By: Kristoffer Gartner, @kristoffgartner
Culture shock: a term used to describe the feeling you get when experiencing something new in a place you have never been.
For me, culture shock is where my fascination with travel begins. The lure of something different, uncomfortable, and eye-opening is what makes the world such an amazing place. While some prefer a quaint vacation week of poolside relaxation at the shiny Mexican resort with boozy, umbrella burdened cocktails summoned by a mere wave to the barman; I prefer to jump into the grungy Mexican fishing pueblos, on the endless pursuit of hole-in-the-wall food shops and hidden sandy coves. I want to sit at the street-side table, inhaling some freshly made fish tacos and easy-drinking Mexican beer, while watching the endless streams of Mexican children sell their ‘handmade’ trinkets and bracelets to the few tourists who share the same travel interests as I do.
Culture shock, like I said, makes you uncomfortable. It makes you think, “damn, could this even happen back home?” The answer is hell no it can’t.
One of the specific parts of culture shock that attracts me the most is the strong pride citizens have towards their cuisine. Food seems to be a defining aspect of who and where a culture comes from. It makes complete sense that Patriotism for one’s own country is what allows for such cultural richness. Seafood in Portugal, tajine in Morocco, pasta in Italy, beer in Germany, tacos in Mexico, sushi in Japan, borscht in Russia. The list goes on and on.
It is a sense of pride that gives these countries such richness and value. It is all part of the allure of a solid culture shock.
South America has its fair share of title foods and drinks. Caipirinhas in Brazil is to Aguardiente in Colombia. Beef in Argentina is to Cuy (not for the faint of heart) in Ecuador. Each of these countries eager to share their staples, saying “check out how delicious MY country is,” because it’s a presentation of who I am.
Here we run into a very serious issue with our Latin patriotism and pride.
I’m sure some of you have had the pleasure of sipping on the delicious Chilean drink called Pisco Sour. It’s a refreshing cocktail made with lemon juice, sugar, bitters, a foamy shaken egg white, and the grape seed liquor Pisco. The problem comes when the occasional Peruvian stumbles over to try and lay claim to Pisco, saying that it is more Peruvian than Chilean.
This has been a debated topic for some time now. Being part Chilean myself, I know I am right when I say Picso is Chilean. Not even the Emperor of Peru could convince me otherwise.
All jokes aside, both countries make some pretty delicious Pisco. The Pisco is very different from one another, but let me paint a simple map as to why. Chile is a world-renowned wine producer. Wine is made with grapes, Pisco is made with grapes…I haven’t heard much about Peruvian wine. But does it matter?
If you’re not particularly inclined to either Chile or Peru, but are curious enough and want to go get yourself into some trouble. Or if you want to get a little uncomfortable. If you want to learn something new, I would say your only option is to get down to South America. Surround yourself with some Chileans, Peruvians, Argentines, and Colombians. Learn a little Spanish and drink too much Pisco.
The answer is somewhere at that table. It's somewhere underneath the broken beer bottles. It’s mixed into the jar or chimichurri. It’s at the bottom of the shot glass of aguardiente and it’s underneath the wine-stained tablecloth. Maybe no one agrees on Pisco being either Chilean or Peruvian, but can the answer be at home at your local sports bar or the resort pool? The answer is hell no it can’t.
Go discuss with some Chileans and Peruvians to find out. Let their culinary patriotism go on while you sit back and enjoy their Pisco.