Monday, July 12, 2010

Cultural legacy and differences

About a year ago my boyfriend, Pierre, met a Mexican lady named Rosa who, until recently, I had not met. I always wanted to meet her. She was like a miracle for Pierre. They met during a time when he was desperate to get a job but could not find it anywhere. Rosa got Pierre in contact with a friend of hers who ended offering him a job as an office assistant with a generous wage. I finally had the pleasure to be introduced to her when she invited both of us for dinner. When we arrived to her house, the burgers were almost ready. Lately, my diet has consisted of almost nothing really gross food not worth mentioning. Therefore, it was nice to have delicious warm food at the dinner table.

That night we met her children. They are really welcoming and outgoing. For example, it did not seem to matter to them that we just met. They would talk about stuff I would normally talk among really close friends. Surprisingly, the conversation made me feel comfortable. In other words, it was not awkward. For me it has always been easier to talk about THOSE things with strangers than talking about myself. Somehow I find it awkward when people start asking personal questions. It appears to me as they are doing it as a duty with the purpose to be respectful. I am convinced it is a North American thing, while starting a conversation with random topics is more Latin. I guess I could say that those kids have a bit of the Hispanic culture but unfortunately not all of it. Although they were born in Mexico, their family moved to Canada when these kids were only in preschool. Just like many other children that moved from their original country in a young age, they lost their mother tongue and most of the cultural customs of Mexico.

Official Seal of the Government of the United ...Image via Wikipedia

I noticed right away as we greeted in a very distant Canadian way, the handshake. They seemed to have forgotten how to “be” Hispanic. The simple kiss Hello & Goodbye says a lot about how much you really are emotionally tied to your original culture. Later that night, it became obvious. When we were about to say Goodnight, Rosa began commenting how in Latin America people kiss to greet others. Her kids began asking questions such as “what do you mean by ‘kiss’?” After some gestures made by Rosa, she seemed to have spoken the unspeakable. She told them that we even kiss complete strangers when introduced for the first time. Their facial expressions changed into a light disgust and surprise.

Their reaction made me remember of my first day of school in Canada. On that day, I was calm, as I clearly did not know what to expect. My parents dropped my sister, Amber, and me to school. Amber and me went to the administration office to see where we were supposed to go. We were told that on the first day of school we were to go just to homeroom. After struggling with the school’s map, we made it to homeroom. The room was a science lab completely different of what you might see in Argentina. Everything was in its place and was squeaky clean. It looked modern and bright; just gorgeous.

The bell rang and all of our new classmates poured into the classroom. I felt intimidated right then. First and foremost, our English never had any real practice. It was definitely a challenge to start up a conversation with the person next to us. However, we still managed to make a friend, Marina. She had transferred from another school so it was her first day too. As soon as homeroom was over we were all excited go home or hang out. That is when the golden moment began. 

Up until that moment, I did not have experience with a social life in Canada. I was not aware in any way of the cultural difference. When Marina, Amber, and me were outside waiting for our parents to come pick us up, we started chatting. She seemed like a really nice girl and a great friend. However, as we said Goodbye, I went in for a kiss Goodbye on her cheek. Marina stepped back and her facial and corporal expression seemed to say, “What are you doing? STOP MOLESTING ME!” From then on, this moment became the golden moment of embarrassment. When I saw her face I was horrified. How could a simple kiss on the cheek freak somebody out? I did not understand. After I realized how Canadian culture differs from Argentinean and Italian, I tried my best to assimilate the Canadian way. It took me a while to get used to saying Hello & Goodbye by just waving. It always felt as something was missing. It felt cold and distant. To tell you the truth I still do not understand how someone can be so distant, especially if the person is Hispanic. If the person is indeed from Latin America, I get annoyed and frustrated.

Rosa’s kids are no exception to my frustration. How can people get freaked out by their own culture, their own blood? It is sad to know this is happening. That is why I believe people should practice their original customs with people that share the same origin. Parents should pass their customs to their children and the children to their grandchildren. All of the different cultures are a legacy that we should all be cherishing.

A Non Perfect Normal Person

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