Culture shock is a very real thing, and it affects many new expats around the world. Naturally it’s worse when you move to a country with an entirely different language. Even if you’ve gone from one European country to another, there are degrees to which you might experience culture shock. If you’re looking at properties for sale in the Costa del Sol region of Spain, you might be wondering whether you’ll face any challenges here.
Spain is not so difficult, actually; there are a lot of similarities between British and Spanish culture, but of course the language is completely different and can take quite some time to learn. Fortunately, here on the Costa del Sol that isn’t so much of an issue; most people speak some level of English, so you would rarely encounter any problem getting what you need.
Language isn’t the only factor
Culture shock can occur for various reasons. There is a difference between going on holiday to a country and permanently living there. Only then do people tend to notice the major differences in between the culture and their own.
It might happen for the first time when you start work in a new Spanish office, for instance. You may find that the attitudes to work are quite different – nothing like the work culture back home. This could take some getting used to.
Often when foreigners interact with a new culture, there will be things they miss in communication and certain things they’re not aware they should conform to. Locals tend to notice this, as non-conformity stands out! It can help to research local cultural etiquette, and ask questions of the locals you’re more familiar with.
A little adjustment may be necessary
Shock is quite an off-putting word! It sounds extreme, really, but the most you’ll probably experience in an easy-going European country like Spain is a little discomfort from having to find new ways of doing things. Even adjusting to the siesta can be a little challenging for those who are used to being able to pop to the local shops for a bite to eat when the urge arises.
If you were moving to a country like India or China for the first time, you would probably experience a much more intense version of culture shock. The adjustments necessary would be substantial, and overwhelm would be a possibility – at least at first.
Whatever the degree of discomfort you’re feeling, keep in mind that it’s caused mainly by unfamiliarity. Over time, you’ll start to form new habits and those unfamiliar cultural customs will start to seem more like ‘the norm’.
A few noteworthy things about Spain
The Spanish, like other European nationalities, can be a little particular about the way things are done. For this reason, you might receive the occasional raised eyebrow if you make a cultural ‘faux pas’ but unless you’re behaving outrageously, you shouldn’t encounter any adversity!
To give you an example, in Spain, personal pride, character and individualism are valued quite highly. People are more likely to prefer modesty over assertiveness – but this isn’t the case every time, of course. Appearance, personal image and relationships are considered to be important… but flaunting superiority, intelligence or abilities isn’t particularly appreciated, although people do strive to project social position and affluence.
The Spanish aren’t big on timekeeping like the Brits generally are, which can lead to frustration for British expats. Brits might see punctuality as a mark of respect, but the Spanish don’t really see it that way. A meeting time is often a benchmark rather than a definite appointment!
The Spanish also tend to be a lot less subtle than the Brits, saying things in a more direct way and forgoing that stereotypically British politeness. It is generally a human tendency to protect one’s own perception. Locals might feel this way when seeing foreigners behaving differently; conversely, if you’re feeling resistance to the new culture, it could be for the same reasons.
Ways to manage your culture shock
Sometimes it’s simply a case of shifting perspective. We can be resistant to too much change, but if you try to look at the differences as novelties, they may become more amusing than challenging. Injecting a little humour into things always helps! This applies especially when we make a cultural ‘faux pas’. Laughing it off is the best way (but try to learn while you’re at it!).
Try to see any resistance you experience as an indicator that you’re culturally conditioned, to some extent. That’s not a bad thing – our environment is the number one influence on our lives, so it’s totally normal to be affected by your own culture’s norms. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t open our minds to new ways of doing things. It just takes a little time.
Learn some local language, if you can. Not only is it freeing, but it can also be fun. You might make some new friends in the process, which will certainly help to lessen the culture shock.
Remember that you’re getting a whole new life experience – and that’s exciting! Perhaps this experience will prepare you for adventures in more challenging countries around the world one day.
Paradise Marbella’s team has been here in Spain for many years and we know plenty about the culture. If you’re interested in a property for sale in Spain’s beautiful Marbella, we can help with that – and with our level of knowledge, we can help you to get off to the best start too.