Wry Exchange

Home-Differences between USA & Chile
10-24-07, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Culture, Home, hosting | Tags: , , , , ,

 The differences between living in Chile and living in the USA-In the Home

Heating/Cooling-in the states, all homes have furnaces with whole house heating. Many homes have whole-house air conditioning or room air conditioners for the hot, humid summer weather. In central Chile, homes will have a space heater or 2 to burn off the chill. It rarely goes below 32/0 degrees. Houses are kept ‘room temperature’ year round in the In Chile, you keep warm, not the house. Wear warm socks and sweaters. a warm robe is a wonderful thing to have, especially south of Santiago. It’s bad manners to walk around in your bare feet in the house. In the states, some people prefer that everyone take shoes off before entering. Ask
Plumbing-In Chile, make sure the califont is on before you get in the shower. A califont is a tankless water heater. Cold water goes through it and is instantly heated. In the states, all sinks, showers, and bathtubs have hot water almost all the time from a hot water tank. Almost’ because if you’re the last person in the house to take a shower, the tank may be emptied and have to re-fill. Be considerate. Your host family will show you the furnace and water tank.
Toilet-In the states, the toilet paper always goes in the toilet. Never place it in the garbage can in the bathroom. Do not flush feminine products in the toilet. In Chile, almost all tp goes in the little garbage can next to the toilet. If you aren’t sure, ask.
Towels-Chileans, please do NOT bring bath towels with you. We don’t think it’s polite, we think it’s odd that you wasted packing space on towels. We don’t have our own towels here. We use any clean one. Ohioans, bring a few bath towels with you. Polite people bring their own towels. If your hostmom thinks you’re strange, give them as a gift ‘por la casa.’ If they’re new, and they match. Chileans don’t use washcloths, if you use them, please take several with you. Yep, they’ll make fun of your ‘little towels’.
Water-It’s perfectly fine to drink the water in both countries. Both countries also have lots of bottled water. In Chile, bottled water comes either ‘con gas’ or ‘sin gas’. In the states, it’s either ‘still’ or regular water or carbonated water. Seltzer water is a good substitute for con gas, as is Perrier. Ask about drinking the water too. Occasionally I’d go to a restaurant close to the coast and my host parents would tell me to get bottled water instead. If people drink water, which will look really strange to Chileans, the waiter may even say whether it’s potable or not.
Kitchen-Some USA kitchens have a garbage disposal in the sink. It’s a way of getting rid of food, ask your host family about how and when to use it. You’ll find a lot of frozen food in US refrigerators/freezers. Chileans go to the grocery store more often for fresh food and bread. The bread in Chile is very good, and Wonder bread  will be an unhappy surprise. The food in Chile is fresher and much less processed. Chileans eat a lot more seafood than we do in the States.
Bedroom/Living roomIn the states, the family watches TV together in the living room or family room. The living room is used for sitting and talking in Chile. Families will watch TV in the bedroom, it’s OK to lie on the bed with other family members. Chilean students generally take naps after lunch. In the states,ask your host parents if they mind if you take a nap. Many people here think naps are just laziness, and you aren’t getting enough sleep at night.
Doors-There are more doors in Chilean homes. Doors may be between the kitchen and the rest of the house. The dining room may have doors. A door may be in the hallway to the bedrooms (private part of the home vs. public part.) Most US homes have wide doorways and no doors except for bedrooms and bathrooms.
Dining room/Meals-Polite behavior in the US requires you to pass the servings of food around the table before you begin eating so everyone’s plate is full. In Chile, the food is placed in the center of the table, and you reach to serve yourself. In Chile, you keep your hands above the table in sight, in the US, you are supposed to keep your elbows off the table, and one hand in your lap. In the states, you place your napkin in your lap when you sit down. Napkins in Chile are smaller, so this isn’t done. In Chile, the salt is saltier, and the sugar is sweeter. In Chile, you sit at the table after meals, chatting with the others. You don’t leave the table as soon as you are finished eating. Don’t ask to be excused. In Chile it’s rude to pass the salt into someone’s hand. They’re very superstitious about it and it’s a table manner’s no-no.
Breakfastin the US is what you make for yourself-nothing, cold cereal, cold leftover pizza, orange juice, etc. The big American breakfast you see in movies is on the weekends, if at all. In Chile, the family eats together. Breakfast is tea, juice, drinkable yogurt, or Nescafe, bread with either jelly or palta (smushed avocado) and perhaps a slice of ham or cheese. Cereal is popular now, too.
Lunchis the biggest meal of the day in Chile. Typically, the entire family eats lunch together. In the US, you’ll eat lunch in school. On the weekends, usually you just find something in the refrigerator to eat for lunch. You’ll be on your own in the US for many meals. Ask your hostmom what you can and can’t eat in the ‘fridge.
Dinner/Once-In the US, many times families eat in shifts. People work different hours, and kids have after school activities. You’ll learn how to feed yourself this year. ‘Once’ in Chile is about 7:00pm. It’s a lighter meal than lunch, sometimes you’ll have also dinner later at 9:00, and sometimes not.
Coffeein Chile is typically Nescafe. If you want Nescafe in the US, please ask for ‘instant.’ Coffee in the US is usually brewed with the coffee grounds strained out. You host family will show you the coffe-maker. Most homes have a Mr. Coffee coffee maker. Tea is much more popular in Chile as a daily beverage. Most US homes won’t have a tea boiler. Just heat up water in the microwave.
No free refills in Chile! At most US restaurants, your Coke or coffee will be refilled at no charge as often as you wish. Restaurants in the US use a lot more ice in the drinks. In Chile, you sometimes don’t get ice, or you get one cube. (soda will taste different for you in the other country. Each country mixes their product to suit local tastes-sugar, flavoring syrup, carbonation
Basement/Attic-most homes in the Northeast and Midwest have basements and attics. Please ask your family before exploring these floors. Some basements and attics are used for storage, laundry, and utilities, while others are ‘finished’ and used as bedrooms or game rooms. Chilean homes don’t have basements.
Computers-the same in both countries.
Cell phones-get one in your hosting country. Don’t bother trying to change the chip. Both countries, ask your hostparents how the billing works-incoming/outgoing calls to cell phones and to landlines.
Answering machines-not popular in Chile.In the states, everyone has them. Do NOT hang up without leaving a message. I know you don’t like to leave a message. Just say “this is ____, call me.”
Housekeepers -In Chile, it’s common to have a lady help with the housework several times a week for several hours a day, and she may be called a ‘nanny.’ In the US, if someone has help, it’s usually a cleaning lady who comes for 3-4 hours every 2 weeks
Gardens/Back Yards-Homes in Chile are surrounded by a high fence, usually with an iron gate. In the US, the front and sides of the houses aren’t fenced. If a house has the back yard fenced in, it’s for swimming pool privacy, or to keep pets and small children in the yard.


