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Relocation to Spain - Culture shock?

TMcA

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
A post by @AnaRosario triggered many responses about moving to Spain and I followed them closely. One thing that was mentioned only rarely was "culture shock". I have experienced this when I lived for several years first in Thailand and, many years later, in Vietnam. Both times I was in a fairly immersive environment, both while working and in the place I found myself living. In other words, I was not living the way an ex-pat can live in, for example, Marbella. So both times I experienced culture shock.

My experience is just mine, but I think almost everyone experiences culture shock when plunged into another country for a long term. And relocating to Spain, or Portugal, or southern France (ahh, far sunnier places than where I now claim home) may also qualify.

The importance of a degree of language facility was mentioned in several responses to @AnaRosario but I'd like to hear what others say about experiencing and dealing with culture shock.

Season's Greetings to you all.
 
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In a very minor way.

An an anglophone, being in another country where the language) and much else besides is different one (OK, I) can get an overly romanticised impression. The sun always shines, there are lovely markets, historic churches and all those local people going about their business to keep me entertained.

Several years later, and with functional fluency in Spanish, I find that ‘the locals’ are talking about the same normal stuff that everyone else is.

Is that reverse culture shock? The realisation that normal life everywhere has similar preoccupations and issues to deal with?
 
The importance of a degree of language facility was mentioned in several responses to @AnaRosario but I'd like to hear what others say about experiencing and dealing with culture shock.
One of my main experiences of culture shock is around food. Both in Spain and in Asia, for different reasons. Spain is easier, though, because I'm from a culture that is not so different and am more familiar with the basic food theme - and like it, meat notwithstanding.

How to deal with that is much easier when you can cook for yourself, though. Then it's simply a matter of not being able to find some familiar ingredients and adapting - as well as finding things you like better than food at home
 
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Culture shock is usually thought of as occurring in 4 or 5 stages. This is a pretty good description of them:

The stages are not always sequential, and you can cycle through them multiple times, and even feel a couple of different stages in a single day. Some older research gave timelines for each stage, three months for one stage, six months for another, etc., but that idea has been discarded. It’s somewhat like grief, in that you get through it when you get through it, and not before. However, factors like a good attitude, learning the language, having a purpose for being there, and so on can all help with the adjustment.
Several years later, and with functional fluency in Spanish, I find that ‘the locals’ are talking about the same normal stuff that everyone else is.

Is that reverse culture shock? The realisation that normal life everywhere has similar preoccupations and issues to deal with?
No, that is Stage 4, adaptation and acceptance. Reverse culture shock (Stage 5) sometimes occurs you go back home and have difficulty adjusting to your old culture.

This, btw, is a good example of Stage 1: “An an anglophone, being in another country where the language) and much else besides is different one (OK, I) can get an overly romanticised impression. The sun always shines, there are lovely markets, historic churches and all those local people going about their business to keep me entertained.”
 
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Certainly would like to relocate or at least spend more time in Spain when I retire. I want to be in a smaller community where I must walk or take a bus to get my groceries with my little pull cart and where I get my bread from the truck or local baker. When I volunteer this is a satisfying part of my work where I become involved in the local community.
It is a culture shock in a good way.
 
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Several years later, and with functional fluency in Spanish, I find that ‘the locals’ are talking about the same normal stuff that everyone else is.
This is the crux of the issue: turns out that life in a different city/state/parish/country is really just like life where you live now in many ways. YOU are the same, your significant other remains who they are, and when you sit inside your home, it’s a whole lot like sitting inside your home where you are currently living. Outside that building, you know less people and have less obligations, likely have more difficulty finding your usual food/drink and locating basic items that you used to buy easily near your former home.

I’m not saying it won’t be enjoyable, that you won’t meet new people and try new things, or that you won’t live there happily until you die. Just taking a bit of the color off the “grass is greener” mystique that accompanies that glassy-eyed cooing about moving abroad. It will be better in some ways and worse in others. Just go prepared for ALL that it has to offer.

