miércoles, 24 de septiembre de 2008

Gringos and gringas

This is my contribution to the group-blogging as proposed by our fellow blogger Kyle and the readers of her excellent blog. Subject: How gringos are perceived by Chileans (in particular). Here we go:

--Update: Check out all the other posts written about the topic


-- end of update

What do I think of you? I have to start with one clarification: I use the word gringo(a) to refer in general to English-speaking people, and my views are based on the British, Irish, Americans and Australians I've met, and I know less Americans than European English-speakers. By no means I mean antything offensive or derogatory by using the word gringo (in other countries it has connotations, but not in Chilean Spanish).

Gringos are cool. Gringas too. That's my first impression and it's due to their straight-forward and let's-cut-the-crap attitude. I think I am bit like that too, so I kinda like you. It can be a bit much sometimes, but gradually one can get used to it because it makes everything more predictable. Probably is more difficult the other way around: a gringo having to get used to the Chilean ways.

So it all boils down to this: you're more straight forward, and what you're like 'what see is what you get' type of people. It can be brutal though to deal with you, particularly for Chileans.

Americans in general can be excessively optimistic, too loud and over the top, to the point of being annoyingly over-enthusiastic, can't wait to get things done and come across as too simplistic. Brits are green with envy of Americans and they try hard to disguise it but they fail, miserably. If you ask an American how they are doing, they answer: GREAT! AND YOU?! British say: 'I'm not too bad'. Americans say good morning! and they mean it. They talk more than the Europeans, and even after some brief small talk to a stranger in the lift they say good to know you, or something equally intense. At work Americans not only wish you a good weekend on Fridays, they even tell you Happy Friday. This is remarkable. Americans are energetic. British aren't. The stiff upper lip is the British way, and a Chilean person wouldn't find difficult living sorrounded by British people, because us being professional pessimists find less of an effort to understand the British psyche than the American one. If someone ask me how I am doing, in Spanish, I only reply "aquí estamos" which is the Chilean for "I'm not too bad".

Porn and general filth
There's this bizarre urban legend in Chile than anyone with fair hair, white complexion and a non-national is or has been engaged in the porn industry, or is a sex obsessive. Sadly, this is not true and it is an urban legend, and probably one day we may be able to pin point who came up with such lie, but we will never manage to find out how come so many people believe this absurdity.

The biggest misconception about these people is that gringas are easy and gringos are perverts. First, actually they come from a less sexually charged culture, and my theory is that Chileans love a sexually repressed society so they can intensify their sex experiences (don't ask how I came to this conclusion). Cheating for gringos is not OK, although I have met remarkable exceptions. For Chileans is part of the game. So there are no justified reasons to call them sex obsessives. Gringas dress more provocatively because they are less afraid of catcalling, and gringos come across as shy because of this. In fact, gringos are more concerned about STDs and are more pruddish about all sorts of exchange of fluids which is a natural part of the process of making babies, if you know what I mean (I can't believe I'm saying this!!). So in this regard, it's the Chileans who are the filthy ones. Gringos are squeaky-clean and mentally nonchalant, sort of.

Dating gringas
The gringa girls are great to hang out with, although when it comes to dating them, things turn ugly. (There are powerful reasons why I am in a relationship with a French woman and not with a gringa or -god forbid- a Chilena). For gringas there's this strong culture of 'dates' and they even count them, as in this is a first date, and then there's a second date, next oh, a third date, and ta-dah... a fourth date. Who else, other than yourselves, care about it?! I have been wondering how this works in Chile and I don't really know and I wouldn't dare to ask because people are not even going to understand the question. I think our way of dating is a mess. For Chileans the rule is 'there are no rules'. There's no such thing as a first date, and all that it entails, or a second date etc. I mean going out is less structured for us, we just go out, and preferably in a group. So you come across as a bit cold and as too obvious. Gringo culture make it really evident (you may start seeing a pattern here) when someone has taken a fancy to someone else.

I don't know how the online dating services are getting on in Chile but I suspect they may be an utter disaster. Chileans are less blatantly obvious to ask someone out on a date, so organising dates online is still confined to the weirdos. In English-speaking countries, ordering girlfriends and brides online is becoming more and more common.

Gringas tend to go out for dinner, a lot. That's the first cultural shock because we don't really have a meal like a dinner, we have once. If you have been living in Chile, you will know what I'm talking about, and you surely understand how different it is. Hell, we go for once, not dinner for goodness sake! And because when gringas in their own countries could not care less about people from other nationalities, you will realise it is not an easy task to woo you, if you know what I mean.

