Lider’s Bicentennial GWP

For those who are unfamiliar with the letters GWP, they stand for “gift with purchase” and as it sounds, it’s usually a little trinket a buyer receives after buying something else. Usually, but not always, a company will do this type of promotion jointly with another company and together, they each have the opportunity to promote their product/brand. The best part is that the consumer generally wins because the GWPs tend to come with items one is already going to buy or is already willing to buy.

Lider, a (former) Chilean hipermarket purchased by the monster known as Walmart, is not one of my favorite places in the world and I rarely go there for my grocery needs. This is due in part to my great distaste for all things Walmart in general and also because Lider, as a place in existence to satisfy grocery needs, doesn’t speak to me at all. In fact, all it really says to me is “Andrea turn around and go to Jumbo.”

There’s one exception: the Lider Express located on Bilbao and Pedro de Valdivia, a few blocks from our apartment in Providencia. I won’t lie. This Lider Express has gotten us out of jams many a times and it’s the only Lider I’ve stepped foot in and actually purchased something since I moved here. That was the case this evening when G and I noted we didn’t have a single tomato in our apartment (crucial part of our weekly diet) or anything that could accompany the chicken we were thinking of bbq-ing for dinner. Enter Lider Express to save the day.

As we walked in, G said to me “Did you see their promotion?” What promotion? “If you spend $15,000 pesos (about US$30) you get a free Chilean Recipes Cookbook.” Cool.

I didn’t think much of it until G went to claim the GWP with our receipt of over $15,000 pesos spent. But once I saw it, I swooooooned!! Give or take, 42 glossy pages of the yummiest of Chilean recipes I could ever lay my hands on FOR FREE (kind of.) Everything from Chilean drinks, to Chilean seafood recipes, soups, casseroles and desserts. Hello, 7th Heaven!

Front cover of the recipe book. Unabashed marketing of the Lider Express brand but who cares? I want to know how one makes that empanada!

This is followed by pages and pages of images of typical Chilean dishes and their corresponding step by step instructions for do-it-yourself brilliance!

Almejas en Salsa Verde & Sopa de Choritos con Verduras (Clams in Green Salsa & Mussel soup with vegetables.)

Porotos granados con Pilco & Porotos con Choricillos (Typical Chilean beans with corn and Beans with Chorizo)

Sopaipillas con Pebre & Ajiaco (Sopaipillas that are generally salty rather than sweet, with a type of Chilean pico de gallo & Ajiaco – a type of potato and beef soup with A WHOLE LOTTA garlic. Nothing short of fabulous.)

Pastel de Jaiba (Crab casserole? Hello, lovely!)

Pastel de Choclo – the quintessential Chilean dish, following the empanada. (Corn casserole that contains meat, chicken, olives and onions. Delish!)

And much, much more!

I’m quite impressed with this marketing initiative on behalf of Lider Express and at home, we’re really excited to hop-to on many of these recipes. I love the small packaging, glossy photos and simple, yet delicious recipes that make up this GWP.

By far worth the minimum of $15,000 pesos Lider wants you to spend in their stores. At least in my book.

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Chile – evolving!

I rarely listen to the radio here in Chile but I saw a billboard advertisement about a radio station that plays classic rock so I tuned in yesterday when I headed to the gym. I encountered good music but what really struck my fancy was a public service announcement (PSA) by a government agency here in Chile called SERNAM (Servicio Nacional de la Mujer or the National Association for Women, to loosely translate.) I, of course, only heard the audio version of this PSA but upon searching the SERNAM website, I found the video which contains the same message I heard yesterday. You can refer to the 30 second spot below:

Even for those of you who don’t understand Spanish, it’s clear that you see a man sitting on a stool who eventually begins turning into a caveman. Why is this happening? No it’s not a GEICO commercial … The reason for this is because the narrator of the commercial is asking the man “Felipe, what do you do?” and Felipe answers that he works. The narrator then asks “And do you have kids?” And Felipe answers “Yes, but my wife watches them.” The spot continues with the narrator asking the same series of questions and each time Felipe answers the equivalent of “Me work, wife stay at home with kids” he starts turning more and more into a caveman, until eventually he’s just grunting, pounding his chest and saying “me work!” The spot then concludes with the word “Evolucionemos” (let’s evolve) and the narrator communicates that Chile needs men AND women sharing responsibilities (termed “co-responsabilidad” in the campaign) both inside the home and at work. We see Felipe and his lovely wife locking hands as the narrator tells us that we should make a pact to “grow together in a better country.”

What can I say? I LOVE it! I love it because it’s addressing something that is so outrageously prevalent in many societies, though it’s something that needed addressing, oh, yesterday. The United Nations reports that though more and more women are now part of the labor force of many countries, “when hours in paid and unpaid work are combined, women tend to have longer working hours per week than men, and less time for leisure or sleep.” On the flip side, the report states that men may work as many hours or more in a day, but that said work is most often paid work. In short, the norm is that home management and keeping is not ultimately a shared responsibility among supposed partners. Of course Chile is the rule, not the exception as we can tell from a report done by Channel 13 in Chile as the journalist took to the streets to ask men and women how much sharing is really taking place when it comes to the home.

