Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Group Blog Topic: What Chileans Think of Gringos—My POV

So I´m about 2 weeks behind on this topic thanks to two things: 1. lack of time and 2. lack of inspiration. I have even refrained from reading everyone else’s posts on this topic because I figured that I’d get around to writing it one day. But the lack of inspiration for such a topic is an important one and so I had to wait until it came. And it did: on Sunday night when my husband took me out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 7:30pm and surprisingly there were a lot of people. Most of them gringos, sitting at the bar, drinking beer and eating food from the all-you-can-eat buffet. We ended up sitting in a booth right next to the bar, and therefore next to the gringos. All of them were older, white business men, some with less hair, others with more...and from the accents I could pick up--all from the States.

Now, my objective during this evening was not to ease drop on what these guys were doing or talking about, but there was one particular old fart who made it IMPOSSIBLE for me not to pay some attention to what was going on. Obviously I didn’t talk to them...I played Chilean, but my half of my hearing was definitely dedicated to listening to the absurdities of this man and unfortunately, my fellow compatriots.

So what do I think that Chileans (and probably any other foreigner) thinks of people from the U.S.*, they think we’re loud, cold, selfish, rude, ignorant, self-absorbed, rich and exaggerated. Wow, why such harsh words? Because I’m just stating the facts here people. This is what they think of all of us (according to my point of view)....and why would that be? Because of the type of people who travel around the world who are like that old man in Ruby Tuesdays.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. This man, let’s call him Bob, seemed to come from Texas and liked his beer. It was only 7:30 and the huevon was already slurring his words. We were at the restaurant for about an hour in total...and Bob introduced himself to the same 5 men, three times (exaggerated)! At one point, he asked another guy for his business card, who then said that he didn’t have any with him. Bob said “Oh, ok, well I’m sure I’ll see you here tomorrow or Tuesday.” WHAT?!—I thought to myself, this man comes here SO frequently...that is not normal. Then Bob started talking politics, and the other men simply stared into space or drank their beers. And then he started telling everyone his “story”, even though none of the other five gringos was really paying much attention to him (self-absorbed). At one point, the men decided they wanted to watch NFL football on TV and they began discussing what channel the games would be on. Bob felt the impulse to repeat ESPN about 10 times....and yelling it....for absolutely no reason. Right......So the men told the bartender to change the channel. And no, they didn’t tell her in Spanish they yelled at her in English...trying to make the poor thing understand. And when she was flipping through the channels and none of the games showed up (because the cable didn’t include ESPN), Bob kept yelling louder “No, keep going, No go back, No, No No!” (rude, cold, loud, ignorant, exaggerated). I felt so bad for the poor bartender who had so patiently been waiting upon these jacka#@es the whole evening. The huevones even made the comment that “Oh my god, a woman is going to change the channel for us!” (selfish). What made most of the interaction between the gringos and the bartender so bad is that none of them spoke Spanish....not even a little (ignorant). Ok, really, Spanish is NOT that hard to learn...you could at least take a freaking dictionary with you to help communicate. It would be a different story if we were in Asia where the languages do not look anything alike! Bob actually made the comment that all of his work is in English, the functional currency of his business (at Merrill Lynch) in US Dollars, “so he never wants to learn that stupid language” (ignorant, ignorant, IGNORANT). At this point I was ready to throw my dinner knife towards Bob's head. Ugf, I’ll keep in mind that this huevon works at ML so that I NEVER apply for a job at the same company....I cannot stand people like Bob. They travel to foreign countries and don’t even try to 1. learn the language, 2. learn anything about the culture, 3. learn the social norms so they don’t look like idiots, etc.

These are the type of people who give all us gringos such a bad name. I don’t know how many times people have been shocked here in Chile, Peru or Argentina that I am a gringa because “gringos are so cold and you, well you are practically latina”. I take pride in the fact that I have worked by a@# off to become fluent in Spanish (although I’m not saying everyone should do the same), but for god’s sake, if you live in another country that speaks a different language—you should learn at least enough to get by (meaning going to the grocery story by yourself, etc.). None of this “I’ve lived here for 20+ years and still don’t understand Spanish.” Now that is IGNORANT. And rude. Do not move to another country (that is presumably not considered “developed”) and try to live like it is the U.S.—that is just not going to happen and it is like taking a dump upon the culture of the country where you are at. The least people can do is *try* to assimilate and learn the accepted behaviors in the places they visit. I mean, you have to be just stupid not to, because doing so actually helps you keep much safer.

