Fashionably late

I had just arrived in Nashville for the first time. It was time to visit the city and get familiar with the place where I was going to live for the next two years.

My family is friends with an awesome family (also from Argentina) that lives here in Nashville. They were great with us and hosted our visit as we explored Music City.

One of the daughters of the family invited my sister and me to eat dinner with her and her older sister. We were very excited about our first outing around downtown. She told us she will pick us up from our hotel at around 7-ish.

7-ish? My mind tried to figured out what she meant by that “ish.” I knew that it meant around seven, but does that means that it’s going to be a few minutes before or after 7 p.m.?

In Latin America, we really don’t know the meaning of “being five minutes early.” Why would someone choose to arrive earlier than agreed? Apparently, most Americans dissent with this worldview.

I was about to get ready for our dinner, when I realized that it was only 6 p.m. and she had told me that she would come around 7. So, I still had time, right?

It was 6:30 p.m. when I was finally getting ready. At 6:45 the phone rings. It was my friend that was downstairs.

“Hey, I’m here,” she said.

That’s when it hit me: 7-ish is not only used for when I am going to be a couple of minutes late, but also for when I am going to be a bit early.

“If you are not going to be on time, be 10 minutes earlier,” is what one of my professors says all the time.  If you are going to live in America or partake in events with Americans, this is my advice to you, as well.

As a Latin American, I grew up in a society where no one really cared if someone was “fashionably late,” and for us that could mean up to half an hour late. Since I am in the U.S., I had to adjust my mind clock to function in the American way, and try to be as early as possible for every event.

Are you from a culture that is always late, always early, or maybe right on time? What is your interpretation of 7-ish?

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Saying hello: not as simple as it sounds

Different ways of greeting people. Or in this case a statue.

Some people like greeting their friends by shaking their hands, others by waving from a safe distance and others with a kiss on the cheek. If this last option sounds weird to you, that’s because you are probably from the United States of America.

I am originally from South America, more specifically, Argentina. Down there we are used to greeting our friends with a kiss on the cheek, and if you are from a province far from the capital it is probable that you would say hello with two kisses.

The American culture varies in different aspects from the Latin American culture. I want you to think for a second how many people you talk to in one day. Can you imagine yourself saying hello to all of them with a kiss on the cheek? You might be thinking about all the germs that would be transmitted from one person to the other if you were to implement this custom in your daily life.

In Argentina, if you don’t say hello using this cultural habit, people are going to categorize you as the rude person who doesn’t know how to interact with humans. A little extreme, right? What happens when we translate this old tradition of saying hello to the person every time we see him/her to the American way?

When I moved to the United States almost three years ago, I had to adjust to some of the cultural views that pertain to this country; some of them I am still working on till this day. The American way to say “hello” is also something that I am still learning. It’s actually relieving not having to kiss every person that I see on the cheek. I didn’t like the idea very much of having contact with the other person to be polite and say hello.

Now I am facing the other side of the equation. I find other people not saying hello or goodbye. They say what they need to say without wasting any time and then leave. Why? Is it awkward to say hello to the same person several times during the day?

Here in America, saying hello has to be from the distance and without giving too much importance to it. If you put a lot of thought into your introduction, the person might think that you are boring and that you may take a lot of their valuable time.

The funny thing is that as I am acculturating to this beautiful country, I sometimes find myself not giving much thought to this act of respect: greeting people.

While “Hello, how are you?” might be the words that we hear the most, they are also words that have almost lost its meaning.

So, what is the right balance between these two extremes? If we combined these habits I would say the outcome would be very positive and it would generate conversations that we might be missing simply because we do not put the time to listen to people and make them feel important. Mixed cultures often end up being a new way of living that could revolutionize a community.

Saying hello and being polite are going to bring you more benefits and will open more doors than you could ever imagine. Dedicating the right amount of time to those around you could change your worldview and strengthen your relationships.