What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Maya Silver
September 26, 2013

I remember being annoyed as a kid when adults would say “god bless you.” It was fine if I sneezed. But even when I let out the smallest little cough, they would turn to me and say “gublessyou” just the same. Inevitably, I would then mumble “Thank you,” meaning “I’m not dying! Don’t bless me!” I got used to it some time in high school, when I realized that the quick succession of “coughsneeze-gublessyou-thankyou” made me a polite and respectful young lady. But I never liked it very much.

Here, I can have a sneeze attack in public and no one says anything. Best of all, if I let out a little cough, no one will ever, ever, bless me. I still reflexively brace for a “gublessyou” or “salud”, but it never comes and I am so happy for that.

I was advised endlessly about culture shock before I arrived in Chile, and was prepared for the worst – total disorientation and an intense longing for home. As it turned out, adjusting was easier than I expected. I have certainly experienced surprises and frustrations, but nothing like the “culture shock” I was warned about. In some aspects, like the beautiful post-sneeze silence, the culture here even suits me better.

My mother is Israeli, but I was born and raised in Boston. I grew up bilingual, and although I didn’t fully recognize it as such, bicultural. I call myself “American” (“half-Israeli” sounds weird), and yet I hold a distinct set of values, customs, and norms. In addition, I grew up without a television, and so I wasn’t encultured to the extent that my peers were via mass media. Israeli and Chilean cultures are not terribly similar but nevertheless, I am used to switching between languages and modes of being, and that ability has made the transition here smoother.

In my first blog post, I wondered about “what I don’t know that I don’t know”. One answer is this: my childhood was more deeply bicultural than I knew. As a result, the US feels more foreign to me than one would expect, and conversely Chile feels less foreign. I am supposedly immersed in the “other” and the “different”, but I sure feel currents of home.

silver.santiago.lakecaburga silver.santiago.huerquehue1 silver.santiago.huerquehue2 silver.santiago.reflection

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Maya Silver

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Maya is a senior majoring in Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to classes and laboratory research, she enjoys running, martial arts, and improvisational baking (with variable results). Having achieved comprehension of the Baltimore accent, she hopes to master Spanish as well, and is looking forward to many adventures in Chile!</span></p>

2013 Fall
Home University:
Johns Hopkins University
Explore Blogs