- Central and South American cultures have rich and diverse histories. Learning specifics from the students you befriend will be a blessing to you and a joy for the student to share with you.
- With the exception of Brazil, almost all countries in Central and South America speak some variant of Spanish. Brazil uses Portuguese, but half of the population of South America live in Brazil. Enjoy learning a few phrases from your student friend of social parlance.
- Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, but Pentecostal Protestantism is growing rapidly. In the tribal areas, animism or some form of syncretism is the practiced religion. Religion plays a key role in the holiday celebrations across the cultures. Inquire what your student’s family believes about religion, then ask how the student’s view differ (if at all).
- The variety of music and foods is part of the delight of learning about these cultures. Don’t be surprised if your student friend has wide variety of tastes in these areas and enjoys learning from you about your favorites.
- Most of the cultural differences lie between the urban and rural cultures. The European and American influences on the urban cultures is blatant. The cowboy (gaucho) culture is significant in the pampas areas (grasslands) but tribalism in the forested areas.
- Sports are a large part of Central and South America cultures. Find out which sports your student friend most enjoys and see if you can schedule a game to attend together here.
- Most Central and South America cultures are highly relational and can form wonderful friendships. But note that “friendships” in those cultures often demand more time together than the American understanding of the term “friend.” This is good to discuss so as to keep relational expectations realistic in both directions.
- Personal space in Central and South America cultures is much smaller than in the U.S. Don’t be surprised when your student friend gets closer to your face than you feel comfortable with at first. The typical American response is to back up, which results in the student waltzing the American around the room while having a conversation standing up.
- Enjoy learning from one another! Ask lots of questions. Explore the reasonings, values, and beliefs behind cultural behaviors, and you will find you have more in common than your cultural behaviors might indicate!
Principles cited in this blog: Many dos and don’ts to remember in order to be thoughtful.
Application for ISI ministry: We desire to be winsome and thoughtful to our guests from other countries. Learning a few small customs can make a big difference!
Next blog topic: Being thoughtful to students from the Middle East
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson