This post is part of Blogging Abroad’s 2017 New Years Blog Challenge, week three: Cultural Differences.
If you want to dine with people here on the coast of Colombia, there are some key tips that will help you fit in a bit:
- When you receive your food, dig in! You may get your food before anyone else at the table, but if you wait, there’s a good chance it will get cold before your company gets there.
- Your fingers don’t come into contact with fried food. Doing so results in dirty hands and finding a good place to wash them can sometimes be difficult.
- If your lunch comes with French fries, you use your fork to eat them.
- If your table gets some little papas rellenas, or refried mashed potato balls, you grab yours with a napkin (this is true for all little fried foods/fritos).
- If you get fried chicken, you will get plastic gloves to wear while you eat it.
- Drinks are typically not drunk directly from the bottle. Depending on the vessel, there’s a chance that it could carry something that makes you sick (see number 3 below).
- For individual-sized bottled juices and pop, you’ll normally be given a straw.
- For larger bottled juices and pop, to be shared among several people, you’ll each get a plastic cup.
- For bottled beers, women are always given little plastic cups to pour the beer into (unless you are stubborn like me and refuse it). Men will sometimes drink straight from the bottle, sometimes they’ll pour it into their own little plastic cup. If you drink straight from the bottle, be sure to wipe the lip of it. The metal bottlecap + a very humid environment can result in a rusty top and therefore lip. Nobody wants to drink rust with their beer.
- If you have a snack, you share it. If you want to be a proper and polite person here but you don’t want to share your snack, don’t you dare open and eat it in front of others. You never know when they last ate or will get to eat next, so be generous and share your fortune.
- If someone invites you to eat, do it! If they literally use the words, “Te invito” or “I invite you,” this means that they are going to pay for your food. It’s okay. Don’t fight it. It’s normal. If you have the means, go ahead and invite them the next time!
- When you go to a party and see the cupcakes sitting on the table, refrain from grabbing one. The host (usually the person being celebrated or their mother, wife, or girlfriend) will always serve the food. People often take everything they are served, whether they actually like that thing or not. Again, this is a time when someone has gone to great lengths to get enough food to share with you!
*The x in words like latinx and here, costeñx, serves to indicate gender neutrality. Every noun in Spanish carries a gender, as do many adjectives. “Male” words end in o, “female words end in a. When talking about people of unknown genders, as in the phrase, “Dine like a costeñx,” this would traditionally be written with the male costeño. Similarly, when you are talking generally about multiple people of both genders, it tends to be with the os ending. “Brother” is hermano, “sister” is hermana, but “siblings” is hermanos. In some contexts, people have started to make things more gender inclusive by using an @ symbol, which looks sort of like an a and an o, so is supposed to indicate either male or female. Using that, it would be “Dine like a costeñ@.” I don’t like this because a) it’s uuuuuuugly and b) it’s still exclusive of people who are non-binary (for more on that, read here). And that’s how we arrive at the x to have true gender neutrality.