Venezuela's common touch

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abrazo_pbSome people believe that the crisis we are suffering is just a manifestation of something deeper, part of a set of unresolved cultural tensions. Key among these is the tension between modernity and rural life.

We just can’t shake it off. Rural life is still present in our cities, in our families, and in ourselves.

The late Venezuelan anthropologist Fernando Coronil argued that Venezuela bought the hardware of modernity, but not its software. Oil allowed us to buy shiny things – from highways to the Concorde. But, deep down, we remained peasants.

I think it was Ana Teresa Torres who said that a sign of our lack of modernity is the fact that we are so affectionate in public spaces. Venezuelans, she claims, can only establish meaningful connections in society, through outward displays of affection.

My generation is spread all over the world, looking for something it has lost. Looking for something not to be found anywhere. The framed picture of El Ávila is almost a cliché these days for caraqueño expats. It softens the burden of the distance. What is it that we lack when we aren’t home? Why do we feel miserable even when we have everything we aspired to have?

What gives us nostalgia?

I think this fragment written by Hector Torres hits the nail on the head.

“One morning on a random day. Is it even worth mentioning that the train was full? In the next station, a girl managed to hop on but found herself in the middle of the alley, with nothing to hold on to. The train started to move so abruptly that she lost her balance. As an unconscious act I extended my hand and she had no time to think whether or not to hold the lifesaver that had been thrown at her. We traveled holding hands and in silence, until the next station, where we exchanged a brief and shy “thank you/you’re welcome”, and she took advantage of the empty spaces made by those leaving the train and found a place to hold on to for the rest of her journey.”

[…]

A dear friend of mine has lived in London for many years. He came to Venezuela with his family during the holidays and, upon his return, mentioned one of his children is having re-adaptation  issues. Why? The boy missed the warm human contact he received during his brief stay, the hug that was both frequent and lacking specific reasons. This is no isolated report.

Testimonies from New York  or Berlin point to the same thing: “everything works well here -we’ve all heard say-, but you must adapt to certain rules: don’t stare for more than five seconds, don’t even think of messing an unknown kid’s hair when walks by, don’t try to hug your work colleagues when saying hello, be careful about the other’s personal space, don’t pad your boss or professor on the shoulder, don’t even think of using an endearing ‘negro’ in public…”

It may seem excessive, but when we distance ourselves from these affective expressions, forced by the restrictions imposed on physical contact in other cultures, we start to feel a chill on our flank that ends up invading our mood. To not touch, for people that see the world through the “I feel” before the “I think”, ends up being a hurdle that is hard to overcome. It is almost a cruelty.

As or more so than the lack of Harina Pan.

[…]

As ours as taking the bus anywhere on the road o returning a food container with a culinary present, some of those things that are there, like them or not, and we can’t help ourselves. It is one of the traits that defines us. It is in that a way, perhaps primitive but beautiful in its emotionality, to tell the other that is our (adjacent) fellow: by touching”

This has to be the problem of my generation. This must be what gives meaning to it. How can we demonstrate Ana Teresa Torres wrong and create a Venezuelan Modernity, one that allows for affection in all spaces as an expression of a modern society?

On New Year’s Eve in Caracas, I was joined by a very insightful person from the US. She mentioned that what she enjoyed the most from the celebration was the affection, the smiles, the kisses, the hugs, all coming from perfect strangers.

That is something worth fighting for.

PS. The quote comes from the book “Objetos no declarados. 1001 maneras de ser venezolano mientras el barco se hunde” by Hector Torres. I strongly suggest you get it. The translation is mine.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The mentions of Ana Teresa Torres, “Venezuelans, she claims, can only establish meaningful connections in society, through outward displays of affection” are couched as though there were some disadvantage in the Venezuelan way; I am Liverpool (UK) born and bred and got ‘here’ at 27, forty-seven years ago. I find that the local easygoing greeting mateyness very easy and natural, not as studied or formulaic as abroad and not as stress-generating either.

