Si Po!

There are many ways in which Santiago could really be any city.  Standing in certain parts of it, you could look up at the office buildings and not really be able to place yourself.  But then you’d look down at the young couple making out in front of you, or the woman selling empanadas on the corner, and you’d remember where you were. You´d also probably hear someone say ¨po¨ at the end of a sentence.  It means absolutely nothing but Chileans say it all the time.  I like to compare it to the Canadian ¨eh¨.


So here are some random things about Chile that are neither here nor there, but just different.  Well actually, there’s mostly here and not at all there if there is the U.S.


  1. Fanny packs are not for dorky tourists with stripes of zinc on their noses.  They are worn stylishly on the hip and are for smart people who don’t want to be robbed on the metro.  Dad, I’ve been using one of the beige ones you bought that I once made fun of.  Thanks.  Also, fanny packs are called bananas.  Bananas are called platanos.  I don’t know what plantains would be called but we’re not in Central America so I haven’t seen any.
  2. Chileans do not drink nor have most of them heard of normal coffee.  They don’t understand the concept, unless they’ve been to Starbucks where it is called cafe del dia and costs the same amount it does in the U.S.  Chileans drink instant coffee or espresso.  They drink a ton of tea though, a remnant of a period of British colonization at some point.
  3. Speaking of Starbucks, while they do have dependable wireless and thus I am forced there to find internet access on my own computer, they are also the favorite place of foreigners.  There are real live Chileans to be found there, but I’ve never been in one without hearing any English.  I met some St. Joe’s students at a Starbucks and have since seen them another time in the same Starbucks and then today at another Starbucks clear across town.  We’re trying to hang out outside of Starbucks sometime maybe.
  4. Starbucks is also where I found the only Chilean who has pronounced my name right thus far.  Usually it sounds more like Ereen here, and if I pronounce it my way when introducing myself, the person usually gives me a blank stare or says something that sounds closer to Harry than Erin.  Once I say it with a more Spanish pronunciation I, without fail, get the following response (no joke): “Oh! Como Erin Brokovitch!” and a huge smile of comprehension. 
  5. When people sneeze, no one really says anything.  Those of us from the U.S. just get really antsy and uncomfortable.
  6. Firefighters in Chile are all volunteer firefighters.  The fire companies started as social clubs.  Every single one began as just a group of people trying to look out for their community.  They’re still, as far as I understand, not connected to the government (which strikes me as odd in a country that wants to lean Socialist).
  7. PDA is much much more accepted here.  Everywhere you go you see couples making out.  I’ve also seen a lot of people making out with their eyes open.
  8. The background of the city is the Andes mountains.  This isn’t really something I’m particularly proud of noticing.  It’s pretty obvious—doesn’t take much observation to figure out.  But still, it’s beautiful. 
  9. Chileans really like to not use their refrigerators.  They leave a lot of stuff out on the counter that we wouldn’t, like butter, and my lunch.
  10. Chileans love mayonnaise.  It, like most sauces and things of similar consistency, comes in a bag.  Other things that come in a bag include yogurt and manjar (a tasty caramel spread). 
  11. Chileans also love lemon juice and think it counts as salad dressing.  Similarly to my real family, they also often use just lettuce as a salad.  They however (in contrast to the Wasserman-Taylors), don’t think they’re fooling anyone.  If they pass you a bowl of lettuce they say “would you like some lettuce” not “would you like some salad”. 
  12. Olive oil in Spanish is aceite de oliva, but olive is aceituna, not oliva.  Weird right?
  13. Chilean radio stations play tons of outdated music from the U.S. (and some up to date stuff too, like Burning Up by the Jonas Brothers).  They also play a lot of Beatles, which Chileans then sing a long to, which I love.  They also play a lot of Madonna because she’s playing a concert here in December.  This I do not love.
  14. Since Chile is so long, on maps (in books, and on TV for the weather) they often chop it in half and lay the halves side by side on the page.  I find this endlessly amusing.
  15. Chileans do not drink water.  They drink tea, coffee, pisco, wine, beer, and lots of juice made from sugar free fruit flavored powders, but no water.  If they do drink water (and yes, I realize that’s contradictory because I just said they don’t) they drink it with bubbles and from a bottle.
  16. I love the rhythm of Chilean speech.  It’s full of emotion and exclamations of how ____ everything is.  How cool! How terrible! How boring.  How delicious. 
  17. There are lots of streets named after days, like Avenue of September 11th.
  18. The most intriguing thing about me to most Chileans my age (and above) is that I left my home at the tender young age of 18 to go live at college away from my house, in a dorm, with no real supervision, and with guys next door to boot.  oHoHowever hlo
  19. I’m growing to love the cheek kiss.  Chileans are incredibly warm and welcoming and helpful.  I think a culture that greets people with more of an embrace must have something to do with creating that. 

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