Monday, March 14, 2011

Jokes and Day Time TV

Trying to live day-to-day in a different culture and language is always an adventure. Here are some of the little "differences" that come up a lot while living in Peru and both frustrate and amuse me.

(These are all true stories.)

1. Jokes.

Trying to tell jokes across cultures can turn out to be a joke in and of itself. You set yourself up for a great joke telling, maybe you are feeling really good that you know all of the Spanish vocab to share a joke, maybe your friend speaks some English, it doesn't matter - you are in prime joking mode and ready to hear some laughter. You have a funny anecdote of the day, maybe some wordplay and you whip it out with perfect timing and - nothing. They stare at you. It's not funny that you got a cheese sandwich with nothing but cheese on it. That is a cheese sandwich. Duh. It's not funny that someone used ciao and chow interchangeably, even after you explain to them that chow is an old country-sounding word for food. You are left looking really silly. If you're lucky, your friends find that to be just as amusing as a joke would be and the party continues. If you aren't lucky, the awkward standstill is only overcome after someone asks about American beers.

2. Trying to understand vocabulary differences.

"So in Spanish you say carry a lunch to school not bring a lunch to school."
"Of course. So in English I would say 'Can I bring your purse?'"
"No, then it would sound like you wanted to take my purse somewhere, not like you wanted to help me with it."
"I don't want to take your purse, I want to help you."
"I know, but if you say bring my purse, it sounds like you want to take it away from me."
"Why would I take away your purse?"

3. Pretending I don't speak Spanish when Peruvian guys hit on me.

Peruvian man-"Hola, como estas?"
Me- "No entiendo EspaƱol."
PM - "De donde eres?"
Me - "Los Estados Unidos. Oh, crap..."

4. Telenovela-esque drama. (Telenovela are melodramatic soap operas.)

He sees her across the room. They had met once before, both young and carefree. She now seemed dusty, careworn. Had it only been two days ago that they spoke? Had she changed so much? They were from different countries, different cultures - he raised horses and lived in a mansion, she waited tables in the city.
He approaches her. She sees him and smiles. He calls her name, sweeps her into his arms and presses his lips to hers.
She pushes him away, indignant, heart pumping with outrage and humiliation.
"We are in a grocery store!"
"I'm sorry!" He calls out to everyone around, to the store clerks, the old ladies sniffing fruit, the small children. "Sorry!" But he isn't truly sorry; he smiles and wraps his arm around his new-found love.
Pushing him aside, she rushes out. It was to be the last time they ever met.

(For 37 seconds, the heroine was traumatized. For the rest of her life she will be amused. Favorite anecdote.)

5. Being touchy-feely.

Families move as a unit. Literally. The mom will hold the father's hand, her son or daughter will have a hand on her shoulder, someone will be holding the grandmother's arm - connected, they make a formidable transportation mechanism, pushing through the crowds at will. Friends link arms while they talk, people kiss cheeks instead of shake hands, and it is, to some, a beautiful bursting of the personal bubble. Of course, there are those that allow us to keep our bubbles, such as the couples who kindly take up as little room as possible on the park benches, the buses or lawns by wrapping nearly entirely around one another. How very sweet of them to leave room for the rest of us.

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