First let me tell you a little about my history: I was born in a South American country and grew up in a part American/part Latin culture. My first language was Spanish but I also speak English, Italian, and conversational French and Portuguese. I by no means look Spanish with pale white skin and green eyes but certainly don’t sound American when the R’s roll of my tongue when speaking Spanish (you really should see my salsa moves). Do you see the identity crisis?
So far every time I have traveled or lived overseas I have been able to integrate into the culture rather easily. When I first moved to this country I failed my first few years of school because I didn’t speak English. Fast forward a few years and I was watching football and shoving big macs in my mouth in no time. Who can really resist right? I still love a good arepa when I can find one (typical Spanish dish) and am obsessed with soccer and Spanish women, ahem… Spanish dancing.
When living in Sicily I was able to pick up Italian extremely quickly, staying away from the mafia, not so much. Both Italian and Spanish are Latin languages and its essentially using the same words with a different accent. French and Portuguese are a bit different since the accents are very different and the words are a bit different as well.
Sometimes when I travel I get caught in-between cultures. When I first came back from Italy I would start using Italian words in my Spanish vocabulary and of course, the incessant hand motions that go with it (the Italian). I remember when my sister came back from a study abroad summer she came back speaking Spanish with a lisp (how proper castellan Spanish is spoken). I’m currently living in Toronto trying to see all the things to do in Canada and I have caught myself saying EH at the end of every sentence. At first I would just joke around about it but now it’s becoming a habit. A friend of mine actually spoke in a part Jamaican, part Canadian, part Venezuelan accent when we met after 7 years, truly a hysterical moment in time I will never forget.
We all have roots firmly placed in cities around the world. Whether it’s a place you grew up or the home where you had your first love. Since I have been travelling so long I now have bits and pieces from every culture engrained in my personality. Jokes that I learned in Puerto Rico don’t work in Chile or Buenos Aires. How do I translate that hysterical joke I heard in Italy when there is no direct translation? Since I travel so much when I finally start to get the hang of the local culture it’s time to pick up and live in another country.
It’s similar to rebooting a computer once it freezes. While you still have to bring up the same programs you had up before to finish your work, you have to start all over again. There is system restore which brings some of your work back to life but you really have to focus to get back on the path you were on to get everything done. Not quite culture shock… trapped in-between cultures.