Most of you probably don’t know that I have been the last three weeks in Norway for Christmas vacation, but I am on the plane back to Venezuela now. I tried to sit down and write at home, but I decided I wanted to spend my time with friends and family instead. I am sure the family-orientated Venezuelan will sympathize with this decision.
According to some of the comments made on this blog I have to be crazy leaving the safety in Norway for a bit more insecure Venezuela. Maybe the answer is yes, but I am not done discovering all Venezuela has to offer and I am not done working as a teacher. I am not done eating pepitos at 3am and arepas any time of the day. I am not done meeting friendly Venezuelans and I am definitely not done travelling the country. Many people have asked why on earth I am in Venezuela; in fact this is one of the most frequent asked questions when I talk to people. People seem surprised why I am here and I will try my best to explain.
I actually did not really choose Venezuela. Venezuela chose me, and for that I am forever grateful. I wanted to do an internship in South America to practice my Spanish and explore the famous Latin culture, but I did not really have any preferences where. As I searched the AIESEC database for opportunities I received an e-mail about an internship in Barquisimeto. I applied, got the job and before I knew it I was moving to Venezuela. That is why I am in Venezuela and could not be happier about it.
Venezuela? What did I know about Venezuela? I have to admit, my knowledge of this country were not impressive. For some reason I did not do much research either so I might have my self to blame for the massive cultural shock that waited me. Nevertheless I am very happy to be on my way back to Barquisimeto for five more exciting months, but while I was I Norway I experienced a little bit of a “reversed culture shock”. Maybe it sounds strange because I had not been away more than three months, but there was many situations where I had to laugh about my new Venezuelan mindset (which does not match the Norwegian).
First of all it was so cold, even though this was the mildest winter we have had in years in Oslo. The lowest temperature was -3C while I was back, which is hot compared to last year’s -20C. There was no snow either, but I did not complain (don’t worry be happy right?) Second, nothing had really changed at home, while I was feeling like a totally different person. I looked at my own culture with new glasses and realized things I had not thought about before. I will try to give some examples.
On a Norwegian bus the only loud reggeton you will hear is on your I-pod. There is no music on any public transportation and it was so quiet I felt almost awkward. A girl sat down next to me and I thought how strange it was to know with 99% certainty that she would not start talking to me. She looked straight forward avoiding any chance of eye contact. And as the double seat next to me got available she actually moved over there. People in this bus acted like they would get deadly diseases sitting next to each other. I felt the urge to just sit down next to someone and start talking to them about random things, but I know this would make Norwegians extremely uncomfortable. The thought of their reaction, on the other hand, amused me enough to laugh a little by my self there I sat looking at this typical Norwegian behavior.
Some days into the vacation I was going out with some friends. It is very normal to have a “pre-party” at someone’s house before going out because the alcohol prizes are very high. In this pre-party we talk, sing and when getting drunk we start dancing. I tried to put on some merengue and reggeton, but without much success. How I missed having a Latin companion at that moment, but I did a bit of dancing by my self to my friend’s amusement. When the taxi arrived there was enough space for everyone to sit really comfortable and I though we should maybe pick up some people along the way to fill it up properly, but decided not to. The taxi driver would not let my friend bring her “Cuba Libre” drink (with Venezuelan rum of course) into the car and I felt the sudden urge to use my newly developed negotiation skills, but once again I decided not to. In a bar Norwegians like to sit down, drink, talk and eventually scream really loud to the lyrics. Not before midnight are there any action on the dance floor and the movements mostly consist of one hand lifted to the sky pumping in tact with the music. I am exaggerating a little bit here, but compared to the dancing culture in Venezuela this was depressing stuff. Regardless I had fun with my friends and Norwegian beer tasted delicious compared to the water-like-tasting beer in Venezuela (sorry, no offence I do like the green one).
At home we had visitors from New York, Australia and Amsterdam as well as some other Norwegians living in my parents apartment. In Venezuela a single bed can fit at least three people, but my mother disagreed and was obsessed with everyone having their own bed. I had to laugh because normally I would agree with her, but I just thought, “there is room for everyone, the more people the better”. As New Years Eve came closer I did not really know what to do because I wanted to spend time with my parents and my grandmother, but also my visitors. Again the Venezuelan in me made the decision easy by having a party with everyone. Normally young people celebrate with their friends while the parents celebrate with their friends, but I thought it would be cool to have a Venezuelan type of celebration where it does not really matter if you are 3 years old or 98 years old (like my grandmother). The evening was perfect!
There were other times where I felt the Venezuelan in me creeping up and therefore I am so happy to return now. Don’t get me wrong, I like my country’s culture a lot, but for now I am happy to be spending the next five months speaking Spanish, eating fried food for breakfast, negotiating taxi prices and dancing sober.