    Also, I’d ask what exactly is meant to be conveyed by the phrase, “establish meaningful connections in society”; to me, it’s devoid of anything I can get a handle on: after all, were you to be asked, at a cocktail, say, “And by the way, old fellow, how do you establish meaningful connections in society in your country?” what would you understand? In my book, Venezuela is ahead of the game in this business and more openhearted and earthy, witness the evidence in the Hector Torres piece cited above where the boy had adaptation issues on return to London because (reading between the lines) Venezuelan company was more natural and open than what he was constrained to endure on his return – although he knew it very well. Let us face the pleasant fact that Venezuela is the only place you can enter a bank and get in the queue without knowing a soul and, within ten minutes “¡de vaina no somos primos, vale!”

    • I don’t know why, but i, as Venezuelan, do not feel represented in this test. Even if some people say that we are very affectionate in our ways with people, i always feel that i could not make a meaningfull relation with anyone, maybe because the hard influence i received from different cultures like US, Germany or Japan. For example, in the US, i didn’t feel confortable with Venezuelans, because i feel them desperate to show how “venezuelan” they were, in a typicial chauvinism that reigns over our country, and ironically i felt homesick because i found White and Black people there more interesting (even a half-white, half-domincan with a very interesting background).

      Maybe the reason for this is that Venezuela has an orthodox mindset that is hard to pull out. In this country, innovation and technology are treated as “alien technology” represented with the common phrase: If we want to do that, we have to be Chinese, japanese or german, which is a very bad perspective of ourselves as a country. Also, is visible how Venezuelan people like to step for the “old ways” or tradition in many areas (agriculture, medicine, even education) and usually are not opened to new possibilities (as seen on Government fetishism with going back to our anscestral roots), a behaviour that is frutrating for the new generations.

      At the end, we say we have to be chinese, germans or Japanese to develope or innovate, but until we left behind or chauvinism and try to achieve an equilibrium between traditions and modernity, we would never left behind the XIX century mindset

  2. La lucha no es por la libertad sino por la venezolanidad. Me niego a perder mi país y ser un carajo sin patria. Lograremos modernidad y afecto, y si el afecto disminuye el potencial seremos felizmente limitados.

  3. In my experience one of the most awkward Canadian experiences, walking into someone you know and not been welcomed to shake hands at all.

    our Venezuelan “touch culture” lives strong…

    A great post dealing with deeper issues. Well deserved themes in an otherwise politically obsessed community (not saying it s a bad thing!)

  4. Interesting and well timed observations. They explain why people can miss a country that is completely messed up in so many ways and where it is hard and often dangerous to have a normal life. There is something warm and human at the core.

    I wonder if it is inevitable that this closeness disappears as society modernizes. And I wonder if this closeness is not also oppressive, in some ways, for people who live between traditional and contemporary values. Caught up in nostalgia is idealization (i.e. the same guy who is so warm and generous with his family also leads a parallel, double life; women are still expected to take care of their men, etc. ). But the pull is undeniable, and at the core, there is something very human that seems lost in the “north”, and perhaps that is what also pulls some of us south.

  5. Great post, Rodrigo.

    I’ve always wonder if the affectionate side of the venezuelan character -which I enjoy and miss terribly- is not a social over compensation of the lack of other social capital features and civic practices. I mean, how in the world a place where people treat each other so nicely, is also lacking minimun leveles of common trust, reciprocity and cooperation in other areas?

    Thanks for sharing the references on @hectorres new book. Happy new year for all in Caracas Chronicles.

    • If you need half a kilo of ground beef, your neighbour or brother in law will somehow get you it in a second, ask for nothing in return, and maybe throw in a bottle of rum that you had been talking about the other day. If you are trying to stand in line for a half kilo of ground beef in the market, and you are not familiar with the social codes around such transactions, you are in a peculiar kind of absurd invisible state from which there is no relief from anyone. It is hard to reconcile, but you wouldn’t want to give up your brother in law or neighbour for an easier time at the supermarket, that’s for sure.

      • Three anecdotes to underscore what is being said here, one happened sometime ago , the traveling rep of a big foreign company was visiting Venezuela during a holiday and everything was closed , he had run out of cigarretes and was desperate to buy some. We went into this lonely out of the way cafeteria (which by chance was open) and asked the counter lady whether she had any , she said no but if you want cigarretes I have some of my own and proceeded to hand him her cigarrete package, keep it she added …the rep was amazed at the generosity , he told me : Ive traveled all over the world and this could only have happened in Venezuela. !!

