Like Lydia, it’s hard for me to remember my first impressions of Chile. I remember what I thought the very first day I arrived, but I don’t remember much after that. I feel like I adjusted to the culture in one day, which is impossible, but it’s how I remember it.
I first arrived in Chile in January 2007 to study abroad. My very first impression? Wow. Those mountains are breathtaking.
These are some memories I have from my first day in Santiago, Chile.
Why are so many people hugging me and kissing me on the cheek? First my study abroad director, then my host mom, then my entire host family! I don’t even know these people?!?! Haven’t they heard of a handshake? Plus, I’m tried and sweaty. No one should want to touch me. (My attitude about this has since changed 100%. I’m all about hugging and the cheek kiss.)
This city is CLEAN. And there are trees everywhere. Where are the old school buses leaking toxic fumes and the crazy drivers that don’t stop for red lights or the grafitti on everything or trash in the streets? This is nothing like San Salvador.
The apartments that my fellow gringo students are living in are NICE and very formal. Everyone offers me juice! I don’t really want juice. Oh, you insist? Okay, I’ll have some water then. What? I can’t drink the water? Oh, okay I’ll have juice.
Do I want to eat altiro? What is altiro? I’m not a picky eater, but I’d like to know what altiro is, please. Oh! You’re asking if I want to eat now? Like, ahorita? No, I’ve never been to Mexico, why?
Wow my host sister speaks fast. I can not understand a thing she says. I need a nap.
This food is not Latin. Where are the beans and rice and tortillas?
After the first day, I don’t remember any more specific impressions, except maybe about the schedule, how everything is later. Also, the whole culture of sitting around the table and talking for hours (the sobremesa). I remember going down to eat dinner one night around 8:00 and telling my parents that I’d call them after. I went back upstairs to call them, and they were asleep because I hadn’t finished with dinner until midnight!
It wasn’t until living here for awhile that I began to notice cultural differences. But even so, it’s amazing to remember when I arrived here, so naive, but ready for the adventure ahead.