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Bolivia cultural insights

The following cultural insights are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. The content in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.

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Local and Canadian perspectives for the following subjects:

Conversations

Local perspective

It is important to note that Bolivia is a diverse country with marked distinctions between race, class, gender and ethnicity. These diverse experiences will affect the level of trust and the kinds of conversations you have with people, depending on where you are, and who you talk to.

In general, people are well-informed about everyday political issues and are willing to discuss issues that appear in the news. The best way to prepare oneself for daily conversations with people is to read one of the national newspapers (La Razon, Pagina Siete, El Deber), or listen to one of the national radio stations in the morning (Radio Panamericana, Radio Fides, Radio Patria Nueva). People will commonly discuss politics in most public spaces.

Another common point of conversation is sports. Bolivia, like many Latin American countries, has a national soccer league that people follow and are passionate about. Each city has at least one team, with the larger cities having two. If you are in La Paz, you will want to decide quickly if you will follow the Strongest (black and yellow jerseys) or Bolivar (light blue jerseys). The games are commonly broadcasted on the radio, and people will often joke between rival teams about the leagues performance during the week.

Canadian perspective

Bolivians are generally very keen on making small-talk. It is very rare that a Bolivian sits beside you in a public place, for example, and doesn’t begin chatting or ask to know more about you. Some good discussion topics are usually those that present themselves on the local radio or in the newspaper, so keep an ear open for what is happening politically in the country. Politics is very important, and Bolivians are very well-informed about what is going on both internally and internationally. Another good topic of discussion is demonstrating that you have some knowledge about Bolivia. People may ask if you have travelled in the country, what you like about it, and what you think about Bolivians and their culture. It is important to answer openly, but also to try to be positive in your responses, since Bolivians are proud of their country and customs. Finally, another often-popular point of discussion is soccer. Mondays are often replete with discussions about who’s team won and who’s lost, and the repercussions for the Bolivian Soccer League. This is especially popular among men.

Communication styles

Local perspective

Bolivians, in general, especially those from the highland regions of La Paz, Potosi and Oruro are not very expressive in terms of non-verbal communications. A handshake is common for first time formal greetings. That being said, usually, a handshake or hug for men, and a hug with a kiss on the right cheek is a common greeting in cities across the country, especially among acquaintances. Kissing between men is uncommon and would be considered odd or inappropriate. In more rural areas of the country, often a handshake with a pat on the back is an accepted form of greeting, it is rare, especially in the highland and valley rural region to hug an acquaintance.

Bolivians are very frank and straight forward and there is very little hidden script in their conversation. It is very common to speak one’s mind and be forward with one’s opinions, be them political or personal. It is also common for Bolivians to comment on your physical characteristics such as your weight or skin colour once they feel you have gained their confidence or trust. Expressions such as “you are fat” or “she is skinny” are common and should not be taken as offensive.

Canadian perspective

Depending on where you are in the country, verbal and non-verbal communications are distinct. It is important to understand them to navigate social situations. Strangers meeting for the first time will often greet each other with a simple handshake. This is true for men and women. Following a first meeting, it then becomes common between men and women, and between women, to greet each other with a peck on the right cheek. In some cities, such as Potosi, two pecks are common - one for each cheek. Between friends, men are prone to hugging when greeting each other in the cities; in the rural areas, especially in the highland region, kissing is rare, and a simple handshake with a pat on the left shoulder is common - both between men, and between men and women.

In the political capital, La Paz, non-verbal communication is minimal amongst Pacenos (residents of the capital). Limit non-verbal communication to a minimum and try to be, whenever possible, open with communication.

As a foreigner, and more so if a white foreigner, you may be the object of non-verbal scrutiny, especially in regions or cities that have limited exposure to outsiders. For example, you may experience prolonged staring, or be the subject to jokes which you may not even understand or hear.This type of non-verbal interaction is harmless and generally emerges from curiosity or suspicion.

Display of emotion

Local perspective

It is quite common to see public expressions of emotions, be those affections, anger, or passion. For example, if there is a disagreement between two parties, it is common to see open shouting, and in some cases, a physical altercation may occur. Displaying of emotions during an important soccer game such as jumping for joy, shouting, or hugging others in the event of a win, and expressing anger openly in the event of a loss, is very common. It is acceptable to openly cry and express sadness in public in the event of personal tragedy. During public protests, it is common to see people express anger and frustration openly.

