The Culture Bump
K: Hello my name is Karen
M: Hello my name is Miguel. okay
(Miguel smiles and moves his chair to face Karen) He seems ill at ease
M: Well okay -um What are you doing here? Do you, do you work here in the university?
K: Um I have a part time job at the university – um I watch student teachers
M: uh huh
K: Um I supervise them when they go out to do their teaching …. I supervise them
M: What’s your major?
K: My major is educational leadership
M: So, are you from Houston, from Texas?
K: Um No, I’m from Boston, Massachusetts
KAREN: ( clears throat) O.K. When, I was telling him what I did I wasn’t sure that he understood any of the words that I was saying so I was trying to say enough to describe what I did but not – I didn’t want to make him think I thought he was stupid…
When I’m talking to internationals, I’m not sure they understand all the definitions of all the words that I say so that I think I sometimes over-explain things or I talk louder or I’ll, I’ll repeat myself
MIGUEL: We didn’t know how to start , I was, nervous
I don’t know, a strange feeling
(FADE) M: Far from here (FADE)
K: I came here to teach at a college – at Kingwood College and I teach four classes there
M: So how, how long have you been here in Houston?
K: I’ve been here for three years. I came from Madison Conn – where I was teaching high school for five years but prior to that I lived here for 8 years -so I’ve been here a total of probably almost 11 years
MIGUEL: You see she’s always sitting and waiting for me and I am
always moving..in Venezuela, you can tell if that person likes you if,
if she is moving and something like that, I mean, with a man of course,
I like her because she’s like, she’s not just sitting, she’s moving…
K: Where are you from?
M: Venezuela – uh I’ve been here for only 7 months
M: Yeah, its so strange – its a strange feeling living here. I don’t know if you have ever been out of the United States, been out of the United States?
K:Uh, I’ve visited a couple of countries but that’s all. And where are you from again, Minnesota?
M: No Venezuela
M: South America
KAREN: (Clears throat) O.K. right there, I was doing one of my thought
processes while he was asking me if I had been to other countries and I
had but I was still trying to process why I thought he was from Venezuela
then he said Minnesota so I wasn’t listening. He caught me off guard and
I was kind of embarrassed.
MIGUEL: I felt like awful. She didn’t understand me.
K: So you came here directly from Venezuela
(FADE) fM: Yes And its a strange feeling when you are living out of your country (FADE)
K:Do you have other friends here
M: Yes, Well not really I have two friends that are from my same city in Venezuela – uh I have met a lot of people here from many countries, uh international students from Colombia, China, Japan, wherever. What about you? are you married?
K: No I’m not married I’m divorced
M: Uh huh
K: I have two children – Um, they are 23 and 24.
K: and they live in California. And I’m here by myself.
M: ha ha Good. Sometimes its better when you are by yourself – Like I’m here alone right now – I haven’t been such a long time without my family, -in my country, I, studied in my city – I got an associate degree and I was working in my city I was living with my parents until I came here to United States so uh I think I felt like lonely but now I feel much better,
K: So you don’t have any children?
M: Not yet. Ha Ha and I don’t want to right now. (laughs)
M: I don’t know – It’s not really that I don’t want to, to have children but I want to graduate first – you know and then get married when I have a girl friend – I don’t have a girlfriend right now so I don’t even have a project about getting married
K: You don’t have a project
(Both laugh) (FADE)
KAREN: When he started laughing, his cheeks got red…I was afraid I
was embarassing him by asking if he had any children. I didn’t know
if that was a good thing to ask him..he had asked me some personal
questions like if I had any children (FADE0
M: My sister came here twenty – December 28th so she’s here right now
K: Oh very good. Is she younger or older?
M: Yeah she’s younger – she’s the youngest
K: Um huh – And how old is she?
KAREN: O.K. right, here, I didn’t understand him, I had no clue if
she was 50 or 14. I was afraid to ask him to repeat himself because
I was afraid I still wouldn’t understand him
K: That’s nice – How long is she going to be here?
M: Um Just for 3 weeks – She’s going back next week
M: No its better – she’s spending all my money
M: She’s going to kill me
K: Oh no
K: Where do you take her?