Gringas talk a lot. They are more articulate, they can verbalise things I didn't even know could be put into words, and they go on and on about all sort of topics. They tend to read a lot of self-help books and pyschology stuff, plus the huge influence from their celebrity culture (they have actual celebrities, unlike those gits on Chilean telly -- self-proclaimed celebrities), add that what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude, and the mixture is not too easy to digest. I shared a flat with two gringas for a couple of years and they literally organised 'Sex & The City sessions' and intoxicated with it. Seriously, it's just a TV show, and a boring one. They also snack obsessively whilst watching TV: chocolates, biscuits, sweets, the lot. Then they complain they are getting flabby and start buying low-carb low-GI low-calorie and low-fat food: disgusting. Hardly ever you find Chilean women as obssessed or even mildly interested in anything on TV, or in anything in general, other than the soaps.

Engaging in a conversation with a gringa is easy, while with a Chilean woman there's hardly ever anything interesting to talk about. Perhaps Chileans are more uptight cause they believe one is only trying to get into her knickers. One trick I learned is that the gringas really love a good listener (with all that talking, you have to) . This is virtually impossible with a Chilean because they don't talk, so there's not much to listen to.

Breaking up
Breaking up with the gringas is, as you can expect, fairly simple too. 'We have to talk, there's something I have to tell you... things aren't working, blah blah... fair enough, yeah I agree, bye'. With Chileans, you don't really know when you started so you don't really know when it's over either. It is quite unstable. But when it happens, it is intense. You can get back together with a Chilean after cheating (well, that's what I've seen) because it is somehow expected.

Gringos have with their families a very honest relationship, and that's great. 'Family first', we say in Chile. Rubbish. People just live with their families cause they can't afford otherwise and the culture of sharing flats has not taken off yet. For Chileans this means that family can bully you, treat you like shit, get on your way, give their opinions on things that should not concern anyone else, family feel entitled to frown upon what you do or don't do, or tell you whether they approve or disapprove your significant other. Because in Chile so many people live with their parents well into their 20s, even early 30s, Chileans lack independence. If the family is annoying, a gringo doesn't feel compelled to be in touch with the parents. So they are perceived as cold or even rutheless by the Chileans. I wonder what's going to happen when Chileans have more disposable income and can afford living on their own.

And going back on the gringa subject, as part of our mess when it comes to relationships, one striking difference is that only gringas are so obsessive about marriage and settling down. I mean gringos really see marriage as something else, it's not just a contract, or let alone a way to escape home. They are after being happy in a marriage and to purse a happy married life. They have wedding planners because the wedding is the most important day of your life for them. The sacrosanct concept of 'family first' in Chile gave way to a marriage terror (or maybe it's just me?), so the same ones who criticise the gringos over being 'cold' for not being in touch with their parents (because parents can be really awkward sometimes) put Chileans off marriage. Until recently divorce was not an option in Chile, so people just have mistresses and second lives (whoa, mysterious!), which is totally accepted and people pretend such things are not true. Lack of contraception also means too many young Chilean men have children and all this is regarded as normal, so a divorced gringo or an older one with no children can also amount to horror to Chileans. So probably all the neatly organised way of dating I described before is unconsciously designed to find the one.

I've never seen a campaign for breastfeeding in Chile, and I don't see the Chileans needing one in the near future. You just don't see women breastfeeding their children in public places in gringo countries. Formula milk is seriously frowned upon in Chile, same as gringos frown upon breastfeeding in public. You will not encounter a Chilean saying 'Breasts are for my husband' either. Well, they may very well be, but come on, what about the nutrition of that child! Girls, give some breast milk to your children (I know what you're thinking: yuk!). Again, you come across as cold people.

Actually, it's amazing to see how family can be equally important for gringos, even more so than for Chileans. Gringos see family as an essential part of their lives, and something that makes them happy. I would say that living in a culture with higher disposable income really turn people towards the pursue of emotional happiness rather than material obsession, since having food on the table and a roof over your head is less a dramatic task than in Third-World countries, so somehow the Chileans perceive gringos as materialist, but that's because in gringo societies there's more money in general. Gringos are quite different in this regard, and quite the opposite to Continental Europeans. Godless, childless France is a horror to gringos. In France, having a dog rather than a child and living on your own is socially accepted, not quite so in the English-speaking world.

Study the language
You can examine the language to understand what chileans think of gringos. One of the more common adjectives to describe gringos is desabridos, which means 'bland', but I think it refers to that WYSIWYG mode in which you function, to use computer terminology. Gringos are not dark horses, there's nothing mysterious about them either. Kind of 'fome' (boring) too.

