Welcome to Culture Shock! The new series that named itself. Join us as we learn, grow and share all about new found social/cultural behaviours and expectations through our world exploration. These are our thoughts, observations and lessons on respecting and behaving in a foreign culture that may just leave you laughing and crying at the same time.
For those of you who have not yet experienced the shear adventure brought to you by ‘the squat toilet,’ allow me to paint the picture for you.
I entered a restroom stall outside a temple in Lukang, Taiwan and in that moment, much to my horror, I was slapped with a very dark reality. Western style toilets were a thing of the past with my homeland, Canada, now at the other end of the world. While I had managed to avoid encounters with a ‘squat toilet’ throughout my first week in Asia, mainly Hong Kong, it was now time to accept the unavoidable truth. Long gone were the days I had sat comfortably in the middle of the night after staggering all clumsy and groggy to my porcelain throne. Going forward I would be expected to bend my knees and hover over a hole in the ground. Continue reading →
Culture Shock! Welcome to the new series that basically named itself! We’ve just landed in a new continent that is about to challenge us in completely new ways. Some will undoubtedly be intriguing and funny little things we’ll have to adjust to. Others will surely be frustrating or beyond comprehension. Finally, there will be cringe-worthy moments certain to have us questioning why we ever left the comforts of home in the first place.
Each article in the series is intended to be an opportunity to learn, grow and share. It is our collection of observations and information from the different cultures we visit from our subjective anthropological perspective. We never intend to shame or shed negativity on anyone else’s way of life. Wherever we can, we will do our best to understand and explain how to respect and behave in a given place. Though sometimes, we may only be able to share on what NOT to do, as we figure out life as a local through our embarrassing mistakes and faux paus moments.
Culture Shock and the Chinese Driver
China seems to encourage their citizens to drive scooters, or electric bikes as they call them here, by having designated lanes and even putting up these little shade huts so that drivers don’t have to endure the sun while waiting for the traffic light to change. (Neither one of these things is respected much but it’s nice to see the effort ) Guilin, Guanxi, China – Karina Noriega
There was only a single moment where the words got caught in my throat.
“Let me out! Right effing now!”
April and I are on our way to the Longji rice terraces of northern Guanxi province in China. It’s the rainy season, hot and humid since arrival, but so far we’ve been spared any downpours on our first week in this country. That hasn’t been the case in the mountains. The potholed, winding road, barely a lane and a half wide curls between rocky cliffs and a raging river below. The pretty waterfalls all us passengers admired as our minivan first started climbing away from the highway have now turned into raging drenchers flying out of the vertical walls above us and straight onto the road. Ahead of us, a landslide caused a massive portion of the road to collapse into the river. From my back row point of view, it is clear that the remaining asphalt has no solid mountain beneath it. It is only a matter of time before it gives way completely, and we are about to drive over it. Continue reading →
The beautiful colours of a Guatemalan market. Guatemala City, Guatemala — April Beresford
Entering a Guatemalan marketplace is like stepping through the gates to Narnia; you never know what sort of extraordinary journey will await you on the other side!
I have documented for your entertainment, a somewhat bizarre chain of events that occurred as we explored a Guatemalan market at Christmas time. The adventure actually unfolded chronologically as described below. (Also check out some of thevideo footagewe captured in yet another market, with a completely different twist.) Continue reading →
Chicken Bus terminal in Antigua under the looming Volcan de Agua, Guatemala — April Beresford
Chicken buses are the way of the people in Guatemala. No trip in this country is complete without at least one experience flying down the potholed roads on one of these refurbished school buses packed with white knuckled locals.
Thanks to the competitive system of the chicken bus world, even short ride between towns is destined to be a wild one. Bus drivers here pay a flat fee to the company per day and have an assigned route where passengers are picked up and dropped off at will. Any money that stands to be made depends on the drivers ability to pick up as many passengers as possible on every route. This only encourages the chauffeurs to drive faster and more dangerously as they battle to overtake fellow bus drivers, even on single lane cobblestone city roads.
Chicken Bus Tips #1
1. Greet the bus passengers and bus driver as you enter the bus. It is not common for locals to say hello or rather, ‘Hola’ to one another. Be a respectful and knowledgeable traveller by saying “Buenos dias” (Good morning) or “Buenas tardes” (Good afternoon). Continue reading →
Antigua Cultural and Karina’s Extraordinary Life have teamed up to bring you a new series called Preserving Culture. Preserving Culture will feature short films on cultural aspects of Antigua, Guatemala seen from a new perspective.
Join Antigua Cultural and Karina’s Extraordinary Life as we take you to Antigua, Guatemala to get a new perspective at Guatemala’s alfombra (carpet) building Easter tradition in the first educational segment of Preserving Culture. We speak with local school children during Semana Santa who teach us all about what it means to build one of these traditional works of art. — Alex Jones Continue reading →
Street meat, is a slang description for a meal containing an animal product that was prepared by a pop-up street vendor. These meals are quick and unbelievably tasty when you approach the right vendor. If you are feeling adventurous while travelling in a foreign land, you can end up with a quality local meal and avoid paying tourist prices in an expensive restaurant.
Local street vendor grills fresh meats on a makeshift roadside kitchen. Antigua, Guatemala — April Beresford
The 10 Rules of Street Meat
Pay attention to where and how the meat is being stored. Refrigeration is not easily managed by a chef without access to electricity. Look for people who are using coolers as this is a sign they understand the need for proper refrigeration.
Be wary of stands that have piles of pre-cooked meat that is being served to customers slowly over time. Don’t eat meat that was already prepared prior to your arrival as there is no way to know how long the meal has been sitting out. Watch the person cook the meat in front of you!
Examine the colour of the raw meat. It should be bright red. If it appears slightly cooked (brownish or grey), there is a good chance that bacteria has already begun to set in. One night in Santa Ines, Karina and I were lured by delicious smells to a street side hamburger stand and after watching the apparent ‘perfect’ patties smoke on the grill, we peaked behind the counter for further inspection. The uncooked patties were green; BRIGHT green.
If you typically prefer to have meat prepared medium or rare, when it concerns street-meat you should air on the side of caution and always ensure that it is well done (especially with chicken.) There should not be any pink in the middle.
Children get fresh goats milk downtown Antigua, Guatemala — Karina Noriega
It is common in Guatemala and other Central American countries to serve dishes with meat and beans with cream on the side. Opt out of the cream and avoid items containing mayo.
Look around the makeshift kitchen area to see how sanitation is being handled. Are they wearing gloves? Are they handling both the raw and cooked meat with the same utensils? Do they have a wash-bin for utensils and the cook’s hands, or do they have a Saint Bernard out back who washes the plates clean when customers are not looking?
The food must be covered at all times to protect it from exposure to bugs, stray animals and other contaminates from the street (car exhaust, people, and dust).
If you have several vendors to choose from, seek out the one with the long line up. Trust the locals to help you judge the best place to eat, even if this means you will have to wait a little longer in line.
Many places in this world will serve you barbequed flesh from animals you are not accustom to eating back home. If you are squeamish about this fact you might want to avoid eating street meat. Be comfortable with what you are about to eat. You won’t enjoy the meal if you are preoccupied, worrying you might regret it.