>I know Sara, Lydia and other Chile bloggers have written about this before. It’s high time I got my two cents in as well. I just spent all day in a workshop for Becas Chile recipients about subjectivity vs. objectivity, culture shock, etc, so I would just like to clarify that perhaps I am currently in a low point on the Culture Shock spectrum (I think it’s called Adjusting) and also that this opinion is probably very subjective, though I may talk about it as if it were objective. Anyway, here I go.
Chileans don’t know how to make plans. Let me re-phrase that. Chileans sometimes make plans, but it’s like herding cats to get them to keep their plans. In my experience, this especially applies to long-term plans, which for a Chilean is anything past tomorrow (haha, I joke, kind of). If I had a penny for every long term plan I made with a Chilean that never happened, I’d be a millionaire. There’s the typical promise of “juntémonos!” (let’s get together!) that never comes to fruition. There are weekend get-away plans, there are plans to get sushi, there are plans to have drinks after work (which admittedly, I can never do because I start work when most people are getting out), there are plans for barbecues, plans to keep in touch.
This was hard for me at first, but I came to accept it from people I didn’t know that well. It’s part of the culture, and since I’m different, I’m the one who has to adapt. I understand that.
However, recently it has begun to happen with people who are close to me. I fully understand that I am friends with busy people. They are doing very important things and sometimes friends fall by the wayside when you are working and/or studying 15 hours a day. However, if I were that busy (and please, God, never make me that busy EVER) I wouldn’t make plans unless I were sure I could keep them. Even if, for example, I made plans with someone then found out I had a test the next day I had to study for, I would probably still get together with that person, but maybe just for a shorter amount of time.
Another thing that I found out about recently is that you’re supposed to confirm plans the day of. I didn’t know this, and I guess it wasn’t necessary until now. But I had made a plan with someone for example on a Sunday for a Wednesday (I know, dumb move!). So I, as a rational gringa, thought that the plan was set. Then on Wednesday, the person never showed up to my house. I was livid. I commented this to my students and they said, “Oh, it’s probably because you didn’t confirm the day of.” Um, what? If I say, “Come to my house at 9:00 on Wednesday” that literally means, “Come to my house at 9:00 on Wednesday.” But apparently, some (most?) Chileans think this means “Come to my house on Wednesday only if you call me on Wednesday morning, and since you said 9:00 I’ll of course show up at 10:00.” Excuse me while I pull my hair out and bang my head against the nearest wall.*
Maybe a Chilean would be more understanding. Maybe I should be more understanding. But honestly, this really bothers me. I know this has to do with the fact that Chileans are also not capable of saying “no” to anything, so when I say “Let’s get together this weekend,” “Yes, okay!” is the only response they know how to say, even if in the back of their mind they have a test next Monday and will spend all weekend studying, or that it’s their Great Aunt Juanita’s birthday and they have to spend the weekend with their family in Los Andes.
What I do understand, though, is that I’m the foreigner here. I’m not asking Chileans to change their culture. I do ask for a bit of understanding though, that I am a gringa and I do have different expectations. Sometimes I feel as if I should wear a tee-shirt that says “Gringa: Handle with Care.” As in, understand why I’m upset and be a bit culturally sensitive to my different world view. Is that too much to ask?
*In all fairness, this actually wasn’t the whole reason the person didn’t show up.