Many from other countrie are surprised at the political marches that occur regularly in Ecuador. My opinion: We need to learn more about this active and successful process!
A COUPLE OF NEW FRIENDS are not making it here in Cuenca, Ecuador—at least so far. I like them and find they are interesting and fun. But I don’t think they’ve lived much in other cultures. I gauge this on their reactions to their new surroundings In their eyes, nothing seems to be going right since they have arrive.
- extreme homesickness
- avoiding social situations
- physical complaints and sleep difficulties
- inability to concentrate
- becoming angry over minor irritations
- significant nervousness or exhaustion
- Everything is relative to culture.
For example people from different cultures may see how Americans behave as different and as “bad”. For some, the American communication style may seem too loud or direct. Take a lesson, and try to avoid labeling what others do as “good” or “bad” according to the culture you are from. Remember that there may be parts of a culture you dislike, but these are part of a broader social system, and make more sense inside that system.
- Be curious and open-minded.
Adjusting to a new culture does not mean that you have to change your own beliefs or values, but it is important to respect those of other people. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, try to think of it as a new adventure. See this experience as a new game, and be curious about the way things are perceived and done in this new place.
- Use your observation skills.
Since you will run into new ways of doing things (rules and norms), observing how others behave can help you understand what is expected of you. It’s like watching someone use chopsticks before trying it out for for yourself! Pay close attention to both the verbal and nonverbal communication of others to get a better picture of what is going on.
- Ask questions
Ask for help when you need it. This is not a sign of weakness. In Cuenca, the moment a person asks for help in speaking Spanish, nearly every Cuencano reaches out in support. Understanding others and making yourself understood in a new language requires lots of rephrasing, repeating and clarification. It may be helpful to ask questions like “I believe you are saying… Is that correct?” Talk slowly and use hand gestures. In Latino culture, I find myself adding apologies more frequently. “Excuse me. Will you please speak more slowly?” (Disculpe. Por favor. Hable mas despacio.)
- It’s ok to experience anxiety
Learning to function in a new environment is not easy. It is natural to feel anxious or frustrated sometimes. The key is to remind yourself that these feelings are normal and are likely to be situational and temporary.
- Know it’s okay to make mistakes
Anyone will make mistakes while exploring a new environment. Look for the humor and be ready to laugh, while keeping in mind that others will probably make mistakes, too. If someone makes an absurd statement about your culture, it may be due to a lack of information. Use this as an opportunity to share information with others about yourself and your culture.
- Take care of your physical and mental health
Be mindful about keeping a healthy diet and getting enough exercise and rest. Try to find an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your routine. Being physically active can help reduce your stress level, but if this doesn’t work seek help. Look for an AA, in you’re having alcohol problems for instance, or for depression and other problems seek a therapist who knows your culture (if talking to a friend does not help).
- Be patient – don’t try to understand everything immediately
It takes time to adjust to a new and different culture. Be patient with this experience and do not be overly critical of yourself or the people around you.