Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some culture shock reflections

I think Im in a bit of culture shock. There are supposed to be two waves of culture shock (or so said my prof in uni). The first is that initial one, usually the first few months in a country, where everything is new and you don't understand much of what goes on around you. The second one is a bit more subtle, it happens a year or two into your stay in a foreign culture and it has less to do with not understanding what is happening, and m,ore to do with understanding but not feeling comfortable in what is happening. I am there. I understand fairly well chilean culture. And Im not so much homesick for another culture, because I still love it here. But I am definitely aware of how different I am. I am much more comfortable with being alone. Anyways, this week, some of those differences came out and I took some time to write down some reflections:

Tonight (Friday night) was a night of reflection. I learned some new lessons tonight, saw some realities about my life here as a foreigner, and realized how much I have changed over the past few years. It all began last night when I was coming home from work and ran into my friend Mauro and some of his friends. It was 9:30pm and they were just starting their night. Yes, just starting. A Thursday night. And yes, they DID have to work the next day. I gave them every excuse in the book about why I couldn’t go out. I said no over and over. But evidently that campaign that “no means no” never made it over here. They whined and pleaded for 30 minutes while we sat in a cafĂ©, begging me to come out with them to the bar down the street. Finally, with them literally pulling my arms, I agreed to come in a for a little. I told them that I was leaving them at 11pm to go to bed. Of course that didn’t happen. At 12am, I finally left and headed home. But before I left, we planned that we would hang out at Mauro’s apartment tonight, since it was Friday night. I told them I would invite the rest of our friends. This morning, I followed through with the plans. I invited all our friends over. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go out. I wanted to be home, trying out a recipe I found for carrot bread. So when no one seemed able to go, and the very person who had peer pressured me into this whole thing pulled out, I sighed a breath of relief and headed to the supermarket to get my much desired ingredients.
At home, I mixed and poured all the ingredients, set the dish in the oven and pulled The Mission of God by CJ Wright off my shelf. I settled in bed with my book and waited for the bread to bake. I began to think about how much I had changed. Maybe it’s because I am here in Chile where they loath being alone. Maybe it’s because this is my second year living alone. Maybe it’s just the fact that I have the most awesome apartment and why would I ever want to leave it. But I realized tonight, I would SO rather be at home baking and reading than be out. I had Taylor Swift playing in the background (don’t just me!) and I was singing along and dancing as I baked and cleaned. It was truly a perfect evening.
Just when I though the evening was about over, my phone rang. It was midnight. I know, you’re thinking, who would call at midnight? Well, here, midnight is just the beginning of a Friday night. It was my friend Mauro and his friends. They were outside my apartment building and they wanted me to go out with them. No. I laughed when the pleading began. I knew that I wasn’t going out tonight. I was already in my pajamas and I was just waiting for my bread to finish and then it was off to sleep for me. They told me they were gonna come up and say hi and that they would then convince me to go out with them. I gave them permission to come up but warned them that I would not being leaving with them. They were up in a few minutes, just in time for some fresh from the oven carrot bread, and the pleading continued. I explained to them that I was not going out. That I am a gringa, and I need more sleep than them. After an hour, they left.
I love my life here. I feel very comfortable here. I know I am where I am supposed to be, but it’s nights like tonight that remind me that I am certainly not chilena. I may think I want to be chilena, but it is an undeniable reality that I am not.
I was explaining this to my grandma. I was telling her that I was nervous about hosting things at my house since people tend to stay very late. She asked about making it clear that people have to leave at a certain hour. I explained that here it was rude to do so. She then pointed out that in the states it is rude to stay so late at someone’s house. It is not often that there is such an obvious difference in cultures, but here is a prime example. There it is rude to overstay your welcome. Here it is rude to kick people out. Come 4 or 5am, maybe you can start to hint. I will just have to be wise about how often I host these gatherings in my house.

1 comment:

Megan B. said...

I was baking and cleaning Friday night, too! ...and SO contenta :)