Coming from England to Honduras, there has obviously been a lot of things I’ve needed to get used to – seeing extreme poverty, not being able to speak the language and, of course, driving on the other side of the road. But there are lots more things that make my home country and my current country so vastly different, but in much more subtle ways. I haven’t mentioned much of it before because they are just such ordinary things here now, that even I sometimes forget that it is weird to me. Here is a few of them…
1. I was telling a story to someone from home at the weekend and mentioned that my friend was drunk. And driving. And my friend from home immediately questioned why somebody would be drink driving, and why would I go in a car with them?? I mentioned it without remembering how unacceptable and odd it is at home… but it is sooo normal here. There is no such thing as a designated driver. I’ve been in cars when the drunk driver is swerving all over the road, or even driving on the wrong side of the road up a highway. But it’s just so standard here that I don’t think twice about it now! I know, not good! Seatbelts are also something Hondurans don’t believe in… unless there is police ahead, at which point everyone suddenly gets strapped in.
2. It is also normal to go to Burger King, or Wendy’s, or anywhere really and see none of the kitchen staff wearing gloves. Sometimes you might see a couple of hairnets, but never gloves. When you eat at someone’s house they will happily plate up your food using their hands. I was in a butcher type place yesterday and watched as two guys prepared some sort of meat with their bare, unwashed hands. Nice.
3. Similarly, there is no concern for mopping up spills, moving things out of the way of exits etc., you’ve just got to keep your wits about you and try not to hurt yourself. I actually prefer this to the ridiculous health and safety culture of the UK where people can sue for anything.
4. There is a lot less sensitivity over certain topics, such as a person’s weight. In England, we try our hardest not to make jokes about people being either fat or skinny if there is someone in the room who could be offended. But in Honduras, someone will happily bring up how fat you are and how much weight you’ve put on lately… usually while you’re eating your delicious, unhealthy lunch. This definitely takes some getting used to and you just have to remember that in Honduras ‘gordita’ is an affectionate term 😉
5. Dating is a nightmare… a boy and a girl, whether they are just friends or not, are definitely not allowed to be alone in a house together, let alone a bedroom! A definite no-go in Honduras, no matter what age you are… if you’re not married, you’re not to be trusted alone with the opposite sex.
6. I may be wrong about this due to the obvious language barrier… but from what I’ve experienced, I would say that people in Honduras are quite a bit less interested in foreign affairs than people in the UK. Maybe we just have too little going on at home, but we are pretty obsessed with what is going on in Europe, the US etc. Whereas here, I’ve never heard anyone mention much about anything going on abroad. When the Boston bombing happened, I mentioned it to someone at my project and it just wasn’t much interest for them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing at all, Honduras has enough of its own problems to care who the new president of France is or China’s new panda breeding programme.
7. Paying for bills and stuff… I just don’t know how it works. In the UK we get all our house bills, phone bills, car documents etc. by post… but they don’t really have a postal system here at all. So how do they do it?? I have no idea… I went with Hector once to pay his electricity bill and he had a tiny, little paper receipt which he gave to the bank, with his money. I have no idea where he got the receipt from though.
As well as the differences, there are some similarities that you maybe wouldn’t expect…
1. Before I came to Honduras, I was slightly nervous at the idea of being in a new family. Having been at university and, you know, being a teenager a few years ago… I loved coming home, but spent most of my time in my room, talking to my friends and watching TV. I expected to be in a family who went to church together, ate every meal together and were never alone in their rooms. Well family life is a whole lot more similar to the UK than I expected… nothing better than coming home and getting into bed to watch some Inbetweeners 🙂
2. Going to church was another thing I definitely expected from my family life here, and something I was actually excited for! But I have lived with two families here and neither went to church, at least not regularly… aside from my lovely Azariah of course who spends all sunday, every sunday at her church. So that is definitely something I wasn’t expecting. Overall, Hondurans do go to church much, much more than we do in England… but from what I have seen it is less common than I expected.
3. Also from my expectation of the family life here and the Church going culture, I expected sex before marriage to be a very rare, taboo thing. In some ways it is… Hondurans won’t admit it happens, but it definitely does. My Honduran friends here talk about sex just as much as my friends at home… and yet Europeans still have a reputation for being easy.
4. On from this also is the drinking and going out culture. I mentioned to someone from home about going out and she couldn’t believe it and asked how when it is so dangerous. But, due to the culture of drink driving, you literally drive from bar to bar. And in many bars, the majority of the music is English so it’s just like being at home… especially when you get absolutely out of it guys stumbling around trying to dance.
5. Western culture is also a part of the life here, especially in the big towns and cities. The first thing Laura and I saw as we flew into Tegus was a big line of fast food places and a big mall. I honestly at first thought it must just be because it was next to the airport and they were trying to attract the gringos flying in… but even in more rural areas you can’t go far without seeing a Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Denny’s etc.
So what have I learnt? In some ways, Honduras is completely different from the UK. But in other ways, I can find ways to feel like I’m at home. I’m not sure if I would prefer for it to be more different, or similar to home but either way I find myself loving it here more and more. I go up and down a lot over how I would feel to live here more permanently, at the moment it is tempting me…