I’ve just been working. My mood/patience have improved since I last wrote, for anyone who was worried. It has been sunny and warm here, which means basically nothing for the temperature of my office, and has made the smog worse. I spent all day Friday out in the streets- yes, like walking between cars and trucks- collecting money for my office. And when I came home, I had a headache, probably from inhaling exhaust all day.
But, any faith that I had lost in Chileans (which really wasn’t that much) was restored that day. They are givers, those Chileans. They may have only contributed a little individually, but they were actually really receptive to us walking around and asking for change. I would even dare to say that I had a better experience collecting money from Chileans than I’ve seen with Americans. And I include myself in that! It’s really not that often that I give to the Salvation Army at Christmas. I fail at the whole rice bowl thing for Lent. So to see all the people who had change ready to go, who rolled down their windows and waved me over if I didn’t see them, or who were wearing stickers telling us that they’d already given, was quite encouraging.
Last year I wrote this post, which was inspired by this post. (Side note: if you are traveling or living abroad, you MUST read that blog! Ms. Liv is a great writer and has a lot of wisdom to share about what it’s like to live in other languages and other cultures.) Considering that I have no earth-shattering revelations about life or work this week, I figured I’d have a little fun adding to my own list about what I know about living here in Chile:
The dairy products are not as good. Yeah, I’m biased because I live in Wisconsin. But it all just tastes funny, and anything “light” is loaded up with very strong artificial sweeteners. I would love a big, cold glass of Wisconsin skim milk right now. I’m confused as to how more pasteurization makes their milk and butter smell more like the cow. Also, I can’t get behind the idea of milk sitting in boxes, unrefrigerated. Which is how they sell it and store it here.
You can buy things in individual units here. You know how we usually buy yogurts in packs of six or whatever, and the price is for that many yogurts? Not here. They price yogurt per unit. You can do the same thing with juice boxes, chocolate milk boxes, all kinds of things that Americans usually buy in multiples.
Child rearing is a little different. Okay, I’m obviously not saying that Americans have one way of disciplining and forming their children, and Chileans have another way. What I want to say is that overall, children stay younger, for longer. I’m usually referred to as a niña. Which, when I learned Spanish, meant “little” or “young” girl. I thought that by now I’d at least be a muchacha, if not a full-fledged mujer. Not here. I wonder if that’s a cultural-linguistic thing. Language and culture are very closely linked. Could the fact that they’re still referring to girls my age as “niñitas” or “chiquillas” reflect how young they think we are, or how young they should treat us? Then again, people wonder why a girl of my age- aka, marriageable and child-bearing- is not pololeando (in a relationship).
But seriously. Americans, if you don’t like the idea of dating people who still live with their parents, good luck avoiding that in Santiago. If the person is from Santiago and unmarried, chances are, he or she lives at home, even well into their twenties or thirties. Sometimes there’s a push to get married, but there is no rush for people to get out of the house and start living independently while they’re single. None at all.
The taxi drivers almost never talk to you. This is the opposite of the New York cabbie stereotype, where they want to tell you everything about themselves and want to learn everything about you. They are silent here. Which is why I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when my cab driver complimented me on my Spanish and proceeded to talk to me over the course of a twenty minute cab ride. He was also probably the only cab driver who didn’t overcharge me!
This country is low on immigration in general, although more and more immigrants are arriving from Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. Because there are so few immigrants, they are easy to spot, and the Chileans are the best at knowing who’s a Chilean and who’s not. They can also probably pick out the person’s nationality. I’m working on another post about how to spot a Chilean versus a foreigner. How could you mix them up, you ask? Because Chileans, especially in certain parts of Santiago, are really quite European compared to other Latin Americans. When I get on the metro in the morning, most of my fellow passengers would fit right in in the States, and we would never guess that they don’t speak English. Stay tuned! It’s actually a pretty fun game.
A favorite pastime of young Chilean couples is to make out on public transportation. And when I say make out, I am not exaggerating. In the US, we tend to groan if people even sneak a kiss or hold hands on the sidewalk. I would be grateful if I could see a couple limit themselves to that. Nary a day goes by where I don’t see a couple making out so hard that they’re not even coming up for air. The other day, I was standing in one end of the car, and all the way at the other end, I could see a guy basically digging for clams in his girlfriend’s mouth. Yes, I am modest, but seriously! No one wants to see that! Not even the other Chileans! (Until they’re the ones doing it…)
They’re really into brushing their teeth. Which is good considering all of the tea and soda they drink.
Girls have a thing about washing their hair. Like, it’s gotta be washed and clean before they can go out, even if they’ve already showered that day. I don’t understand it.
The cookies are really not that good. Which is why when my host mom asked if I wanted to grab a bag of Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix, I absolutely said yes.
That’s life right now, guys! Keep an eye out for another post soon. Oh, and if anyone would like to contribute to the “Things I Know About Chileans” list, please comment!