        The second anecdote happened to me and my wife this afternoon , we went to buy some things at a supermarket we frequently go to, met one of the counter ladies that we usually pay our food to (we are always friendly to people we come in contact with , as is customary in Venezuela) , the lady said do you need any sugar ( we havent seen any sugar for two months now) , when my wife answered yes , she took out a 2 kilo package from under the seat and gave it to us (charging us the regular price via the cashier machine) , she said some sugar came in this morning and I took a package before all of it was sold but right now I dont really need it and you do so take it.!!

        We later went to the druggist to try to find a very difficult to find drug for the grand child of one of my wives cousins ( we went to 4 drugstore in search of this drug) , the young druggist behind the counter practically ransacked the computer to try and find it for us and or some replacements he knew about , he didnt find it but he did give us information on other drugs that basically did the same job. Teh thing is that my wives cousin and my wife saw it perfectly natural that the whole family be movilized in the search for this drug.

        In all these cases the way you treat these people is not impersonally but giving your words a small personal touch of appreciation , amazing the positive way most everyone responds. Familiarity and friendliness are a must in Venezuelan social mores so that if you miss using those personalizing cues and do things coldly and functionally the response might not be so friendly. .

        • Spontaneous acts of generosity are common in Venezuela, but I’m interested in your interactions with shopkeepers because they do show a truth. I’d be friendly with a shopkeeper, but I’d be friendly the way a person in my country is friendly to someone he or she doesn’t know, and may never see again. That kind of friendly would get me nowhere, probably. In some places, it might not even protect me from a rip off or a scam.

          But there is being friendly and then there is knowing someone, and in Venezuela if you know someone, doors open. If you know someone, things happen which are not, from a market perspective, efficient, to put it that way. If you know someone, things happen which the human resources department in my country would not allow. etc.

          In a country where there are no functioning institutions, and the economy is a mess and unpredictable, these kinds of connections are essential. They are both genuine, I think, and they are also a survival mechanism. If there are lots of products on the shelf and everyone is going to pay the same price no matter what, being friendly is probably just going to get you friendly back. “Service with a smile” as the gringos say.

          But I should say again, there are spontaneous acts of kindness that seek nothing in return from people I will never see again, and those make an impression.

  6. Ana teresa Torres comment went deeper , the problem is that to us whatever is impersonal is loathful and suspect , because Chavez had that common touch of the typical Venezuela and could use jokes and banter to communicate with people on a cuasi intimitate level and yet retain an aura of cocky forcefulness that made him extremely likeable and raised him up to become as popular as he became . I knew people who knew him in the army on a personal level and they said that he could be charming and ingratiating as hell . We sense that if something is impersonal and abstract , a law and authority a rule then its really an imposition and that anything too righteous or formal is phony. The relationship to authority and power is problematic because if its purely functional or institutional it doesnt go well with us, there has to be an element of amicabiity and trust and warmth that goes a long way in making authority figures obeyed and followed, thus our strange brand of equalitarism !!

    I think in part this is also present elsewhere in Latin America , although much less marked , Borges for example observed that Argentinians when watching a US film usually felt more sympathy for the outlaw than for the cop , a contrary efffect to what the film makers intended to produce !! It happened to me as a kid that the villain would soemtimes attract more of my sympathy than the goody goody guy with the white hat.

    This is a topic that deserves fleshing out but there is a limit of space and time to doing so in a blog. . . .

  7. In this process of introspection, should we also spare a few words for the group of people that autosdesignated their side between the looking glass? Because all of your insights seem petty compared to years of sociological studies characterizing 3rd world emigrants as self-defeating individuals that hate their own culture.

  8. Venezuela is, more than rural versus urban, a profoundly feudal state. We keep a lot of customs from the Middle Ages. It is false the Middle Ages were all about serfdom, that was during some periods and more in some areas than others.
    Basically in the Middle Ages people didn’t have any hope in rule of law, there was absolutely no sense of responsibility for a state, only for the lord that was in power. People were attached not to a State, a nation, but a leader. Since Páez (1842 at least) there was the big Ersatz of the mythical Bolivar.