Canadian perspective

Public displays of affection among young people are common in the large cities, and are just recently becoming less scrutinized by older people who are generally more conservative in their ways. You will observe public displays of affection less in rural areas, where customs tend to be more publicly scrutinized.

Public displays of anger are common and generally accepted for men, especially in large cities like La Paz and El Alto. It is common for people to complain expressively about politics or sports, and sometimes an argument will occur between men over a disagreement. The most common reasons for a public display of anger in La Paz are traffic jams and congestion. In slow-moving traffic drivers and riders of public transportation express their discontent publicly, sometimes resulting in shouting or shoving.

Women are less likely to express anger, and are more likely to express sadness in public. This is especially true for younger generations who are generally not as reserved as older generations.

Dress, punctuality & formality

Local perspective

In public and private formal institutions it is common to see employees respecting formal dress codes. Shirts, ties and dress pants for men are common in these spaces and business attire for women. It is not uncommon to observe the use of suits in public institutions.

In an office setting, punctuality is often controlled by individuals or machines that record worker’s entry and exit time. In formalized institutions punctuality is expected depending on the structure of the office. Punctuality is not strictly enforced since there is an understanding that problems such as traffic jams, protests and lack of efficient public transit can prevent people from arriving to work on time. In this context it is common for formalized meetings to be cancelled or postponed.

In a less-formal setting, or outside of the formal office setting, punctuality is not enforced. Both formal and informal meetings are prone to starting late, and especially in informal settings, it is common to set a time for a meeting while knowing very well that the meeting likely will not take place for at least a half an hour or more later than planned.

Workplace relationships and relationships that are business-based tend to be formal within the given setting of a meeting or within office hours. That being said, it is common that co-workers maintain, when possible, strong social relationships with their co-workers. This means that after-hours activities, or tea-time in the office, are social spaces where the formality of relationships is relaxed and bonds are cultivated.

Canadian perspective

The work environment in the formal labour market varies, but in general maintains a certain level of structure with respect to punctuality, formality and dress. Especially in private and public institutions, punctuality is expected and is controlled by time clocks or punch cards. Workers are docked from their monthly salary after being a pre-defined number of minutes late, and so it is common to see workers running to their offices in the morning to punch in. This contributes to a general sense of stress and chaos in the mornings in the large city centres, especially in La Paz and El Alto.

Meetings on the other hand, both formal and informal, are more lenient in terms of punctuality, and sometimes fall behind schedule significantly due to unanticipated set-backs. This is often one of the biggest complaints from Canadians arriving in Bolivia for the first time. Bring a book or something to occupy yourself in the event that a meeting is delayed.

In such public and private institutions, formal work attire is generally expected. People still wear suits and ties to their offices, but this can vary substantially depending on your position within the institution and the strictness of your manager in enforcing the dress-code.

Preferred managerial qualities

Local perspective

It is important for an employer to have a balanced authority figure. A good manager must be accessible and relatable, and do her/his best to treat all employees as equal. That being said, they must also represent authority and structure, and enforce certain levels of disciple and control over their employees.

Canadian perspective

In general, workers employed in the formal sector in Bolivia are used to a set chain-of-command and bureaucratic procedures. A manager is respected if he or she enforces the structures in place, but also shows some flexibility in this regard. A good manager is someone who can be viewed as a peer, and who makes efforts to minimize the social and political gaps between themselves and their staff. Staff will tend to work harder and be motivated to stay in a position for a longer time if the manager is open to listening to input and suggestions for change. Managers who are overly-rigid are resented, which can create a tense environment in the workplace.

Hierarchy and decision-making

Local perspective

Formal institutions are very hierarchical in nature and follow a very strict decision-making process as defined in the very structure of the institution or business. It is common that everyone is aware of the proper process required to make decisions and, in general, people respect that. It is also expected that the highest levels of management are those responsible for decision making, and will be held responsible for decisions made.

Canadian perspective

In the workplace, there is generally a rigid top-down bureaucratic structure, where employees follow chain-of-command decisions made by their superiors and there is little consultation of the workers before decisions are made. That being said, depending on the workplace and the degree of responsibility or public scrutiny to which it might be subject to, this rigid structure can be more or less lenient. For example, a company that handles large contracts worth lots of money is more likely to follow rigid decision-making structures than a small research organization.

Supervisors are generally open to providing feedback and criticism to their employees and it is acceptable (and in fact expected) that employees maintain an open channel of conversation with their superiors in terms of performance.

Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender

Local perspective

Gender

Generally speaking, Bolivian society is patriarchal. However, in terms of the formalized rights structure, women and men have equal rights. Over the past ten years there have been advances not only in the visible presence of women holding important political positions, but also in the kinds of demands they have presented to the state. That being said, those advances may be limited to some institutional spaces whereas women’s negative experiences with patriarchy continue to persist with respect to economic, social and sexual violence. Since this often intersects with class and ethnicity, women who are poor and considered indigenous experience the brunt of gendered violence and discrimination.

In the workplace this context affects the kinds of positions women occupy in public and private institutions (mainly as secretaries, or lower paid support staff) and the kinds of interactions they have with their superiors. Many women still feel pressured to dress a certain way or act a certain way in order to maintain their positions or move forward in their careers.

Class

Class boundaries are marked by a continued physical, social and geographical division between poor and rich. Even though over the past 10 years there has been an increased presence of public officials who come from rural areas, or peasant backgrounds, people’s day-to-day experience based on ethnicity continues to demonstrate that there is still a gap between a light-skinned middle class Bolivian professional and rural or semi-rural workers or peasants. This demarcation intersects with class, with the most dangerous and precarious jobs being occupied by recent migrant workers from rural areas, for example.

There are visible distinctions in terms of where Bolivians without economic means live and the scarcity of access to basic necessities and services compared to wealthy Bolivians and foreigners who live in other, more central, areas of cities with better access to services and resources. Differences in class can be well noted through the presence or lack of access to services such as healthcare, education and social security. A cycle of poverty is prevalent with low income families often experiencing difficulty accessing basic needs, healthcare and education.

Religion

The most common religion in Bolivia is Catholicism. However, Protestantism and Evangelism are gaining popularity in low income neighbourhoods of main cities and in rural areas. On Sundays it is customary that people attend mass. There are widely observed and recurrent practices of religion-related holidays in Bolivia. Some Bolivians maintain their native indigenous culture by mixing Catholic religion practices with Andean religious holidays, beliefs and traditions.

Ethnicity

Bolivia is ethnically diverse, and many of the country’s citizens still continue to identify as indigenous. Indigeneity in some sectors of Bolivian society is embraced as a point of national pride and is expressed annually in parades, dances, folklore and a large Carnival in Oruro. "Originarios" (originals) comprises descendants of the Pre-Hispanic cultures. Larger groups include the Aymaras and Quechua, many living in La Paz, Potosí, Oruro, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Other important groups include the Guaraní and Moxos who reside in Santa Cruz, Beni, Tarija and Pando. The indigenous people compose the 60% of the Bolivian population.

Canadian perspective

Gender

In general Bolivia is a patriarchal society, although some suggest that this is slowly changing thanks to newly-approved legislation that seeks to achieve gender equality. Women are often still perceived to be incapable of work that occurs in public spaces; however, the rising economic conditions of the country have meant that many women now occupy a majority of the commercial informal markets, which are large, open-air vender posts where anything from fruit, to electronics, to appliances are sold, on the street. Due to legislative changes during the past decade, women have also taken at least a symbolic position in the National Legislative Assembly, and some have even taken positions as ministers. Beyond the institutional advances, however, many report the existence of a glass ceiling in their workplaces, with the higher and more respected positions going to their male counterparts. This often means that women do not feel comfortable to make decisions or speak out to their bosses or peers for fear of being ridiculed or mocked. There is also a high incidence of violence against women in the society.

Class

In particular parts of the cities, class differences are more visible. In the city centres of Cochabamba, Potosi, La Paz and Santa Cruz, upper-class families hold rights to a lot of property and make up the general composition of the professional class. Lower working-class people fill the visible roles of service providers: as cleaners, cooks, and merchants. The poor and working classes tend to live in the more undesirable peripheries. In La Paz, for example, the villas that climb up the sides of the city are poor neighbourhoods, with scant access to social services and basic necessities. Here recent peasant migrants from rural areas, and working class people who can’t afford property closer to the centre, live and commute into the city to work. Positions within institutions are also marked by these class differences, since social mobility requires not only economic but also political capabilities and know-how, both of which poor families have little access to.

