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Helping One's Partner through Culture Shock (EVC???)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Eeek!

We've been here three weeks. DH has been working his manual labour job, to learn a new trade, for two. Just got his first paycheck, which is a pay cut from what he earned overseas as an expat manager. His ego appears to be suffering terribly and he's been taking it out on me and I think I've been taking it out on our daughter. It is slowly getting better but I want to help him through this. We live in a rural area and he still needs a driver's license, but any advice for in-the-home remedies for culture shock?

We are living with a relative right now but move into our apartment soon.

I made some of his home dishes but he seems to prefer the American versions.

We have gone through so much, our marriage has survived the first child, years of living apart, living in a conflict zone, and I would HATE for us to break up during a six-to-eight week bout of culture shock. Staying here in the US would be so great for us for a short while... Heeeeeeelp!
post #2 of 17
All that I've really figured out so far is that it can take a LONG time....Long meaning not just a few weeks or even months, but YEARS. I remember having many conversations with Aprilushka about this, and if I recall correctly she said that it took about two years before things really started getting easier for her dh (perhaps she will chime in here, too--she does have lots of good advice on this).

We have been here about two and a half LONG, HARD years...And it is getting a little better. I think the turning point was when dh actually made a friend a few months ago (his first one here!). A nice guy from Estonia (ethnic Russian), who lived in NYC for about 10 years and recently moved out to CA and doesn't know many people here, either. They met though a local Russian group on meetup.com

Having someone to talk to has helped, someone that he can really be himself around, speak his language (since dh has resisted English and still doesn't speak much), etc.

Now, if dh's work were to take off, I think that would also improve things DRAMATICALLY, but I'm still waiting on that

For the most part, things are OK, although he still gets in these TERRIBLE moods were he starts yelling about "stupid, fat American idiots" and tells me that I am no longer to speak English to dd (not that I usually do anyway) because he doesn't want to her to even know that "debilnij yazyk" and to turn into a "debilnaya amerikanka", etc., etc. But those moods usually only last a few hours, he vents, lets out the built up frustation, and things go back to normal. Sometimes you just have to weather the storm....

So.....Not much advice I guess, but a whole lot of sympathy. It is HARD, no doubt about it, and it can take a LONG time.

And definitely work on the drivers license--that does help too, especially if you are in an area without much in the way of public transportation. Mobility gives a bit of a sense of self-determination and control over your life.

So dh's adjustment issues aside, how are YOU doing here?
post #3 of 17
I'm chiming in on the other side. I've been in Holland for eight years. I moved here to be with DH. I would say that even with getting a good job pretty quickly, making friends, and living in an international city, it took a good five years before I really felt at home an comfortable. Even still, if I'm having a bad day, for whatever reason, I start raging about, "rude Dutch with no manners who wouldn't know politeness and concern for others if it hit them in the face!" (sorry, all you Dutchies out there . .. I'm married to one and have a little half one at home! )

It's just *hard* . .. No matter how good things are, it's not what you're used to. If I were back in the US, I'd be irritated and upset, but I couldn't have the convenient excuse of "the Americans" making my life bad because . .. gulp . . . I am one!

The best thing you can do to support is not try to defend, not try to talk your partner out of it, but just say, "honey, I'm really sorry you're frustrated. If you feel like talking about things, I'm here." That's not to say that you have to listen to your own culture, country, or self be insulted. DH has drawn some fair boundaries with that kind of thing. He'll just walk away and say that he's here to talk to me when I feel I can do so without insulting him. That's fair enough and makes me realize how unfair I'm being.

Encouraging your DP to make his/her own life and giving him/her plenty of space to make friends from the "old" country is also a good thing. Overall, though, it's about the partner doing his/her best to make it in the new country. There's only so much the partner can do to help that. Love, support, understanding, and boundaries. . ..

Good luck!
post #4 of 17
grace, grace, grace and more grace. patience, patience, patience, and more patience.