    Land property in Venezuela is almost as clear as that in Southern Italy in the Middle Ages. The upper class and a few in the old middle class do own the land where their houses are, but other than that, a very large proportion of Venezuelans are living in lands for which they have no property rights. A lot of our leaders are either not aware of that or they would not like to touch that because basically anyone who knows someone who is something might have a couple of friends with more than 400 hectares of land.

    Venezuelans don’t really have a country. They have different ideas of countries.
    Have you noticed how about 90% of the conversations here made by Venezuelans are of people who come from Caracas? Perhaps 8% of the rest are Maracuchos or Valencianos. Caraquenos, though; don’t make
    up even 20% of the population.

    Modernity? We need to discuss how we can bring the Enlightenment. We thought we were having something like that when our very elitist leaders at the end of the Colonial time were saying they wanted freedom. As Alexander von Humboldt remarked, a lot of the talk was rather superficial.

    On the other hand: it is not all Middle Ages. In some ways we might be more modern than a lot of Western Europeans. But socially? As citizens of a State? Nope.

    • I actually struggled with the term. I thought of saying “modernity vs feudalism” but as you point out it is not quite that either.

      I can’t remember whether was Manuel Cabellero or Carrera Damas who said that in the lack of common values (that make up a nation) we look for common ancestors. I think this is wrong. There are things that do unite us. This “cenestesia” is one of them.

      It is an extensive topic. One worth discussing. It is just one of those things never talked about. Or not typically. I am glad that it sparked interest. Even from trolls.

          • Well, I appreciate the compliment but don’t let formalities keep you from carrying on with your dissertation on gipsy superiority complexes.

          • Long Form: I would wonder what you intend to convey by opting for the ‘gypsy’ term the choice of which smacks of one adopting a lofty vantage point, possibly beyond his or her natural stomping ground on form to date – in this post, at least.

            Short Form: Dismount, Sir, from your high horse!

            As for your plethora of studies on third-world immigrants, how many grads, post grads and post docs, many bilingual, were included? An improbably high fraction of Venezuela emigrants are just such a demographic so, I would hesitate to accept any facile conclusions on that score.

            As for the “hate their culture” aside, have you got the slightest whiff of anysuch applying to the Venezuelan diaspora? If there were a shred of grounds for that, you wouldn’t be able to get arepas in DC, SF, London – the ones I can cite – or Harina Pan in – – – – Perth, Australia (me consta) or find YouTube clips of the next generation of Venezuela exiles in joropo classes in (if memory serves) Canada.

  9. The problem is to choose countries with cultures too different from ours to live in, the -40º C outside won’t help either.

    When I jump ship, I will choose Mediterranean countries or somewhere in the southernmost US states. But Germany, Norway, Finland, Sweden, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Austria? No way in hell!!!

    Some places to choose>

    – Nice, France
    – Marseille, France
    – Biarritz, France
    – Miami, US
    – Bari, Italy
    – Barcelona, Spain
    – Lisbon, Portugal
    – Algarve, Portugal

    More suggestions are welcome…

    • So you think Bari resembles us just because they have fair solecito all year round?. Bursting your bubble. Barese can throw cambures at you just by being darker than them.

      I’ve never quite understood the climate fixation of venezuelan inmigrants overseas. They can adapt to chavismo, to endless hours of “colas en la pepa e sol”, to a country that tries to kill you each and every day…

      But as soon the temperature reaches single digits, they begin to moan.

      • “So you think Bari resembles us just because they have fair solecito all year round?. Bursting your bubble.”

        Not really, but I believe that Venezuelans/South Americans in general will adapt better to a place like Bari than, say, Lapland. Don’t you agree?

        I remember visiting the messy and loud outdoor market in Ventimiglia on a warm day and thinking to myself: “Jesus Christ, this feels like home.” I think we need some sort of warm chaotic vibe around us to function properly, hehe. At least I do.

        “Barese can throw cambures at you just by being darker than them.”

        That’s true… And I wouldn’t advise any person with dark skin to live in Europe. What they must endure on a daily basis is just unbelievable, grotesque and absurd!

        “But as soon the temperature reaches single digits, they begin to moan.”

        The problem is the negative temperatures, to know that if your car stops working for some unknown reason on a desert snowy highway, you may freeze to death in a matter of minutes; or to know that if you walk in the street for too long, you may have hypothermia despite your Winter clothes; or to be forced to stay indoors for months on end. That’s tough and it’s very hard to get used to such kind of life if you are not born in the place itself. Besides, the people living in these places tend to be even colder than the weather, what only adds insult to injury.

        • Probably true in continental Europe. I’ve been fortunate in the UK (I’m way darker than my fellow middle-class Venezuelan emigrant types…)
          Never have a problem or felt my skin colour was an problem; if anything it was an advantage

  10. Another misinterpretation anchored in sentimentality. The display of affection and the parrot-like good manners are skin deep only. Completely void of compassion for any life form.

    • Venezuelans are the most inhumane, ruthless and deeply inside rotten beings i´ve ever meet. The “calor humano” is only a glassing to cover that. Deep inside, most venezuelans are just that. They feel no remorse, no compassion. Evil people.

      The first thing i’ve noticed when i arrived to a normal society was precisely that: No more double edged bullshit, no more privacy invasions, no more cynicism, no more mockery for being myself of european descent (anda pa la playa / los portus-italianos-españoles no se bañan / anda pa tu tierra). I’m treated fairly like never on my life. People here do not spend their time thinking about how to be “mas de pinga”, which is de pinga.

      That is why i avoid them here. And will avoid them forever until i throw that passport down a toilet.

      As a side note, what do you miss from El Avila?, a standard mountain full of burglars, thieves, killers, santeros and bichas operadas. The hype on this went apeshit since venezuelans became inmigrants.

      • You blatantly despise Venezuelans. Why should you be eligible to vote?

        How does CC manage to please Mr. Meritocracy over here and rational opposition members? Is your following manipulable enough to skim over your constant contradictions?

      • Sometimes, the reluctance to face our own despised characteristics spawns the most virulent animosity toward others who display them. The reflection of our own imperfections arouse a violent revulsion, as if smashing the mirror can cure us of the traits we find repulsive.

        I have seen this before: some Venezuelans who hate their entire culture and make a stigma out of it, just like homophobes who externalize their self-loathing by harassing other homosexuals. This is wrong.

        If you don’t like the culture you were raised in, that’s fine. Adopt another one as your own and live happily. You’re likely to succeed since part of our culture is to copy others’ cultural elements. But you need to be reminded that Venezuelan culture deserves basic respect just like any other culture in the world.

        • It’s not the “venezuelan culture”, it’s the “anti-culture” fostered by chaburrismo, based in envy, violence and hatred, that exalts being a cheating asshole as the pinnacle of being: Sorry to topple your marble pedestal, the “viveza venezolana” is what fucked up Venezuela:

          http://www.elchiguirebipolar.net/22-10-2013/descubren-que-el-gen-de-la-viveza-criolla-en-realidad-es-el-gen-de-ser-un-mamaguevo/

          The wax doll and all of the boligarchs (aka boliplastas) are the prime examples of the cheating bastards that took advantage of other more stupid cheating bastards (Too many stupid, cheating bastards) who were, and are, the worst mistakes ever conceived in this country.

          chaburrismo is the name given to the worship of criminal and brainless idiocy that only wants to know “cuánto hay pa’ eso”, ’cause their retarded brain cells can’t allow them to think into any other thing than how to better screw their neighbor’s lives.

  11. Sin duda un muy buen post pero el comentarista que dio en el clavo fue Econ_Vzla al escribir “how in the world a place where people treat each other so nicely, is also lacking minimun leveles of common trust, reciprocity and cooperation in other areas?”

    Permítame aventurar una respuesta. El venezolano siente empatía solo hacia el que tiene al lado y los que viven lejos o siemplemente no puede ver se convierten en una abstracción que no le incumbe personalmente. Hay un cierto egoísmo escondido en esa actitud. Los frios individuos nórdicos que mantienen las distancias personales y no se abrazan han sabido en cambio trascender esas limitaciones espaciales y, aunque de un modo muy difuminado, han conseguido extender esa empatía y cuidado por el otro a toda la sociedad de modo que al final disfrutan de más cuidado mutuo por kilómetro cuadrado que un venezolano.