Reverse Culture Shock Timeline
07-07-07, 9:11 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students | Tags: , , ,


When exchange students return to their home countries and cultures, they experience ‘Reverse Culture Shock.’  Most students and families aren’t expecting re-adjustment issues.   It happens to almost everyone; especially students who have had a successful year adjusting to their new culture.

  • 1st few days-happy, busy, great to be home, happy to see friends and family. Everything’s perfect.

  • 2-3 weeks-miss USA, depressed, problems sleeping, thinking.  Feel alone.  “No one understands me” Find other former exchange students to talk with.  KEEP BUSY.

  • 1 month-withdraw from friends and family in Ohio.  Won’t return emails or phone calls.  You’ll reconnect, this is probably unconscious. This is really hard on friends and first time host parents.  They think the student doesn’t care, the reality is the student cares too much.  It hurts them to try to live in 2 different worlds.  For self-preservation, they back off for a while.  All my students have denied they’ll do it to me, then they all do it.  This period lasts a month or so.

  • 3 months-you’ll think you’re fine

  • 6 months-you ARE fine.

 The students have to assimilate their yearlong experience into their daily  lives.  What the student once thought was ‘weird’ or ‘foreign’ now seems ‘smart’ and ‘obvious.’ 

Reverse Culture Shock
06-30-07, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Home | Tags: , , , ,

11 days until the Boy returns to his ‘real’ home.  He’ll always have a home here, but it’ll only be for short periods, unless we can get him here for college. (doubtful) Generally, one student returns for college each year. It’s the same with the US students; at least one or two annually go abroad for their education.  We love hearing about University in Czech Republic, Argentina, Nicaragua, Japan, etc.

I tell the students, counselors, host parents, and real parents You’ve become ‘one of us’ if you had a successful year.You will have culture shock when you return home.  It may be worse than culture shock when you arrived.  No one expects reverse culture shock.  They assume it will a smooth return to their ‘real’ lives.  The students look like us, dress like us, even have their hair cut like us.  They even think like us- and in English!  

The students are never fully French, Thai, Indian, or Peruvian again.  They are citizens of the world.  They go home loving their new country, and appreciating their home country.  People won’t understand why the students are sad to be home. They won’t understand they’ve left a piece of their hearts here. People don’t understand why they mourn the loss of people they’ve known only 9-12  months, the Americans not  REAL friends and family. Frequently it’s worse because they may never see these people again. 
Tips-  Photos-Condense your favorite photos into a small album  or on your Ipod of 50-60 pictures. Most people won’t look at more without being bored. Also good to keep the photos nearby for you to look at often.
Language problems-speak English without realizing it. Forget words in your native language. You will be translating from your language to English and back. It takes time, but language will come back.
Sleep problems-can’t sleep, dream in English for a while still.
Missed Culture-you were gone a whole year and things changed – dances, fashions, slang.
Parents, siblings, friends, pets reactions- Each year, some kids make plans with their friends to go away for a few days or week the day after their return. You owe it to your parents to stay with them your first week. Don’t be selfish. You’ve matured. Have patience with your parents. They think you’re the same kid who left last fall. You’re not the same, you’re still you, but it’s a different you.  Your brothers and sisters have grown and matured this last year.Their roles in the family may have changed. You may lose some friends. Look for older kids. People will listen to your entire year for about 5 minutes before they lose interest, and want to tell you about their year. 

Don’t make major decisions for the first few months. Give yourself time.  No longer a citizen of your native country, you’re now a citizen of the world. You see the world differently. You’ll always want to travel. Your thoughts about your country might be different than when you left it.  Pets or small children may be angry with you for abandoning them. People from your country might not believe you are one of them – You act like an American.