Does your attitude and body language matter in another culture? I believe so. Since I first stepped off the airplane in Buenos Aires, I knew my Spanish was not up to par and immediately felt the un-comfort. The people of this country are very passionate and prideful for their country and the Spanish language. We'd be fooled to think that some of them want to speak a lick of English to us. Thus, our great adaptation is under way. My good friend Nick made a great comment on the first post about a law in Argentina. No public advertisement or billboard should contain the English language that literally translates to Spanish. Thanks for feeding the blog Nick. How ironic I came here to teach English. Not that I feel completely discriminated against but I have drawn some interesting looks down here, I've become quite accustomed to this new attention brought to myself. Some have migrated here to teach English before us and that is a threat to the prideful and faithful. To be honest, I don't see any shame in that. I've also met many citizens here who are 'abierto,' or open minded, that fully accept our presence and the English language.
Argentina is very political and it shows everyday on the street where we currently reside, Callao Avenue. Once a day for the last eight days, we have heard the drums beating hard, the whistles, firecrackers, sirens and chants. Some are protests and the others are celebrations. It truly is a whole new society who is very passionate about its respective opinions on issues. I can't blame them for wanting to protect their native language from us outsiders providing education of the English language. I can't remember seeing many public signs or advertising in foreign languages that literally translated to English, well maybe Taco Bell. How must this English teacher adapt?
I just had an interview today with a sales company that pays US wages, which is a needle in a haystack here. How? Through the friend of a friend, the word 'networking' carries some weight to it after all. English teaching doesn't pick up until March anyways, and I've already met with several of the language institutes so my foot is in the door there. My number one objective of meeting more people will continue without question.
It would be very false to say I was completely prepared for the outsider feeling that comes with being an Ex-pat in Argentina. Two weeks after my arrival, I finally have accepted the outsider feeling. The transformation in my attitude and body language seems to have made all the difference in my adaptation process. I started this by looking into other's eyes everywhere I go. Communicating without looking into each other's eyes is found as really rude here, which is why my shy demeanor in the first days was not successful. The smile is very underrated in the cross cultural communication as well. Bringing a smile to a stranger's face with your own smile is a very sweet feeling.
So let them observe this 'ginger' and so shall I observe with the same curiosity. I'm optimistic that we'll learn a whole lot from each other and do so with a smile.
See how far your smile takes you...