From Buenos Aires to Boise, Idaho

Posted on January 17, 2013 by Vivi in VIVI'S VIEW

By Vivi Rathbone.

From Buenos Aires to Boise, Idaho

A Reverse Culture Shock Recap


1. Nothing is crowded

People seem accustomed to ample amounts of personal space and are slightly irritated when I stand two inches away from them in the line at Whole Foods.  “What’s the problem neighbor?  Que frio que sos!”

2. No cat-calling

Not a single strange man has yelled at me in the street that I am a “divine goddess” or “beautiful queen”.  To the contrary, I was told that my pants reveal too many details of my colita to be worn in public.  “It’s not modest”.  “But Dad, these ARE my modest pants!”  

3.  Potty talk

No one talks about their bowel movements and digestive health or what their psychologist said.  Ever.  So, how am I supposed to build rapport with coworkers?  What are we supposed to talk about?

4.  Far fewer mirrors

I took for granted the reflective surfaces that are so plentiful in Buenos Aires.  Now I’m constantly turning around in the elevator, or gazing into the storefronts expecting to see myself, but all I see is the empty reflection of my own vanity.  “Does my hair look ok?”  There is no way for me to know.

5. Language gap

When I interject ‘bueno, che, no se, dale, que onda, chau, beso‘ into common English speech, people look confused, and a little afraid.  “Well, she was in South America … she probably has PTSD.”  Yeah, I probably do.

6. No one cares

It is a fine line of gentle correction to navigate when a kind person expresses interest in my Buenos Aires life.  “Oh wow, Argentina!  I bet the beaches were amazing!  I love Mexican food!  Three years?  Do you speak Portuguese fluently now?  What was it like living in the jungle?  Tim, come meet Vivi, she just got back from Venezuela!”  

7.  Music?

None of the radio stations are playing what I want to hear.   (Which would be this.)

8. The pace

And most shockingly: today I was strolling behind two domingueros walking down the sidewalk, when they moved over to the left and said; “We’re walking slow, why don’t you pass us.”  QUE?!  Otro mundo te digo, OTRO MUNDO.


  1. I am HOWLING out loud!!

  2. Though posting Gustavo Lima doesn’t exactly help to clear up the Portuguese confusion 😉

  3. this is awesome Vina, thanks for posting it!

  4. that was so amazing!!! Returning home is not easy… I can’t IMAGINE after three years. The mexican foodis the best part…. and that people dont talk about their stomach issues. Hahah seriously what are we speak of????

    “How’s your Spanish? Do you speak it? Cause you should”
    “What do they eat there? Do they know what pasta is?”
    “Where’s Ecuador?”
    “Are they poor?”
    “Get me a recipe for good rice and beans……….”

    welcome home 🙂

  5. EXCELLENT, todos. #6 is my life.

    My fav reverse culture shocker is by far, always, every time I go back to the States – THE BESO. Most people are usually confused when I kiss someone I don’t know to introduce myself but I do it anyway (after all, I’ve been in South America, I have PTSD). I can’t talk to you if we haven’t officially bumped cheeks and mumbled a greeting and our names. The fact that in the US you can actually be at a work meeting or dinner party and NOT acknowledge other human beings present is so cold. Kiss in, kiss out; nada mas, nada menos.

    Sometimes it works… especially with Italians and Jews (good thing I’m from Jersey). Most of the time its awkward, but I won’t give up. The silliest for me is when certain people catch on but think I’m being “Euro” and try to give me 2 kisses or even 3, and I pull away after the 1. Come on, what are you doing, I don’t have time for that.

    Keep up the Beso, Vives, and wear those colita pants, you reina hermosa.

    • oh my god amiga, I hear you. I want to beso EVERYONE. but … Idaho might be particularly conservative when it comes to PDA (and pantalones calientes). Once I tried to beso a new amiga … it ended in a very awkward half hug … we haven’t hung out since.

  6. This is too perfect hahaha!!

    Number 6… Oooooh America, when will we start working on that little problem we call the public education system?

  7. Haha, this was good. I lived in BSAS for four years and moved back to go to grad school last year. I am fluent in Spanish and have a heavy Argentine accent. I live in Texas now and this is the response I get when I talk to people in Spanish;
    “No mames guey, ‘ssshhio’, que es eso? Este huevon parece la Susana Jimenez.”

    • ahahaha that’s hilarious!! My first Spanish runin was with a chileno – who replied and of course I was the one who couldn’t understand any of that chileno espanol … so, does repatriation get any easier?

  8. I know that I’m way late reading this… but this is hilarious!!!! I lived in Peru for a year and when I came back home, it was ridiculous how weird I felt. After 2 years home, I have NO idea how to greet people! It’s always an awkward wave or hug! After many strange looks from besos, I gave up. I hate having so much personal space… which is crazy because when first in Peru, it really bothered me that everyone stood so close… now I just feel alone! LOL I suspect that this is why babies like to be swaddled… I really like the closeness!


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