Thursday, August 21, 2008

Group blog post: Chilean men

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!


Mamacita Chilena said...

Interesting to hear your perspective on friendship with Chilean men. I also liked that you threw a few observations about Chilean women in the mix...maybe we could do a whole different day dedicated to the women in this country!

As for filling the void...just come hang out more :)

Meredith said...

WOW! I thought I was the only gringa who wasn't dating a Chilean :)

Unfortunately my Spanish sucks too much to be much of a friend, but it's encouraging to know that maybe later I can actually hang out with more people.

Maeskizzle said...

Leigh, I have a ton of Chilean guy friends who would love to meet you!!! hahahaha! And you too Meredith!!

Yeah, Chilean guys are just really cool to hang out with; they are very social. I love that about them. Courteous, and attentive, and fun to be with.

Oooh! and I like the idea of blogging about Chilean women. I've actually had good experiences with them. It would be interesting to compare.

Juan K Peña said...

Hi Leigh

I really enjoyed this one. I think that it would be really cool, if we could hear the persepectime of American guys about Chilean mend and women.

This Friday I was thinking of you as I met some of your former Fulbright students!

Anonymous said...

** IMPORTANT FEEDBACK ** Being an Australian Chilean (a chilean born in chile who grew up in Australia) I feel there is a lot of misconceptions out there..
Firstly, chilean really don't want to spend their lives with a "gringa" they just want to have a sexual relationship with her (from experience). Chilean men don't really have a liking of their ways just their different looks (try a blonde).

I have a friend from chile who just arrived in australia about a year ago. He is happy with his chilean-australian girlfriend but wants to try a "gringa" in the same way someone wants to drive a different model car.

We chilean men can never really be happy with a "gringa" because they are generally as dry and critically indifferent as their male counterparts. "gringa" women are generally better at grabbing our attention (being blonde helps) but don't understand us in the long term. White women are as cool to "hang out with" as a dry leaf branch in death valley.

You are some disillusioned ladies out there..

Leigh said...

Hello Anonymous,

I don't often get feedback from the Chilean-born, so it was interesting to read your thoughts.

Nevertheless, I prefer to be a bit less cynical (or a bit more "disillusioned," if you will). I know there are Chilean (North American, Malaysian, German, Senegalese, German, Australian, etc....) men out there whose interest in foreign women (or men, for that matter) may not go beyond the strictly sexual. And I know that I cannot, unfortunately, read minds. Like the rest of us mortals, all I have to go on is the evidence at hand: people's actions and how genuine they seem. And my evidence points to the following: There are Chilean men out there who sincerely love their foreign significant others and plan to spend the rest of their lives with them. Of course, I don't doubt there are also those who are just in it for the fling.

In other words, I'm refusing to generalize on this point. I would ask anyone who does intend to make sweeping statements what my high school science teachers always asked me: How big is your sample size?

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "dry and critically indifferent"? It's always intriguing to see how cultural differences are perceived.

maailieca said...

I went out with a Chilean-American for a few years. He was born and raised in Santiago until he was 8 then moved to L.A. then Vegas. He and his brothers definitely fit your description of Chilean men finding humor in everything and anything. It made for quite an entertaining trip when we went to Europe together.

I'm not sure if it is because he is Chilean or because he was raised in the U.S. but my ex was not your typical "latino" boyfriend. He was not jealous and controlling and was very laid back about everything. This was very interesting for me because I'm used to latinos being those characteristics. But the typical Chilean friendliest ultimately led to the demise of our relationship. I was the one who was jealous. I would constantly be confused if he was flirting or just being friendly. AND he loves having female friends.
The thing that always struck me about him was that he was and is so close to his family. So close that sometimes I felt that he'd probably end up with a Chilean girl in the end. I am Filipina-American so I'm not sure what Chileans think of my ethnicity...every country has their generalizations of different races. But, I always felt temporary, even though his family loved me.
Anyway, I just found out he slept with a girl when he went on his annual journey to Chile. So they're not as prudish as the girls you mentioned...probably since his cousins do drugs and party. Sounds like cocaine is not too hard to come by down there.
Coming out of this relationship makes me realize that if you grew up immersed in your culture, (I mean have a good sense of what the expectations of that society and how the general mentality of that culture works,)that even if you grow up in a different country and adapt to those social norms, you still have an underlying inner ruler of what is comfortable for you based on your ethnicity.

I felt that I could never really get a good sense of him. I think a better cultural understanding would have helped. But then again, I grew up immersed in filipino culture more so than most filipino-americans since I grew up on Guam which is heavily populated by filipinos and more true to the culture since its so close to the Philippines. I feel that my expectations which probably stem from my cultural upbringing conflicted with his.
Sorry to make this so long! I just wanted to share an observation and there aren't a lot of Chileans in the U.S. for me to make generalizations as there are of other South and Central Americans.

Maca Rodriguez Camino said...

I wish you had a better experience making female friends! We are all not cold! But thats my opinion..good review anyway!

Leigh said...

Hi Maca,

Thanks for your comment. I didn't mean to imply that all Chilean women are cold. Over the years, I've made some great female Chilean friends; it just took longer than making male ones. I'll admit that this was hard for me, since I've always valued close female friendships. Maybe many Chilean women just tend to go slow when forming new friendships...Do you think this is the case?