With so many gringa-in-Chile bloggers out there, it was only a matter of time before someone suggested we all share our thoughts on the same subject. The first topic: the alluring, sometimes befuddling, and all-too-frequently mullet-sporting Chilean man.
Some may doubt my ability to make a meaningful contribution to this discussion due to the fact that I appear to be one of the few gringa-in-Chile bloggers who does not have a Chilean man of her own. This never fails to come as a surprise to my former host family, who ask me if I've snagged a pololo (Chilean for boyfriend) whenever I stop by for a visit.
Despite the fact that the only Chilean pololo I have is the imaginary one I tell sleazy guys at bars about, I'm confident that I do have something of value to say about Chilean men. After all, I've lived with them, gone on dates with them, and -- most importantly -- been their friend.
In fact, most of my Chilean friends are men. This is not uncommon among gringas; a frequent gripe among female expatriates and exchange students is that it is very hard to make friends with Chilean women. Obviously, this is not universally the case. When I first came to Chile, however, it was true for me. My female classmates were friendly to me, with some going out of their way to bring me up to speed and keep my deer-in-the-headlights look under control. In general, though, things didn't go much beyond that. We didn't meet up for lunch or hang out on weekends.
Among gringas, a few conjectures circulate as to why many Chilean women seem, well, cold. The most common is that Chilean women are wary of gringas because Chilean men are intrigued by them and because gringas are (falsely, in my experience) reputed to be more sexually liberal than chilenas. Another possibility is that Chilean women just don't launch into the insta-friendships that many gringas -- especially those coming from a university setting -- may be used to. They take their time when it comes to building intimacy and trust. Still, I prefer not to speculate without the input of a Chilean woman, so we'll just say that things are what they are.
As someone who has always had close girlfriends, I felt (and still feel) a void where all the female bonding used to be. Good thing Chilean men stepped up to the plate when I most needed them.
During my exchange student days, I frequently would be the only woman at a table or a gathering. I was more than a little surprised to discover that this did not make me uncomfortable at all. The truth is that I spent way too much time laughing hysterically with these guys to analyze the situation. Chilean men are pros when it comes to finding humor everywhere, which can make being surrounded by them an incredibly energizing experience. Additionally, they tend (at least in my experience) to abridge the pleasantries and get down to gritty, engaging conversation more quickly than their female counterparts. After a long day of
struggling to navigate a foreign cultural landscape with "please"s and smiles, it comes as a great relief not to have to be polite.
Of course, I'm not naive. As Heather points out, not all Chilean men who hang out with gringas are platonically motivated. There certainly has been a guy or two who has dropped off the map after learning that I was only interested in friendship. However, there have also been those who have never given me reason to believe they're after anything other than sharing good times.
That's my take. If you want to read what other gringas have to say about Chilean guys (or foreign guys in general), check out Kyle's blog, where people are posting their links (check the comments, too). I, for one, am excited to learn what others think about this topic!