Another word is rotos, as in lacking manners or being rude, very much related to the desabrido. Some years ago I went on a date with a Chilean girl who I had known for a while, and a couple of pisco sours later, slightly upset she said "you're so dull!". It was good for me to realise that being away from Chile had left a mark: I had become a desabrido guy! Sadly, I've met a few inter-cultural couples who have not lived happily ever after, and the main culprit is the desabrido thing.

The word roto though is quite unfair. 'Oh I'm soo sorry!' after barely someone touches you or slightly tread on your foot can't be considered rude. The English just say 'sorry', but they really mean F.O. Actually, Americans are really nice, even naive.

Buy a map
Broadly speaking, Americans ask 'where's that?' after I tell them I'm Chilean. Europeans usually reply 'I've been there' or 'I'd love to visit Chile'. America is a massive country and a continent in itself, but please... seriously buy a map.

Your comments are welcome.

23 comentarios:

Flo dijo...

I actually thought gringas frowned upon formula rather than breast milk more than Chilenas, but I must be reading too many New Age mags and books...I wonder though, why they would have invented the la leche league if they were so pro-formula.
Also, I'll let you in on a little secret: Chilenas are as obsessed with marriage as gringas. We just don't talk about it as much (as you see it we don't talk much about anything at all), out of fear of being ridiculous. That's actually what stops us from doing and saying many things, coming from such a small-minded society as the Chilean one, where everybody else's business becomes your own.
As for family, I think the main reason for people to live with their parents well past their 20s, more than lack of money, is judgement. Especially for women, who might be considered spinsters who gave up on finding the perfect guy or as plain lesbians, which is oh such a terrible sin. And everyone's business, of course. Besides, having big ol'machista mothers who make your bed everyday, wait for you till 9 pm to fix you dinner and wash your precious underwear like an infant, who wants to move out and do these things themselves?
BTW, love the British wording!

Mamacita Chilena dijo...

I have so many comments on this I don't even know where to begin. Mostly though, I think you pretty much nailed when it comes to both the good and the bad of the people from my culture.

Hmmm, everybody I know in this new age hippie day believes very strongly in breast feeding, although to be honest I think only 3 of my friends actually have babies so my opinion on that subject really doesn't count much. I guess I can't comment too much on what Flo says.

"Americans in general can be excessively optimistic, too loud and over the top, to the point of being annoyingly over-enthusiastic, can't wait to get things done and come across as too simplistic."

That description definitely fits me and most of my friends and family too.

When it come to the sex thing, I couldn't agree more. For instance, I've always wondered who invented the term, "andar a lo gringo," (without underwear, for anyone reading that doesn't speak Spanish) because I don't know a whole lot of gringas that don't use panties aside from the ever scandalous Britney Spears and Paris Hiltons of the world. I also think it's amazing how in clubs a Chilean guy will continue to try and dance up on top of a gringa girl even after she's told him no repeatedly, but I've never seen a Chilean guy try and do that to a Chilena girl.

"or Chileans the rule is 'there are no rules'. There's no such thing as a first date, and all that it entails, or a second date etc. I mean going out is less structured for us, we just go out, and preferably in a group."

Again, total agreement. I didn't even know my (then boyfriend) husband and I WERE dating until he mentioned that we had been together for like 9 months...hahaha, and we never officially pololear'ed either. I guess in that sense I'm a little different than my fellow gringas because I don't give a shit about labels. So I just assume if someone's with me he wants to be with me and if he leaves he doesn't like me anymore. quite simple really :)

Talking yep, Sex and the City, yep, breaking up is fairly simple, yep.

"'Family first', we say in Chile. Rubbish. People just live with their families cause they can't afford otherwise and the culture of sharing flats has not taken off yet. For Chileans this means that family can bully you, treat you like shit, get on your way, give their opinions on things that should not concern anyone else, family feel entitled to frown upon what you do or don't do, or tell you whether they approve or disapprove your significant other."

Oh my god, YES (and there I go again being the overly enthusiastic gringa again). I can't tell you how mad it makes me when Chileans try to tell me how much more they love their families because they live with them. I've gotten in numerous arguments with people here about this. I've lived with 4 different families in Chile and of those 3 were (are) completely disfunctional, everybody hates each other. Yet, for the simple reason that they live together I am supposed to believe they're more family oriented. LIES.

What does WYSIWYG mean?

And yes, buy a map gringos, please. I've been living here for three years now and a friend of mine told me that she just now figured out where Chile is. I love her, but seriously?!?

sorry for leaving you the longest comment ever but your post was great. It was really funny to read your thoughts on us!!!

