My Latin American Colleague Visits America

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on August 14, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

The other day, my Latin American co-worker, Fredman, read my article about things that surprise Americans when they go abroad. Looking at me with a serious expression, he said in fluent English (with a slight Spanish twang), “Rachy, you’ll never believe what surprised me when I went to America.”   

To put this in perspective, Fredman is in his mid-30s and is a ranchero at heart. He grew up in the cool climates of the northern hills of Latin America, herding cattle and other farm animals with his siblings.

With a light complexion often earning him the nickname “Chele,” Fredman eventually headed south to the capital to attend college. Now, a master in IT and marketing, Fredman has been traveling around the world for work, including all throughout the United States. As he attends these new locations, he is sure to document his experiences with many selfies around the cities.

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaFredman in Santa Monica, CA.

“Explain,” I curiously replied to him.

As he recounted his experiences, there was a variety of emotion. Wide-eyed expressions from the surprise factors. Frowning eyebrows as he perplexedly explained other incidences. But most importantly, a huge grin each time he told me his stories. With a huge urge to learn about new places, each of his visits to the United States (and the rest of the world) has evoked different emotions and new realizations.

So, I figured why not share these quirky, and in some cases, serious, stories with you. If you’re from North America, some of these reactions may shock you. If you’re not from North America, but have visited, perhaps you have felt the same at one point along the way.

I asked him 3 questions to get his memory jogging:

1. Where was the first place you wanted to go when you got to the States?

“I hadn’t thought about this before,” he mentioned to me. “Give me a moment.” He reflected back on his trips and finally said, “Dunkin Donuts.”

I surprisingly exclaimed “WHAT!?” I was expecting Starbucks at least, if he was thinking of a café. The reason? Because it was a warm day in Boston and he had heard about how delicious and refreshing the Frappuccinos were. This was his chance to try a Frappe since they didn’t have them in his home country.  

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaHere is Fredman with his large Frappe in Boston.

He said it was absolutely delicious and that he’d get it again next time he was in the States.

2. What surprised you the most?  

“Easy,” he said, “when I visited Chicago for the first time last year for a realtor convention.” As he delved into the details, even I was shocked.

It was the beginning of November and the temperatures were frigid. Fredman came to the Windy City prepared, with his black scarf and gloves, but he wasn’t prepared for the morning excitement that was to unexpectedly come next.

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaFredman in Chicago.

As he explained it, “I come from a country that is perceived to be one of the most dangerous countries in the region. But what happened that morning was something I had never experienced before in my home country.”

Fredman was staying in what would be considered the safe part of downtown. He had a morning ritual of going to the Starbucks right down the road with another co-worker. They’d walk back to the hotel, sipping their warm beverages and exhaling cool air, and wait for the rest of us to come downstairs.

Around 8:30am one morning, he and Giovanni went to Starbucks, came back with their beverages, sat down on the lobby couch to wait for us, and glanced up at the news on the TV. I’ve noticed there are several big TV networks for a Latino audience. Streaming live on the TV was the exact Starbucks where Fredman and Giovanni were just ordering their hot drinks. A guy was just shot dead and the entire place was emptied. Police were running through the streets of the crowded downtown sidewalks trying to find the shooter.

Reports later shared that it was a targeted attack related to drug violence. “Still,” Fredman explained, “where I come from the gangs keep their violence in their own areas. They don’t infringe on the public and endanger others who aren’t involved.”  

As he reflected on this story, clearly shaken up by the timing of this, he mentioned that it’s hard for him to trust what is considered “safe” and what is considered “unsafe.” He realized that media takes a toll on people’s perceptions, but that it shouldn’t stop anyone from exploring and visiting new places.

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaFredman at the Realtor conference.

“But on a lighter note,” he grinned largely, “what’s weird is that eggs are refrigerated in the States.”

Many places in the world do not chill their eggs, but the U.S. does. After personally thinking back on that statement, I realized he was right. Spain didn’t. Nicaragua didn’t. Belize didn’t. But the U.S. did. Is it because we are more of germaphobes? Did we add a different kind of preservative to the egg?

I did some digging to find out the scientific reason, and according to NPR.org, it is because some countries wash the eggs and apply a thin “safety vest” coating prior to selling the eggs to prevent salmonella. The eggs need to be refrigerated directly after this process. In many countries, the hens are vaccinated against salmonella before they lay the eggs, so the eggs don’t need to be washed and have the coat applied.  

Interesting, huh?

Segueing into question 3…  

3. What moment do you remember the most?

He mentioned he has had many memorable moments, but the one that came to mind first was a recent visit to Washington, D.C., for another Realtor event. I was with Fredman on this trip (as his chauffeur) and, as a huge history buff, he kept saying he wanted to see it all (in our short 1-hour free). So, we did what we could in the D.C. rush-hour traffic.

“Standing in front of the Washington Monument in D.C. It was a priceless experience. With my two very own eyes, I was witnessing a place that previously I just saw in movies. And not just that, this location, this district, is the symbol of rich history and power, not just for North America, but for the world.”

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaFredman takes on Washington, D.C.

My Latin American Colleague Visits AmericaFredman in D.C.

As we drove past the White House, one comment Fredman made (that I found interesting) was about the cars in the parking lot. “I expected the government workers to have nicer cars, Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, you know, those kinds of expensive vehicles.”  

I asked him why. He explained that in his country, the people who worked in high government always had really nice cars. “For show, to show wealth.”Consumer Resource Guide

What he was primarily looking at were government cars, the Fords, in the government building parking lots. I explained that the government typically buys “American-made” products when they can. Think about U.S. police cars, I said to him, they are Ford Tauruses and Ford Explorers.      

We continued around the capital weaving through lanes of traffic and maneuvering around large tour buses. Fredman kept his head out of the window, excitedly pointing out the unique architecture, historical buildings, and significant points of interest. Albeit the rain and cooler temperatures, it was a fantastic day in D.C.

As Fredman and I concluded our discussion, he said to me, “Rachy, there are many more places I want to go, but I am very grateful for what I have already seen.” As he continues to add stamps to his passport and continues working with Realtors around the globe, Fredman is an incredible example of country-boy who is now a world traveler. Bon voyage, Fredman, and to all those other folks who continue to trot the globe!

**Please note, some of Fredman’s quotes were paraphrased to iron out the Spanglish, but the message was kept the same!

TV channels that cater to Latino audience

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on August 14, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.