Cultural Differences

 

I’ve been in Colombia for almost 2 weeks. So far, it has been a pretty smooth transition to life here. Since I came to Colombia through an organization called AIESEC, I already have a network of people to show me around and make me feel welcome. As soon as I stepped off the plane, they have been showing a great effort to ensure that I’m having a great time.

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AIESECers greeting me at the airport

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My welcome party

In addition to having supportive people around me, my cultural transition has been eased by the simple fact that life here isn’t too different from what I was used to in the U.S. Still, I’m enjoying taking inventory of the little similarities and differences that I notice. Here are some:

Similarities:

  • American TV. Some of my favorite shows like Glee, Glee Project, Friends, etc. are common here too. I have a friend here who taught himself English largely by watching Friends!
  • Junk food. At first I thought junk food wasn’t that common here because my host family eats really well, but then my host brother and I started to going to hamburger/hot dog joints.
  • Walking. Similar to life in NYC, walking is my main form of transport here.
  • Fashion – I see most of the same beauty and fashion trends here…. except that guys are WAY more into the faux hawks here. Also, sock buns have not caught on here yet. I wore my hair in a high bun to work on Friday and my boss thought I was paying homage to my Japanese heritage. Hah! Little did she know that I was actually just copying the hairdo of every woman between the ages of 20-35 in every major metropolitan area in America.

Differences:

  • There is no McDonalds here! The closest one is in Pereira, which is about an hour away. While there aren’t any golden arches in sight, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the local mall…
  • It’s common to see small children or babies riding with their parents on motorcycles
  • Some cars don’t have seat belts in the backseat
  • Hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches come with a (gross) pineapple sauce
  • A breakfast vendor wakes me up every morning. He comes around my neighborhood at the crack of dawn screaming “empanada de queso – café”. Even though my room doesn’t face the street, I can still hear him. I hate this man.
  • Fresh fruit juice – Fresh juice is a very big part of the daily diet here. In fact, in my kitchen there aren’t many appliances at all, but we DO have an electric juicer.
  • Different fruits – There’s all these new, interesting fruits here! I love the guanabana (below).
  • No AC. Instead of relying on AC, people cool their homes and offices just by opening the windows or their doors to their outdoor patios. The weather is so mild here that I haven’t missed having AC at all.
  • Siesta – I have 3 hours in the middle of each day to eat lunch and take a nap!
  • The mountains around Armenia (below) are so pretty
  • The “usted” form.  Colombians use the formal “usted” tense way more than I found in Spain. Not only do they use it in professional settings, but men also use it when addressing other men – whether at work or at home. For example, my host brother Jonathan uses the “usted” form when speaking with his father and male friends. Since I’m a girl, I don’t have to use the “usted” form when speaking with Jonathan’s father, but I do anyway.
  • The money – It’s definitely going to take me a little while longer to get used to the Colombian Peso
    2,000 Pesos: $1
    5,000 Pesos: $2.5
    10,000 Pesos: $5
    20,000 Pesos: $10
    50,000 Pesos: $27

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Holding a guanabana – it’s heavy! 

Armenia

The mountains outside of Armenia

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