Sunday, September 28, 2008

Group post: Como somos (percibidos) los gringos

How I think gringos are perceived by Chileans:

**note - "gringo" - has two meanings 1) all white people from Northwestern Europe or whose ancestors were from Northwestern Europe. (perhaps including whites from Eastern Europe and the Balkans) 2) people from the States

I'm mostly refering to the second meaning.

trusting, naive (weones) – Gringos trust too much, they walk around in Chile with really expensive cameras, their cell phones, money, etc. and other things totally in sight. Several times I’ve told random gringos who cross my path to put their cell phones or cameras away when they are not using them.

trustable – I’ve found Chileans often trust me more then their fellow people. And to be honest, I trust random gringos more than I trust random Chileans.

paranoicos, paranoid - (what with the “pre-emptive” strikes and being super prepared for everything, boy scout style)

styleless – hooded sweatshirts, jeans, hair in a ponytail or covered with a baseball cap – this isn’t true for all gringos, but it’s common (Chileans obviously have some of their own style peculiarities –especially among pokemonos, o sea pokemones)

uptight – Especially some gringo tourists of the male sex who come to Chile and everything has to be exactly as they imagine it or else they complain a ton and get their panties in a bunch over trivial things.

approachable/friendly – I don’t know how many Chileans have asked me for directions in Santiago over the last couple of years…a lot.

I ran out of ideas and asked V what gringos are like

He replied the ones he’s met are:


they do what they propose they’ll do (hacen lo que proponen hacer)

they’re honest

they have money

I agree.

See other points of view here:


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Killing time at the border

On the way back from Mendoza this weekend, V and I and tons of other people were waiting to re-enter Chile for 3 or 4 hours. This is what the line to go through border control/customs looked like:

There were some big pieces of plastic laying on the mountain and sledding tracks. But no one was sliding. After 45 minutes sitting and waiting, nauseated from the bus and truck fumes, I finally grabbed the plastic and hiked up the side of the mountain to try it out and breathe some fresh air.

I made it look so fun, it soon turned into the pass time of a bunch of people in our situation. Granted, some one had been sliding before we got there, bc there were butt tracks and plastic already there.

And the onlookers:

There were even a couple of Chilean women who tried it out while wearing boots with stiletto heels. Impressive.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

82-90 (of 100 things I like about Chile)

Here are the first 81 things I like about getting around to almost finishing the list...These last were interesting because a lot of them were things I hadn't articulated in my own thoughts before, but mostly walking around the city, and hanging out a bit with friends, living here, I've been thinking about it.

  • 82) The prolific use of tutors. I never, as a kid, had a tutor. My folks answered specific questions I had about homework, but no one sat down with me for an hour or more to explain a subject. But here in Chile it is pretty standard among the people that can afford it. They contract college students or professional tutors to teach math, physics, English, etc. Or often grandfathers (retired engineers, for example) are called on to teach their grandchildren math. Doesn't the thought just warm your heart? I think it's cool because then the kid essentially has two teachers, and is taught the material from slightly different perspectives, something I believe helps the student out.
  • 83) People walk in the street here. In the States, people don't walk much. At least where I lived, it didn't happen a lot. I love the life in the streets. It humanizes a place. And public transportation here, it's not just for minorities. Millions of people actually use it, which makes for a pretty good system (even if its going to run out of money in a few days.)
  • 84) The grandmothers and grandfathers often live with their children. The US system has old-folks homes-which have their appeal-because they hang with their peers, but I like the Chilean family system-everyone in the same house. Plus than grandparents can help out and feel useful and share with their family, as well as save money. And the children can keep an eye on their aged parents and not worry about how they are doing in a home somewhere.
  • 85) The houses are smaller. (I'm talking about middle-class houses here, not the social housing which is too small.) I find the huge gringo McMansions totally unnecessary and I plan on living in a small house for most of my life. Some of the advantages of a small house include: you have to clean less, the house feels more filled with energy, it's less expensive to heat, you have to limit the amount of random stuff you accumulate, entre otras cosas.
  • 86) There's more home-cooked food here. Your average family seems to eat more salads (at least in my experience.) I also love the consomé served before the main course. It's basically just soup broth, but it's tasty. Try ordering that at a gringo restaurant. They'll bring you a bowl of stew toped with a quarter inch of cheese. Normal portion sizes just don't exist in the States. I'm glad they sell mini-bottles of pop, like 4 oz bottles widely availible in Chilito.
  • 87) They don't generally put nasty salad dressing on your salads. I hate it in the US when I forget to ask for the salad without the dressing. Here it's all about the salt, fresh lemon, and olive oil, I actually ask for this at restaurants in the US now. (Although, now and then they put a big gob of mayo on your salad-nasty-but it's easier to get off when it's all in one place.) If I'm going to have salad dressing, I prefer my own home-made French dressing.
  • 88) How Chileans ignore people or cut people off when the speaker is hogging the conversation or getting into a long soliloquy about who knows what. Or they start making fun of a person when he gets too serious in a conversation. In Starbucks one day, a while back, I was comparing gringo conversations and Chilean conversations. The gringo conversations transmitted a large quantity of information and seemed really useful for informing oneself, getting stuff done, sharing personal information. Chilean conversations, on the other hand, are more about teasing each other, joking around, just hanging with the other person "ontologically". The amount of information exchanged is often little.
  • 89) Short term thinking vs. long term thinking, (again). A big change I noticed in myself after being here as an expat for like a year is that, when I was home on vacation, and ran into friends I hadn't seen in a while, I was more likely to ask them what they'd done yesterday and what they were up to tomorrow rather than there life master plan for the next 1 to 5 years. Whereas before going to Chile, I was more likely to ask about their long term plans. One time, while at home on break, I ran into a friend of mine. I asked him what his sister was up to. He told me she had gone back to Spain to teach English for another year because she was sick of people asking her what her plans were. jajajaja. I totally understood her. Hispanic territory seems to be a refuge for those without a plan. jaja
  • 90) The nanas. Class differences suck, I know. But the positive side of that is you can afford someone to cook and clean for you all day, almost every day. Before I came to Chile for the first time as an exchange student, I talked to another high schooler who had just gotten back from Chile. She said the family's nana made fresh natural juices for her everyday. She also spent her first two weeks in Chile with her host family on their yacht, cruising the Chilean coastline. Needless to say, I was stoked I was heading to Chile after hearing her stories. While I've benefitted from the nanas (at friends' houses), I have yet to be invited on a yacht here. jejeje

Friday, September 5, 2008

Group post: Chilean women

Chilean moms do everything or feel like they should do everything in the house…they auto-value themselves by how well they are meeting their family’s needs and have exceedingly high expectations of themselves as mothers and wives. Either that or they don’t know another roll besides waiting on their families hand and foot. And if they don’t live up to this standard they seem to feel guilty about it. The older generation, in general, didn’t study as much as the younger generation and so are restricted to a life as a housewife and mother.

My generation, probably due to globalization and contemporary times, has way more in common with me than the older generation. They study; they aren’t as concerned about the home (granted my best friends here aren’t mothers.) Some young women don’t even know how to cook and it seems the male generation is learning to cook and clean. Yay! For the most part, they seem to want to “help” the women rather than take responsibility for the cleaning themselves. But even so, it’s nice they contribute.

Women here keep their homes so clean. My Lord. My Chilean man has had to get used to a grungy house. It often looks like a bomb exploded here. I do try to pick up after myself, but it’s hard. I’m not used to it. I’m not Chilean.

Maybe its not that they are so clean and orderly…No, it is. They are neat…and gringos are just more disorganized and messy in general.

I remember as a high school exchange student here, back in the day, I went to Los Andes for a weekend and stayed with a family there. I remember entering the sister’s bedroom with her and a friend, and there were a couple of shirts on the bed and a couple of sweaters. She was a little embarrassed at how messy the room was. Everything else was in perfect order. The bed was made; everything was picked up. She went on for about 5 minutes explaining to me why the place was sooo messy: that they’d arrived and had to change clothes quickly to go somewhere, etc... No choice but to smile and nod. At that age, my room always had a half a foot of clothes on the floor that I would tread through to get to my un-made bed.

Appearances are more important in chile: physical appearances, clean rooms, nice clothing, ojala brandname clothing, nice-looking resumes, etc. The Chilean women dress nicely, and like other gringas have mentioned they dress much sexier than your average gringa.

Although I note that a lot of the older Chilean women are quite overweight and that’s when the sexy dressing stops, but they seem to wear tighter fitting clothes here than in the States.

The Chilean women of my generation are sexually very liberal…I think more so than gringas, although gringas seem to have a reputation as being very sexually active. (They should really teach sex ed here!!) But that’s because of the ones that get drunk and make it with anyone that crosses their path. But actually there are a fair amount of puritans among gringas. Whereas the Catholics can be absolved for their sins once a week, the puritans have to carry their sins with them for the rest of their lives. Cuak. Perhaps this is why.

Chilean women seem more jealous than gringas. I think they like to keep close tabs on their men’s whereabouts. I feel like infidelity is more common here too though. After five months here as an expat, I was traumatized by the amount of infidelity I noticed among the people I was getting to know. At this time, I decided I would not date a Chilean. Eventually I met V, who is part of the 50% of the Chilean non-cheaters.

V. says that my Chilean female friends are not your average Chileans however, so my perspective is a bit off, probably in comparison with the other gringas. I also asked one friend if she agreed with this, and yes, she did. She doesn't always identify with her girl friends from high school. The Chilean women I most hang out with are relaxed, fun, like to have a good time, aren’t jealous. They are easy to get along with. They dress really cute and are more concerned about their appearances than your average Minnesotan. Hahaha. And they have developed people filters.

