Cultural Tips, Caracas
Hmmm... time... that is very uncertain and relative in Venezuela. If you are invited to a party, to a birthday celebration, to a baby shower, to a book presentation, whatever, NEVER arrive on time. If you are invited at 7:30 p.m. they expect you to arrive one hour later. And then, there is no oficial time to leave. It could be forever...
I'm including a picture taken last saturday. It was an "hamburguesada" (hamburguers bar.b.q.) with my class mates from kindergarten and grammar school.
We were supposed to arrive at 2:30pm. I got there at 3:00pm (just to help arround before everyone came, but was the second one to arrive). I left at 6:00pm hamburguer-less. Friends kept comming and comming. They ate before midnight, but partied until 2:00 a.m...
B.T.W, is really nice to bring something to a venezuelan that invites you to his home for dinner or a party. Flowers, a bottle of wine... I always bring a dessert.
We the Venezuelan….have a bad custom we are not punctual……..
For example if you are invited to a party at 8:00 pm that mean that that people will start to arrive at 10:00 pm….yes believe it . Even if you arrive at 8:00 pm the people of the house will be not ready, and we have a expression “I arrive to fried the tequenos” that means that you were early ja ja ja ja
And if you have appointment you can expect that the person arrive 30 min late, it is very usual but is not with all the Venezuelan………..
I have a lot international friend and they have get used to it ….and when we are going to meet they ask if it is Venezuelan time Ja ja ja ja ja ja ja ja
The night club starts people arriving at 11:00 pm and the good time it is at 12:00 pm
That made me think about "Limbo Rock": "how looooow can you gooooo?"...
Once, a doctor from the U.S. told me that appropiate distance in order to talk with someone you just met, was an arm leingh. Closer than an arm leingh could intimidate the other person. Further away could also bother the other one because you are too far away for some unknown reason. So, according to this doctor, an arm leingh was the distance to keep in a conversation.
Not in Venezuela!!! Here people get closer than that in other to talk to you. It doesnt matter if they just met you. We venezuelans approach. Others even touch your arm or your shoulder while talking. Dont be shy, dont feel unconfortable. There is no harrasment. That's the way we are.
In the picture I was talking to a guy I just had met on the bus at the airport.
Yes we are. Or, at least, we like sweet stuff. For example, we preffer Pepsi than Coke. Pepsi is sweeter. We like a wine called Liebefraumich, just because is really sweet. Almost everbody adds sugar to their coffees or teas. And we have a local drink (a soda, like a pepsi, a seven up, etc) that is called Kolita. Is very pink, and bubbluly and sweeeeet. We joke about it. We say that when some one drinks Kolita (or Colita) has a lack of love. But that drink sure has something... once I was very sick and the only thing I wished to drink was a "Frescolita" (that is the whole brand name).
About a year ago, at the airport, I saw some puertorican travellers taking back home cans and more cans of Frescolita. They said to me: "we dont know what we are going to do when we run out of it".
But most venezuelans like sweets, candies, chocolates, icecreams, etc. My mom says that a meal, with out dessert is like a garden with out flowers. She usually has dessert after breakfast and after lunch. At dinner time she only eats icecream. But she is way too much exagerated.
Also, venezuelan women like the smell of sweet perfums, and colognes and creams...
UPDATE: Manuel Brito, venezuelan VT member in Japan, corrected me. He said he doesnt likes sweet wine. So, here is the way I should have written this: "most venezuelans, a big percentage of us, like sweet everythingsss. Not Manuel Brito who certanly is special and one of a kind".
Thank you note for Manuel:
Cuando te hicieron rompieron el molde. Y mataron al que hizo el molde in the first place. Gracias, papito. CB
Listen to me: in Venezuela you are not supposed to wear sandals with socks. Period. People will stare at your feet, they will make funny faces, roll their eyes, giggle and dont aprove it from a fashion-glamour point of view.
You know what? I DONT CARE. Five years ago I discovered how confortable were sandals with socks: the confort of a shoe, the freshness of a sandal. Aaannnddd since I have a colorfull socks colletion (with dinosaurs, firemen trucks, fat fish, sleepy lambs, reindeers and wicked witch of the west stripes) I do wear them with sandals.
My friends have heart attacks. They keep telling me how awfull I look. And screaming and rolling their eyes. Big melodrama...
That's o.k. I can handle that.
Now... if you come to Venezuela and want to look low profile, dont wear this. Everybody will be staring at you.
The venezuelan most important newspapers -in spanish- are El Nacional, El Universal, Ultimas Noticias, 2001, Panorama, and the evening papers: El Mundo and TalCual.
In Venezuela they publish a newpaper in English: The Daily Jounal.
In ***** (five stars) hotels, you can find newspapers from USA, Spain ("El Pais", which is an awesome newpaper), France, Italy, etc... Also Time magazine and Newsweek.
In the italian book store, at Solano Avenue, you can find the italian newspaper: Il Corriere de la Sera.
But... if you are in vacation... why would you like to read the news?
A telenovela is like a soap opera, but is much more than a soap opera (and for a foreiner could be really fun). This is something you will have to see at 9:00 p.m. (prime time) either in channel 2 Radio Caracas Television or in channel 4 Venevision. Televen channel 10 shows brasilian soaps, but those are not the ones I'm suggesting. Venezuelan ones are funnier and crazier and unpredictable.
Try to see at least 15 minutes of one telenovela (they last an hour long). Even though their are in Spanish, within minutes you will be able to understand what is going on: this blind girl is the main character, this young and rich man is in love with her, but his mother is the villain and she doesnt approves this love relationship with the poor blind girl who is also poor. then is this beautiful and evil rich girl that wants to seduce the young guy. Her brother, who is a villain too, kidnaps the blind girl, who cries and prays to this little virgin she has in a necklace that belonged to her mother who desapeared 20 years ago under very misterious circumstances. Do yo get the idea? Well, you must see a bit of one telenovela. Major t.v. enterteinement in Venezuela. Major. It comes from the sentimental English novel from the XVIII century; passes and enriches with the roman-feuilleton in France (XIX, with the news papers "La Presse" and "Le siecle" in which Balzac and Dumas used to write their daily stories and charge 3 francs per line; then these and other stories where adapted for radio and finally, at the 50's, they make their way in television. Telenovela: important part of the venezuelan culture. And I know that you will be able to follow it and laugh.
Then get a taxi and ask the driver to take you to "El Urologico" (that is a private modern clinic, with excelent doctors, and where my mother and a bunch of my friends have been hospitalized). "El Urologico" is located in the San Roman Area. A nice place.
Say: "EL UROLOGICO", (El Uh-ro-lo-hee-coh). "EMERGENCIA" (eh-mer-hen-cee-ah).
Once you are in the E.R., in "EMERGENCIA", you will be in good hands, but if you want to speak to a doctor that gives you more confidence, ask them to call: Doctora Lila Vega.
(Doc-to-rah Lee-lah Veh-gah). She is my "Comadre" (I'm the Godmother of her 2 daughters) and she is one of the finest pediatricians in this country. Her dad was one of the finest pediatricians at his time. Her mother -Dr. Lila Scott Handford- was an extremely succesfull psiquiatrist and one of the best persons I know. Dr.Vega speaks English fluently, because she is half canadian. She got straits A's since kindergarten up to her pediatrician specialization. I would put my life in her hands. Eyes closed. My life, but not any of my belongins (pen, keys, cell phone, sweater 'cause she always looses everything). Dr. Vega will certanly recomend you the best doctor for whatever you are feeling sick of. If you need surgery, that will be Dr. David de Lima (who is extremely good looking). If is an gastroenterologist, that will be my favorite one: Dr. Alberto Delgado (who is also good looking and very sweet). But Dr.Vega is the one who knows.
Today we celebrate the day of the arrival of the Three Holly Wisemen (Three Holly Kings?) following the Spanish christian tradition.
Baby Jesus was born on December 25th. These 3 Kings were looking for him and stopped at Herodes palace in other to ask where was Jesus, Christ the King, the Son of God... (terrible thing to do, because later, Herodes, sent his army to kill all the babies in his territory). Clue and informationless: Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar left. Then they saw the Star of Belen (some people now say that is actually was comet Halley, seriously) and followed it. They found baby Jesus and have him the presents they have brought: gold, inciense and myrrh.
In Spain today is the day that children get their presents. In Venezuela not. They already got their presents on Dec. 25th. But since last night we are eating "Roscón de Reyes" and drinking hot chocolate. (Please check my restaurant page and I will tell you all about this "Roscón"). That is the Spanish tradition that we follow happily.
A cute detail: in Puerto Rico, where they celebrate this day with enormous enthusiam, they always place the black King (Baltazar) in between the two white kings. They seriously believe that if the black one is not placed in the middle, the Star of Belen will light-off. I love this. In Caracas we dont have this belief, but every time I see a Baltazar missplaced, inmediately I put him right in the middle.
Our "cacao" (cocoa?) is one of the finest in the world (if not the finest!!!)
This is said since the begining of times by french, swiss and italian chocolate especiallists. The "Cacao de Chuao" has a history of excelence and tradition and has been imported to the main chocolate factories around the world.
I suggest that you eat venezuelan chocolate. It can be found everywhere: candy stores, supermarkets, newspaper stands, coffee shops, almost anywhere. Try them all!!!
Now, my favorite to take to other countries as a present is Chocolate de El Rey. They have a collection that goes from a white bar of chocolate, to a milk chocolate, to a variety that has more and more and more % of cacao (cocoa) in it and it gets darker and darker. Less % more eatable. More % great for cooking or making hot chocolate to drink. Each type has the name of a venezuelan tree: Apamate, Saman, Burace, Caobo, Icoa, etc.
You can buy them separately, but there is a box of 6 (or is it 8?), containing the whole variety. That's the box I buy and take for presents. NOW BEWARE: you must buy them in Caracas, at the airport, at the duty free shop, they cost twice as much.
-WHY?!?!?!?! - I asked.
-Because this is a product for export...
(What a nonsense. I told them: In Caracas, the box of six (or 8) bars is about 8 US $, and here: 15 $. This is a robbery and I'm going to tell everyone about it!)
These chocolates are a bit more expensive than the rest. Try them all. Dont fogget to buy one called TORONTO that does not belongs to El Rey chocolate company.
You can get them in almost all of the big SUPERMERCADOS, groceries stores, such a Excelsior Gama. And also in a chain of pharmacies called LOCATEL. They make excelent presents to take back home.
This weather thing... it is getting pretty weird... This past Xmas we didnt have the weather we were expecting: sunny, bright, cool, blue skies days. (Like always). No. It was rather gray. A little bit rainy. Absolutely off season. January and February 2004 have been pretty much the same. Cloudy. Silly, soft, short rains. Extrange. So now everybody is talking about it. "It wasnt like this before!!!"; and complaining: "I dont like this at all!!!". The good thing is that it gets wet and gloomy, but a couple of hours later there is sunshine again. Thank God for sunshine!!!
Maybe from now on, local tv stations will start considerating to have a weather report, forecast, but since we dont have much experience in this issue, I can clearly picture the weather person: "Well, lets see, it seems that tomorrow is going to be really weird, like it was today"...
Do you know April Fool's Day? (Or, in France, "Poisson d' Avril?)... well we celebrate that, but on December 28th, also known as "El Dia de los Inocentes" (The Day of the Inocents). This day, in christianism, has to do with the day the king Herodes ordered that all of the kids and babies were killed.
I dont know how come today we celebrate this Fool Day thing. (Also in other countries in South America).
I dont like it. Some jokes or "fooleries" are ok, safe, fine. Thinks like: Im getting married. But that is very silly. I dont like silly things either.
What people do is very "heavy" and bad jokes to others. And that I dont aprove. For example, a friend of yours calls you, very anguished and desperated, he is calling from a hospital, another good friend of yours just had a terrible car accident, he is in the intensive care unit, he just pronounced your name. You, of course, run to the hospital. Tearfull you arrive to the waiting room of the intensive care unit, there is your friend laughing at you and saying: CAISTE POR INOCENTE!!!
(you were caught for beeing inocent).
Of course, you want to kill this f*%@!*#g idiot.
That or you are invited to a restaurant... and no one is there waiting for you. But the waiter gives you a note: CAISTE POR INOCENTE!!!
(And you cant punch the waiter although he is giggling).
I hate this things...
Now, the funny part is that in every newspaper you will find a new that will shock you and, that, at the very end it will say: FELIZ DIA DE LOS INOCENTES!!!
(Happy Inocents day!)
What kind of new?... Anykind: "British Hospital reveals the truth: Camila, 35 years ago, was a man. He underwent surgery and..."; "Fidel Castro had a stroke this morning, Venezuelan president -in person- is taking good care of him and holding his hand while..."; "An U.F.O. landed last night in El Avila mountain, a group os national guards was sent..."
This I like. And, ever year Im fooled with these kinds of news and I laugh a lot.
Today is December 28th...
FELIZ DIA DE LOS INOCENTES!!!
Venezuelan coffee is one of the best coffees in the world. Many coffee specialists from other countries have said and written this. Is true. Or coffee is great. The local brand I buy is called "San Antonio"... but all of the other brands are great too.
We have a coffee-drinking tradition. In every block you can find a place to drink a coffee. In a bakery, in a tiny restaurant, in an "arepera" (check my "arepas" restaurant tip), in an icecream place and, of course, in very large or very small coffee shops.
The best thing is than even in really tiny and crappy places, they have this big italian coffee making machine. Wow. And it is very cheap. One big cup of coffee with milk is 600 or 700 bolívares... less than o.50 U.S.cents.
But there is another great thing: a whole variety of coffee drinking.
negrito = black in a small cup. In french: un express...
con lechito = (with little milk) actually it hasnt "little milk" is, more or less 50% coffee, 50% milk in a smal cup.
marroncito = (brownie) 75% coffee, 25% milk, in a small cup.
guayoyo or aguarapao = clear coffee, very waterish, with no milk at all. It looks like regular USA coffee, but it tastes great.
negro = black in a large cup.
con leche = with milk in a large cup.
marron=brown in a large cup
But you can also ask for a dark con leche, which is not the same thing as a light marron... No. There is a difference. Oh yes...
There is the "tetero" (baby bottle) which is 90 or 95% milk with very little coffee. And "teterito" (a little tetero).
You can also ask for the precise temperature you want.
A con leche CALIENTE (hot) or a con leche TIBIO (tepid).
We dont drink cold coffees.
But the very best thing is that you can ask for your coffee exactly the way you want. Just ask -por favor, please- for it and enjoy.
If you are sleeping, and a venezuelan calls you over the phone to wake you up, be prepared for an unexpected, out of the blue, awaking-up question.
This is the conversation I had today with Darren, who is brittish and was sound sleep in his hotel.
I called. He answered:
- Good morning, Darren. Are you awake?
- what was the name of your first grade teacher?
- what was the name of your first grade teacher?
- oh... I dont know... I cant remember...
- then you are still aspleep. I will call back in five minutes. Wake up! Remember that you have to go to the airport! There is a plane waiting for you!
Unexpected questions really wake you up. I always ask the same thing. But other venezuelans will ask you no matter what. WAKE UP!!!
This Local Custom Tip is dedicated to Mrs. Carmen Bonilla, my first and second grade teacher, who taught me to read and write with mother love. Thank you. I love you so much.
Ladies, you attention please once again. Today is December 31rst, 2003. Soon it will be shower time for everybody. Tonight is New Years Eve. Venezuelans (women, men, children) try to wear everything new this evening: clothing, underwear, shoes, socks, purses, ties, etc.etc.etc. It is called "el estreno" (all of that you wear for the very first time tonight).
But... ladies... we must use yellow panties. Any kind, size, model, etc of panty you like. But yellow. Wearing this tonight will make you have good luck in the coming year. But you cant go buy the panty. For it to be really lucky, someone who loves you have to give it to you as a present.
This year I gave a yellow panty to my new god-daughter Sophie. And a good friend of mine, Carolina Leandro from the theater workshop, gave me the ones I´m going to use tonight.
Perfect Caracas, Venezuela, local custom page to wish you UN PROSPERO ANO NUEVO!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2004!!!