    En el mejor de los mundos posibles la gente sería tan calurosa y agradecida como un Venezolano y al mismo tiempo tan bien organizada como un danés y tan civilizada como un japonés. Puesto que por desgracia en la mayor parte de los casos tenemos que escoger en esta vida entre uno y otro, yo desde luego me quedo con el segundo. Abrazos y regalos inesperados no se olvidan nunca pero te hacen sentir de veras al otro solo un tiempo. En la seguridad social japonesa, europea… uno puede confiar toda la vida.

    • Alli el reto. Como logramos los dos. A menos que de calle queramos tirar la toalla.

      Lo que tu defines como 2 es lo que podriamos llamar ‘modernidad’. Como hacemos una modernidad a lo venezolano?

      • No existe la modernidad venezolana, alemana, americana… Se llega a ella con el tiempo (eso si se consigue. Dudo que los yanomami por ejemplo algún día logren vivir como un sueco) La sociedad española por ejemplo tiene que seguir madurando y solo lo conseguirá en política cuando Podemos gobierne y la gente vea que, ¡oh sorpresa!, en el mejor de los casos eran más de lo mismo porque actualmente en política toda la tela está ya cortada o bien, en el peor, empiezan a destruir el país como Chavez. Es duro pero así (de jodida) es la vida.

          • Se trata de adoptar una postura realista ante algo que está más allá de nuestras fuerzas. El pueblo venezolano no ha tirado la toalla, sigue bregando y batallando día a día y de todo ese sufrimiento es de esperar que salga una mejor Venezuela, con más madurez pero no por ello más resabiada, que no está dispuesta a vender su alma a ningún salvapatrias, etc. Este blog por ejemplo trabaja a favor de todo esto aunque no me imagino a ningún chavista diciendo “gracias CCs, ustedes me han mostrado la verdad de lo que está ocurriendo en mi país” y su función, más allá de servir como centro de reunión para venezolanos con sentido común a quienes duele en el corazón todo lo que ocurre en su país y buscan soluciones pragmáticas que hagan el menor daño posible (también es muy útil para voyeurs como yo atraídos por todo lo que sea lo suficientemente delirante, kafkiano y grotesco. El chavismo tiene bastante de esto), será más bien limitada.

  12. In modernity as defined by Weber what counts it the institutional functional framework of things ,the abstract impersonal duties not the personal empathy which exists or develop among human beings, with ordinary venezuelans empathy whether deep or superficial, honest or made up must mediate our relationships with others . this means that doing things on a purely functional or utilitaran level using rank or authority or simply formal social civility doenst automatically work in lubricating human interaction . Thats why we like roscas so much and doing a friend of a friend a favour is so pleasant to us but then are suspicious of a perfect stranger who makes no move to make the relationship more warm and intimate and simply wants to coldly act on an authoritarian or utilitarian basis. thas why political clientelism is so deep in venezuela because it mimics a personal relationship of patron and client , big paternal like figure of power and child like but loyal follower .

    Those this mean that there is no way out of this cultural conundrum , well not necessarily , there is sometimes a way of combining both postures upt to a point. Once read a study of workplace relationships in different environs , the typical venezuelan workplace environs where abstract duties and impersonal purely utilitarian actitudes took a back seat to more personal or familiar relationships , then the US corporate environs where duty and practicality and utilitarian roles took the drivers seat , then they discovered studying venezuelan oil industry practices that they were smack in the middle , they were much more functional and utilitarian and duty bound than the typical Venezuelan work place but a bit less formal and impersonal than the US workplace (I seem to remember that the study was reported in Alberto Rials book La variable Independiente but have to check) . Had a talk with the latam employee of a US business and she mentioned how she could make money from her work but how when she gazed at the eyes of people she found their eyes suffused with sadness , filled with a kind of silent grief or desperation .

    Why are suicides and alcoholism so much more common in the most succesfully moderns countries than in countries which are less perfectly modernized and functionally depersonalized like in the mediterranean. ??