In the elevator the other day, a friendly neighbor began talking about how the women wear the pants here in Chile. (His wife had sent him back up to the apartment to get an umbrella.) He asked us if this was true. I said yes, hehehe. And the other lady in the elevator said that relationships should be 50-50. So there you have it. And what those 50 percent consist of is the question.

For more perspectives on Chilean women, check out the links on Kyle's blog.

Monday, September 1, 2008

piropos and the like

After commenting on Kyle's question of the day: to provoke or not to if you should bitch out the nasty jotes (ho-tays) who make comments or which several of us replied: the answer depends on the situation...basically, yes it's a good idea, as long as you wouldn't be putting yourself in danger doing it, I'm going to share some experiences I had in Spain along these lines.

Besides the myriad times Chilean guys have thrown piropos my way, the Spanish are also good at this. While the Spanish flirts, in general, I find to be more respectful than the Chilean jotes, and actually I absolutely loved the Galician people and felt very at home when I lived in Galicia...I did have a few memorable incidents of courageous piropos when in Spain and they all seemed really funny to me.

Los pulpos
The first experience was while at a discoteque in Madrid with other gringas. I went to the hip-hop floor and started dancing with some of my classmates-all girls, in a circle the way we do, and I had a Spaniard come up behind me and grab me - like put his arms around me. I was shocked and turned around and angrily pushed him away. I crossed the circle of gringas and started dancing on the other side, and the exact same thing happened right away. So I went to the electronic floor where the guys were more chill. The Spaniards called this type of guy a pulpo, (an octupus).

One night I was walking with my friend Carmen in Santiago de Compostela. We were just arriving to the vegetarian restaurant where we were meeting up with a couple more friends and we heard running footsteps behind us and before I was able to turn around, this guy wound up his hand and slapped my right butt cheek with mucho gusto and continued running. (I was surprised it didn't bruise, the slap was so forceful!) He was out of sight in a couple seconds. Out of shock, I just started laughing. Because it didn't scare me and it was just completely absurd. Granted, I'd probably be pissed if it ever happened again, but at the time it was too ridiculous to take seriously.

Los viejos verdes
And the third and most entertaining incident happened after J, L, and I did the "Camino de Santiago" from the border of Galicia to Portomarín. We heard the last 100 kilometers of the camino were alongside the highways and not nearly as pretty as the first 500 kilometers. Granted we didn't do the whole pilgramage. We started like at kilometer 400 and walked to kilometer 500...but anyway me estoy alejando del tema.

So we were in Portomarín waiting for the bus to Lugo where we would catch a second bus home to Santiago, and there were these two 70 year old guys waiting for the same bus. And J and I were talking to one and L was talking to the other and he began to hit on her, el viejo verde. Just then the bus arrived so we let the old foggies get on first. They sat in the back and then J and L sat behind the driver and I sat behind them where we wouldn't be bothered. After a bit on the bus, I felt something in my hair, and I ignored it because como tan could they be so dumb. But then I felt something touch my hair again; I turned and the two viejos were sitting behind me smiling at me.

I shouted at them:
Me: ¿Cuántos años tenéis?
el viejo verde 1: Tengo 70. (He said this with lots of dignity, his tone almost made me crack up in laughter).
Me: Porque vosotros estáis portando como si tuvierais 4 o 5 años. (I had just learned the subjuctive form "tuvierais" in grammar class, and was soo proud of myself for being able to use it correctly in an urgent situation like this one.)

And with that, the whole bus erupted. There were like 20 other passengers and they all had an opinion. "Leave the girls alone!" they said. "Behave." "Quit being rude." And the bus driver started braking and asked them "Do you guys want to get off the bus right now? Because if you don't leave them alone, you will be getting off." To which they responded "no." We were in the middle of nowhere. I can just imagine these two viejos verdes balling each other out after being dropped off on the highway in the middle of the prairie. Hahaha. Needless to say, they left us alone for the rest of the ride.

The large difference that I've experienced between Chilean and Spanish cultures with regards to the men who throw piropos, is that the Spanish are way more forward about it. I think they have a healthier relationship towards rejection. Whereas, in the Chilean incidents (I commented them on Kyle's blog), the men often try to "pasar piola" the dude on the bus who had his hand touching the side of my leg without me even knowing it. And then when I chewed him out, he just moved over and acted like nothing had happened. And no one said anything. Very typical of Chilean culture. And the other guy who crossed the line staring at me in the grocery store ran away before I could yell at him.

Granted not all Chilean guys are piroperos. Most of them are very chivalrous and fun to be with. While there are a lot of jotes in Chile-too many-I'm doing my part to fight back. Jejejeje.

And I don't mind the ones who are nice about. Every now and then when I'm having an I-feel-ugly day, it's nice to hear that not everyone agrees with me.