Religion

Since colonization, Bolivia has been influenced by the Catholic Church - a majority of Bolivians are devout Catholics. Protestantism has slowly become more popular among the poor and rural classes. Many Bolivians, even in the cities, still maintain some indigenous religious practices. In Cochabamba this is evident on the first Friday of every month when k’oa burnings occur to bring prosperity to businesses. K’oas are small fires that people build with carbon and add things like fake money, and sweets to them and read the ashes when they are done burning. They are believed to bring good luck to businesses. In La Paz with the celebration of the ñatitos is a celebration of the dead, of ancestors of the family who have died but are remembered every year. In rural areas, burnings, as well as animal sacrifice and harvest celebrations date back to long before the arrival of the Spanish, and are still practiced alongside Catholic traditions and holidays. Since the country recognizes both, employers are required to respect national holidays and be accommodating to the diversity of religious traditions and practices. Employers who embrace, for example, the k’oa in Cochabamba, see it as a chance to bond with their employees and increase worker productivity.

Ethnicity

Ethnicity, like class and gender, affects people’s experiences on a daily basis with respect to discrimination. The majority of Bolivian citizens identify as indigenous. Prior to the recent election of the current government, there was a high incidence of class- and ethnicity-based discrimination against those who were darker skinned, came from rural areas, or dressed and/or talked a certain way. For example, people would be referred to as “Indians” if they came into urban areas, and would be stared at, and in some cases, even abused physically or verbally in public for being from rural areas.Over the past 10 years this has changed, and people have to some extent embraced their ethnic heritage. That being said, racism and classism still results in difficulties for people from lower income households or rural areas in finding stable, permanent employment. As a result, recent immigrants to the big cities often work as unskilled labourers in construction, mining and other sectors to make ends meet. It has also been claimed, however, that rural Aymara migrants are especially apt merchants due to past cultural practices which emphasized the accumulation of wealth, challenging the racism-classism intersections which in general means that indigenous migrants will be poorer and have less access to economic betterment. In this case, some Aymara immigrants have been successful economically precisely because they are indigenous. In El Alto, a large peripheral city of La Paz, many migrants arrived from rural areas with nothing, but have formed a wealthy merchant class which directly trades with the neighbouring countries of Chile and Argentina, and also does business as far away as China.

Relationship-building

Local perspective

Lending to Andean economic practices which fortified social relationships with economic ones, it is very important in-small businesses to establish a personal relationship. Strong personal relationships with colleagues lead to business relationships based on trust building and security. However, in larger businesses and the formal sector, there is more distance between friends and business partners and it is not expected that a relationship be fully formed before a business transaction occur.

Canadian perspective

Bolivian workplaces, in general, are quite social spaces. Colleagues get to know each other quickly, and many workers consider a healthy social environment as the most desirable attribute that a workplace can have. Often, throughout the week, colleagues go out together for dinner, or just spend time chatting away from the office. This is believed to ultimately increase productivity, since it provides a release from a stressful workweek.

Privileges and favouritism

Local perspective

This depends on the place of work. In public institutions there are efforts which are enforced by law to reduce favoritism and to ensure a clear separation between work sphere and social sphere. In small-businesses and in the informal sector it is more common to observe friendships that lead to privilege and favoritism.

Canadian perspective

In formal workplaces it is commonly perceived that there is favouritism in terms of distribution of jobs and promotions. There is even an indigenous language term for this, llunku, which describes those workers who maintain close and personal relationships with their superiors in order to reap the benefits of this proximity. This favouritism generally follows social hierarchy lines, in that people with the most family, political or class influence maintain the most important positions within companies or ministries.

Conflicts in the workplace

Local perspective

Conflicts in the workplace will be resolved differently according to their severity. There are social mechanisms established in the workplace which can result in conflicts being resolved directly, between coworkers, at work or outside the workplace. In the event that the conflict is more serious, and cannot be resolved between parties through social mechanisms, conflicts will then escalate and require intervention from a third party or superior.

Canadian perspective

There are many factors that can make confronting a colleague in the workplace difficult in Bolivia. First, intersectional hierarchies like gender, class and ethnicity mean that some conflicts may forever go unresolved if one of the employees is in an inferior position to their counterpart. For instance, a worker in a factory who is from a rural area, might not challenge his boos who is a foreigner or an urbanite, because pre-described structures make that challenging nearly impossible or very difficult. That being said, minor conflicts are often resolved socially between workers, in private and outside of work, in a bar or at a restaurant. Bolivians are direct and will put their conflicts and problems out on the table to be resolved, or at least so that they are known to both parties. If it is a major conflict, however, and it is perceived unresolvable through regular social means, then often a superior is brought in to mediate and resolve it.

Motivating local colleagues

Local perspective

Since there is widespread job insecurity and unemployment, the principle motivator in the formal employment sector is economic stability. Employees will work hard and dedicate their time if they are paid well and are guaranteed certain securities.

