Thursday, August 21, 2008

Group blog topic: Chilean men

**This is a new type of post that I’ll be doing when the time permits—a couple of my friends came up with the idea to pick a topic and all write on it at the same time. This time the topic is obviously Chilean men, as the title states. I think it’s a creative idea and I’m excited to see what the other girls write about. I have not seen any of the their blogs to see if they have already written anything...I want to keep that element of surprise in the picture.**

As I sit down to write, it seems that every idea that I thought of during my busy day at work has just suddenly disappeared. Gotta love a bit of writer’s block. Chilean men is a an interesting topic considering that I am married to one. I could go on and on about my husband (just as I did in my list of things that I love about him), but of course that would only give you more insight into my love life and not really into the Chilean culture as a whole. I’m not social anthropologist, but I do think it is important to represent the culture as it is—a wonderful mixture of backwards logic at times and a big heart. And for that reason I have decided to write one pro and one con about Chilean men, each of which come from my personal experiences.

The Annoying (aka Con—I find it best to get the worst over first)

One word: piropos.

To understand the power of that word, it is necessary to first define it and then give examples. If you type piropo into an online translator you will be told that it is a “flirtatious/flattering comment”. I wish it were just a flattering comment*, but that is not the case here in Chile. A piropo here can be defined as the cat-calls, whistles, sexual comments and whatever other noise Chilean men decide to make at a women as she walks past them.

When I came to Chile I was well aware of the situation and I actually learned how to ignore it quickly. It was just normal to have the micro (public bus) drivers honk their “special” horn that sounds like a whistle or to have random men on the street call you “linda, amoricta, guapa, etc.” I only started being bothered by it after I started dating Christian because he and I went everywhere together, meaning the percentage of piropos reaching my ears dropped to below 5%. See, the good news is that 99% of the time if you are with a man who is obviously your significant other, the piropo-throwing men won’t say anything to you. There is the occasional asshole who will still whistle or say something when it is more than clear that you are with your significant other—I think that is very rude. (Not like I don’t think piropos in general aren’t rude, but still.) Since Christian and I have always been practically inseparable I have gotten used to the lack of “flirtatious comments” in the street...which just ends up making those that I do receive MORE annoying.

Piropos also come with stares. Stares like a lion would look at a fresh cut of meat, just ready to have teeth sunk into it. You can feel their gaze and talk about uncomfortable...To get to an example, my morning commute lends itself to at least 1 piropo per day, if not more. Some days it is the man who sweeps the sidewalk outside of the music academy on my street whispering "sweet nothing" (ya right), other days it is the construction workers who like to do a group shout-out, and today it was some random man staring me down as we walked past each other. He must have had the neck of an owl because I could still feel him staring long after we had passed each other.

*In some cases the word piropo is used in the non-sexual way it is defined. This is mostly when someone gives you a very sweet comment. However, I RARELY hear it used in this sense of the word.

The Wonderful (aka Pro—a much happier topic to write about)

Ladies, let me just tell you that chivalry is not dead. In fact, if you are looking for a knight in shining armor to spoil you and treat you like a princess, I’d invite you to find yourself a Chilean :) There is just something different about the men here.

I began to notice all of this when I first started dating my husband because it took me off guard that he would go completely out of his way to make sure I got home safely at night, to ask me what I was feeling and TRULY want to hear the answer, to open the door for me, treat me with the utmost respect, not be afraid to commit to me and be truly interested in a relationship. All the boys back home were terribly afraid of commitment, and those who weren’t, were already taken. You’re probably thinking “ya of course you think there is something different about Chilean men, you married one”—well like I mentioned before, of course I am slightly biased, BUT the numbers of extranjeras (foreign women) who have fallen for Chileans speak for themselves. I know that it happens in all countries across all cultures...but I was so surprised to find out that just here in my new little corner of the world, there are over 400 English-speaking women married or in serious relationships with Chileans**. And I’m guessing that number is a serious underestimate since it is an invitation-only group and that is just one subset of foreigners. Heck, just from my study abroad program, in which around 80 students participated the whole least 6 of use have or are planning to get married to Chileans--that is 7.5% of just my program. Multiply that by the number of gringos who come and study in Chile each year!

So even if all the love-y dove-y stuff doesn’t have you convinced, let’s talk about the every-day caballerosidad (chivalry). One new social norm that I have picked up during my professional career here in Chile is the fact that Chilean men wait until the women get into the elevator first and always wait for them to leave the it first as well. They are typically very conscious about opening doors for any woman and they will let you pass through a walking space first, even if they are in a hurry. They are very conscience of giving la pasada (literally “the pass”, figuratively letting them go first) to women.

When travelling on the extensive bus system (not the micros, the longer-type traveling buses) here in Chile, you will also find everyday caballeros (gentlement). Every time I arrive at my destination safely thanks to Pullman buses, there is a man waiting to help all of the women step off of the bus. That caballero will make sure that he is able to give you his hand for support when taking that last large step because that is his job and his deber (duty).

When travelling on a micro within the city, a man who is seated (perhaps with the exception of a viejito--little old man--but even then most of the time) will give up his seat for any little old lady and many times, for any women who doesn’t have a seat.

I find all of this non-mushy chivalrous behavior to be sweet and refreshing. And with that I will end this post.

**This number comes from a networking group, Chilespouses, of which I am a member.

[Updated in order to publish links to the other fabulous stories that over a dozen gringas wrote!]
Katina (style and male sex symbols)
Mandy (Chilean men compared to U.S. men)
Emily (machismo)
Leigh (having friendships with Chilean men)
Shannon (Chilean male drivers)
Clare (Chilean men and sexism)
Meredith (Chilean men's intense need to be in a relationship)
Lydia (a completely spot on list of generalizations about Chileans)
Jessica (guy love in the Chilean form)
Heather, the girl who started this whole thing (Chilean men and sex...finally someone mentions the cafes con piernas!)
Tamsin (Chilean men's complete devotion to the female species)
Kyle (Chilean men's power to make gringas fall for them)


Mamacita Chilena said...

Our program was only about 40 people I think, yet there were two of us that I know of who have already married Chileans and a few more who are still in serious relationship with them! It's crazy isn't it?!?

As for piropos, don't get me started!!!! I wrote about that in my post too. I can't handle them, they make me so mad!!!!!!!!!!!

Emily said...

Our program was 40 people. As far as I know, there were 3 of us dating Chileans...I'm pretty sure one is still here (and possibly engaged?), but I don't know about the other. Definitely since moving back I've been amazed at the number of people in my situation!

Meredith said...

LOL, I've definitely mentioned the elevator thing on my blog at some point, in the context of it driving me crazy.

I don't think I have the right personality to appreciate the chivalry thing :) But it's good to hear that it works for other people!

Maeskizzle said...

Yeah, I like the chivalry thing too. It's great.

And for those lusty-eyed stares -disgusting- I think the technique is to chew the guy out. Especially if there are a lot of people around! Because Chileans are super pudorosos in these contexts. They don't like attention being brought to them.

Disclaimer—La Chilengüita is a blog created upon my personal experiences and which expresses my personal opinion that in no way represents the views my employer, family or friends.