Emily dijo...

This post was great! I loved it, agreed with a lot of it from my own experience and enjoyed hearing your take on things. I agree that we tend to be more "what you see is what you get", which is why so many of us have had problems learning that when Chileans aren't as straightforward it's just culture, they don't necessarily hate us!

I've also started noticing that in how people talk. Whether it's differences between English and Spanish in general or US English and Chilean Spanish I'm not entirely sure, but I tend to say things much more directly in English than people here do in Spanish. I even find myself using 10 words when 2 will do when I'm speaking Spanish, because that's how I've learned to speak! It often seems that it's seen as more polite to say something in a round-about way than to just spit it out directly. What do you think?

Overall I really enjoyed both the style and content of your post - looking forward to reading more!

Anónimo dijo...

Regarding breastfeeding, in Europe there seems to be sort of a U-shaped curve with regard to acceptance of the practice in public. Breastfeeding in public is fully accepted in the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, etcetera). Remarkably the same is true in Southern European countries like Italy (as in Latin countries outside Europe, like Chile). Lying in between these two regions, though, until recently public breastfeeding was considered indecent in Anglo-Saxon societies, including, I'm ashamed to say, Canada.

I think it's changing somewhat now. I have breastfed my daughter in public, and nobody has said anything to me, though I usually try to "cover up" as best I can. But if anybody says anything, I've resolved to say they (the breasts) are just modified sweat glands.


Anónimo dijo...

Great blog...but also a bit terrifying, but hey, there are generalizations EVERYHWERE and I guess that's they way we comprehend life and living. Kyle, could that perhaps be a topic for your blog at some point?
My first thought when the idea of discussing Chileans perception on Gringos occurred was; what am I? I guess being blond, fair-skinned and tall automatically makes me GRINGA, but hey I am Danish and before I feel European or gringa; I first and foremost, fell Danish and then Scandinavian. I guess that’s why visiting San Cristobal and hearing a Chilean man whispering to his wife “Look at that gringa”, I simply had to turn around and say, “ This gringa is Danish and she speaks Spanish too– Have a nice day!” and then I walked away. I wish I would have stayed long enough to see the expression on their faces, but I guess I was too chocked about my own behavior… The thing is that I don’t fell more similar to Americans, British, French people that I do to Chileans or other Latinos for that matter. Culturally, I feel closer to Scandinavians perhaps, but I actually I feel closer to people that have tried things similar to what I have done, studied the same, travel, lived abroad etc. As I love to say in Danish (- and I will do the unforgivable and translate directly) “We have the same frame of reference”….Comprendes?
Makes me laugh to think of the breast feeding issue – I live in Brussels and have a Danish friend who gave birth in a hospital here, who upon breastfeeding with meet with the stereotype comment “Arggg, you Scandinavians NEVER have problems breast feeding - You just offers the breast and voila” ……
To conclude, stereotypes and generalizations are to be found everywhere and is in my point of view a natural thing for us human beings to comprehend and deal with life in all its forms and shapes – the trick is not letting them you control you and robe you of fun and interesting encounters with “strangers” and cultures different from your own……
Cheers Caroline
Pd. At university I read some theories by Geert Hofstede, a Dutch writer who have written a lot on intercultural communication and interactions between cultures. For those interested in the topic, I may be worthwhile checking out his work!

Anónimo dijo...

And SORRY for the typing/organisation of the language in my blog (why isn't there an edit function in Blogger?) it is 9.30 here and still early for this Gringa ;o)

Chile Liberal dijo...

@Flo: on the marriage issue, fair enough, Chileans women appear less over-excited about it, but I'd like to ellaborate more on it. Gringos (broadly all First-World white peoples) tend to be more choosy when it comes to marriage. They go wild at college then they enjoy their 20s and then settle down, and once they start up a family they really care about it. Then they are devoted parents.

Seriously, how many people in Chile do that? Not many. Main reasons to get married in Chile: pregnancy, escaping home, or family pressure. For some Chileans, even fathering several children with several women is a sign of sexual prowess (a dissappearing trend, certainly). Gringas take their time and if not married in their 30s it's not a big deal. For Chileans marriage is a thing you have to do, while I think in more advanced societies is a question of choice so it is something important. Crucially, gringas also expect to carry on with their careers, that's why they got an education in the first place, while Chileans just mean to prove they can get qualifications and drop their jobs. I blame society for this, as there's no law or anything forcing women to act like this, but it's the women themselves who have to demand a change. In Norway now there's a law forcing companies to have a quota for women in the directories... we're nowhere near that level of progressive thinking.