(I say this from personally living abroad, frequently traveling long term, and being surrounded by close family members who are currently making homes in foreign countries)
 
Since the topic is relocation to Spain, I would guess that no one would go for it voluntarily expecting a great culture shock… whatever it might be.
Having lived in many countries and ending up in a country that is not my native one (perhaps Spain might still come), I can just say again that a decent knowledge of the language is the best remedy to any distress eventually coming…
Just a couple of days ago near Los Cristianos, Tenerife, I was served by an extremely rude cab driver (not imaginable here), but a simple question “Disculpa, por que eres tan grosero?, allowed him to calm down and tell his story about the miserable life of all day serving drunk tourists from another island …
 
Each of us travel the journey with different expectations, but I can report that we retired near Astorga almost 4 years ago and life here has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to enjoying life along the Camino for many years to come. Just like shoes, it is hard to get recommendations on this kind of thing from another person even if we both have two feet.
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I love Spain, and I could certainly get by if I needed to live here (I am currently less than 100K from SJPP hooray) but I would not do so by choice, simply from how much I love the South of France.

Perhaps we have as little choice in the places as the people that we fall in love with.
 
Culture shock is inevitable.
Some people enjoy it (I do — very much!), and some people hate it or are offended in their experience of difference. Some are both disgusted and offended…
knowing yourself how you will respond to difference is likely to be crucial information. I would guess that the Camino forum is not full of the Alicante or bust crowd… but I admit that’s just a guess. Even so, I’d suggest that anyone who wants to move to *anywhere* find an opportunity first to stay for at least 3 months in that location. It might not be feasible if you are sent on a work transfer and just have to suck it up. But for retirement? Yeah… rent a place first and do it in the worst season. See how it goes.
Also, homesickness is not culture shock. For me, no matter how much I am enjoying travels of any kind, homesickness sets in around week 3 and leaves around 10 days later — which seems to be the time it takes me to allow myself not to be everyone’s “go-to” resource at home. For retirees who have left work colleagues behind, and are more likely without their own parents any longer, and whose children have perhaps long since moved far enough away not to be a constant, then I will hazard that the homesickness phenomenon will be rather Less.
 
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It takes me about 3 months to get homesick, but even so, I've been seven months on my current Camino.

The absence of homesickness isn't enough to establish what and where, but a deeper sense of home is where it's from, not excluding Camino locations in Spain.
 
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You can see that all the individual stories recounted make it clear that everyone has their own experience, no two relocations are going to be the same. I’ve lived for seven different one year periods in Brazil, Spain, and Portugal, and had different adjustment issues each time. Like others have noted, simple things like figuring out how to pay your bills or getting used to the eating schedules may throw you for a loop or may just be little challenges to deal with.

I personally have never found the “stage” approach to life experiences to be very helpful, but I think it might give a good starting point about what people might expect. I have more experience with “the stages of grief” than with the “stages of culture shock” but come away thinking that by trying to offer generalized pronouncements about how the human mind and body work, the intricacy and uniqueness of each individual response is missed.

Just based on my own experience, I would say that the biggest factor that will impact the adjustment to a new country comes from the decision to either plunge into the new “native” community or to find an expat community with similar backgrounds. That has a huge impact on how the adjustment goes and on what life in a “foreign country” will be like. I’ve always preferred the plunge-in approach, but one year in Spain we had no choice but to put our kids in the American School and that was a whole different can of worms. I cannot even begin to compare how different it was from the year in Brazil where we just plunked them in Brazilian schools.

I will also say that I had more culture shock moving from the East Coast of the US in my 20s to the small community in rural Illinois where I still live than I have had adjusting to life abroad, but that’s a whole different story.
 
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We met this gentleman in Molinaseca this last May. He was a docent at Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari church. He's an American from New Jersey who walked the French and was so enthralled by it all, particularly by the town of Molinaseca, that he gave up his life in the States and moved there. I've rarely met a person who is happier than this man.

 
I have enjoyed reading the comments and musings in this thread. Having moved to Barcelona (from Toronto) I can't really say that I experienced culture shock. Often it was the initial frustration with trying to manage simple tasks and not knowing how to proceed in my new surroundings (e.g., making an appointment to have my hair cut, visiting a dentist, contacting an electrician, finding an ingredient for a beloved recipe, etc.) or sometimes the difficulty of navigating bigger tasks such as filing annual taxes, making a property purchase or gaining familiarity with the local banking system. It was at these times that I found local expat FB groups to be extremely helpful.

Language is a whole other topic. Only knowing some basic Spanish words and phrases acquired while on Camino was of limited use. Added to that was the fact that learning Catalan would give us greater cred with the locals. It was then that I found myself in a Catalan class being taught in Spanish. A long story!

