Dedication: We would like to make a special dedication of this post to the UT School of Public Health. While Caro’s MPH classes have spoiled a Friday (Saturday, Sunday…) evening or two, she has learned something.

True cultural competency is a worthwhile, yet lofty, goal. Achieving cultural competency equates to understanding a culture in its idiosyncrasies, nuances, and everyday application. Thus, you can see how – even after years of living in a place – one’s background, biases, and judgments may still affect one’s perception of a culture.

Cultural humility, however, is a more attainable and necessary endeavor. It is the striving for culture competency with respect, continuous self-reflection, and open-mindedness.

We would like to share some cultural norms of Bolivia…maybe you can help us to be more culturally humble?

  • Calling a friend or relative fat to their face. (i.e. My grandfather sees a cousin he hasn’t seen in a while: You look fat. What have you been eating? A lot of carbs?)
  • Medical personnel wearing all white. Head to toe. Always.
  • After rounds, everyone stops to have a mid-morning snack. Oh, what a beautiful world!
  • Greeting everyone with a kiss on the cheek. One evening a woman and her daughter entered our apartment, greeted Carolina with a kiss on the cheek, then ran up to Dan on the couch to give him a kiss on the cheek, only to find out they were in the wrong apartment
  • Meat. It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Big family lunch gatherings with fun conversation (who is “el más gordo”?)
  • Siestas: Noon-3 everything shuts down. At first, this frustrated us. But siestas are now our favorite pastime.
  • Dormingos = Sundays dedicated only to eating and sleeping
  • Urinating anytime, anywhere, on anything, without question (if you’ve ever walked a dog, you’ll understand)
  • Coffee drinking is an all-day affair. Cafecitos before bed are not unusual.
  • Friendly greetings of people passing by in the streets, stores, or markets
  • Waiting in line is a more fluid concept. Just because you’re last doesn’t mean you can’t be helped next.
  • Santa Cruz de la Sierra = Santa Cruz de la tierra en mi boca. Dirt and wind are a bad combination 😦
  • When? The answer is always MAÑANA
  • Pedestrians have the what? NOT the right-of-way, that’s for sure. This means Carolina needs to be less “bolivious.”
  • No 4-way stop signs; whoever gets there first and “has their head sticking out the furthest” (per Uncle Vico) has the right-of-way
  • Considering one-way road signs as mere suggestions for an ideal world
  • Family is more than that group of people who eat dinner together every night. Here, even being a distant cousin means you’re included in all the family gatherings. Signs of affection and respect are common, such as sons kissing fathers on the forehead and saying they are a good dad.
  • No need to wait for Independence Day; there is always a reason to throw a party and shoot fireworks
  • Tight clothing (and falling out of it)
  • You’ll never see more American Eagle apparel. Old men, young kids, guys headed to work – it doesn’t matter. They all rock the fake AE.
  • More tanning beds than streetlights per block. Meanwhile, we gringos apply sunblock 3x/day (compliments of the wife).
  • Guys that look at themselves in the mirror more than they lift at the gym
  • In general, there’s less fear of the “germ theory”
  • Breastfeeding fully exposed in public
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