M: Oh many places like uh yesterday we sent to space center – she was amazed at the rockets and a lot of technology – uh we went to, to Galleria – 3 times – ah we went to the natural science museum
K: Um huh
M:: um what else? well some clubs and
K: You took her to clubs?
M: Yes, No, I mean like discotheques or something
K: What does that mean no alcohol?
M: No no she can drink.
K: She can drink?
M: Yeah, but not that much for her – she likes to drink a couple of drinks uh I have to take her to Astroworld – she’s excited – she wants to go to Astroworld and what else? I don’t remember what else – we have been a lot of places – she’s having a great time
KAREN: See I thought she was 14 years old and he’s taking her to discoteques so maybe discoteque means no alcohol and he says yes, she likes to drink so then I think that people in his country drink at age 14 and then he said Astroworld and I thought that’s more of a place for her at 14 – she needs to go to Astroworld – not clubs.
MIGUEL: ( He smiles) She said clubs like, why do you take her to the club like it was strange – maybe she was thinking this guy is crazy
K:: Are you going to want to go back home with her?
M: How about you? You miss your – your children came here for Christmas?
K: Uh – No they actually stayed out in California
M: Ah, so you were alone?
K: I well, not really – I went out to visit them the week before Christmas
MIGUEL: (He nods his head) That kind of situation is unusual
in my country – usually the children are with the mother and the
father is the one who is alone. I thought she may have felt bad
because she wasn’t with her children
K: Do you buy lots of presents and things for Christmas?
M: Yes a lot of presents and we have a tradition – well I guess its the same here like Santa Claus for Christmas and yes we have to buy a lot of presents for everybody – for my… I used to buy for my parents and for my brothers and sisters. You, you have more or less the same tradition?
K: Um, but as we get older, we only buy for one member of the family because we switch names
M: Oh really
K: instead of buying for everybody, we pick a name out of the hat
MIGUEL: I didn’t know about that.. it was like strange different,
M: What else, um You live, are you happy living alone? or you have a boyfriend or something?
K: Um, I have a couple of boyfriends
M: Oh really
K: I have four right now
M: That’s a, that’s a lot of boyfriends
KAREN: Ok now I thought when you asked me about boyfriends, I started getting really embarrassed and I could my face was getting very red
I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t know how you would take this being from your culture and its also something I don’t normally do –
MIGUEL: We usually don’t do that in my country uh if we are with a person that we just met a few minutes ago – you are not going to ask that that kind of question, you know. So it was the first time I’m doing this kind of thing.
I knew you were embarrassed or something, but it was funny – your face
Was really red. (Both laugh)
Anyhow, it really shocked me when you said that.
K: I know, isn’t that goofy? And I’ve never done this before – this is my first time ever having more than one boyfriend
M: And how do you feel about it
K But I shouldn’t feel bad because the men in our culture do it
K: the men in our culture normally have more than one girlfriend
M: ah yeah, girlfriend, ah okay
M: It depends, sometimes …well you can have your girlfriend and um maybe you can have an affair or something like that for myself, I don’t like to do that because I feel that I’m not honest and I don’t feel honest with myself uh so I don’t like to do that and when its the, the opposite situation and I have a girlfriend and she has another boyfriend, I feel really bad I don’t like that
M: so that
K: You don’t like it when somebody does that to you
M: No, I don’t like that
K: I don’t like that either – my daughter called me today and she asked me, she asked me how I, how I feel by doing something like that because she doesn’t like it when I do something like that
K: well this is my first time – I’ve never done this before
K: but I’m not honest with all these people and that, and that bothers me – but they’re not serious either
KAREN: Here I wanted you to know that I wasn’t sleeping with any of these
guys. I wanted to make certain you knew that – in the United States you
can say you have a boyfriend but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are
sleeping with them. I wanted you to know that it was not serious.
MIGUEL:: I didn’t know that you were worried about my perception of you.
