Traveling to a different country can come with some complications such as a language barrier, different expectations and most importantly culture shock. Culture shock is defined as the feelings one gets after leaving their inborn home culture to live in another cultural environment. Even the most seasoned and open-minded travelers are not immune to this phenomenon of culture shock.
Culture shock comes in waves or phases but will always start with the honeymoon phase. The honeymoon phase is when everything is fresh, new and exciting. The food tastes different, the architecture is charming and the air has a different feel to it. This phase can last from several days to months.
The next phase is the disenchantment phase where the differences in the culture start to be unsettling. This could be in the form of you not liking people’s attitudes or behavior, the food starts to get dull and you start to miss home cooking and where you feel that life was so much better back home. This phase leads people to be anxious sad or irritable.
The last phase would be the settling phase where you tend to feel more at home with the differences you experience in the new culture. It may be attributed to the feeling of understanding that there is a difference and that different is okay. It is not necessarily a revert to the honeymoon phase but a new phase that eliminates anxiety and invites a relaxed atmosphere.
Culture Shock in Medellin
Culture shock can definitely happen to you in Medellin but here are a few examples of what to expect so that you can adjust faster in this new culture.
Personal Space is very limited especially in the Transmilenio during rush hour! Be ready to be face-to-face and shoulder to shoulder with strangers. This can come as a shock to people who are not used to congested streets and pathways.
Public Courtesy such as saying excuse me is somewhat limited here. You will barely get a “permiso” (The polite way to say “get out of my way”) if someone trips you while walking in a crowded area. This may be interpreted as rude to some however that is just how it is in this jam-packed city.
Another example of a difference in public courtesy would be the zebra lines or pedestrian lines on the street. In Colombia, they are often known to be just a decoration and people in vehicles do not respect these street features. This can be quite dangerous if you come from a country that strictly follows the pedestrian lines on the street. Stay on the side of caution whenever you cross the street!
Warm Personality is a positive trait that is common with Colombians and people are ready and willing to help you out if you ask for directions and will even offer to walk you to the destination themselves.
Of course, there are a lot more but these examples are enough to get your bearings in Colombian culture. You can also practice your Spanish by attending language exchanges.