domingo, 5 de octubre de 2008
What do Chileans think about gringos?
Nota: A pesar de que me parece lo más siútico del mundo escribir en inglés -especialmente en mi blog- esta entrada se justifica con un tema llevado a cabo por un grupo de bloggeros de habla inglesa (estadounidenses en su mayoría) en el cual el tema es la opinión de los chilenos respecto de los gringos y obviamente el idioma hablado por la mayoría de los bloggeros es el inglés. Dada la aclaración, abro el paso a la columna en cuestión.
Estos son los enlaces a los otros comentarios de los otros bloggeros, denles un vistazo
What do Chileans think about gringos? It'a damn funny question. The answer could actually span a really long comment, but let's try to keep it as short and readable as possible.
In my extremely personal point of view I could say that we perceive them as stupid. And naive. Both adjectives have really different meanings, the first meaning not educated or not cultured and the second being related to trustness. Now, before I get criticized I want to explain myself better. What do I exactly mean by stupid? Working as a customer care executive for Vonage I was able to talk to a lot of gringo customers that had issues with their phone service. And after trying to do my job the best I could I got to the point in which the traditionally professional chatting with the customers got a little bit "warmer", being constantly asked if I was British -mind you? British... hell no, proudly born and raised Chilean-. After my negative reply, they proceeded to inquire my location to which I repplied South America. After that I got lots of wacky answers, being the funniest the next one: "I'm in the south of America too, in Texas" which I repplied with a "no sir, I'm from South America, the southern part of the American continent". After that came the question "Which country is that" to which I followed with "Chile, my country's name is Chile" and ending in the surreal repply "like the pepper?"... "Yes sir, like the pepper" I answered while trying not to laugh. To me, that is STUPIDITY. Of course I know that is just a case in between millions of people, but conversations like that were usual in my past job. So I can say that there could be a point on what it's about the average gringo.
However, the gringo that travels is a whole different story. First of all, if they dared to travel outside the states is a big difference that in my opinion makes them culturally different. They are open to know different cultures and accept the challenge to go to a strange place. However, we can still see that they have these traits that I have decided to call "cultural flaws": not knowing anything about the countries they go to (in this case Chile), not trying to learn a little bit of the language spoken in the country (in this case Spanish), generally taking things for granted and pretending that they are the most important people in the streets. That is what I have heard to be referred as "the tourist gringo thing". To illustrate this point, I will comment some situations that constantly happened and I witnessed while I was a bellboy at a 5 stars hotel in Santiago. Generally we had this gringo guy with the flashy outfit (the funny shirt with palm trees, weird trousers and the even weirdiest mix of wearing sandals while wearing colorful socks that made you think if the guy was some kind of rainbow or if he was trying to make an entrance or whether he intendedly wanted to horrify the theory behind the mix of colors, just like chilean pokemones) and the expensive camera going out early in the morning to take a tour. Since we are supposed to care for our customers, the guys that were in the shifts with me tried to warn them about the sensitive topic of being careful with the cameras and other belongings. At this point we got 2 kinds of answers: thanks a lot or what the hell you just said. By some odd reason some of them felt offended and didn't care of what we told them, even though we didn't addressed the funny outfit (which we all wanted to do, but we couldn't since we're not supposed to put our noses in the style matter referred to customers). Sadly, too many times we experienced the comeback of a sad passenger 'cause he was just robbed. That sucks, specially when you think that lots of memories of a trip are stored in those electronic devices called cameras. Now, what I think is odd is that even though you warned them, half of them didn't care about it or felt offended, so we came to the conclusion that they felt like superheroes that couldn't be robbed or whatsoever. Now, I understand that is not their business if we in Santiago (not Chile) have the bad custom of robbing every single thing that we can, but what's weird is that if you're given an advice you should take it, specially if it comes from a person that is supposed to try to make your staying the best he can.
Anyways, mixed guilty parties on this one.
