1. You don’t have friends. You have panas.
You also use the term mi costilla (“my rib”) because your friends are a part of you and you love them from the bottom of your heart. This is the kind of friend who comes to your rescue after you’ve had a traffic accident, checks up on you when you’re sick, and paid for lunch that month you were completely broke.
It’s also the kind of friend who walks into your house as if it were her own, chats with your parents while opening the fridge, and then lies in your bed with her shoes on. I.e., your dearest pana del alma.
2. You’ve never used street names or numbers.
Getting an exact address is quite a feat in Venezuela. The random paisano you encounter on the street will give you directions in the following fashion: “You go down that way, and then you keep going straight, derechito, until you reach the gas station; then you turn right and keep on going for about 15 minutes. After that, you make a left at the roundabout right after the Puppy Tree.”
3. Your everyday speech is full of idioms, sarcasm, and exaggerations.
It’d be easier to just ask “Can you please move so I can see the TV,” but you prefer to yell “Carne de burro no es transparente!” (Donkey’s meat isn’t transparent, you know?) If you think someone is being a smart ass, you say “Careful, you’re gonna get hit by an ice-cream truck,” or “You’re gonna get bitten by a Teddy bear.”
When you’re explaining how you fell walking down the stairs, you’ll exaggerate by saying “Me heché tremenda matada.” And you don’t just cry…what happens is called “se te aguó el guarapo.”
4. You start sweating when you hear a motorbike.
At least if you’re driving in the city. You know not all of them are bad guys, but the minute you see a motorbike in your rearview mirror, you throw your cellphone, wallet, and watch under your seat to avoid getting robbed.
5. You’ve gotten shitfaced at the beach on multiple occasions.
First, you probably had a fight with the guy next to you because of how loud the music was, but everything got peachy when you started drinking rum. The last thing you remember is your friends taking pictures of your body covered in sand.
6. Gas isn’t an item in your monthly budget.
Gas is so cheap that when you have to fill up the tank, you just collect the coins lying around your backseat. With that, you not only pay, you also tip the guy at the gas station so he can buy himself a coffee. According to Global Petrol Prices, a liter of petrol in Venezuela costs $0.01, so basically nobody takes that into consideration when planning expenses.
7. You know reusing foil can be a lot of fun.
You used to take a lunch box to school with two things: an arepa wrapped in foil and your favorite malta. When everybody was done with lunch, you’d all shape the foil into a soccer ball and play.
8. You use the words chévere and arrecho to define all things God created.
If you’re having a great time at a party, or if you find a person to be attractive, you describe them as chévere. If something bothers you, you feel arrecho — but also, the newest 4×4 with all the accessories está arrechísima.
9. Marico-huevón is an essential term in the male vocabulary.
If you’re a guy from Venezuela, you use marico-huevón at least five times when chatting with your panas. It’s not offensive. No, not at all, it’s super normal.
10. The party always starts three hours later.
Venezuelans are unpunctual from the time they’re born. Everybody knows that if the invitation says 8pm, you’ll arrive at 10 but the party will only really get going after midnight.
11. After the first shared drink, everyone is like your brother.
A pana is the one who saved your ass (te salvo la patria, really) that time you had no more ice for rum. After that, that person became your bro. A true Venezuelan starts a brotherhood with whoever he or she shares drinks, dinner, meaningful conversation, or a trip to the beach with.
12. Your life philosophy is “Como vaya viniendo, vamos viendo.”
Venezuelans don’t plan too much — they like it when things just flow. You can’t be surprised if your trip to the Andes ended up on a beach in Sucre.
13. Everyday driving is an off-road rally.
You’ve had the best training on the streets and highways of Venezuela, full of potholes and unexpected cliffs. You’ve developed a survival instinct that makes you perfectly capable of driving under high-risk conditions.
14. You’re certain that the arepa is the best breakfast in the world.
A Venezuelan has an arepa once a week — to give a conservative estimate. There’s nothing like a homemade arepita with meat and yellow cheese. Or the New Year’s Day breakfast with a huge pork arepa and gravy spilling all over it. For some, the “Reina Pepiada” is a classic after a night of rumba. There’s a favorite for each of us.
15. You can stand the chalequeo.
Chalequeo might sound like other Spanish words, such as chaleco or chaqueta, but it has nothing to do with either. It means teasing / annoying someone. And you…you can stand it.
16. You know “getting off the mule” is related to your finances.
Another classic of storytelling: Me tuve que bajar de la mula con 10 palos. A long time ago, having a mule was a sign of status. If you owed money to someone, that person would say something like “If you can’t pay, at least get off the mule.”
Photo: Drea tuka