I have since left beloved Barcelona for a much different life on a tiny island in the Azores, Portugal. Still adjusting, the biggest "shock" has been moving to a very rural community for the first time in my life.

Nothing in life is certain or without change. Moving to a new country comes with struggles (or perhaps culture shock) but also offers many rewards and previously unknown surprises. I am thankful for the experiences I have had.
 
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I will also say that I had more culture shock moving from the East Coast of the US in my 20s to the small community in rural Illinois where I still live than I have had adjusting to life abroad, but that’s a whole different story.
I Sympathize with you, Urban Chicago to rural Maine for me. A bigger adjustment than Chicago to Amsterdam. The move I’m planning now is from Rural Maine to some Mediterranean city, undecided yet. We’ll see how that goes…..
 
I've been in Portugal almost 2 years now, and there was definitely some culture shock, we're still so delighted to be here that I think we skipped right over the Negotiation stage! It helped that we're in a community with a decent number of expats who have helped us get our feet under us, and that we're generally easy-going and adaptable sorts. And we love food, so exploring Portugal's food culture has been a great deal of fun. We're in Portuguese classes now, and Chapter 15 was all about Portuguese food, and we laughed, because we knew all the words!
 
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or sometimes the difficulty of navigating bigger tasks such as filing annual taxes, making a property purchase or gaining familiarity with the local banking system. It was at these times that I found local expat FB groups to be extremely helpful.


Nothing in life is certain or without change. Moving to a new country comes with struggles (or perhaps culture shock) but also offers many rewards and previously unknown surprises. I am thankful for the experiences I have had.
As someone who presumably had to arrange to move money from Canada to Spain, is there a bank that you recommend? (My bank for some 40 years now has been TD-CT, from the time when it was only CT…), and I have some secondary dealings with BMO.
I don’t know for certain if those details matter, but I do think it is a little bit easier for people in the US who can choose to set up with Santander in the US.
Have you thoughts or advice on that?
 
I'd like to hear what others say about experiencing and dealing with culture shock.
One of the factors is the things that we just take for granted within our own culture.

Please bear with me while I set the scene:

I have a Portuguese friend that I met in Germany while I was living in Sweden, at an academic conference. We bonded over Rugby.

He emailed me to say that he was coming to ANZ during the Rugby World cup. I immediately emailed back inviting him to stay with us while he was in ANZ. Initially he said yes but then a couple of days later he changed his mind and said that he wanted to stay in a hotel instead and so I helped him find a place that was central but affordable.

During his stay I drove into the central city, where he was staying, most days to pick him up so that I could show him the sights that I wanted to share with him. Eventually I got tired of this and told him that it was a pain in the a... driving into the city everyday and it would be much easier if he simply stayed at our house. This time he agreed and came to stay with us until he returned home and while he stayed with us we included him in our family.

---- a couple of years pass ---

I am on Camino in Spain and I get seriously ill with Legionella and am in hospital in Lugo. The excellent Spanish Medical System fixes me but I need a week somewhere to recuperate and regain my strength. My nearest close friend that I knew that I could count on to help lives in Cambridgeshire in the UK and that seemed a bit far for a quick dash and so I thought that I would email my friend in Portugal, explain my predicament and see what happens.

He invites me to come stay with his family, at his parents house (who I have met previously on a brief stay in their town while passing through). On my discharge he drives up from central Portugal, picks me up and we return to Villa Real.

On the second day of my stay at my friend's parent's house his Aunt (his mother's sister) dies. My friend has a brother (and family) who live in Villa Real and a sister (and family) who live in Lisbon. The sister and family return to stay at the parents' house and everyone congregates at the family home.

At this deeply personal time I feel uncomfortable staying at his parents house and I offer to move to a hotel. This is immediately and vigorously shot down by everyone and so I stay. I do my best to fit in, contribute when appropriate and stay in the background when appropriate.

At the end of the week I am sufficiently recuperated to restart my Camino and while looking for public transport from Villa Real to O Cebreiro (where I stopped my Camino) I realise that there is no simple way of quickly making this trip and that it will probably take me three days. I am running out of time before I return to ANZ and so I ask my friend to drive me back and he agrees.