The other type of tourist is the guy that actually thanks your advice and tries the best to be friendly and learn about the country. That's my favorite tourist personally. They come back to the hotel and start small chatting about what they just saw in the tour, about what they learned and what caught their attention. They inquire about lots of topics, they want to know and show it. And they have another trait: if they don't know spanish, they learn a single phrase everyday. That makes them lovely. Of course sometimes some weird situations can be generated out of this, but is part of the game. I remember now some USA marines that were in Santiago due to an International Meeting regarding aeronautics called FIDAE. Those guys rocked and were funny. I really hate wars, military and stuff like that, but those guys were the funniest and warmest "tourists" I've ever known. There was one of them who learned -and practiced- a greeting every single day during his time here. You could see him in the morning saying "Buenos días" and also at 10pm when he was returning to the hotel greeting you with a "Buenos días". It didn't matter, he was the nicest guy on earth and learned a greeting to make you feel better as a bellboy. At the end of his staying he knew lots of bad words -which we let him know about- and greetings, as well to know exactly when to apply them. Besides, they had this really hot MILF that was a Lt... but that's another topic.
Conclusion of these type of gringos: nice at all, sometimes culturally flawed but extrmely good tippers (and that's something you thank after seeing all of us Chileans being so bad tippers or Argentineans that also are extremely cheap guys).
And now comes the third type of gringo I know. Before you continue reading, I want to make a disclaimer: if you're a gringo and hate me by now, I understand it. I'd actually hate myself, but keep reading, this is just getting better. The third type is the one in which most of the gringo people that I've befriended fit in. These are the guys that are not the crazy monkeys out in the streets of USA supporting Bush or any other mass-murderer president of the States (with the last one not being a murderer... the 16th president of the States, Mr. Lincoln). These are the guys (guys=boys and girls here) that come whether as a part of exchange programs or to work in Chile for some weird reason that I still don't fully understand. These are usually from the most diverse places around: from the fancy but frivolous and banal Big Apple to the "townish" small neighborhoods of Portland. These guys are usually out in search of new horizons, in search of cultural exchange and in search of some serious fun plus some seriuous and profound conversations. These people are actually the ones that have completely changed my mind about the typical fast food eating, funny clothes wearing and paranoid gringo stereotype that I always had before meeting them. They usually have taken classes of spanish while in the states in order to try to communicate with Chileans just to arrive and start feeling frustrated because of the twisted way (and sometimes evil ways, to use a Santana song) we speak spanish down here. They are usually the guys that you can see holding "Canto General" from Neruda, asking you questions about who were Violeta Parra, Gabriela Mistral, Vicente Huidobro or Víctor Jara, the ones that giggle warmly while seeing one of the many urban tribes in the center of Santiago and don't mind when being pointed out by the urban tribes for looking "different", the ones that will tell me that my look needs some serious improving or I'll end up looking like some kind of lumberjack or plainly like "Earl" from "My name is Earl" or the ones that stand amazed in front of my tv while I show them the "Alturas the Macchu-Picchu" DVD by "Los Jaivas". These guys are the ones that argue with me when it comes to politics, showing their insights that I don't know since I haven't grown up in the states. Also the girls are the ones that keep constantly teasing me about my musical likes and making fun of my "Al Bundy" tummy while I make fun of their insane diets that they go through in order to "look better" while they already look ok, the ones that have taught me the good things about slimfast, cheap kraft dinner and sour cream and the ones that end up loving the fact that I'll hold the door for them or will carry the bags even though at the beginning they felt offended. They are also the girls that have helped me with "Cosmo" tips to make my canadian gfriend happier and also have drank lots of good booze with me while holding an extremely interesting conversation.
The only thing that I dislike about gringos no matter which type of the described ones they are is the fact that they seem to me to be so paranoid in two aspects: thieves (which I can’t blame them so much ‘cause we’re good at robbing even though I’ve never been robbed in my whole life) and when it comes to the heritage: for me it’s annoying hearing the typical 21% Irish, 17% Dutch, 40% British and so on. To me it’s more like: I’m Gustavo and was born in Santiago, that’s all. It’s not that you don’t have to care about who your ancestors were but the fact of trying to know the percentages and make it look like something so important is disturbing –if not racist- to me.
So... what I could say is that stereotypes are everywhere: we have the stinky Frenchies, the Cold germans, the fat and ignorant gringos, the Chilean thieves, the horny garotas from Brazil and so on... but talking about stereotypes could be found anywhere so I thought it'd be better if I just let you all know a little bit more of my personal experiences with the gringos that so far have been very rewarding.
P.S.: The most astonishing to date was meeting a Texan kid that studied classical music and was an expert in playing the violin.
Thanks for reading.