When I first arrived in Chile, I was a traveler; a foreigner; a novice about Chilean culture. Now having been here for a little over three months I feel like a well-adjusted local. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the everyday ins and outs of a culture I have grown to adapt as my own for the past few months. What I have found to be most interesting is how similar cultures are, I mean, yes, we may all differ in what we eat, maybe how we eat and even where we eat, but the fact remains that we all do eat! And this fact remains in Chile, as well.
A typical day for me, as an adapted Chileana, is family time comes first. One thing that is the most imperative part of a Chilean's day is the time they spend with their family. On most days after work you can find most Chileans gathering for once which generally includes bread, cheese, some type of meat and tea or coffee. This once meal is considered our 'dinner time' in the states. Normally this meal is usually shared with family and even extended family that may live close, all for the purpose of sharing, reflecting and catching up on one another's day. Another norm for Chileans is to have a large lunch. This may include rice or a type of pasta, meat, vegetables, fruit, dessert and even a snack in one sitting.
One of the most amazing things about traveling anywhere different in the world is experiencing the culture through the eyes of a local. Visiting shops and restaurants that "everyone knows" and visiting family or friends to celebrate an occasion. This holds true also here in Chile. While here, I have lived as a local, eaten and shopped as a local and I must admit though intimidating at first, now, it is just commonplace to even pet a stray dog on the street.
This brings me to the other cultural norms that happen here in Chile. Most of my norms from the states are not norms here. For instance, in the states there is a clearly defined line for personal space, here in Chile, No! We hug, kiss, embrace affectionately, loving and heartedly. In the states, stray animals are usually avoided and called in to be picked up by animal control, but here in Chile No! 'We pet the strays, feed them even embrace them' and lastly in the states, we work and work and work some more, sometimes even neglecting to see family or friends for weeks at end to finish a project or to earn more money, we even skip holidays to work, in Chile No way! There is a saying 'this is the Chilean way' which means that 'we don't work too hard, when it means we can't enjoy what we work for'. At first, all of these new norms were difficult to accept but then after living it for a while I began to understand it. Like, the stray dogs, for example- many were once house pets, unfortunately many owners gave them up when they got older and so most of the strays are very domesticated and smart and therefore don't pose a public problem. In fact, they have groups that actually go around and cater to these dogs via shots, food, etc. and due to the communal culture here the pets survive.
I even started to join in when the national sport -Futbol, or as we refer to it, soccer, came on. I became a Chilean futbol fan overnight when I went to my first live futbol game in life and in Chile. It was exhilarating; I have never seen such uniformity amongst a crowd before, it's unlike anything I've ever seen before, thousands of Chileans screaming, shouting even crying for their team to win as if their actual life depended on it. The excitement, the cheering, the profanity was a sight for sore eyes. I trekked on the beautiful mountains that I admired so much and I learned the Cueca, a traditional Chilean dance, I even learned how to make homemade empanadas.
All of this and more makes Chile my home away from home, as I continue my travels this place will always hold a piece of my heart and as long as I remember the Chilean way I will continue to remember that happiness is not in the money you search for, happiness is in those you share your time with.