So there's nothing quite exciting about the married life for Chilean women. I have heard so many times gringas telling how they picture their perfect wedding, and they all say the same thing: the perfect man, small wedding but meaningful, etc. I have never, ever, heard a Chilena telling people how they imagine their perfect wedding.

As everything in Chile, this is surely changing, but I don't think I'm too wrong about this.

@Kyle: you probably remember the first Amor Ciego programme. Well, I don't know if you saw the gringo version but that TV show proves my point.

In the gringo version, the lady at the end is offered either to choose between the guy or X amount of money. The twist was absolutely great, because in the American programme, the actual twist was that if she chose the guy, she would actually get twice the money. A perfect happy ending because the woman chose the guy, so she was happy, but she ended up rich too.

In Chile, nothing happened between Cari and Edmundo (Amor Ciego 1). There was no twist. Flippin' boring!! We just don't do dates, we just don't get it. After all the episodes nothing happens... terrible.

And one thing also, nobody ever asks the quivalent to 'is this a date?' in Chile.

WYSIWYG = what you see is what you get.

@Emily: oh yeah at work communication is a serious problem. Chileans usually don't admit to their mistakes, even if by doing so a problem can be fixed quicker than if they keep denying a mistake. Being blunt may be exclusively a North-American thing. I vividly remember once one training session on communications at work I had to attend, this was badly needed cos I work in a sort of 'statless company' with different nationalities, so you can imagine the difficulties. I remember the person conducting the training having herself problems to make herself understood (and it was on 'effective communication'!). At one stage she said 'express your feelings' but everyone laughed! It's only the Americans who communicate this way, expressing themselves, so if I were you I'd try to take it easy because the Chileans always say 'yes' just not to dissapoint but they don't necessarily keep their promises. You may have found that complaining or asking for people to be held accountablle doesn't always help. They are not going to hurry up for you unless you use the 'nicely nicely' approach. Chileans also use jokes to say things, don't read too much into every jokoe people make (Chileans are funny, aren't we?) but occasionally they are used to mean something else.

My favourite one is the way to complain about being late, they say 'good evening' if someone has arrived late for work. Brilliant!

@Emilia: actually that's the word I was looking for: 'Anglo-Saxon societies' (the Irish hate the word Anglo-Saxon but it applies to them too). My girlfriend (I'm not joking) has 'read somewhere' that breast milk is bad, and she blames that for my serious hayfever problems, and claims that her excellent health is due to formula milk she was given when she was little.

Well in Chile mothers do cover up, which I find reasonable, but I rememember my Chilean friend in London having to go back to the car because her own husband and friends warned her not to do it in public. I remember at the time my friend saying she wouldn't dare to sport the cleaveges that the other girls had, and nobody said anything about it, but seeing a woman breastfeeding her child made a private guard in a shopping centre tell her -politely though- to do that 'in a more comfortable place', sort of.

I think Italy and Spain may be more like Chile, and I do believe that breastfeeding may have some benefits not only from a nutritional point of view but as something emotional as well. My Chilean friend there bitterly complained against it, that's why I mentioned it.

@Caroline: yeah the Danes are gringos too, although the word applies more to English-speakers. The difference is that Scandinavia is a completely idealised society, but I really think there's something extraordinarily civilised there, and also people love their children up North of Europe. I have briefly visited Sweden and Denmark and I remember at 5 people were leaving work, no massive traffic jams and people no matter how busy they were would collect their children from school and look after them because we work to live and not live to work!

I actually meant to talk about stereotypes and generalizations, and I expect people to correct my opinions and question them, because I may be wrong, or even contradicting myself. I understand it's wrong to generalise, that's why somehow I tried to be funny. However, each thing I wrote is based on an anecdote or something that actually has happened and I found plausible that it could be applied in general.

I loved one thing you said 'I feel closer to people that have tried things similar to what I have done, studied the same, travel, lived abroad'. I have made friends from all over the world and is so great to have things in common with people from different countries.

For anything off-the-wall I may have said, feel free to criticise or comment on.

--- Off topic

20 or more years ago people only pitied the Chileans and we were only worthy of compassion. I'm glad to see now people moving to Chile and demanding better services and criticising the country. More and more people are now going to Chile to study and work and it is absolutely great.

Lori - Blondie in Brazil dijo...

I found this post so interesting! I think you may have a better attitude towards Americans than even I do. :)

I cracked up about the eating snacks in front of the tv and then complaining about being fat. Ha, ha! That is so true in many cases.