As you can see, this topic infuriates me and I could probably go on forever. But I won’t. I’m done...I’ve vented about stupid Bob and all the bad gringos that give us good gringos a bad rep. And just to tie it all up: I think the impressions most people keep are negative ones because I feel like they make such a big impact on a person (especially if it is the 1st impression). Plus I feel like more ignorant gringos travel than ones who are open-minded and ready to welcome new cultures....and that is exactly why I think Chileans and other foreigners think we gringos are all alike (and not in a good way).

*I say “people from the U.S.” because I don’t like the term “Americans”. That word does not just related to gringos from the States, but to EVERYONE who lives in North, Central and South America. I don’t know where we gringos got off thinking that just we are Americans, when really everyone is. So to me, when someone asks you where you are from and you say you’re American and they too are from some part of the Americas, you just made yourself look stupid.

And now, here are the links to everyone else who participated in this group blogging post:

Carlos
Flo
Clare
Sara
Abby
Katina
Emily
Amanda
Renee
Kathleen
Lydia
Shannon
Emma
Heather
Gus
Kyle

7 comments:

Sarah said...

I used to feel the exact same way about calling ourselves "American" and thought people were sooo ignorant. But do you know what the correct term is for someone from the usa? I am Chilean, I am Canadian, I am Mexican, I am.... what should you say? The actual demonym recognized is American...according to every document I could find online (I had this discussion with mi novio Sebastian a long time ago).

Just a few examples...

http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa030900a.htm

http://www.everything2.org/e2node/Demonyms%2520of%2520the%2520World

and one from the UK

http://www.geography-site.co.uk/pages/countries/demonyms.html

So basically I agree that it sounds so egotistical to call ourselves Americans when everyone from this hemisphere technically is, but I haven't seen or ever heard of any other options.

What are we people from the USA to do?

Sara said...

I have met so many people like your Bob. One time I was in Puerto Rico with my best Chilean friend and two very drunk guys at the table next to us started talking. G. instantly said "No entiendo" and turned her back, although she speaks beautiful English.
I explained that she was learning English and it made her uncomfortable to speak, then turned away myself.
After that, one of the guys yelled "Oh... you should just force her to speak, or she's never gonna learn. English is the universal language you know." Yeh, duh... and I see you making such an effort to speak in Spanish because you are in a "Spanish" speaking country.

Tyffanie said...

Sarah, thanks for the links! Although it may be the actual demonym recognized...."Americans" were probably the ones to come up with the list and thus the egotistical name. :(

Maybe I´ll just stick to calling us gringos ;)

Tyffanie said...

@Sara....don´t those type of people just drive you nuts?!?!?!!!!

Sarah said...

I'm pretty sure Europeans made it up in the 1600's to refer to people living in the colonies in America. It does sound bad and that bothers me, but I don't think anyone today can be called ignorant for using a word that has been around for the past 400 years to describe people from this geographic area.

I wish English were like Spanish in the sense that nationalities are so simple! Gringo is my chosen word as well for us :)

Rook said...

i think you are the first person (American) I have ever heard agree that people from the USA shouldn't call themselves "Americans"....that is just such a technicality and more PC bull that I would expect to hear in the USA....can't stand it when people from South America say they are an "American"....let's get on a plane and fly to China with a Peruvian, a Chilean, and a Mexican and ask the Chinese person who in the group is the "American". realy don't think Americans decided on day to call ourselves Americans.....I've been outside the USA for about 6 years now, I am 2nd generation Irish with grandparents off the boat, and I am an American, no other word to use...

Rook said...

also hope you do know that "gringo" is very negative in other South American countries.....I remember one night in Milan at our Mexican friends house who had one of their Mexican friends visiting them. My wife was talking and telling stories and kept referring to me as "gringo", the Mexican friend stopped my wife in mid sentence asking how could she talk about her husband that way, how could she call me "gringo"....i don't mind being called gringo here in Chile because estadounidense is a pain in the ass to say, but outside it is a different story. And of course here in Chile, "gringo" is just for the fair skinned people, if your an American and black or asian decent, your not a "gringo"...

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.