Canadian perspective

An important motivator for colleagues in their workplaces is flexibility and openness on the part of their superiors. This motivates people to feel like they can participate in at least some of the decision-making. Another key motivator, relating to the economic state of the country, is permanency and stability. Often people comment about disliking their job, but say they continue to do it because it gives them full-time hours and access to benefits for their families. Since a large part of the economy still continues to operate in the informal sector, formalized and institutionalized employment protected by State legislation is desired by all.

Recommended books, films & foods

Local perspective

Books

  • Metal del Diablo by Augusto Céspedes Patzi,
  • Imágenes paceñas by Jaime Saenz.
  • Manuel y Fortunato : una picaresca andina by Alison Spedding.

Films

It would be good to watch the movie by the Bolivian director Jorge Sanjinés such as Insurgentes (latest production 2014), Coraje del Pueblo, Ukamau, and Yawar Mallku. His films are shown in La Paz at the theatre Cinemateca Boliviana. He is considered one of the most important Bolivian filmmakers.

Foods

The main meal in Bolivian diet is lunch. Breakfast usually consists of fresh bread and hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate, with marmalade and sometimes cheese. Lunch is the biggest and most important meal of the day in the cities and in general, Supper consists of leftovers from lunch, or more bread and tea.

Meals of Bolivia include Chicharrón (pork fried in its own fat and served with a local fermented cork drink called chicha, Cochabamba), Plato paceño (beef steak with corn, cheese, potatoes and lima beans, La Paz), Kalapurka (soup made from crushed peppers and cooked with hot volcanic rocks, Potosi).

Cochabamba, the heart of Bolivia, is a valley-city known for its relaxed atmosphere and good food. The typical plate, chicharrón can be found at almost any restaurant on the weekends. The best of these plates, being found in a smaller town outside of the main city like Sipe Sipe, or Tarata. Other typical cochabambino plates are Lapping which are oven roasted beef brisket served with lima beans and salad, or Pique Macho which is a slow roasted beef au jus served with French fries, peppers, and a boiled egg. Pique Macho can easily be found within the city limits.

Street Foods: Salteñas (similar to cottage pie, spicy and sweet), llaucha (huge cheese empanada, sold from baskets in the early morning in La Paz), Tucumana (fried empanada with meat, or chicken), Anticucho (beef heart broiled over open flame in the street at night, Cochabamba, La Paz), Pesq’e (quinoa with cheese, El Alto).

Canadian perspective

Famous bolivian music artists

  • Los Kjarkas (Folklore)
  • Savia Andia (Folklore)
  • Wara (Folklore/Rock)
  • Atajo (Protest Rock)
  • Proyeccion (Folklore)
  • Recent Movies, which have received international acclaim:
  • Insureccion (2014), Jorge Sanjines
  • Zona Sur (2010), Juan Carlos Valdivia
  • Quien Mato a la Llamita Blanca (2007), Rodrigo Bellott
  • See Blackthorn (2010) for great Bolivian landscapes
  • See Our Brand is Crisis (2015) for La Paz cityscapes.

Foods to eat

  • Saltena: A sweet and salty empanada filled with chicken, beef, potatoes, an olive and a boiled quail egg. This is a favourite among Canadians.
  • Plato Paceno: A famous dish in La Paz, it is traditionally vegetarian but now comes with a steak, boiled lima beans, fried cheese, and potatoes. Eat in the Mercado Lanza in La Paz on Thursdays.
  • Laping: A delicious oven-broiled cut of beef served with a tomato/onion salad, boiled lima beans, and potatoes. Eat in Cochabamba at the Casa de Campo.
  • Chicha: Fermented corn beer, made primarily in Cochabamba valley region. Eat with fried pork, chicharron.

In-country activities

Local perspective

There are many activities one can take part in in order to better understand the culture of Bolivia. In the capital La Paz, the political and cultural center of the country, there is an extensive nightlife where people go out to the plazas to chat with friends, to have coffee or discuss politics. The state university San Andres has regular free events including political debates that are open to the public. The Municipal Theatre, Teatro Municipal, has typical Bolivian music presentations or short plays. Museums like Musef have public events throughout the week.

A common destination to escape the colder highland weather is a three-hour trip to the tropical region Yungas located outside of La Paz. People enjoy this destination for the quieter, more relaxed tropical atmosphere.

