A few days ago there was a group post about how to alienate Chileans. There was a bit of drama in the comment section over at Margaret’s. I was lambasted in several comments for my deplorable lack of table manners and social etiquette—which is hilarious –I did say I could alienate a Chilean, and it seems I did just that. There is, of course, another side to the story: how to endear yourself to Chileans. Some of the other gringas mentioned some great general suggestions in their posts, so I tried to come up with some different ones (though some are similar).
1) Cook for them: several of the others have mentioned becoming familiar with and complimenting the Chilean foods that you like. I like to think that it is not just about absorbing Chilean culture and eating Chilean food, it is about sharing cultures. I think I first impressed my husband’s family when I cooked Christmas dinner for them one year: roast turkey with oven-roasted vegetables, homemade bread-sticks, fresh strawberry pie for desert. Even my husband’s grandfather, who was on a strict diet, made an exception and ate dinner with us, savoring every bite and asking for seconds. I was also known where I worked for my baked goods.
2) Compare Chile favorably with Argentina: Chile has a bit of rivalry going on with several neighboring countries, but they feel most inferior (undeservedly so, in many regards) when it comes to Argentina: Argentina is bigger; Buenos Aires is supposedly more cosmopolitan; both Argentine men and women are famous for their good looks. Ignore all that and point out that Chile has far better beaches and that Chilean wine is superior. If all else fails tell Argentine jokes (all in jest, of course, I have Argentine friends that I love dearly, so no insults intended).
Como se suicida un argentino? Se sube al ego y se tira.
How does an Argentine commit suicide? He climbs to the top of his ego and throws himself off.
3) Fall in love with a Chilean: although younger Chilean women don’t seem crazy about this if you are a woman dating a Chilean man, the older generations and most men wink and smile knowingly. They love to imagine that they are irresistible to foreigners (and some of them are!) It then makes total sense why you have been in Chile so long. Of course, the downside to this one is that if you are not dating anyone it is harder to explain why you are in Chile—so you may want to invent a boy/girl-friend.
4) Talk about travel in Chile: one of the first questions Chileans ask you is how much of Chile you know. They don’t seem to think that you really know Chile until you have traveled quite a bit. They love talking about getting out of Santiago and discovering provincial Chile: the beauty of the lake region in the south and the solitude of the desert in the north. Ask them for suggestions on where to go for the next long weekend.
5) Tell them you met some Chileans while traveling in Europe or elsewhere: they love hearing about their own kind in far-away places. I think because they are a small country, knowing that there are Chileans spread out all over the globe makes them feel warm and rosy. As an added bonus, laugh about how the Chileans you met had outsmarted the subway system and were riding free: though Chileans are mostly law-abiding and they will outwardly lament “el pillo chileno” (the sneaky Chilean), they secretly seem to love that their compatriots are known for the mischievous ways they bend the rules.
Other ways to fit in: