Experiencing a Different Culture

By Alex Millan

Okay, to start off, I am a Latina. I am Mexican-American, so I have an advantage here in Chile since I am semi-fluent in Spanish already. I grew up speaking Spanish to my parents and extended family members. I grew up singing Las Mañanitas whenever it was someone’s birthday, I considered tortas to be a sandwhich, ate elote, and would say “mande” every time I asked someone to repeat themselves or if they called my name.

However, my experiences here in Chile show that Latinos do not all have the same culture. Chileans here are super affectionate. Whenever you meet up with someone, it’s custom to kiss them on the cheek. I’ve only done that with family members, but here I’ve done it to friends, my host family, and people I’ve just met.

Being Mexican also captures the attention of Chileans. My host family thinks its super entertaining when I use Mexican slang such as güerito (pale person), mande (literal translation is ‘send for me’), or ahorita (right now), though it also grabs the attention of complete strangers when I’m just minding my business. I think it’s pretty funny since Concepción isn’t as touristy as Santiago so I’m constantly stopped and asked about my accent.

Chile, itself is completely different from my experience in the United States and Mexico. Chile is such a loooong country, so the weather in the north can be super-hot while down south it could be windy and rainy. That being said, Chileans think 50-60 degree weather is freezing. Once, my host mom and I went to a beach where it was warm and slightly windy. I wore shorts and a t-shirt. She went for hiking boots, jeans, and her trusty jacket.

May is also the time when winter begins here in Chile. So it has been getting slightly colder and windier. This past weekend, our group took an excursion down to Puerto Montt, Chile. There it was actually pretty cold but the views there were beautiful. In one of our trips, we hiked on Volcano Osorno and we saw the Petrohué waterfalls. It’s nothing like Iowa where it’s mainly flat and nothing like Mexico’s mountains (well, the ones I’ve been on) where it’s extremely hot. Chile is unique compared to the countries I’ve visited. Since it’s such a long country it has a very diverse geography and I can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country.