The principal market in La Paz Lanza, beside the San Francisco church, is a good place to enjoy Plato paceño or Trucha (fried trout served with freeze dried potatoes, Chuño). The common markets are full of people with a high turn-over of lunches ensuring the freshness of the food. Generally it is good to avoid restaurants which do not appear to have a large clientele since methods of keeping food may not ensure their preservation or freshness.

Other places to visit outside of the cities

  • Salar de Uyuni: The Bolivian salt flats and future site of large-scale industrial lithium production. National tourist agency BOLTOUR located in the Plaza Murillo or other private agencies located in Sagarnaga Street, or Illampu Street, sell tours for several days through the salt flats, and to volcanic lakes in the region Sur Lipez.
  • Copacabana: is a town found on the highest salt water lake in the world known as Titicaca. It is recommended to eat fresh trout here, and to buy Pasanc’alla, large, sweet popcorn and to visit the cathedral. Islas del Sol and Isla de la Luna (Sun and Moon Islands) are one of the lakes biggest tourist attractions.
  • Potosi: A historic city and home of the infamous Cerro Rico de Potosi, the largest silver-producing mine of the Spanish crown. Potosi has historic Spanish colonial churches such as the Spanish Mint (Casa de la Moneda) and even provides tours into the mines that continue to operate. When in Potosi, it is recommended to eat a Saltena (a type of cottage pie, sweet and spicy) and visit the neighbouring thermal baths.

Canadian perspective

The Bolivian government over the past couple of years has been attempting to promote tourism. As such, there are many well organized tours available within the major cities, and at many of the major tourist destinations. While in La Paz, walk around at night in the city centre to see workers and friends head out to have an ice cream and chat in the plazas, or go listen to some people who are apt at joke telling (although this is informal, not like a formal comedy show, just people standing around listen to someone tell jokes) in San Francisco. The colonial cities of Sucre and Potosi are an excellent choice if you are interested in Bolivian colonial history. In Potosi, the Spanish Mint (Casa de la Moneda) is open to the public for visits, and you can also take a tour through one of the still-operational colonial mines.

National heroes

Local perspective

  • Simon Bolivar
  • Antonio José de Sucre.
  • In the past 10 years indigenous leaders like Bartolina Sisa and Tupac Katari have become popular and important heroes.
  • War heroes like Eduardo Avaroa and Juancito Pinto are important for historical accounts.

Canadian perspective

Over the past decade indigenous leaders have become national heroes. Tupac Katari, Tupac Amaru and Bartolina Sisa were all indigenous resistance fighters who have recently become recognized nationally, with many of the large State infrastructure projects taking their names.

Shared historical events with Canada

Canadian perspective

Especially in La Paz, Bolivians know Canadians for their work in non-governmental organizations. In the 1990s, Canada maintained an important presence in aid financing. A Bolivian might comment about a Canadian they once knew who worked for CIDA or a Canadian-based NGO. There has recently been some criticism against Canadians due to mining-related crises with junior mining companies. Canadians should be sensitive to, or at least be aware, of these precedents when travelling to Bolivia.

Stereotypes

Local perspective

Some Canadians may think of Bolivia simply as a poor, underdeveloped country. Bolivians are well-informed politically and are very involved in their country’s politics. It is recommended to avoid making these type of judgements as Bolivians find them offensive.

Canadian perspective

Canadians, in my experience, know very little about Bolivia. It is best to travel to the country with an open mind. Although some of the international media has lately portrayed the government and its people as dictatorial, upon visiting the country one will see that it is quite safe and that Bolivians perhaps know more about politics and Canada than we do.

About the cultural interpreters

Local perspective

I was born and raised in La Paz. I studied Law and Sociology at the State University in La Paz. After I graduated I worked for the government as a lawyer. I worked in La Paz as a researcher in constitutional law and in Cochabamba as researcher in economics and mining and then moved to Canada to pursue Post-Secondary education I am currently completing my Master’s Degree in Ottawa after which I plan on applying for a PhD. After my studies I plan on moving back to Bolivia with my wife.

Canadian perspective

The writer has lived and worked in Bolivia for over five years. The writer arrived to Bolivia to complete her Masters research in Political Economy and stayed to work at a research institute. Since leaving the institution she has worked as a consultant on several projects related to the mining sector, and is presently completing her PhD research in Bolivia. She travels frequently across the highland region, between the urban and rural centers. The writer has lived and worked in Cochabamba, La Paz and is presently living in Potosi.

Disclaimer

Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

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