Lo curioso de cultura

Besides teaching how to communicate in a language, world language teachers also teach about culture and share our experiences from living in or visiting other countries. These stories also seem to fascinate the students. Students get to see how things work outside their own community and around the globe. Naturally, our inclination is to compare the unknown to our own experiences. However, I make sure to advise the students of their word choice. Many students question how things are done in other parts of the world and their first reaction might be: “That’s weird.” weird differentWeird has a judgement to it. I want my students to be accepting of other cultures and understand that things are not going to be the same as in the United States, because it is not the United States. Other cultures might deem what we do as “weird”, but that is our culture. Different is a not a bad thing.

Here are some example of cultural differences that my students have found interesting. Share your stories in the comments section below and we can all learn together.

1. Do you want gloves with that?
Eating Chicken with Gloves in ColombiaStopping for lunch one day at a Colombian chicken restaurant, the waitress handed up these tiny square packets. I first thought that maybe it was a napkin, but when I opened it up, I was surprised to pull out a pair of plastic gloves. Did you know that Colombians use plastic gloves to eat Fried Chicken? No greasy hands at the end of these meals! Did you know Colombians eat chicken with plastic gloves?

2. What’s your address?
When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, one of the most interesting things were the “addresses” to business or even people’s houses. Costa Rica does not use typical addresses; instead, you describe the location using a landmark.  My school was located a block west of the “Burger King”. Later when I went back for a class at the Costa Rican Language Academy, the address was in relation to a car dealership or from the Mall:
address to CRLAI can still remember my house address of the family I stayed with. I can find it on Google Maps. The address, and this is actually what I write on the envelope when I send them a letter, is:
La esquina suroeste del cementerio, 50 metros al oeste, 3ra casa, mano izquierda (Plus name of city)
costa rican directions3. You eat when!?
submitted by Sra Dentlinger, check out her blog: La Clase de Señora Dentlinger.
When I lived abroad in Spain, I couldn’t believe that Spaniards ate lunch and dinner so late!  I also couldn’t understand why all the stores were closed.  I just came to accept it as something they just do, but as students were presenting current event reports in class a student reported about Spain’s attempts at turning around their economy and that changing their meal times might help.  The student continued to report that meal times were originally pushed so late to coincide with Hitler’s broadcast times during WWII.  I never knew that!

4. … what’s with all the people?  Isn’t this a holiday?
submitted by Sra Dentlinger, check out her blog: La Clase de Señora Dentlinger.

During the spring of 2013, I took a group of students to Toledo, Spain for a week.  Our trip coincided with Easter weekend, and we went into Madrid to do some shopping. All of a sudden we hear loud music, see tons of people, see blockaded streets, see large replicas of the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus, etc. bigger than us being carried down the street, and women adorned in beautiful clothing.  Our guide informed the students that this is one way in which they celebrate Easter.  Not only does it happen duricosta rica electric shower heaterng the day, but often the parade comes out at night time too. Another teacher on the trip told us they saw something similar in Peru as well.

5. You know you studied in Central America if…
Many students could not imagine taking an ice cold shower in the morning, but if you’re from Costa Rica, that’s what many do. Without hot water heaters in the house, you’re warm shower would require this electric shower head.
Our facebook users shared some other interesting tidbits:

Matt: “I ordered a pizza from Domino’s in Guatemala with all meats. I did not realize that hot dogs were a meat they put on pizzas. My students love that one.

But biggest culture shock (even to gross out my kiddos) is not flushing toilet paper.”

I often wonder if people traveling to the US from abroad look for a trash-bin in the toilet stalls when they arrive to the airport bathrooms! But surely this is an important fact you’ll come to learn when abroad.

Tania remarked: “I was just going to share the same story that Matt Potter shared about the pizza! When we ordered a pizza in Oaxaca, Mexico we asked for salchicha thinking it was sausage and no it was hot dog! Also when studying abroad in Oaxaca we had to get use to businesses closing for “la comida” (dinner) between 1pm and 3pm and reopening after.

Have your own stories? Share them in the comments section or on our facebook page.


About spanishplans

Spanish Teacher in Chicago. Have studied or traveled to Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Uruguay. Have taught level 1 at middle and high school levels. Degree in Spanish and Master's in Teaching and Leadership. Blogger www.SpanishPlans.org
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3 Responses to Lo curioso de cultura

  1. Sierra Lawrence says:

    I would like to see proof that la comida is at 2:30 because of Hitler’s broadcasts. I lived in Spain and that sounds like an urban myth to me. Please be more careful about publishing such rumors on your site. Meal times are later because Spain is in a warm/hot climate and it only made sense to eat later in the day, and also keep shops open when it’s cooler outside at night, when people “dar el paseo”. Seriously. That is so insulting to think that Spanish society would be changed so easily. Franco may have been connected to Hitler, but you can’t make these kinds of assumptions, especially since the period 1936-1970’s was such a short period of influence in Spanish history, you would think that meal times would have changed very quickly as soon as Franco died.
    I suppose you also think Spaniards pronounce C and Z differently because a king had a lisp?

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