In my country, we have two ways of talking about that – to say novia or
girlfriend means a person you are sharing your feelings with and you can
sleep with them but we usually say “estoy saliendo” going out with that
person it means you are just friends having fun. So its like a culture bump
for me – I thought you were involved with all four of them
M: Ah, okay
K: you know, not like I’m not in love with them (Both are laughing)
K: but even then I, I… never even when I’m dating someone, I never usually go out with other people…I just go out with just one without even being serious
M: ah okay…Well its the same in Venezuela, if you don’t have nothing like serious
M: you can go out with two or three womans at the same time but when you have uh a serious relationship uh you have only one girlfriend and that’s it but when its something like you feel very comfortable with that person and
K: You feel comfortable with them?
K: What do you, what do you mean by comfortable-that…
M: I mean like, uh, ok uh you understand each other, and OK you can share… I don’t know, I don’t know , I don’t…I hadn’t thought about it… its like uh
K: You think you might want to marry them is that kind of…
K: okay that’s that kind of thing OK…but… yes, its like that…when you think you can get, you can marry that person
K: so you kind of intellectually get along and then you
K: and then you are spiritual together
M: yes… um what about your boyfriends – they know about the others one
K: Nooo are you kidding me?
K: I know that’s bad huh?
M: Really bad
K: It is bad
M: No… but if you feel well and you can handle it=-ok
K: But they don’t all live together you know – they don’t all live in Houston
M: Oh really
M: Where do they live?
K: One lives in Indianapolis
K: One lives in Chicago
M: Oh that’s very far from here
K: One lives in Connecticut
K: And one lives in Houston
M: Um Okay…. so you are an international
M: International girlfriend ( Both laugh)
K: I guess I am international
KAREN That was a term that we don’t, that we don’t use. When we
use international like – I never thought of it that way
MIGUEL: We usually say that kind of thing in Venezuela
Yes, just like a, a used like a serious word for another kind of thing that you – its fun. Like just for joke Usually we do that.
K: So what do you think I should do?
M: Um…I don’t know – keep them
K: Keep all of them?
K: What’s going to happen if I get caught?
M: Um I don’t know um
K: What would you do?
M: I, I keep them
K: You keep them? (both laugh)
M: No not really I don’t know…I mean, I have never been in that situation…I like
K: You like? (Both laugh) But you’d like to though?…No?
M: No, not really…Its as I told you, its, it depends if, if you know, if your relationship
K: Um huh
M: uh…You know what, its like if you love a, some person, you know, uh your partner, if you feel really well with that person, you’re not thinking about looking for another person uh
K: Um huh
M: its like uh, I don’t know, its like uh its like you feel… if you feel really well with that person, with that person sharing your feelings or uh I don’t, I don’t need to look for another person – I’m not going to, to feel comfortable… You know I’m not going to feel like, honest or something like that… so yes…but if its, its not a serious relationship, I don’t care – I can have two or three (garbled) but
KAREN: I wondered right here why your body language changed. You were very laid back and then all of a sudden you came up and started to be more, I don’t know, more direct, I think
MIGUEL: Yeah, when you feel confident with a person, you can do that in my culture, you can get closer
KAREN I was conscious of the change in space between us and I pulled back a little bit, like I wasn’t sure – you were laughing and all of a sudden you were very serious
MIGUEL: I didn’t realize all this was going on with you
K: How about, how about the men in your culture though, do they all when they’re in a marriage environment, uh its very monogamous – they don’t…do they never have an affair on their wife or what is…?,
M: Um yes
K: They do?
M: They do… but you know what, a long time ago, I think it was like uh um mach…machista – I don’t know the word in English maybe uh macho man
K: Macho man-male chauvinistic, yeah
M: Yeah okay but that was many time ago, you know, but right now we have changed our mind of, of being married and something like that and womans have changed their mind about being married because a long time ago usually Venezuelan women used to stay at, at home and they usually didn’t have a, a graduate they didn’t work uh but right now its completely different – you know, you see a couple and both of them are working – both of them are together so its completely difference (garbled) point of view (garbled)
K Um huh
M: uh so you has to be like really careful because you want to, to keep your, your marriage a long time – he…you want to be like monogamous
M: OK – you can’t be like – you can’t have your wife and another girlfriends and uh so that has changed a lot in my country
K: Huh Do women also, do some women have affairs in your country too
M: Yes yes
KAREN: I felt like our cultures were similar after you shared about families,
Marriages and affairs – women working and everything
MIGUEL: I had almost the same feeling like okay we are understanding each other – we share many many feelings
KAREN: Your communication was excellent – I understood everything you said
And I didn’t have to be careful with words or the sentence structure I was
MIGUEL: Now it is the same as speaking Spanish for me – almost the same –I was understanding perfect
K: Do you experience that?
