November 4, 1998
Being an outsider from what is considered the norm is, for most people, undesirable. While most people want to be different from others, they do not want to be an outsider who stands out as someone who does not know or is unaware of cultural norms and values.
In 1995, a friend and I spent two months in South America. Most of the time I was in Santiago, Chile, teaching English to first through sixth graders at a school. I remember the first time my friend and I went to visit the school.
My friend Sam and I had purchased nice felt hats at a tourist market and decided to wear them to the school that first day. We knew that we stuck out as foreigners but the hats did not help at all.. While the hats may have been in keeping with the traditional Chilean culture, we soon realized hats of that sort were not worn by very many people in the city. We successfully became the object of many stares as we made our way down the street trailing our host. When we got back from the school that afternoon we stored our hats for the remainder of the trip. Continue reading