My sister and her boyfriend came to visit me a few weeks back and it was an interesting experience; mostly due to the fact that she was the first American I had interacted with that hadn’t been abroad in Argentina the same amount of time or more than I had been. I.e. this was the first person I had interacted with who did not undergo the cultural adjustment that all other American students had gone through.
My sister’s struggles reflected my own initial problems I had while going through my first round of culture shock. The most apparent similarity was language. I would guess that my sister and I are on about the same level of Spanish and have similar accents due to hearing/speaking with our father.
When I had first arrived to Argentina I struggled a lot with people not understanding me, and me not understanding others. My sister when through the same communication problems, and while I felt a tad bit guilty, I was a little glad that she was also going through the same problems. When I had encountered these struggles I just felt like I didn’t know Spanish at all and quickly lost a lot of self-confidence. Seeing the same struggles in my sister made me understand that maybe I wasn’t as awful at Spanish as I had initially gathered; maybe it was just a different type of Spanish.
The second struggle that she encountered that was also similar to my own was rough treatment by porteños. When I first arrived to Argentina, I found that many people were quite rude to me and often “snubbed” me. I had no clue why it kept happening, and why when in restaurants or taxis with friends who spoke no Spanish at all, I was the only one getting snubbed. My sister told me she ran into a similar issue with coldness from Argentinians. While I wasn’t blessed with an explanation for the phenomenon, at least I was assured that the issue wasn’t just my face (although my sister and I do look pretty similar, so maybe it was just my face).
My sister’s struggles with things other than language was more of a shock to me than a comfort, a sort of foreshadowing of the reverse culture shock I’d experience when I’d come back. Of course the first comment was on a lot of the fashion choices, such as the overwhelming presence of platform shoes. I had completely grown accustomed to the amount of platform shoes on any given street or any given function and forgot that they were not nearly as popular or even present in the United States. She also was surprised by the fashion sense that nearly all porteños had in the Palermo/Recoleta area. I forgot how intimidating it had been.
She was also shocked by the food and the music and the clubs and the men. God only knows how much else I have gotten accustomed to since I have been here; I guess we’ll find out when I get home.
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<p>Amanda Landaverde is a 20 year-old Spanish and Psychology student at Gustavus Adolphus College who aims for a career in neuroscience studying generational trauma. In her free time, Amanda likes to creatively illuminate and counteract social injustice through art, writing, and performance with her social justice theatre troupe on campus.</p>