M: Yes of course we do – but its like uh you know, when, when you have uh your husband you think that…uh I mean womens think that they don’t feel well with that person so uh they used to get a divorce and they find another person and that’s it but if you are feeling OK with that person, they usually don’t have an affair or something but…uh its not that that normal uh in Venezuela but of course we have affairs, woman that have affairs – we have that situations
K: hum…But you don’t think you’d ever do that?
M: Who me?
M: No I won’t (Both laugh) I don’t know – who knows (Laughter continues)
K: You don’t know
K: Do you know anybody else that has? Have any of your friends have…?
M: Yes I have known a lot of person that have which whose wife or girlfriends had had an affairs. and so um…
KAREN You felt very, very comfortable talking to me at this point. I felt like you shared part of you culture with me, with the families and the marriages and the affairs. And I felt like, our cultures at that time, wre very similar – how the women were now working and the men and things like that. I felt like we were on more equal terms and your communication was excellent – I was able to understand everything that you were saying. Um I didn’t feel like I had to be very careful with the words I was using so that you would understand me.
MIGUEL We are having almost the same feeling, we are understanding each other, we can share many, many feelings also
KAREN: At the beginning of this conversation, I was very careful with the sentence structure, the words that I used because I didn’t know if you understood me – Here I was just saying things very naturally. I was thinking about anything, I was just talking – I wasn’t repeating things twice
MIGUEL: At the beginning, I was a little bit stressed but now it was like the same that speaking Spanish, almost the same, I was understanding perfect
M: They felt like, I don’t know, like the hell
M: No they felt, they felt really bad
K: That they did have the affair…the person who had the affair or the person that was at
M: The person that was at home
M: Yeah. That… Is that normal here in the United States
M: That its like normal here in your culture have many girlfriends or have many boyfriends – uh go out with a uh guy today and with another guy uh in short period of time (Both are laughing)
K: um For, for the males I think that they, I don’t…I’m not sure – I’m not into the singles scene a whole bunch but it seems to me that the males have more female friends
M: Um huh
K: than what the women would have male friends
M: Um huh
K: most women when they start dating someone its very exclusive
K: um I guess that’s part of our culture that we feel guilty – Now these are women my age,
K: we feel guilty if we have more than one
K: and actually my daughter too doesn’t think that she needs to go out with… she doesn’t…once she’s serious with someone then she only needs to be with one person
M: Oh OK
K: so but a lot of the men have many, many women, I think
K: in our… um uh in a lot of our, in part of our culture in the last ten years, men and women have been having affairs
M: Um Yes.um so – your girl is like, I mean, its not like old fashioned, but she think that she feel better having only one date
K: Um. You know no that’s not…you know she’s seeing two boys right now yeah she’s seeing two guys yeah
K: but she’s not serious I don’t think with either one of them
M: Ah OK
K: but when she’s serious, she’ll only see one
M: Oh OK When she’s serious with that person…
M: OK I understand. Its the same in Venezuela like when you feel serious with a person
you will only (garbled) with that person but if not, its like here.
K: Its like here.
K: So what do you think I should do with my guys?
MIGUEL:: I wondered why you wanted to know what you should do with your guys – did you want my opinion or something like that?
KAREN: That’s what I wanted your opinion
MIGUEL I don’t know…(Both laugh) Whatever you want to do but… Is your business…no not really but – I don’t know, but you don’t feel well, you have to be honest because uh later you are going to feel um worse, I guess. If you, if you feel bad right now, later you are going to feel worse later
MIGUEL: When you asked me that question I felt really good because I have
seen that here in United States, it is not common for American people to ask
you about your personal opinion about their problems. And that’s very
common in my country – If you have a problem you look for a friend and
you talk about with that person.
