Debunking the term “American”

You may have noticed, Dear Reader, that in my posts I do not use the term “American” to describe people from the United States. I try to say “North American” or “people from the US.” This is because many Latin Americans I have spoken with are slightly miffed that we do not consider them “American,” because really, we are all Americans. North American, Central American, South American, Latin American…whatever kind, we are all from the same big continent of America. At least, that is how many people not from the US view it. Students in Europe and Latin America, among other places, often learn that there are six continents instead of seven.

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Too close?

I mentioned briefly in my last post the difference of the lack of personal space here. This, I believe, is a very big difference. In Colombia, people live with their families until they get married, which is generally not until their late twenties-early thirties. In the States, we’re outta there at the age of eighteen. (Maybe not financially, depending, but out of our parents’ houses as soon as we are able.) To me, this speaks a lot about the individualism of the US versus the family- and community-oriented culture of Colombia, and Latin America in general.

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Hola, ¿cómo estás?

As a North American in Colombia, I notice that at first glance, in many ways, my birth country and my new country of residence are not all that different. The coastal city of Barranquilla where I lived could easily be a small town in Southern California. Sunny, palm trees everywhere, tall apartment buildings, stucco houses, malls, paved roads with cars…These are all superficial observations, of course, but they are similarities nonetheless.

Perhaps this is the reason I’ve never had a big “wow I’m in Colombia moment.” In all of the other places I have traveled to, and especially the ones where I have lived, at some point shortly after my arrival I find myself thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe I’m really here! Is this for real?!” But in Colombia, that never happened. I felt more like, “Cool, I’m in Colombia.” My life here is very normal. I wake up, go to work, come home, watch Friends on my computer, hang out with my roommates, eat dinner, go to sleep. I go to the mall, the grocery store, bars, the pool, and friends’ houses on the weekends. The same can happen in every corner of the world.

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Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, once said:

“People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings.”

I could not agree more with Mr. Annan. I believe cultural differences are some of the most beautiful and interesting things about our world, and they are my favorite things to learn about and explore. Continue reading

From the Beginning (sort of)

Well, I’ve done it. I have finally started a blog. I am embarking upon my fifth living-abroad excursion, this time to Bogotá, Colombia (I have previously lived in Cannes, France; Rabat, Morocco; Kumasi, Ghana; and Barranquilla, Colombia). To be honest, I was always kind of against the whole blog thing; I saw them as narcissistic ramblings with poor grammar—I mean, do people really want to read the thoughts and activities of their friends as well as strangers? Well, as it turns out, apparently they do, because there are thousands of popular blogs available on the net, and new ones are always popping up (like this one…).

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