I’ve lived in several different countries, and I always find it interesting to note the differences in gender roles. In Australia – my home country – we seem to be becoming quite androgynous (=not being strongly male or female). Women are working and choosing not to have children at all, and I even know a few men who have taken on the role of childcare while their wives worked. Men no longer open doors, help you off a bus, or pay for your dinner, and women are far from the subservient (=obedient, submissive) dependent creatures they once were. In fact, a lot of them would consider a man offering to carry her bag to be chauvinistic (=having an attitude of superiority towards women)! Men are becoming rather metrosexual (=a straight man who displays traits of being homosexual or female), and it’s fashionable now for them to have good grooming and cook gourmet meals for their dates.
In Colombia, I truly enjoyed the chivalrous (=polite, gentlemanly) manner of men there. I don’t think I ever once stepped off a bus without being assisted by the outstretched hand of a random man, and I love the fact that guys all over Latin America will even carry their girlfriends’ handbags. Several times I’ve seen men in clubs with 3 or 4 girly bags hanging off them while their female friends dance, unhindered, nearby.
However, here in Latin America, I’m constantly frustrated by the comments of my male friends, deriding (=ridiculing, insulting, putting down) the girls who go out drinking and smoking all night. Are we not in the 21st century people?? They all want nice, well-behaved responsible girlfriends – who will wait for them at home while they themselves go out partying with the ‘crazy’ girls!
How are gender roles defined in your country?
I love cooking, and I love having friends around to appreciate what I prepare. Here are 10 tips for throwing a memorable and economical dinner party!
- Serve a signature cocktail (=one you have invented exclusively for this party). It doesn’t need to include expensive liqueurs! Be inventive with inexpensive ingredients.
- Prepare as much as possible before guests arrive. Premix the cocktails, cut all vegetables, prepare desserts, have glasses clean and polished.
- Serve snacks in decorative bowls. This way guests won’t go hungry while they wait, and all snacks look good in nice bowls. Try olives, nuts, or anything you can eat with your fingers or on a toothpick.
- Dim (=make less bright) the lighting. Use lamps or candles instead of bright overhead lights to set the mood. It makes a huge difference to the ambience (=mood, feel of the environment)
- Choose appropriate music. Nothing to slow (it will put them to sleep), or too loud and fast (it’s a dinner, not a disco). Latin or chill-out beats often set a good mood.
- Cook familiar food. Don’t take risks with exotic dishes (=unusual or foreign food) you’ve never tried before – if things go wrong right before your guests arrive, you’ll have to order pizza!
- Serve a simple dessert. It can be ice cream, or store-bought cake with a raspberry or passionfruit sauce – it doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated.
- Set the table before guests arrive. Decorate with flowers, use cloth napkins.
- Don’t rush them out the door. Provide space for guests to sit, listen to music, drink coffee or wine, and relax until the party winds up (=comes to an end) naturally. Depending on what kind of people you invited, you could prepare games. Let people finish the night feeling good and with good memories.
- Focus on your guests. Give them your full attention and make sure they’re having a good time. Don’t start cleaning up until they’re gone!
A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket (=die)!
In the movie The Bucket List, the two main characters decide to fulfil their ‘bucket lists’. They go skydiving together, climb the Pyramids, drive a Shelby Mustang, fly over the North Pole, eat dinner at Chevre d'Or in France, visit and praise the beauty and history of Taj Mahal, India, ride motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, and attend a lion safari in Africa.
Of course, the items on your list don’t have to be all about memorable experiences in foreign lands. Most people include items of personal development, personal achievement, and social contribution as well.
Although most of us don’t like to think too much about our deaths, sometimes facing your mortality (=accepting that we don’t live forever) can help put a sense of urgency on our plans and goals. I’ve never made a bucket list, but in writing this blog, I’ve thought about some things I would add to such a document. It might look something like this.
- Learn to play the guitar
- Make a difference in the lives of at least a few seriously underprivileged people
- Professionally record a CD of my own compositions
- Learn to ride a large, non-automatic motorbike
- Develop some degree of patience and learn to hold my temper
- Go on Safari in Africa
- Attend a meditation retreat in India
- Start my own business
- Sing in a jazz club in New Orleans
What would you put on your bucket list?
Here in Latin America, they love to kick up their heels (=dance) to a good tune. Since I arrived in Mexico 5 years ago I’ve attempted all sorts of dance styles – salsa, samba, bregga, reggae (here it’s a couples dance), merengue, cumbia, punta, forró … and I’ve not been particularly good at any of them. The rhythm I have, but the moves and style I do not.
Samba no pé is very popular here in Brazil, and is danced solo. There are 3 steps per measure, and the foot movements (step-ball-change) with an outturning of the toe result in a rather provocative swaying of one’s behind.
Here in the state of Pará, reggae is danced in couples, with the man’s knee locked between the woman’s thighs. The music is in 4/4 time and follows a kind of left-right-left-pause, right-left-right-pause movement. it is generally danced in quite a sensual way.
Salsa is my favourite, since it can be danced up close with someone you’re intimate with, or at an arm’s length with a stranger. There are many styles of salsa, but I particularly love it when it involves a lot of spinning and fun under-the-arm moves! Dancing salsa is a really popular form of socializing in Colombia and many other Latin American countries.
In Honduras I discovered the Punta – possibly the sexiest dance I’ve ever seen which involves seductive rapid gyration of the buttocks and hips while the upper half of your body stays still.
Do you like to dance? What are some popular forms of dance in your country?
I’m lucky. After many, many disastrous roommate (=a person with whom you share a house, but in a non-romantic way) relationships, I now have a great one. Billy’s laidback (=relaxed), considerate, always pays the rent and bills on time, he owns a fridge and washing machine (which I don’t) and the best part – he’s usually not here!
Here are some tips for good roommate living.
- Be clear from the beginning about your expectations and theirs. If you hate dirty dishes, or if you love your loud music, get it out in the open from the start.
- If something bothers you, address it before it becomes a huge frustrating problem in your head.
- Let the small stuff slide (=forget about unimportant things). A dirty dish here, or a onetime late night door slam isn’t worth making a big deal (=starting a big discussion or argument) about. Be relaxed about everything that doesn’t actually affect your wellbeing. It’s not worth starting something just for the sake of making a point (=trying to show you’re right).
- Respect their stuff. Don’t borrow things unless you’re SURE it’s ok.
- Keep their stuff safe. Don’t bring strangers home, and always lock up (=lock doors and windows) behind you.
- Know their schedules and respect them. If your roommate works at 7am, don’t bring your drunk friends home at 3am.
- Don’t talk about sensitive topics that are likely to lead to tension or fights. Billy and I never discuss my exboyfriend (who makes me insane) or the way he treats girls (which I disagree with)!
- Make rules in the beginning, but don’t go overboard. In our house, for example, smoking inside is banned (Billy smokes, I don’t), and I have to wash my clothes during the week since Billy is only in the house on Sundays. In the beginning we disagreed on housework policies, so we decided to pay someone to come once a week and clean.
Have you ever had a roommate? What do you think are the keys to a successful roommate relationship?
Ah, stress. People don’t really understand how it’s possible I ever have it, giving my current work activities involve only singing and blogging for Englishtown, and stress is so often associated with heavy workloads and long periods of time in the office.