    Remembered a dutch friend who once worked in the Old Shell Company in Venezuela and his shock at discovering that the strict corporate rule book regulating in detail what kind of furniture and office appurtanances and ornaments where allowed each employee depending on his rank were totally ignored in Venezuela and you coulndt tell their rank from visititing their office as you could in Dan Haag or London . And how directors would be found not eating their meals at the directors dining room but in the ordinary employees cafeteria . All very shocking to him . The dutch corporate culture had become tropicalized , softened in Venezuela .!! It still operated fine but the corporate atmosphere was more friendly and mellow.

    • And how directors would be found not eating their meals at the directors dining room but in the ordinary employees cafeteria .All very shocking to him.

      On oil rigs in remote locations in Latin America and the US, my experience was that everyone ate in the same cafeteria- with one exception. That would be an Elf-Acquitaine rig in Colombia, where the French overlords had their own “directors dining room.” Must be a Euro thing.

      • Boludo: It happened in the Main offices of a big company , Shell , not in a rig.!! But the attitude of the expatriates whether high or low rank was the same , they all felt that the rules that applied back home didnt apply here, and apparently they liked it !! The chap that mentioned the surprising fact that corporate rules where not being followed was a young newcomer to the company (straight from a stay in japan as it happens) . Havent seen him for decades. !!

  13. When confronted with any “Venezuelans are special” speech, I tend to think that the speaker lacks experience outside the Anglo and Latam worlds. Case in point: Venezuelans are “tocones”, as any Latin/Mediterranean people. As the southern French. As the Andalusian, the Moroccan, the Greek. Italians are, in fact, far more physical than us. And again, the level of physical contact bears no relation whatsoever with true friendliness, which is sorely lacking in Vzla as compared to many other places.

    Today at 6:17am I took my parking ticket from the hand of an Inparques employee, as I have done every day for months, ’cause the automatic machine is broken. There are not many employees, so this particular one and I have seen each other a lot- I parked there every single working day for the last 6 years, except Mondays. This girl knows me and I know her. Every time we run into each other as part of our daily routines I say hello. She has never reciprocated. And she is not alone, not by a long shot. That is how friendly Venezuelans are.

    • I agree with you that the physical contact ‘feature’ is not unique. It is a feature. One that a very important intellectual (Ana Teresa) considers anti-modern. One that a very important chronicler (Hector Torres) considers valuable.

      The intent here is not to say it is unique. It is not to say that special. The intent is to ask a question. Can that feature be reconciled with modernity?

      I am making no statements here that venezuelan are trusty or trustworthy. I think we pane out in those categories like a lot of the nationalities you included in your comment.

      One could ask, if those cultures you mentioned are modern. If not, they have our same issues increasing the importance of the question.

  14. The familiar laid back personalizing feature of venezuelan interactions is neither universal in Venezuela nor unique to Venezuela . You can also find some version of it in the Caribbean and in some parts of the Mediterranean ,. Its been observed again and again by people from other cultures visiting Venezuela .

    The problem is not that it exists as a normal part of peoples lives but that it makes itself felt where its is essential that people assumme a more functional , formal attitude. For instance in the areas of work and public functions .

    The Venezuelan custom of cronyism and familiarity have no place in certain areas of life were the institutional approach is the only correct one .

    People who act from sympathy arent always as effective as people who act out of a sense of duty , as a matter of self respect , you are good to others not because you love that but because you feel that you must if you are to feel at peace with yourself. David Brooks , the NYT columnist wrote an article about this about a month ago.

  15. My wife is Venezuelan. I was born in Ireland, but moved to the US when I was a young child. Venezuelans are usually very warm and open (although less so in recent years). However, in Venezuela (and other latin countries) you have to worry about people ripping you off and stealing stuff from you far, far more than in the ‘cold’ North countries. It was hard for me to reconcile this at first….was all this warmness and friendliness just a show? Was it only skin deep? Could they be legitimately open and friendly but somewhere in their brain looking at opportunities to profit from you? I still don’t really understand it, to be honest. To be clear, I’m not saying all Venezuelans are looking for ways to con you, I just experienced times people who were so friendly and helpful at the same time couldn’t be trusted if they saw you left your belongings somewhere.

    Another striking thing was this utter disregard for common space, but that’s a whole different issue.

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