By LAURA TAYLOR
After living in Venezuela for 17 years, Maria Herrera moved to Houston, Texas, by herself for the first time in her life.
Maria Herrera is a senior at the University of Mary Washington and knows all too well the taste of independence abroad without her family.
“I spent about six months in Houston learning English,” said Herrera. “After that, I moved to Fredericksburg and have been here for three years.”
Living in the United States for the first time by herself, Herrera experienced her fair share of interesting encounters.
“While I was studying English in Houston, I was surrounded by people from all over the world,” said Herrera. “One day, I was talking with one of my friends, who also is Venezuelan and he told me he was ‘arrecho,’ which means ‘angry’ to Venezuelans. Our friend from Colombia was listening to the conversation and she suddenly got really mad and uncomfortable. After a few seconds of confusion, she told us that ‘arrecho’ means ‘horny’ in Colombia. We were so uncomfortable.”
When visiting France, Herrera experienced something similar. Her friend ordered her steak well-done and the waiter got angry. According to Herrera, the French don’t like to have their orders customized or changed. Herrera noticed that in Italy they never serve cold drinks. Having family in Italy, Herrera was also told that some Italians think driving with the windows down will cause a cold.
Studying business administration and economics, Herrera has only been in the United States for nine years and is still very new to some of the customs of Americans.
“One of the things that surprised me the most when I moved here was how fast people move out of their parents’ house,” said Herrera. “ In Venezuela, both men and women usually don’t move out until they get married. Even after graduating college people go back to their parent’s house.”
Moving to a new country puts a person into the path of culture shock especially if this is the first time traveling outside of their home country. The way people interact varies across borders.
“Another thing that stood out to me was how different people are here,” said Herrera. “In Venezuela and in the other countries I’ve been in South and Central America, people are very friendly – too friendly sometimes. They do not shy away from asking personal questions, things that here a stranger would never ask. In the US people are very polite but sometimes come off as rude or cold, especially to someone who is used to such friendliness.”
One thing that stood out to Herrera is that Americans are some of the most patriotic people she has come across.
“Not to say that people from other cultures do not love their countries,” said Herrera. “But I hadn’t seen such proudness [sic] and love for a country before.”
Over winter break, Herrera will be visiting Venezuela and then going on a trip to Europe.