Culture shock hit my dh (in moving from Ethiopia to America) in a big way, and we were miserable for quite a while. It had a huge negative impact on our marriage, I think moreso because we didn't realize at the time what was going on.
post #5 of 17
NAK
I can understand your Dh. I`m having a hard time in Japan. This is my second year. I speak some Japanese though so it`s not quite as awkward as it was in the beginning. There is NOBODY around who speaks my language and my son is having a hard time learning it b/c I`m the only one who speaks it to him. I`ve just found a Hungarian couple (I`m ethnic Hungarian) and although we haven`t met yet it`s already making a HUGE difference. It`s hard to feel alone, not understood and not understanding.
So I think learning the language, finding a friend from his own country and getting a driver`s license is an excellent starting point.
And of course, lots of patience and understanding from your part.
Sorry you are dealing with this...
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Cheers!

Thanks for replying. I know I need to be patient but it's hard when I am the one getting the wrong end of a really bad attitude at times. I lived in his country and region for a long time and I never went through culture shock so I think that makes me less sympathetic. I am bad, I know.

EVC, you are a stronger woman than I am! DH has sometimes talked about "amerikantsy duraki" but I'm just like, well, we'll see! It does bother me that he assumes that he will find the trick that all other Americans have missed, like the entire country of 300 million people are just so stupid that they didn't figure out how EASY it was to get rich here. Like there's a trick. I am sure you are going through that too. I just get sick of repeating "no free lunch, no free lunch, and if you don't pay here you're going to pay in the afterlife..."

He is starting up his first mini-project with some chickens soon and we will have our own chickens and eggs and eventually goats, we hope, so we are excited about that.

We live in a very rural area which also makes it harder for DH to meet people from his home country / region / linguistic group. I don't want him to spend more time online than he does already. Any suggestions, keeping in mind that we are about 1.5 hrs from any area that will have more than one or two people from his home area?
post #7 of 17
Quote:
I lived in his country and region for a long time and I never went through culture shock so I think that makes me less sympathetic. I am bad, I know.
Yeah, I totally know what you mean. I keep thinking, you know, I lived in YOUR country and, sure, sometimes things were hard or unfamiliar or inconvenient, but jeez, I DEALT with it. I got frustrated at times, but I didn't launch into ridiculous tirades or insult an entire COUNTRY in my criticisms. And that HAS made me less than sympathetic with dh at times, but I'm working on that because I also know that different people deal with things in different ways and if he deals differently than I do, it's not really fair to judge that, you know? Sigh. But it is hard.

Quote:
I don't want him to spend more time online than he does already.
Just a word of warning: beware of some of those forums for immigrants from his part of the world (not stating which part for the sake of your anonymity ). When my dh was on those, it made things a whole lot WORSE because so many people just go there to b*tch and complain about America and Americans and that just sort of fed into dh's own litany of complaints and because others were complaining about some of the same things, in dh's mind that just legitimized his criticisms, which made him "right", no matter how unfair or innaccurate his accusations were.

Well, just keep repeating "this too shall pass, this too shall pass..."
post #8 of 17
Quote:
does bother me that he assumes that he will find the trick that all other Americans have missed, like the entire country of 300 million people are just so stupid that they didn't figure out how EASY it was to get rich here.
Not to make light of your suffering, but it is so funny that you should mention this. For a long time, dh was totally convinced of this as well!!!!! And he was always saying stuff like Russians are smart enough to figure it out, but Americans can't because they are just too stupid and so used to playing by the the rules of a 9-5 job to think up anything creative enough to make all the easy money out there. I think this "dream" has passed for him, though......But what seems to be following is the realization that one generally must work damn hard to be successful, and that too can be a depressing thought....
post #9 of 17
I don't have a real answer, but I think that in some cases people don't adjust. My DH has never really adjusted to life in the US, although he's lived here for almost 13 years. He still wants/expects his home to be kept in the Iranian way, he wants me to cook him a fancy meal every night because that's what Iranian wives do, and he's still waiting for that boatload of money that was promised him when he moved to "the land of opportunity." He just keeps getting more and more bitter about the fact that this isn't Iran.