During the drive we are chatting and he says "You realise that I am doing this because I know that if I was in your situation, then this is what you would do for me".

The thought that immediately hits me (hard) is "of course this is what I would do, wouldn't anyone!".

Then, slowly, it dawns on me (I can be a bit slow with social norms), while I have been acting within my (assumed) cultural norms he and his family have been way outside of their norms.

.....
 
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As someone who presumably had to arrange to move money from Canada to Spain, is there a bank that you recommend? (My bank for some 40 years now has been TD-CT, from the time when it was only CT…), and I have some secondary dealings with BMO.
I don’t know for certain if those details matter, but I do think it is a little bit easier for people in the US who can choose to set up with Santander in the US.
Have you thoughts or advice on that?
I can highly recommend that you set up an account with OFX, an online currency exchange company. Once you have opened an account with them, you can arrange to do direct debit transfers from your TD account. There are no fees involved and you will be able to move your Canadian $ into a Spanish bank in € with a preferred exchange rate. If you have questions about this process, feel free to send me a PM.
 
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I've lived in a couple of 'overseas' countries, Germany and Thailand, I won't count Australia as that has been 'home' for 30 years.

Firstly, I have rarely found culture shock to be a negative experience.......

For me, the initial culture shock tends to be around simple things. Language, weather, finding your way around etc.

I wouldn't count food, as I find that an exciting element of experiencing other cultures.

But the 'main' culture shock IMHO tends to be around behavioural matters.
What is expected, what is accepted, what is not.
These have rarely been a negative experience, just different.
They are something you get used to.

The more 'frustrating' elements of culture shock for me have tended to be around local bureaucracy!
Thailand is truly amazing in that department!
 
I’m not saying it won’t be enjoyable, that you won’t meet new people and try new things, or that you won’t live there happily until you die. Just taking a bit of the color off the “grass is greener” mystique that accompanies that glassy-eyed cooing about moving abroad. It will be better in some ways and worse in others. Just go prepared for ALL that it has to offer.
This is so true. As they say, wherever you go, you take yourself with you. Although I have found an interesting phenomenon after spending almost half my life outside my "home" country (5 different countries, the last being 30 years!). One's character may vary according to the country you live in or rather depending on the language you speak, or don't. Language is culture and I personally find that I'm different when I speak Spanish and am in Spain, more expressive and even outgoing.

Reverse culture shock is also very real. Returning to my "home" doesn't feel like home.
 
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We met this gentleman in Molinaseca this last May. He was a docent at Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari church. He's an American from New Jersey who walked the French and was so enthralled by it all, particularly by the town of Molinaseca, that he gave up his life in the States and moved there. I've rarely met a person who is happier than this man.

We met him there in May, too. Yes, a lovely man.
 
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I have travelled to and lived in a number of countries and generally have no problems but, unexpectedly, my seven months living in Sweden produced the biggest shocks, especially in the first four months.

Firstly let me say that I love Sweden and the Swedish people and I really value the time that I lived there.

My issues mostly revolved around me not speaking Swedish but also some parts of the culture really threw me. I was lucky enough to spend seven months at KTH university in Kista, just outside the main Stockholm area. I lived in a bedsit unit owned by the University that was six minutes walk from the research lab on the main campus where I was based.

I arrived at the beginning of my ANZ University year which was almost the end of the KTH and Northern Hemisphere university year. This meant that I missed all the orientation and language courses that are normally available for foreign students.

Initially I didn't think that language was going to be a big deal because every single Swedish person that I met at the university and almost everyone outside the university spoke very good English, including one woman whose diction was so good that I had to ask her where she had learned her English, it was stunningly good.

Within the research lab I was very focussed on setting up my research project and I interacted with the other graduate students and the staff and everyone was friendly but it was a surface friendliness. That makes it sound contrived and that isn't what it really is. Most Swedes, I found, are very compartmentalised in their relationships, work colleagues were entirely separate from personal friends. One could be pleasant and friendly to both groups but you didn't mix them up. For example, no one from the university ever said "Hej we are going for a coffee at lunch would you like to come" or "Hej we are doing X in the weekend, would you like to join us".

I had also made a pact with myself that I wasn't going to seek out other Kiwis and separate myself into that expat clan that often develops. I was going to immerse myself in Swedish culture. I did break my pact once and found the pub in Stockholm frequented by Kiwis and went there to watch the rugby, but I only did that once.

