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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by kuhjäger, Nov 10, 2011.
How many kettles did you melt on the stove before you realised that they plug into the mains?
Exactly the same experience here - I'm currently living in Argentina for a year (I'm English) and have seen pretty much everything you described there.
You're completely right about the 'shooting the shit' part. Maybe we English are just too cold and formal in comparison, but dammit the Argentineans love to talk. A simple interaction at work that would take 5 minutes in the UK takes an hour here because people just talk and talk and talk. You know when you're talking to someone and you really have to go/are dying of boredom and there's that awkward moment when you're trying to figure out a way to escape without offending the other person? That happens on a daily basis here.
This isn't even odd jobs like you described, in this case I'm talking about teaching and in formal classes. 9 times out of 10, in any one of my English classes it requires 40 minutes of bullshitting in Spanish before any actual learning/teaching in English can begin. Same applies to business meetings as well - running late and need to deliver some papers to a client as quickly as possible? Cue 20 minutes of conversation before you can leave.
As for the language - I'm living in a second-tier city in Argentina, Tucuman, so there are literally zero tourists or foreigners. I'm not 'an English guy' here I'm 'THE English guy'. And like in Honduras by the sounds of it, no-one speaks English here. If couldn't speak Spanish here I'd be fucked completely. Luckily part of the reason why I'm working here is because I study Spanish at university back home, so I had a pretty solid base to work with when I arrived.
My professors had warned me that 'culture shock' would be really tough, that I would struggle to communicate and wouldn't be able to understand anyone, and because of this I'd be depressed and homesick for the first few weeks.
However, after living here for 4.5 months, I can safely say that what they told me was absolute bullshit. Maybe I just got lucky or something, but I've had almost zero major problems with the language. Sure, you have the standard difficulties - sometimes someone can't understand your accent (here, because they're unused to speaking to foreigners, if you don't pronounce a word absolutely spot-on, they have no idea what you're saying) Other times, you have no idea how to say a certain word and you often end up playing some ridiculous miming game in a restaurant or shop, but hey, its all part of the fun. And being in a country where hardly any English is spoken, where you're forced to speak Spanish to get by, is by far the best way to learn a language. Without a doubt.
One of the main differences culture wise would be how rules and regulations are viewed. In the UK, everyone is obsessed with rules and regulations - especially health and safety. Like the US, we have the whole 'fuck common sense, i'm gonna sue you if I injure myself somehow even if it was my fault' phenomena.
Here? Well, they don't give a shit. Holes in the road? Swerve round them. Speed limits? What speed limits? Seatbelts? What are those? (no, seriously - for some unknown reason they remove all the seatbelts from taxis here). Loose wiring and sparking plug sockets? Meh, just don't touch them, it'll be fine. Gaping holes in the sidewalk and exposed piping? Just watch your step and look where you're going. You get the idea. Basically its the opposite of the UK, and if you injure yourself, tough shit. Certainly makes you pay attention more.
The hardest thing to get used to? Guys kissing each other on the cheek when they greet each other. Still haven't got the hang of it. With women? fine, no problem. But whenever I met a guy, a handshake will always, always feel more natural for me. Most Argentineans realise this so offer a handshake instead, but every so often a guy will go for the cheek-kiss and I'll go for a handshake at the same time - voila! instant awkward moment.
And on a final note, I can also say that the food, the wine and the women are all leagues above what you can find back in the UK, so overall, in terms of culture shock, its most definitely of the positive kind.
Mostly I just got made fun of for my accent and not knowing some colloquial terms/cultural norms - I suspect it would have been the same if I'd been from Guatemala or the Indonesia. I guess the red menace was a non-issue by the time I got into public school in the US, so I didn't really get any "HA HA HA COMMIE" commentary.
I never went to any authority figures, mostly because I expected them to be useless (just like the ones in Russia).
I've moved around more in my youth than most millitary kids I'd venture to guess.
I was born in Eastern Europe and stayed there until 1st grade. Then I moved to Singapore in 1997.
I took grade 1 and grade 2 in my first year there since my english was not that great. This was not actually that big of a deal because there were many kids who came from China, Indonesia and India and spoke about as much english as I did, particularly the Chinese. That being said, I was the only white kid in my school and even the kids who spoke no english had the other kids understand them since most people speak their native language and english. I was also pretty misbehaved by their standards as coming from Bulgaria it was not as big of a deal to get in a fight or call someone a name, even in the earlies grades.
Not speaking english did come in handy every so often because caning students there was ok and employed quite a bit. I managed to pull the "No speak english well" card a couple of times when I was facing an ass beating. One time in particular they were about to cane me and another kid, I said I didn't understand what was happening and the principal caned him infront of me and sent us on our way.
Food there was the shit, I remember clearly that cooking at home or eating out cost about the same, unless you wanted to go to a nice restaurant. Also, best transit system I have seen ever.
Once we moved to Georgia (US) I had some issues, because I had a bit of a Singapore accent (It pretty much sounds like when people "do" an asian accent.) My school was about 70% black I couldn't really understand a lot of the black kids at first because they spoke too fast and used words I didn't know.
That would be a Japanese immigrant.
Anti-Focus: Two and a half years ago, I found myself standing in a shopping mall in Edinburgh (Scotland). It was a mall no different than an American one, and the music playing on the PA was "Born in the U.S.A." The culture shock was a little underwhelming.