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Culture: Share Your Food – Especially Jell-O Pudding®

by Brandi

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October 19th, 2009

When I was around 10 years old, living in the United States, I went to a movie with a friend. I didn’t have money to purchase food at the snack bar, but my friend seemed to have an unlimited supply with him. He bought a large drink, large popcorn and big bag of licorice but didn’t offer to share any of it with me. He went through the entire movie eating in front of me but never offered me one single thing to eat or drink. I don’t remember anything about the movie, but I do remember that this friend didn’t share even one single piece of popcorn with me.

I learned a great lesson that day which was again re-emphasized later when I lived in Latin America. Latin people will usually share anything with you, even if it is the smallest amount of possessions and food that they have. Many invite you to dinner or meals when they barely have enough food to feed their own families. If you become friends with them, they will often give you gifts or just about anything they have. They are a very generous and giving culture. Of course there are always exceptions, but this is generally what I experienced while living there.

I learned this cultural lesson of sharing in Latin America the hard way. In Latin America, they don’t eat a whole lot of sugar and I have a huge sweet tooth. After living there for a month or two, I developed an incredible craving for anything with a good amount of sugar. I wrote my parents and asked them to send whatever they could that contained sugar. They sent a box of Jell-O Pudding® which was one of my favorite dessert snacks.

I was so excited to finally receive something sweet and sugary, that when the Jell-O Pudding® arrived, I couldn’t wait to eat it. Since many apartments in Latin America don’t have kitchens built in, including the one I lived in, I went to the home of our pensión (Spanish word the native family we paid to make breakfast and dinner for us). They gave me some milk to use, and I stirred up the Jell-O Pudding®. I was in heaven! Two months of cravings had finally come to an end! The family that lived there wasn’t around when I ate it. I did share some of the pudding with a native friend I was with, but I failed to offer any to the family who had so generously given me the milk to make the pudding. The family came into the room just as I was finishing the last bite of the Jell-O Pudding®. They all asked me excitedly, “So do we get to try some of your American dessert?” A feeling of shame, guilt, and embarrassment came over me as I realized that I had selfishly devoured all of the pudding without offering to share any with them. The situation was actually worse than I had realized; in their culture you should always share whatever you have – especially food (and they even gave me the milk to make it). I felt horrible and vowed always to share from that point on—especially with Latin Americans—but also share with everyone regardless.

It was a great cultural lesson for me, and it’s one that I have tried to adopt into my life here in the United States. After that experience, I have always offered to share my candy, food or other things I have bought with Latin people (and anyone for that matter). I have tried to be very careful not to purchase anything in front of them unless I could also share it with them. And they, because of their Latin culture, have done the same for me.

To give you another brief example of this cultural difference, I had a native Latin friend who didn’t have much money but loved to buy ice cream cones. He would always offer to buy me one every time he bought his. As you immerse yourself into the Latin culture, it’s important to accept their offers to share with you, but also to share with them whenever you get the chance.

This is a great trait to develop, regardless of the country or culture you live in. It’s something that is simply nice to do and will help win you more friends. Please let me know if any of you around the world have had experiences similar to this.

Moral of the Story: If you don’t want to offend Latin Americans, don’t buy things or eat food in front of them unless you share with them. Remember that their culture is to share, give, and be generous.

Sneak peek at next week: “Health!, Money!, and Love!”

¡Hasta la vista! (“Until I see you again!” [Literally: “Until the sight!”)
David S. Clark — President / Director
Click here to learn Spanish!

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