I tried watching TV but, of course, the news and all the local content was in Swedish. Only the international movies were in English. I tried looking at the local, give away newspapers but again they were all in Swedish. During the week when I was in the lab things seemed almost normal but in the weekends and outside of the lab I started to have that disassociated feeling where the world occurs as if it is a movie that you are watching on TV and sits behind a glass screen so that I could observe things going on but I could not participate in them.

This is a very weird feeling.

This came to a head one week day when I turned up at the university lab and found no one else there. I wondered, where is everyone and I did some work on my project before giving up because of not knowing what was going on and went back to my bedsit. The next day when I went in, everyone was back again and so I asked one of the professors where they all were the day before and he laughed and said it was the Swedish National holiday. No one had thought to mention it to me and I felt completely disconnected from the world around me.

A month or so later, I had the good fortune to get a call from a local reporter who had heard about my research project and wanted to do a story on it. When we met to talk, it turned out that the reporter had done a postgraduate year at Otago University in Dunedin, ANZ and so she had an affinity for Kiwis. We became almost friends as she was prepared to include me with her family and we had the chance to chat about things in general and about Swedish culture compared with Kiwi culture.

I had been trying to find local participants for my project and I had been having no success at all. I had tried contacting the national sporting agency in my area of interest and got one contact out of that but nothing else. I had then tried turning up unannounced at various venues and asking to talk to someone about my project but getting no interest at all.

My reporter friend laughed when I told her this and said "there are only two people I would ever think about visiting with out a prior invitation and they are my mother and my sister". She said that it was considered very rude to turn up unannounced or uninvited in Sweden whereas in ANZ that is something that I do without thinking about it.

The reporter wrote her story and in it mentioned that I was looking for participants and I was immediately inundated with volunteers!

Through that process I also made some great friends and their son ended up coming to stay with us in ANZ and my daughter spent some time after that staying with them in Sweden. We remain friends to this day.

On reflection, a working knowledge of Swedish would have been a great help to me and may have helped prevent my disassociated feelings but ultimately meeting the reporter who had a prior understanding of both cultures was the real key.

I suspect that many people in that situation gain their cultural knowledge from their expat community in the new country but I admire those people who can cross cultures using just their own resources.
 
Culture shock is usually thought of as occurring in 4 or 5 stages. This is a pretty good description of them:

The stages are not always sequential, and you can cycle through them multiple times, and even feel a couple of different stages in a single day. Some older research gave timelines for each stage, three months for one stage, six months for another, etc., but that idea has been discarded. It’s somewhat like grief, in that you get through it when you get through it, and not before. However, factors like a good attitude, learning the language, having a purpose for being there, and so on can all help with the adjustment.

No, that is Stage 4, adaptation and acceptance. Reverse culture shock (Stage 5) sometimes occurs you go back home and have difficulty adjusting to your old culture.

This, btw, is a good example of Stage 1: “An an anglophone, being in another country where the language) and much else besides is different one (OK, I) can get an overly romanticised impression. The sun always shines, there are lovely markets, historic churches and all those local people going about their business to keep me entertained.”
Stage 5 is a real thing. I remember when I was 18 I left home and spent six months backpacking around Europe and the Middle East. I took to the culture of young backpackers abroad like a duck to water. I think I went from stage 1 to stage 4 so fast that I never noticed stage 2. But when I got home, that reverse culture shock really hit. It took me years to re-acculturate to being in my home city and not travelling. Even then, after university what I really wanted to do was head back out to that culture of young travellers I had been missing. (Which is how I ended up back in Europe doing a Camino when I was 25 in the late 80s.)
 
.... For example, no one from the university ever said "Hej we are going for a coffee at lunch would you like to come" or "Hej we are doing X in the weekend, would you like to join us".
I have lived in Sweden for 3y, working in a university lab as well, and I can not imagine anyone excluded from the daily "fika"...
 
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I have travelled to and lived in a number of countries and generally have no problems but, unexpectedly, my seven months living in Sweden produced the biggest shocks, especially in the first four months.

Firstly let me say that I love Sweden and the Swedish people and I really value the time that I lived there.

My issues mostly revolved around me not speaking Swedish but also some parts of the culture really threw me. I was lucky enough to spend seven months at KTH university in Kista, just outside the main Stockholm area. I lived in a bedsit unit owned by the University that was six minutes walk from the research lab on the main campus where I was based.

