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Laughing at Culture Shocks

Submitted by on August 18, 2009 – 5:00 amNo Comment

risaOne of the few times I have ever heard my mother laugh like a loca was one night when I was in my late teens. I’d just gotten her the newly-released book I’m a Stranger Here Myself, by Bill Bryson, and she was reading it in her room before bed. From the floor above her, I heard first some giggling, which seemed unusual enough, but then it was followed by laughter so rowdy it could not be ignored. I ran downstairs to find her wiping tears from her eyes and trying to catch her breath. What, I wanted to know, was so funny?

I’m a Stranger Here Myself was written by Bill Bryson upon returning to his native United States after 20 years of living abroad. My mother had returned to her native state not long before, after 20 y pico years of living in Spain. She could relate to Bryson’s hilarious writing about being mystified in a hardware store, calling a dental floss hotline, shopping at a toy store, and navigating the post office- among other things. She’d left this country in her late teens and come back as a middle-aged mother; her home was familiar, but not free of oddities to her.

As her Spanish born-and partially raised, and American-partially raised and settled daughter, I can relate. There are things both Spanish and American that I just don’t get, and that sometimes make me giggle, too. To name a couple:

· the way many Spanish names can be given nicknames which (to me) don’t remotely resemble the original. Think Chema out of Jose Maria, and Peque out of Anunciacion.

· fanny packs.

So, we at TikiTiki want to know: what aspects of both American and Latino cultures make you feel culture shock? What do you not get, even if you feel you should? What makes you giggle like a loca?

* photo by elkrusty

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