A lot of the cultural adjustments for us in Guatemala center around food. Vegetarians are misunderstood and often ridiculed...vegans have it worse. The food make people sick, gives them worms, and there are times when we just don't want to see another tortilla ever again.
The worst part, though, is that everyone is always offering you food. They invite you to coffee, to lunch, to snack, to dinner. Every time you stop by to say hello the food get's brought out to make you feel welcome. Bread, coffee, tortillas, beans, tamales...it's all an option. The custom in probably amplified but the fact that I am obviously not from around here and people go out of their way to make sure I feel welcome. At Christmas, Keri and I were given more tamales than I could stand to eat in a year.
Ok, so I know, right? I too thought that a culture in which you were always offered food (and usually good tasting food) was HEAVEN! Who wouldn't want to have the option of always eating, not to mention never having to cook for yourself or wash the dishes because you are invited to eat in other people's houses?
Well folks, there is another cultural aspect that complicates things. In Guatemala, it is also rude and offensive to refuse an invitation. That's right...you just ate dinner? It doesn't matter, you should eat again. "No thank you" translates to "I don't like your food or your house or you" when you turn down food. Also, if you don't clear your plate, it means you didn't like it! Example: I am in the middle of eating second snack at school (first snack was a huge cup of atol I was given before I went to the store to get the snack I really wanted) when the teachers invited me to go eat snack with them (which by the way is more of a meal...chicken and tortillas and rice..) So, I barely choke that down and have about an hour leeway before someone is offering me lunch. AH!
Who would have thought I, lover of food, daughter of Kathy "are you hungry?" Stanaway would dread the thought of free food...