>Group Post: Chilean Customs that are Hard to Adjust to

>It’s once again group blogging time!

Some Chilean customs I love, like partying until the early morning, sleeping all day on the weekends, greeting with a cheek kiss, and sitting around the lunch table until it’s time for once (“ohn-say” for all of you non-Spanish speakers). Heck, I love once in and of itself! Others are a little annoying. For instance, why are the banks only open until 2pm? That is so inconvenient. And who wants to wait in line for 40 minutes at a farmacia just to get some bug spray? And FYI, racking up millones de pesos worth of credit card debt is not smart, even though I know everyone wants to buy things things things and more shiny things from Paris or Ripley. Okay, so maybe those aren’t “customs” per se, but they are at least Chilean “habits.”

The one Chilean “custom” that I really can not tolerate is the classism, and the way that people judge others by what comuna they live in or which high school and/or Univeristy they attended. However, I’m hoping that some day our group blogging topic will be classism/racism in Chile so I can talk about that then. So instead I will talk about another one that really affected me the seven months that I studied abroad in Chile: portion sizes.

At first I thought it was just my host mom. She would serve me heaping plates of food and would get offended if I didn’t finish. My portions were larger than the rest of the family’s, but I don’t think I would have been able to finish the “normal” portion sizes either. She would complain about wasting food as she cleared away my plate with little than half finished. And I would feel guilty when I looked around and literally everyone had practically licked their plates clean. I mean I learned that in the US it is polite to leave at least a little bit on your plate not to seem like a glutton! Also, the lunches she packed me were enourmous. Not only would I get an entre (like meat and potatos or chicken and rice) but also a yogurt, fruit, sandwhich, chips, dessert and a juice box.

At first I got offended. I thought maybe because I was a little plump she thought I could really put away the food, but hello, last time I checked I wasn’t a line-backer for the Patriots, a sumo-wrestler or a competitive eater! After a few weeks I talked to her about the portion sizes and asked her to give me less food. For awhile she went around telling everyone that I “ate like a little bird,” but did cut down some on the portion sizes, and would sometimes let me serve myself.

Then I realized it wasn’t just her. My friends had similar problems with their host moms. During our study sessions we would call up our host mom’s and tell them we were eating out, and just eat empanadas or a sandwich, the whole time loving the fact that we wouldn’t have to face a heaping plate of food. However, upon returning home I would get the third degree about what exactly I had eaten and whether or not that “qualified” as a meal. (At first I didn’t realize that the word comida applied to both meal and food, and got confused because I thought she was telling me that an empanada wasn’t food! We got into a huge argument before I realized.)

The first time I went to eat at F.’s house his mom did the same thing. Loaded my plate right up. And because I obviously wanted to make a good impression I ate it all. But then I told F. about my problems with eating with my host family and he told his mom to give me less.

I think the difference is that in Chile, people (especially mothers) live to eat, while here in the US (at least in my family) we eat to live. Serving food for my host mom was not only about giving me nutrients so that I wouldn’t die of starvation, but was bout showing her cariño towards me and demonstrating that she was a good caregiver. This is not to say that food isn’t prepared with love in the US, but there isn’t such a stigma attached to cleaning one’s plate. As the semester went on, I realized that it wasn’t just me that my host mom would over-feed. Any visitor that came for a meal would be showered with food and I would always feel for them as they tried to finish.

The one thing I did love about meals in Chile was how they brought the family together. Luckily my US family still sits down to eat together, but we do just that, eat and then clear the table and we’re all off to do our own thing. In Chile, though, we would sit at that table sometimes for hours, chatting about whatever until my host Dad whipped out the guitar and we would start to sing.

Want to see what some other people think? Check it out.
Rita (Colombia)
Kathleen (Ecuador)
Lori (Brazil)


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