Culture Shock upon arrival to Spain

*Steps into Spain - life in Madrid

Written bystepsint


The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t that how the saying goes. It then follows that relocating to Spain (or any other country) with your family will be an exhilarating and otherworldly experience. However, it is not all roses and sunshine and quite often once the delirium evaporates, these unfamiliar terrains may also invite a sense of feeling a little lost in the world. 

The online Oxford Dictionary defines culture shock as disorientation experienced when suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life and it generally moves through four different phases: honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance.

Let´s begin with the first one:

Stage 1:

Honeymoon – The best decision I ever made! You feel excited and elated. The smells, the food, the language are all simply wonderful.

Stage 2:

Frustration – What am I doing here ? All those slight misunderstandings become a massive pain. The most minor incidents seem like a big deal and all of those things lost in translation (verbal, mannerisms) are grating. Bouts of depression or homesickness and feelings of longing to go home where things are familiar and comfortable are all common during  this stage.

Stage 3:

Adjustment – I´m beginning to get it! Although you are still very aware of those difference compared to your home country/culture, you´re beginning to accept them. Things begin to get easier. 

Stage 4:

Acceptance – I´m me again! As you become more familiar with your surroundings, you now begin to appreciate (rather than criticize) those differences. You are ready to embrace this new culture and enjoy your new adventure in Spain.

Culture shock is something that all travelers go through, the difference is the degree to which each person is affected. There are ways to minimize it, such as:

  • Prior knowledge of the country’s culture (If you are unable to dedicate the time to this research, speak to a relocation consultancy who will happily prepare this for your family).
  • Learning the local language will play a huge part in integrating with the local community. (These lessons can be set up well ahead of arrival).
  • Your own personality – being open and sociable will make meeting new people much easier.
  • Maintaining regular contact with your family and friends at home.

Get in contact to discuss your family’s unique needs and how we can best support you.

Sinéad Galvin is an educational consultant and founded Steps into Spain (a boutique educational and relocation consultancy located in Madrid) to help families find the right school for their child in Madrid. She uses her professional and personal experience of Spanish schools, the Spanish education system and the Spanish way of life to ensure that parents are knowledgeable and informed about what to expect and can secure the best school for their child. 

Steps into Spain will take stock of your children’s educational needs and overall family requirements (housing, paperwork and general settling in). Our trusted and expert service is provided to families who are moving to Madrid from abroad. And also, to families that already live here and need some extra guidance and support.

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