As I am trying my hardest to get over a cold that just doesn’t want to go away, I have been reminded about a cultural difference that I first noticed a long time ago, probably when I was a student back in 2007.
Halls cough drops are quite common here, sold in kiosks, grocery stores and on the street, in little sleeves of nine. I remember the first time someone offered me one here. I politely declined, stating that I was not sick. The person looked at me kind of funny, but didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until a while later that I realized: In Chile, Halls are candy.
I don’t know about you, but growing up I was taught that Halls, and other brands of cough drops, were medicine. That meant that no matter how good they tasted, you weren’t supposed to eat the whole pack in a matter of and hour. These aren’t Lifesavers, after all. I think that Halls in particular have a medicine-y taste, which I think is the menthol. However, in Chile, this is called “Nivel de Frescura”…or Level of Freshness, which apparently can range from 1 to 5, depending on the flavor.
The packaging itself is kind of ambiguous as to whether Halls are medicine or candy. On one part, it describes the contents as “caramelos duros sabor a mentol, cereza y eucalipto” (menthol, cherry and eucalyptus flavored hard candies). But on a different part it stipulates that there are “9 pastillas” which could translate as 9 lozenges and to me brings to mind medicine, not candy.
Anyway, you’re probably asking yourself: why does this all matter? Well, I guess it doesn’t really, except when it comes to something else that is common in Chile: when you have something like candy, gum, peanuts, snacks, etc, you usually share with the people around you. In fact, this is so common, that if you’re sitting at your desk, snacking away on some peanuts, your co-worker may come up to you and say “Daaaame uno, por fa”…give me one, please.
So if you’re sick like me, and eating Halls like its your job (that sounds so awkward considering my last name…erm…), then people might ask to share in your cough drop consumption. So although you might be weirded out and think about the other things you may potentially share in this interchange (i.e. GERMS) it’s probably most polite just to share a cough drop or two with your Chilean friend or coworker. Or you could show them this blog post. Whichever is easier ;).