I have given up. I can't change him, but I have suggested that after he sells his business (or we declare bankruptcy) that he look into moving back home (without me and DS). He is just not happy here, and I most certainly could not live there.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by EVC View Post
Just a word of warning: beware of some of those forums for immigrants from his part of the world (not stating which part for the sake of your anonymity ). When my dh was on those, it made things a whole lot WORSE because so many people just go there to b*tch and complain about America and Americans and that just sort of fed into dh's own litany of complaints and because others were complaining about some of the same things, in dh's mind that just legitimized his criticisms, which made him "right", no matter how unfair or innaccurate his accusations were.
I spent a lot of time on one of those here in Holland. Sometimes it was really positive. I met a woman who is now a very close friend and got a lot of support. I was also able to give a lot of support and practical help to other recent immigrants.

However, over the last few years, I hardly ever visit the forum anymore. I've adjusted, have a busy job, a kid, and have made a nice group of friends -- both fellow foreigners and Dutch people as well (that took a long time!) I no longer need to b!tch about stuff in Holland because I've made my peace with my life here, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now when I go to that forum, i mostly think, "geez, what a bunch of whiners!"

My rambling point is, though, that it is a natural process to go through. The forums can legitimize a lot of complaints, but they can also provide a lot of positive things, as well. As soon as your DP starts really adjusting, his/her visits will taper down.

It is really good for me to hear the stories from "the other side" as I have been very negative about Holland to poor DH for a long time. I'm mostly over that, but it's still good to get a reality check.
post #11 of 17
I don't know if it's even possbile to help someone adjust. My husband had been living here for 3 years when i met him, and even though he has adapted quite well (he grew up in several different countries, I'm sure that helped), it's still a process.
My mother had a hard time adjusting to Europe, but I think that was connected to the specific situation of our family. I know people who have spent more than half their lives here in Europe and still just want to go home, others who adjusted after 20 years or more (!!!), and some who dealt with it, but really were "here" ( I don't know how to explain the state where your mind is entirely in a place) from the very beginning.
I've always felt that it's easier if both partners are in a new place. It was that way for us- we live in a French speaking region, and my husband's French (though it's not his mother tongue) is much better than mine. I'll always have an accent and make mistakes, even though I'm living in the country I grew up in. We're both recognizably from another place, and I think it's easier that way, we share that status. That said, it's still hard now that we're a family to not have anyone near by. I miss that, but I wouldn't trade our situation for another one.
post #12 of 17
Adjustment is possible, but it's all so very individual that you have to find what works for you as an individual and what works for you as a family. When I first moved to Istanbul, I'd never been out of the US before and was fairly clueless about living in a foreign country. To make matters worse, we lived with MIL for the first six months we were there in a tiny *tiny* apartment. We joke about it now, but there was one night that I was so out of my mind, I was trying to figure out how to climb out the window to get away. I wasn't in culture shock so much, since I truly love the Turkish culture and have since the first day, but I was definitely out of my element for the first year or so. What helped me was to make as many English-speaking friends as I could as quickly as possible. We ate a lot of fast food, since that was the only "American" fare I could find. I only watched American TV and only listened to American music. I tried to take Turkish lessons, but apparently I'm too old to learn a new language quickly. Here we are, three years later, and I cry every day for missing my Turkish "home."

What has worked for us over the years is to create a "psuedo-culture" of whatever place we left behind. In the US, we create a mini-Istanbul in our home. I cook Turkish foods, brew Turkish tea and coffee, listen to Turkish music, and we're even looking into Turkish satellite TV. I've found the local Turkish Cultural Center and am hoping to make contact with them next week.

