Immigrating from Sydney to Belize – the cultural transition

On 1 August, my husband and I immigrated from Sydney’s wintery Blue Mountains to the tropical Caribbean –  Placencia, Belize – 10,000 miles from home.

Two months on we are still experiencing quite significant culture shock and I anticipate that these feelings of disconnection, depression and anxiety will continue for some time.

Culture shock consists of four distinct phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adaptation and adjustment.

We definitely had a honeymoon phase particularly as we had moved from a bitterly cold winter in alpine country in Australia to tropical weather in the Caribbean.

My husband Hans walking our dachshund, Maxie


Taking Trim for a swim in the Caribbean

I took my cat Trim swimming in the Caribbean and I think he did the face on the cat shown above.  My husband said that my Trim had “Simpsons’ eyes” similar to the cartoon characters on the show.


white and gray cat lying on mossy groundPhoto by Min An on

However, we are slowly adjusting. We are currently in the second and third phases.

The other changes for us were adapting to life in a developing country without all the modern conveniences and shops that we were accustomed to, different foods, new currency, the lack of a cinema, driving on the opposite side of the road, different road rules and customs to name a few.

In the transition period there are a number of symptoms to look out for including:

  • Anger
  • Boredom
  • Compulsive eating/drinking/weight gain
  • Desire for home and old friends
  • Excessive concern over cleanliness
  • Excessive sleep
  • Feelings of helplessness and withdrawal
  • Getting “stuck” on one thing
  • Glazed stare
  • Homesickness
  • Hostility towards host nationals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Physiological stress reactions
  • Stereotyping host nationals
  • Suicidal or fatalistic thoughts
  • Withdrawal

I am pretty sure we have experienced all of these in one way or another.  We have lost weight and got really tanned but the Caribbean sun is not as harsh as the Australian one because of the hole in the ozone layer over the Australian continent.

One of the main things I miss from home is a good gym so we have had to make do and lift weights in our home but I don’t feel comfortable jogging here as the roads are narrow and I don’t feel it is safe.  I have also been cleaning the house a lot and watching a lot of Netflix and wishing I lived in a first world country.  Dumb stuff you do to cope.

Some of the weirder stuff you notice is the fact that the toilet flushes the opposite way and things don’t seem to work as well as what you are accustomed to.  Plus we are starting up a new business and dealing with the massive stress that that has brought upon us.  There are good days and bad days.  Today was okay.







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