I arrived at the beginning of my ANZ University year which was almost the end of the KTH and Northern Hemisphere university year. This meant that I missed all the orientation and language courses that are normally available for foreign students.

Initially I didn't think that language was going to be a big deal because every single Swedish person that I met at the university and almost everyone outside the university spoke very good English, including one woman whose diction was so good that I had to ask her where she had learned her English, it was stunningly good.

Within the research lab I was very focussed on setting up my research project and I interacted with the other graduate students and the staff and everyone was friendly but it was a surface friendliness. That makes it sound contrived and that isn't what it really is. Most Swedes, I found, are very compartmentalised in their relationships, work colleagues were entirely separate from personal friends. One could be pleasant and friendly to both groups but you didn't mix them up. For example, no one from the university ever said "Hej we are going for a coffee at lunch would you like to come" or "Hej we are doing X in the weekend, would you like to join us".

I had also made a pact with myself that I wasn't going to seek out other Kiwis and separate myself into that expat clan that often develops. I was going to immerse myself in Swedish culture. I did break my pact once and found the pub in Stockholm frequented by Kiwis and went there to watch the rugby, but I only did that once.

I tried watching TV but, of course, the news and all the local content was in Swedish. Only the international movies were in English. I tried looking at the local, give away newspapers but again they were all in Swedish. During the week when I was in the lab things seemed almost normal but in the weekends and outside of the lab I started to have that disassociated feeling where the world occurs as if it is a movie that you are watching on TV and sits behind a glass screen so that I could observe things going on but I could not participate in them.

This is a very weird feeling.

This came to a head one week day when I turned up at the university lab and found no one else there. I wondered, where is everyone and I did some work on my project before giving up because of not knowing what was going on and went back to my bedsit. The next day when I went in, everyone was back again and so I asked one of the professors where they all were the day before and he laughed and said it was the Swedish National holiday. No one had thought to mention it to me and I felt completely disconnected from the world around me.

A month or so later, I had the good fortune to get a call from a local reporter who had heard about my research project and wanted to do a story on it. When we met to talk, it turned out that the reporter had done a postgraduate year at Otago University in Dunedin, ANZ and so she had an affinity for Kiwis. We became almost friends as she was prepared to include me with her family and we had the chance to chat about things in general and about Swedish culture compared with Kiwi culture.

I had been trying to find local participants for my project and I had been having no success at all. I had tried contacting the national sporting agency in my area of interest and got one contact out of that but nothing else. I had then tried turning up unannounced at various venues and asking to talk to someone about my project but getting no interest at all.

My reporter friend laughed when I told her this and said "there are only two people I would ever think about visiting with out a prior invitation and they are my mother and my sister". She said that it was considered very rude to turn up unannounced or uninvited in Sweden whereas in ANZ that is something that I do without thinking about it.

The reporter wrote her story and in it mentioned that I was looking for participants and I was immediately inundated with volunteers!

Through that process I also made some great friends and their son ended up coming to stay with us in ANZ and my daughter spent some time after that staying with them in Sweden. We remain friends to this day.

On reflection, a working knowledge of Swedish would have been a great help to me and may have helped prevent my disassociated feelings but ultimately meeting the reporter who had a prior understanding of both cultures was the real key.

I suspect that many people in that situation gain their cultural knowledge from their expat community in the new country but I admire those people who can cross cultures using just their own resources.
And now I’m terribly curious about the research… Kinesiology?
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
As someone who presumably had to arrange to move money from Canada to Spain, is there a bank that you recommend? (My bank for some 40 years now has been TD-CT, from the time when it was only CT…), and I have some secondary dealings with BMO.
I don’t know for certain if those details matter, but I do think it is a little bit easier for people in the US who can choose to set up with Santander in the US.
Have you thoughts or advice on that?
Millrnnium
 
This thread reveals soooo many frailty that so many people have about leaving their comfort zone. I have moved many times and my only culture shock, was when I returned from West Africa in 2015 and went to a grocery store. The clerk asked me, “payorplastic?” I said, no it will be cash. The clerk was speaking Ebonics and the questions was actually, did I want a paper or plastic bag?
 