KAREN I would not have asked an American man that – I would have asked a
girlfriend but I was able to ask you because I felt your opinion would be
different from an American male – that you would not be as biased – I
would automatically know what an American male would say in that
situation –that I should not have done that
M: We share some feelings (More laughter)
but its funny…I have never seen a person that had, who has four boy, boyfriends (both laugh)
K: Well l had never done it up until about four months ago – I’ve never been that way
M: Well but you are that way right now
K: I know but I didn’t go out looking for any of them. I mean, I didn’t go pursue any – I don’t go to bars and things like that…it just like happened
M: That’s OK. well…You really shock me. (Both laugh)
K: I shock myself too.
KAREN: I felt really good at this point, we were really communicating – talking about me being embarrassed about dating four men
MIGUEL: we went from being nervous to being really very connected and very comfortable with one another in a very short time. In Venezuela, I haven’t done this – feel this confident with a person in this short of a time – furthermore if somebody who is older than me , we feel like kind of respect toward that person, For sure we were talking about another kind of thing, maybe about politics – that kind of thing, never personal opinions or something.
KAREN: I think for me it was I guess the more I talked with you, the more comfortable, I was
M: I, I guess so… oh boy so funny um and you have uh…you have a son
M: I mean…What does he think about it? He doesn’t know about it?
K: Well he knows – he doesn’t like it.
M: Oh really? Um…you like to meet people?
K: Yeah, I do.
M: Yes, I guess
K: Can you tell?
K: Can you tell?
M: Uh…No..What do you mean by tell?
K: Can you tell that I like to meet people?
M: Um yes yes I, I can tell about that. I mean you look like that you like to meet people and go out – I don’t know why (Both laugh) I don’t know why you look like that but you do look like that.
K: Is it the color of my hair?
M: No, no. It’s not the color of your hair – it’s not
K: Maybe the curls?
M: maybe…no no. I don’t know but you look likes the people who wants to go out and have friends.. and I don’t think I look like that?
K: Yeah you do
K: I don’t know – cause you smile a lot…
M: my hair?
K: (Both laugh) your hair – yeah
M: my short hair
K: cause you smile a lot
M: Oh really?
K: Yeah…You look very friendly – see, friendly people in our culture, people like to be around them
M: Um huh – really
K: they smile a lot
M: Well but I don’t have any American friends
K: You don’t have very many…how come?
M: I don’t know…Well, since I came here to United States, uh I have been here studying in the English, school English
M: so there… in fact, there are not any Americans in, in this school so only the teachers and um so
: There are not many Americans in the English school so
K: Oh I see OK
M: uh that…I mean that with..that are your classmates
K: Oh I see
M: No I live out of campus
K: Do you have a roommate?
M: Yes I have a roommate – He’s from Venezuela too
K: Oh good
K: Did you come here together?
M: No he’s been here for a years and a half or something like that. But…He’s a nice person. Um
K: Do you get along with him – everything’s fine?
M: Yes we get along very well.
K: Is he from the same city that you’re from?
M: No he is from – let’s see – from the north of the country and I am from the south of the country.
M: But he’s nice – he’s a good guy – he has a really nice girlfriend – His girlfriend has a lot of nice girlfriends – (Both laugh) Maybe that’s why we get along.
K: And you don’t date any of them?
M: Yes, of course, some of them (Both laugh) no not really… but, not like a, like a girlfriend…I mean we are, we are really good friends, really good friends, but it’s not like my girlfriend or something like that
K: It’s not serious
M: No its not serious
KAREN I feel like I could talk to you about anything. I feel I’m very comfortable.
MIGUEL: Me too. I feel really well talking with you ad I don’t know, I feel really
KAREN: I think it has built some kind of bonding or something – I really, you
know, I think I could talk you about my children and I don’t’ think um
I just don’t feel like you would condemn me for anything I would say – I
don’t think that you would every tell me that I was wrong but you would
tell me how you felt and I would like a relationship like that – you know, a
MIGUEL: Me too. I think we will definitely see one another again.
KAREN Yes that will be nice.