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Culture Shock in Guyana

Despite the ice cold showers and constant noise, this "blondie" blogger is learning to love Guyana.

Crickets chirping, dogs barking, loud soca music being played, cars speeding by so fast parked car alarms are being set off, and the faint sound of creoles being spoken. I reflect on these noises—they are comforts that put me at ease every night in Georgetown. They’re typically noises that would set me off in a fit of rage if I were back home in Canada. However, here in Georgetown, they’re the noises that I have become accustomed to and rely on to fall asleep.
When I first arrived in Georgetown I was tense, uptight and constantly wondering if I would ever feel comfortable. The constant catcalls that I received while walking down the road did not put these fears and worries at ease. Every morning walking to work, I pass several Guyanese and every single one of them says “good day” or “good morning.” To me, the Guyanese are all friendly and welcoming. I do get the usual “snow bunny,” “snowflake,” “ice queen,” “white gal” or “blondie.” However, I take these comments with a grain of salt. Understanding that these words and calls are not intended to offend—these acts are just a part of the Guyanese lifestyle—I respond to all greetings with “good day” or “good afternoon.”

The understanding I have regarding the Guyanese lifestyle I can attribute to the development work that I have taken part in during the past three months. Through conversations, discussions and debates with my Guyanese friends, co-workers and others, I have been able to gain a deeper understanding of the situations and lifestyles of the Guyanese. I’ve learned that a Guyanese family is able to live off anywhere between 25,000 GYD to 80,000 GYD ($250 to $400 USD) a month. I have also come to realize that when it comes to standard of living in Guyana, income disparities range from either being on the wealthy end (which is portrayed through living a flashy North American lifestyle) or just getting by and making ends meet, with a focus on providing their families with food and a house to call home.

Adjusting to the standard of living came as one of the greatest challenges that I’ve experienced here in Guyana. (My first experience with only cold water was a challenge. However, as time has gone on and I’ve spent more time in the constant heat, I find relaxation and cool down through that cold shower—especially without the luxury of air-conditioning.) These little luxuries that we are accustomed to in the developed countries we come from seem so miniscule, but that is just the challenge with travelling and adapting to new cultures. The experience of adjusting to a new unfamiliar lifestyle has widened the comfort zone of this Canadian girl.

These experiences and insights are ones that I find to be most rewarding and beneficial to travelling abroad. Personally, I find the cultural background of the individuals I meet abroad contribute to the shaping of my outlooks on life, through language, experience, opinions and passion. I believe that it is important to remember to be culturally sensitive to these ideals and values, understand where and how they have been shaped. From this approach it is safe to say that I am more open-minded and able to find comfort in little things that would typically irritate me.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Kendra Borutski

Kendra Borutski is a recent graduate of International Business and Global Development from Niagara College. Presently, she is interning in Georgetown, Guyana with Youth Challenge International through CIDA’s International Youth Internship Program. Thinking about volunteering? Read up on Kendra’s adventures.

Website: kendraborutski.wordpress.com/

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