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My experience is just mine, but I think almost everyone experiences culture shock when plunged into another country for a long term. And relocating to Spain, or Portugal, or southern France (ahh, far sunnier places than where I now claim home) may also qualify.

Maybe the word "shock" is a bit hard in most cases. But I have been living in different regions of Germany, in the UK and in Sweden. For a very short time I worked and lived in HongKong. No matter where, you experience customs, processes, mindsets that are different not only from what you know but also from what you expected the new place to be like.
That even happened to me during my various relocations within Germany. HongKong was surely the most exotic on my scale, but then I came with a very open mind and did not expect anything. So it was exciting, but not a "shock". The UK and Sweden however are culturally so close to Germany, that i did not expect too much difference. So the "shock" was bigger there when I started living there and realised the subtleties are not at all that subtle and make a huge difference 🤣
But then again, every country has its disadvantages and advantages and it all levels out if you bring an open mindset and are not obsessed by the idea how things "should work" ;-)
 
I'd like to hear what others say about experiencing and dealing with culture shock.
I've lived most of my adult life in an expatriate environment (though not in Spain) and know what culture shock is, and, to some extent, how others coped with it. Since numerous posters who consider moving to Spain are of retirement age, here's an advice that we received at our employer's retirement seminar where participants were considering where to live next at this point in our lives: stay put, move "back home" or move to another country which, in our cases, often means the south of France or Spain (mainland or islands) - warmer climates in other words. It is simple but useful advice: You don't have to decide something that will be "forever", you can revise your decision every 5 years for example.

And here is something I saw on Wikipedia which I share without knowing how accurate it is:
  • Some people find it impossible to accept the foreign culture and to integrate. They isolate themselves from the host country's environment, withdraw into an (often mental) "ghetto" and see return to their own culture as the only option. This describes approximately 60% of expatriates.

  • Some people integrate fully and take on all parts of the host culture while losing their original identity. They normally remain in the host country forever. This describes approximately 10% of immigrants.

  • Some people manage to adapt to the aspects of the host culture they see as positive, while keeping some of their own and creating their unique blend. This group can be thought to be cosmopolitan and approximately 30% of immigrants/expatriates belong to this group.
 
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I'm really surprised how high the number who don't integrate at all is! I would have thought the third option would be the most likely.
The majority of expats that I know (or knew) made very little effort to truly integrate into the host culture. Many knew anyway that their time in the host country was limited (3-5 years). The majority did not come because they had picked this destination specifically but because work and their job brought them here. That's different from those among the forum members who want to move to Spain or Portugal because of a pre-existing affinity for country and lifestyle (at least how they view it before living there long-term).
 
The majority of expats that I know (or knew) made very little effort to truly integrate into the host culture. Many knew anyway that their time in the host country was limited (3-5 years). The majority did not come because they had pick this destination but work and their job brought them here. That's different from those among forum members who want to move to Spain or Portugal because of a pre-existing affinity for country and lifestyle (at least how they see it before living there long-term).
I suppose it's different if you didn't choose it.
 
Certainly would like to relocate or at least spend more time in Spain when I retire. I want to be in a smaller community where I must walk or take a bus to get my groceries with my little pull cart and where I get my bread from the truck or local baker. When I volunteer this is a satisfying part of my work where I become involved in the local community.
It is a culture shock in a good way.
Through three different Caminos, I’ve been looking for such a town. I loved the areas on the Atlantic around Bilbao although that city is way too big for what I’m looking for. Let me know if you find such a town. I’ll be looking again this summer on Camino #4 and a trip down the eastern side of Spain afterwards.
 
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I can highly recommend that you set up an account with OFX, an online currency exchange company. Once you have opened an account with them, you can arrange to do direct debit transfers from your TD account. There are no fees involved and you will be able to move your Canadian $ into a Spanish bank in € with a preferred exchange rate. If you have questions about this process, feel free to send me a PM.
We have used a similar company, FirmaFX, moving money from Canada (Vancouver) to Portuguese bank accounts. Very quick, extremely favourable exchange rates compared to chartered banks and credit unions in Canada, and easy to do business with.

 
I guess I am more an adapter who gets along with most conditions and finds nice things everywhere. Only HongKong did not work for me because of the humidity and the heat ;-)
To be honest, I did consider Spain after my first Camino. In particular those nearly deserted medieval "ghost towns" would be my thing to live in. Without climate change I could really imaging settling ins some old farm house at the outskirts. However nowadays some regions in Spain get more and more dry. That scares me.
 