There is a huge push for the acceptance of breastfeeding in public in the US now. It definitely is not as common as in other countries but you see it more and more. The mothers are also armed with all the laws passed when someone complains and are quite willing to take it to the media.

I was completely naive about the porn thing. Not sure if that is the same case in Brazil or not.

Great post!

Fned dijo...

Wow Carlos, what an insightful post. I have to agree with Caroline on the fact that generalizations are everywhere, but then again... so are exceptions!

Take me for an example:

I'm a half gringa half mexican. So this should make it actually easier for me to describe gringas from a mexican (latin american?) point of view and viceversa, right? Wrong. I have met specimens that confirms each and every one of the points you make in your post on gringa(o) behaviour.... and then again, I have met specimens that CONTRADICT each and every one of the points you make in your post on gringa(o) behaviour!!

Let's add another coat of complex-ness (is that even a word?) into the equation: I'm married to a Frenchman (I guess you know how THAT goes, right? LOL). So when he tells me off for doing something too american or too mexican, I have to ask myself, how does he come to this conclusion?

Because the truth of the matter is I can't put a finger on what exactly makes one Mexican and what makes one a Gringa. I am loud and extravagant but that's because I grew up with a bunch of loud and extravagant mexican girlfriends. I am blond and blue eyed but that's because my (mexican side) grand-father was blond and blue eyed. I smile to people in the street and trust that they have good intentions but keep a tight grip on my purse in any an all circumstances. I walk in the streets with maps in my OWN hometown but only because I'm orientation-impaired, I don't yet know how I feel about breastfeeding since I'm not a mom, but I do know I'm a prude when it comes to going topless at the beach....

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, what makes this world so interesting is that for every cliché out there, there is an opposite that destroys the very notion of the cliché in the first place... ;)

As you say in your "haga su comentario box: "viva la diferencia!"

Au plaisir de te relire très prochainement!! :)


Sara dijo...

I don't know if I've ever read such an accurate portrait of gringos by a Chilean. I think it's an awesome post. Good job!

Su Excelencia dijo...

"In Norway now there's a law forcing companies to have a quota for women in the directories... we're nowhere near that level of progressive thinking."

I may be opening a can of worms, but reverse discrimination is not progressive. It's idiotic. And profoundly illiberal.

The nanny state needs to fuck off and let people make their own choices. Not to mention that men are overrepresented among very intelligent (as well as very dumb) people. It's only natural (even ignoring life choices) that men will be overrepresented in the upper (and lower) end of the occupational scale.

Anónimo dijo...

Chile liberal....
First and foremost, please excuse me if my comments left you with the impression that I was offend! That is not the case at all! Stereotypes and generalizations is in my opinion part of life and necessary for us to be able to take in the world – my only point was just always to remember to not let them overrule and influence our interaction with otter people.
All the best Caroline

Anónimo dijo...

very interesting point of view. I definitely can see your point on a lot of the topics that you covered.

I would like to say one thing though... The US is a large country with a diverse collection of people - as I am sure you have realized - but oddly enough, most of the gringos I have met in Chile all seem to be from the the mid-west of the US. This will definitely give you an inaccurate representation of US gringos. I am not from the mid-west (I am from the Northeast of the US), and I can say with confidence that people where I live are not overly friendly and naive. They are downright distant, cold, and distrustful --- ask someone for directions at a subway station and they will look at you like you just told them you have 12 toes. In fact, I have had more people ask me for directions in Santiago in the past year than I ever have in my whole life in my city in the US.

I think your generalizations and stereotypes of gringos are fairly accurate, but I personally cannot relate to being overly nice / optimistic / overly enthusiastic. I think you need more East coast - ers in Chile. :o)

- US Expat in Chile (east coast representative)

Anónimo dijo...

I hope Chilean women continue to breastfeed in great numbers (a recent study showed that over 90% of them did when their baby was three months old, which is much higher than the US rate and equal to that in the Scandinavian countries, which are considered the gold standard for breastfeeding). After the tainted formula scandal in China, you can never be too careful!


Maeskizzle dijo...

Nice post! Very accurate.

I was surprised about the perception that gringos are involved in the porn industry! Wow. I've never come across that. Although it seems porn has hit the mainstream in the US. It's not as taboo as it used to be.

You mentioned that in Chile people aren't as willing to accept responsibility for their mistakes. I totally agree, but I do sympathize, because here, when once I did admit I was wrong and the other parties involved in the problem also had screwed up, one of the parties tried to pin the whole problem on me since I admitted I was at fault. But I clearly wasn't the only one who had screwed up to cause the problem. Basically people are waiting for a scape goat to pin the blame on, so it's almost stupid to admit you screwed up in some circumstances here in Chilito.

