, loving, sexy fiancé. Love conquers all, right? I wasn’t even remotely concerned.

This wasn’t a tropical Mexico vacation, however. This was my new life. My fiancé had to go to work, and I didn’t yet have a job. After unpacking my things and settling into our new apartment, I found myself very much alone and depressed.

I read about culture shock, but I didn’t think it applied to me.

I discovered that my identity had been tied to my life back in Wyoming. I didn’t walk my dog every day to work anymore. I didn’t go trail running or camping with my friends in the mountains. I couldn’t go to my local co-op for a bottle of kombucha. I didn’t have a social network. I felt disoriented and directionless, and I didn’t know who I was anymore. On top of that, I struggled to make new friends and connect with other women in the community. And the temperature hovered around 95 degrees with 90% humidity. I missed my old life.

Nobody is immune from culture shock. It is normal to feel out of place in a new country with a different culture, language and climate. Admitting you are experiencing culture shock doesn’t make you a failure or weak-minded. Moving to a new country is something most people just dream about doing but never actually have the guts to do.

I discovered that my identity had been tied to my life back in Wyoming. I didn’t walk my dog every day to work anymore. I didn’t go trail running or camping with my friends in the mountains.

After living here for three months, I admit that I am still experiencing culture shock in Mexico, but it is getting easier. I am starting to make new friends and go to yoga classes. I have a new puppy. I’ve started working as a freelance writer. Slowly, I am settling into my new life.

If you are feeling disoriented or down after moving to a new country, here are some tips to get you back on your adventurous feet again:

The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico

  • Don’t ignore your feelings. Feeling homesick, sad, angry or frustrated after moving to a new country is normal. It is a major life change. Be kind to yourself. Call a family member or friend from back home. Read other expats’ accounts of dealing with culture shock. Write out your thoughts in a journal. And if you have feelings of depression that are not improving with time, seek professional help. You can find a counselor in your new country or talk to a professional online. 
  • Keep your identity. You are still you, even if you are living in a new country. Doing activities that you enjoyed back in your old country will help make the transition easier. I really enjoy running, and I find that going for a run calms me down and helps me feel like myself again. I also stream my favorite local radio station while I am cooking dinner, drink my favorite brand of green tea in the morning, blast old Randy Travis classics, practice yoga, and once in a while eat a greasy American-style cheeseburger and fries… anything that will remind me that I have not lost my former self. 
  • Meet new people! I am not the best at this as I am very introverted. But getting out of your comfort zone and volunteering, teaching English, learning your new country’s language, taking a yoga or Zumba class, a surf lesson or dance class can really help you connect with your new community. Talk to other local expats and get ideas and advice on ways to expand your social circle. 
  • Develop a daily routine. This is key for me! After moving to Mexico from Wyoming, I missed my daily routine of waking up and going to work and coming home and all the little details in between. For me, as a new freelance writer, having a routine is necessary to accomplish tasks throughout the day. I wake up early, go for a run, come home, eat breakfast, and get busy working on my website or writing assignments. In the evening I walk my new puppy. Having a regular schedule helps to normalize your new life.

Realize that adjustment to a new country, culture and language takes time! Be easy on yourself and take it one day at a time.

The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico

The Surprise of Culture Shock in Mexico


About Erin Maloney

Erin MaloneyErin Maloney is a freelance writer, blogger, artist, musician and avid trail runner living in San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico. She shares her life with a crazy belgian malinois puppy named Luna and wonderful Mexican fiancé Diego.

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