Through three different Caminos, I’ve been looking for such a town. I loved the areas on the Atlantic around Bilbao although that city is way too big for what I’m looking for. Let me know if you find such a town. I’ll be looking again this summer on Camino #4 and a trip down the eastern side of Spain afterwards.
We really loved Zamora. The old town is great. Over in the Pyrenees, Jaca or Villanua would also be nice. All have a degree of tourism but I think are nice towns with some infrastructure. We also liked Zaragoza although it is much larger.

Estella is also nice and for tiny towns Caldazilla de los Hernillos, Grañón, and Canfranc Pueblo were great although you need a bus ride for most shopping and other infrastructure. Very quiet though. My husband likes the tiny towns best as you get to know more people...
 
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Through three different Caminos, I’ve been looking for such a town. I loved the areas on the Atlantic around Bilbao although that city is way too big for what I’m looking for. Let me know if you find such a town. I’ll be looking again this summer on Camino #4 and a trip down the eastern side of Spain afterwards.
Happy New Year, and I hope you find it. We have been extremely lucky to fall into this size and kind of community in central Portugal.

Culture shock has been a real thing for me, here. We are on the cusp of moving here fulltime, and thus avoiding the nuisance of the "3-month on, 3-month off" Schengen rule for North Americans, among others. It feels very much like home, after doing this on and off for several years, now.

Others in this thread who have mentioned the shock of moving big-city to small-town as being worse than changing countries: I can agree. We lived for 26 years in a very small community (my having grown up in a big city). Then moved back to the big city for family reasons, for the last couple of years. That has been a real culture shock! Spending time here in small-town Portugal with virtually no other expats around has been easier than living in the big city, in my country of origin. Interesting. Depends on one's definition of "culture," I guess.
 
A post by @AnaRosario triggered many responses about moving to Spain and I followed them closely. One thing that was mentioned only rarely was "culture shock". I have experienced this when I lived for several years first in Thailand and, many years later, in Vietnam. Both times I was in a fairly immersive environment, both while working and in the place I found myself living. In other words, I was not living the way an ex-pat can live in, for example, Marbella. So both times I experienced culture shock.

My experience is just mine, but I think almost everyone experiences culture shock when plunged into another country for a long term. And relocating to Spain, or Portugal, or southern France (ahh, far sunnier places than where I now claim home) may also qualify.

The importance of a degree of language facility was mentioned in several responses to @AnaRosario but I'd like to hear what others say about experiencing and dealing with culture shock.

Season's Greetings to you all.
My wife and I moved from Edinburgh in Scotland to rural Andalucia (beautiful village of 300 people) in 2004. We were very lucky as our neighbours have been very open and incredibly helpful. We had been visiting Spain regularly for rather more than 10 years before so were comfortable in the culture but only had "tourist" Spanish. If I had my time again I would have studied the language a lot more intensively before we moved, but we have found that to be able to communicate on a vey basic level is generally enough. There have been difficult moments but overall the experience has been incredibly fulfilling and we cannot envisage living anywhere-else.
 
Following this thread with interest. If there are related threads on logistics or lessons learned by others relocating to Spain, please point me in the right direction. I've dreamed of moving to Spain since I was very young. My mother was born and raised there (Sevilla) and almost all of my relatives on her side of the family remained. After two recent camino experiences, several visits over the years, deep soul-searching, some serious conversations, and number-crunching exercises, I've started the process toward (a) residency, and then (b) dual citizenship, or whichever identification allows me to spend the most time in Spain. I suspect managing my patience around bureaucratic red tape will be the most shocking challenge! (A close second will be supporting my thoroughly American but excited spouse through this journey as well.) Like many other forum members, I've had the privilege of living in other countries than my own (U.S.), for brief periods of time. Challenging, every time, but each opportunity was wonderful in its own way. However, as other members have noted, the biggest culture shock for me has been within my own country - moving, for love, from one U.S. coast to another, adapting to conditions and a lifestyle very different than what I was used to. (I suspect if I had adopted an attitude of moving to a foreign country, I wouldn't have been so bruised by my own expectations getting banged around!) Anyway, thanks for this thread and for any wisdom passed along.
 
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