About generalizations...I think they should be made, and then changed as need be. Without generalizations, would culture exist? What is culture? It's about ways people act, customs, habits. People's personalities are influenced by the cultures they grow up in, they form habits. And the culture hybrids and exceptions are also a part of it all. Culture isn't a monolithic entity, it's more a dynamic one, self-reflective, and a bit of a mosaic. Siobhan Shilton, Tzetzan Todorov and Clifford Geertz have interesting things to say about the topic.

Cristian Cruz dijo...

Hola, no encontré tu mail en ninguna parte del blog así que voy a postearlo en el foro no más. Perdón por contaminar la discusión con algo que no tiene nada que ver, pero me parece importante.

Acabo de ver en ViaX el documental "Root of all Evil" de Richard Dawkins, y quedé muy metido con el tema del adoctrinamiento de los niños. Busqué en google por Richard Dawkins y llegué a su sitio oficial, donde me encontré con la campaña OUT. Creo que vale la pena revisarla y promocionarla, así como añadir el banner de la campaña en tu blog, ya que creo que apuntan en el mismo sentido.

Para mayor información revisen richarddawkins.net y outcampaign.org



Chile Liberal dijo...

@Lori: I think in Brazil they have their own porn industry. I presume that in Chile the pornographic material was always imported from the US and Europe, so people thought it was a major industry that employed lots of people. Nowadays, the stereotype is less strong though. It is mentioned, if I remember correctly, in the Lonely Planet Guide.

Fned: (I think you meant 'complexity') If you smile to people on the steet in France, particularly Paris... they are going to think you're not OK. Those people are sooo grumpy! Unreal.

One thing about maps is that in most UK and Ireland cities, you open up a map and someone comes to to give you directions. Something never seen in Continental Europe.

Chileans think of themselves as very nice but they aren't very helpful. And the French Routard guide warns people not to ask directions in Chile because Chileans never admit they don't know, so they can say anything! That was so funny, but so true.

I don't have that multicultural part in me, cos I am as Chilean as porotos, as we say, but it must be so good to have parents from different cultures.

BTW, about going topless on the beach, my girlfriend thinks it's something old-fashioned now in France. I believe that in Chile it's even ilegal!

Su Excelencia: we'll leave that for later, but you're right I'm far off the libertarian orthodoxy, but I believe in pragmatism too.

Caroline: no, not at all, I didn't take offence. But if you check out the Spanish posts here, you will see that Chileans like to insult each other ;-)

That's one difference I didn't write about. Like the Australians, who call each other bastards all the time, the Chileans call each other all sort of offensive names. That can be quite a shock for others, even other Spanish speakers.

But anyway, I meant to generalise in a good way. I didn't mean to vent anger.

@Anónimo: good then, to have an East Coast representative. I think the stereotype for east-coasters in the rest of the US is arrogance, but yeah it's a massive country, not easy to generalise.

@Emilia: of you can have the link the source of the data, let me know. In Chile a law was passed and now women can breastfeed their children even at work (sorry, didn't find a link in English)

@Maeskizzle: individual responsibility and accontability in Chile aren't very strong. Imagine that someone who ruled the country killed 3 thousand and they 'disappeared' and the lie went on and on for decades. Nobody was held to account.

I read your blog and this article you posted was excellent!

As I said above, the french tourist guide to Chile warn visitors not to ask for directions because Chileans can say anything. So even lying or denying evidence in Chile is quite OK.

@Cristian: sí, ve todos los artículos aquí sobre Richard Dawkins. Escríbeme a chileliberal@gmail.com

kumichan83 dijo...

Gringas dress provocatively? I think some do but I have seen Chilenas dress way more provocatively.

About breastfeeding, well I am not sure how it is in Chile but here in Ecuador formula feeding is very popular. Breastfeeding is seen as low class, which is very sad. In public here in Quito I only see formula feeders in middle-class areas. I have only seen indigenous women breastfeed in public.
Breastfeeding is definitely making a comeback in the US though. Basically American women are wusses when it comes to childbirth. They want everything to be as painless as possible, hence the planned cesarians and high number of epidurals. Breastfeeding is challenging and it hurts. Many ppl. try breastfeeding but give up quickly because they can't take the pain.

Mamacita Chilena dijo...

This discussion is great, and I have tons of comments, but I don't know where to start...

Let's see. I'll begin with stereotypes and generalizations. Like Fned said you can usually find someone to prove the rule and someone to disprove it. I think as long as you are willing to accept that there are exceptions to the rule, then making generalizations is not necessarily an unhealthy thing. It helps us figure out a culture and where we fit within that culture.

