Tampons, naked saunas and men in Speedos

By: Suzanne

Deal with it? Live with it? Accept it? Deny it?

Nothing can prepare for Culture shock, just what is it anyway? How is it described? Is it really THAT bad?

Culture shock is just something that has to be experienced. It’s not something that is helped by even speaking the same language.

Family and friends may not understand it, or even accept that it exists.

Everyone knows that moving house is the third most traumatic life event after a death in the family and divorce.

When you become an expat, even moving to a country where the same language is spoken, there is still a barrier to communication. The way of doing things is different, words and phrases have different meanings.

Culture shock are not words that are familiar to too many people.

Many expats don’t consider ‘culture shock’ or have even heard of it. Moving house within your home country is difficult enough. It takes a while to make friends, establish a network, but things are still done the same way, setting up utilities, connecting the phone line, application process for schools, finding Doctor etc. You know things will be done differently, but you don’t realise how hard it will all be.

You have to adapt, you learn how to do things, it’s still frustrating, you stop thinking ‘how would I do that in my home country?’

Culture shock is a transition from your old life to your new one. It’s about a new identity, adapting to a completely new way of life. There is a difference between Culture Shock and Depression, but there comes a point when you recover from Culture shock, but the depression that is associated with it, is harder to overcome. The difficulty is identifying what is daily life for you now and what is a normal reaction to a move and what is culture shock?

After 2 years I’m not sure if I suffered from culture shock. There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa, there is extreme poverty and extreme wealth. It is an emerging country, still coming to terms with apartheid. It is very diverse. It can be a very dangerous country. I live behind an electric fence, with finger print access to the estate. It’s a 2 hour flight, 16 hour drive, from where we live in Pretoria to Cape Town. Cape Town has a similar vibe to Europe with less obvious security. It’s like being in a different country. I’ve shopped at Sandton, I’ve camped overnight in a township.

These have been life changing experiences, they’ve shaped me, helped me to discover a new identity, which on reflection isn’t too different to what I was before the move. I’ve suffered with depression, from not having any support, not having a network, not having the knowledge of how to get things done round here. It has been a shock, it’s not all about culture, that part I embraced from the start. It’s the differences that have caused my depression. It’s been fear that slowed me down or stopped me from doing things.

I’ll leave you with 3 blog links about my personal experiences with Culture shock; they involve tampons, naked saunas and men in Speedos.

The first post is about daily life and looking for familiar things from home.


The second post may or may not be about Culture shock, but I’ve never been a member of a gym before, something culturally I never did/had time for.


The last one isn’t necessarily about Culture but it did give me a shock.


About the author

Expat Blog ListingSuzanne is a Welsh expat living in South Africa. Blog description: As if raising teenagers isn’t hard enough! We thought we’d emigrate to South Africa as well. Join me on our journey with a few rants thrown in.
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Contest Comments » There are 4 comments

Mel Lang wrote 7 years ago:

Love how you write, can't believe the tampon & swimming stories, nice to read a real honest post about the reality of what culture shock can be like. I am in awe of what your day to day life must be like, makes mine look like a walk in paradise.

Sami Veloso wrote 7 years ago:

Wow, I had to laugh at your stories, the Adonis one was fabulous.

Tattooed Mummy wrote 7 years ago:

Loved your blog posts when i first read them, you have both made me envious and terrified so I guess that's a skill. Keep surviving and blogging, I enjoy the ride!

Schwingen In Switzerland wrote 6 years ago:

I'm an Expat and did a post about Speedo's too. http://schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/men-in-speedos/

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