Your situtation will be as individual as you and your DH are, but I would caution not to push "American-ness" onto him. If you can create a mini-[insert-culture-of-origin-here], that may help to ease the transition a bit. Speak his native language, cook the native foods (as best you can with crap American ingredients), and maintain as much as you can. It's likely that he will eventually come around. It's a transition time for you all, but especially for him. Not to sound condescending, but treat him with the same gentleness that you would with a child making a huge transition--lots of love, lots of kindness, lots of extra TLC.
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lisac77 View Post

I have given up. I can't change him, but I have suggested that after he sells his business (or we declare bankruptcy) that he look into moving back home (without me and DS). He is just not happy here, and I most certainly could not live there.
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi...

Thanks everyone. It does help to see both sides of the story.

It is also helping to hear about other people's DH's and their absurd expectations. I don't think Iranian wives cook a full meal every night (at least, not that I know of... maybe on Ramazan, or if they have a maid!, or live in a large extended family, but not just like that, as one woman for a whole family... they also work...).

Quote:
But what seems to be following is the realization that one generally must work damn hard to be successful, and that too can be a depressing thought....
And you've been here how long? My DH is learning that bit by bit. There is no way he can do business in his country legally, he has finally realized, and now he is realizing that without a huge investment he can't do it here, either.

On a positive note, today we got the first stuff for our chickens!!! We are raising some roasters. Altogether we will save probably $200 by raising 25 chickens on our own.

Off to make dinner. Thanks again.
post #15 of 17
I feel for you and your husband, but it does get better!
My husband is Iranian but we met and married while living in India, then we lived in Nepal with bits in Turkey and Iran as well - so I think having been through so many countries together over three years' time helped us deal with the culture shock of coming to the States (we're here now for about eight or nine months) - and it was a shock even for me as I'd been gone four years at that point...

One thing I will say is that language skills are so crucial - fortunately we had those years together (I used to write out the lyrics in English to songs he loved by Pink Floyd and Metallica...that really helped!) and he had a decent foundation in English to be able to communicate with me - I know when we were in Iran it was so hard for me not to be able to speak/converse for myself. So, not sure how his English is but whatever you can do to help him develop that will help him be more independent.

It can be so hard to come here, not know anyone and have a family to support etc. - just being patient and strong for him while he goes through this new and sometimes frightening experience will help ease his burden.

If he's not happy with the current job situation maybe help him explore learning opportunities that will allow him to move into something that will be more satisfying.

Best of luck to you! Just wanted to let you know I can relate on so many levels
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by EVC View Post
Just a word of warning: beware of some of those forums for immigrants from his part of the world (not stating which part for the sake of your anonymity ). When my dh was on those, it made things a whole lot WORSE because so many people just go there to b*tch and complain about America and Americans and that just sort of fed into dh's own litany of complaints and because others were complaining about some of the same things, in dh's mind that just legitimized his criticisms, which made him "right", no matter how unfair or innaccurate his accusations were.
That is a good point but a sympathetic outlet for all the complaints can be cathartic. I think the tricky bit is that if that outlet exists only online than it doesn't allow for mixing into the community and that isn't good. It is easy to make home a safe spot in a crazy unknown world and not want to leave. When that happens you stop adjusting and start hiding.

I found my b*tch group during my year of daily language courses and it was a huge help for me. Thankfully for me it also involved cultural training, field trips (like to the town hall and parliament) and plenty of meeting up with fellow foreigners outside of the house. (Yay for the Norwegian immigration system . It's not perfect but it beats the heck out of the nothing a lot of countries provide. )
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well, I made DH's national dish the other day and if I do say so myself it turned out great. But he said it was too sticky, which is odd since I spend two years trying to get my dish stickier. Come to find out he has gotten used to the version of the country where he was working which is fluffier.

Kind of confirms that he is also going through PTSS (mild) and that he is also dealing with leaving the country in which he worked (my fault, ugh) for three or four years.

He is also spending a lot of time online on Skype talking to his friends. I don't mind him talking but I do mind him spending the entire evening on the computer and not learning to enjoy us. I am going to find a Mosque for him today and hopefully we can go monthly (it will be at least 2 hrs away).
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