To follow on from my discussion on languages and translation from last week with my Colombian and British family, this week I’d like to highlight some interesting cultural differences that I’ve noticed throughout my Colombian family’s stay here in England. Keep reading to have a glance at the differences that I found most striking.
Firstly, I’ve noticed that my Colombian family are much more expressive with their emotions than my English family. I don’t like to generalise, but I believe this to be a common difference between many Colombians and British people. On arrival at my parents house, there were out bursts in Spanish of “how wonderful to finally meet you ”, “what happiness it gives me to be able to spend time with you and get to know you”, “we’re unbelievably grateful for your hospitality, generosity and love that you have provided us with”. When I translated these sweet words to my parents, they were overwhelmed by how expressive they were and almost embarrassed at how to reply to such touching and heartfelt words. In England, I feel that we are much more likely to use polite but short and simple wording to mean the same thing – “thank you for having me”.
I came to understand that “gracias” is a used in excess, and required a response of “no, gracias a tí”, rather than “de nada”. “De nada” is rarely used as it implies that you have done something that someone else should be thankful for. On the other hand, “No, gracias a tí”, implies a much more humble response of “Please don’t thank me, let me thank you”. At most you may hear a “con mucho placer, que alegria poder ayudarte”, which translates as “it’s my great pleasure to be able to help you”, if the favour was seriously big! In England, the most common response to “thank you” is simply “that’s ok”.
Not only was the lack of regular carbohydrates in a meal a shock for them (In Colombia it’s perfectly normal to eat rice, potatoes, plantains and yucas in one main course), but the lack of natural (and exotic) fruit juices available, such as, jugo de guanabana, jugo de guava or jugo de curuba, was also a surprise. In addition, the sizes and timings of our meals in the UK are quite different from those in Colombia. For example, our typical “I’m in a rush for work” cocoa pops or cornflakes breakfast, sandwich and a coffee lunch and main meal in the evening is quite the opposite from Colombia. Over there, desayunos consist of arepas (pancakes made out of maize flour), huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onion), ahogado (a tomato and onion sauce for the arepas), and calentado (food heated up from the day before, which can be anything from rice, meat, potatoes, soup etc…)
This one may not be such a cultural point but I must mention it anyway! Despite my Colombian family being from Bogotá, one of the coldest cities in Colombia, our British summer still seemed freezing to them. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw my father-in-law was wearing full length down coat made for subzero temperatures on a slightly cloudy summer’s day!
Throughout my studies of Spanish and travels to Latin America, I’ve come across many cultural and linguistic differences which fascinate me, but these ones mentioned are few that have come to my mind recently as a result of their recent visit to the UK the contact with my British family.
Written by Evie Oswald