To the person who says that having a quota for women is the opposite of progressive, I respectfully disagree. Minorities and women are often born having more odds stacked against them. Having laws that facilitate inclusion in the workplace or in education helps them get a foot in the door. I could go into that a lot further but that's a whole separate topic.

Carlos, yep, I did see Amor Ciego in the beginning, because I guy I had once met was on it. I watched until he got kicked off. I had no idea the ending was so anti-climatic. How boring!

Caroline, I wish you would start a blog because you always have very insightful comments!

U.S. expat East Coast rep is probably right. I have no experience with that part of the U.S. but am looking forward to traveling through on our trip around the world to see just how varied my culture really is. I don't know as much of my own country as I wish I did! And it is weird, but there does seem to be a disproportionate amount of Midwest gringos that live in Chile. Maybe it's because we are all escaping from our boring small town lives back in the U.S. and Northeasteners like where they live more so don't feel the need to leave? I have no clue, I'm just blindly speculating.

Anónimo dijo...

Here is an abstract of the article in question:

J Hum Lact. 2008 Sep 10. [Epub ahead of print] Links
Factors Associated With Exclusive Breastfeeding at 3 Months Postpartum in Valdivia, Chile.Barría RM, Santander G, Victoriano T.
A prospective cohort study was conducted in 315 mother-newborn dyads from Valdivia, Chile. A questionnaire was administered to mothers before 48 hours postpartum, and sociodemographic, obstetric, and neonatal data were collected. At 3 months postpartum, a follow-up by telephone interview or home visit was made, determining the proportion of mothers providing exclusive breastfeeding. Multivariate logistic regression was carried out to identify variables significantly associated with exclusive breastfeeding. Follow-up data showed 98.1% were breastfeeding, and exclusive breastfeeding reached 69.5%. Withdrawal of exclusive breastfeeding was positively associated with single marital status (odds ratio, 2.49; 95% confidence interval: 1.48-4.20) and smoking during pregnancy (odds ratio, 2.61; 95% confidence interval: 1.48-4.60), while maternal education greater than 8 years was associated with continuation of exclusive breastfeeding (odds ratio, 0.45; 95% confidence interval: 0.24-0.84). Breastfeeding education strategies addressed to high-risk pregnant women (single with a low education level) must be emphasized in addition to prevention of nonhealthy habits, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption during gestation.

However, to get the full article you would either have to go to a library or subscribe to the journal electronically.


Mariela dijo...

From a Chilean ex-pat living in the USA (below the bible-belt area.)-- Good post.

Could you do one with Chilean "words" that a gringo businessman would find useful?

Lots of sites deal with this but, you know, Chilenos drop so many letters & endings to words, I don't see how any gringo manages to learn "Spanish." -- Gracias!!

Anónimo dijo...

I have a question for Americans, Danes and Chileans. Any responses or opinions are much appreciated.
Let's beging saying that I love to see gringos and Danes in Chile (way more than Peruvians, long story lol), and I'm usually the first to approach and offer help, when I spot tourists with the worldwide known "I'm lost" face.
I'd dare to think that I'm decently ranked in the female radar, because I noticed some attention and smiles from Danish and American girls, specially in airports, their countries and here in Chile.

Ok, here the questions:

AMERICANS: Why anytime I come across a group of 2+ gringos, they start talking in loud Spanish almost compulsively (whatever their fluency level)?

Possible causes: they'd just want to have some small talk with locals in genral, or with me in particular, they're trying not to be spotted as foreigners, "ugly americans", etc., or they're bragging or joking to each other about their spanish or about us Chileans,

DANES: When in Denmark, Why do they stare at you on the streets? Why do they follow you, or stand close behind your back when you take pictures, or wander around through your cities?

Possible causes: I'm an awesome hispanic stud, a disturbingly ugly alien, or taking pictures and looking up the buildings is the most awkward attitude in Viking lands?

CHILEANS: Why are you(we) so awkwardly distant and rude to gringos? I mean, I've witnessed groups of Chileans goung from laughing to the most awkward silence in just 10 secs, when gringos approach in, even when gringos act extremely friendly. As soon as the gringos feel embarassed and move away, Chileans resume the laughter which makes everything even more rude and awkward. Making even the most friendly American buddies feel bad or offended. Why is that provincial attitude?

Excellent blog, Congrats!

Patricio dijo...

Nice Blog I laughed a lot greetings to the gringas( Danish,Americans,Canadians,Germans,British) girls.
as Einstein said everything is relative. :)