Sadly enough (but truthful) most men and their wives will agree that the husband or male partner “occasionally helps” or just “helps” but it’s a far cry from actually SHARING responsibility. Really, it’s kind of sad that the first man interviewed in the video above can’t, for the life of him, give an answer and so he looks at his wife/partner for help with the question of shared responsibility. She laughs and answers, “Sometimes he sweeps the balcony.” Whoop-dee-doo!! That lady has got herself a gem!

So what’s my reality when it comes to this? G is an exception to the norm. Though our reality is peppered with other variables that could very well explain why things are more shared in our home: he was a single-parent when his kids were 8 months & 4 years old, thus he had to handle many things pertaining to running his home and taking care of his kids every other weekend. Also contributing is the fact that we’re fortunate enough to have a nana come once a week, which ultimately reduces the amount of cleaning and upkeep either of us have to do around here. Of course we can factor in that we don’t have kids together and his kids don’t live full-time in the house, though trust me our dog certainly makes up for it with his fair share of strewing toys about, shedding and generally being messy and slobbery (such is the case with bulldogs.) So yes, in our home I’d say it’s 40-60 and I say this ONLY because I generally do the cooking and generally do the grocery shopping alone. But then again, he’s the one who waters the plants and takes the initiative to do laundry when the nana isn’t here. I do neither of those two things – ever. In any case, personally we are lucky to be an exception because really, whatever I do, he can do and whatever I don’t do he definitely does.

But I have to commend SERNAM for starting this campaign. I’m all about sharing responsibilities because there is no reason that anyone in the house should be held responsible for the majority of the work. It’s also quite unfair to women (what else is new) that we spend more time working – period, when combining paid and unpaid work. I like that they chose to make their point using a little comedy. In addition, I would imagine that being portrayed as a caveman is something that no man likes. I assume, with all of their ingrained competitiveness, that if they are shown in a manner to be the antithesis of evolving, they’ll at least look at themselves and think “Hey now, I’m better than a caveman.” I just hope that this campaign also evolves because I imagine that many men, namely the older generations but perhaps the younger ones alike, probably don’t really get the difference between “helping out” and “sharing responsibility.” After all, it seems that even the wife filmed above was ok with the husband merely sweeping the balcony every so often.

And of course, that’s the other side of the battle. As long as women are accepting of this behavior and attitude, as long as women are ok with a little help here, a little help there, then the notion of shared responsibility will be lost and contained to a few reels of PSA’s stocked away in a library of film.

But we’re on the right path with this campaign and personally, I’m kind of digging SERNAM for making the right to a balanced and fair life for all, men and women, enough of a priority so as to spend some dollars on communication to the masses.

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The last name issue in Chile: another dilemma

I think my fellow expat friend was on to something when she wrote her post about her struggle to figure out what to do with her name following her marriage to a Chilean this year. You see, as she explained quite eloquently in her post, Chileans have a certain way of viewing the last name game and it’s basically this: first name, middle name, father’s last name, mother’s last name. This is the case for every single person born in Chile and this is the case for men, women and children, alike. There are a few exceptions, such as, for example, when the father has completely disappeared and the mother chooses to give her child both her last names (which technically speaking would make Chileans think that the child was actually her mother’s sibling and of course, eyebrows would be raised.) Women don’t take their husband’s name after marriage and are forever known by the name they were born with, regardless of marital status. This is the antithesis of what we know in the States because many women choose to either keep their last names or adopt their husband’s last name once married and if you live abroad, this options somehow becomes obsolete. At least, this is what we’re faced with here in Chile.

My issue with the name dilemma here in Chile is not quite the same as my friend’s and it has more to do with Chilean society and their obsession with last names. Although perhaps outwardly Chileans will argue that classism and discrimination based on one’s last name no longer plays a major role in opportunities for advancement here in Chile, incognito, it really does. How do I know this? Besides the reliable source that is my husband and his experience with the matter, I have many other reliable sources who have given me their input based on experiences in college, experiences in the work force, their personal experiences as decisions makers within their companies, experiences in their social life and so on. As much as I wanted to believe that such a reality was no longer the case in this age of globalism AND considering that there are many expats who live in Chile, the reality is that sadly, last names matter. They matter just as much as where you live in Santiago and where you went to school (and I’m not talking school as in which you university you attended. Rather, I’m speaking of where you went to KINDERGARTEN. Believe it or not, these factors also still matter in Chile).

I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify that not all of these variables are important 100% of the time. For instance, there may very well be many examples of how someone who lives in Puente Alto (a lower to lower-middle class neighborhood in Santiago), went to a mediocre school, achieved the best grades possible, attended a prestigious university, such as Universidad de Chile, based on their own personal merit and consequently landed a great job where he/she moved up the ranks and is now a decision maker at a very good company. I totally believe that happens and I’m HAPPY it’s possible. On the flip side, just because the aforementioned is possible, is BY NO MEANS an indication that the opposite doesn’t happen. Meaning, without seeing a face, without knowing a background, without even bothering to type the word GOOGLE in the browser to find out more, someone may very well look at G’s last name, coupled with my last name and completely disregard our future children for a number of things (including entrance into a good school.) I totally believe that happens based on REAL examples and it’s worrisome.

I’m not gonna lie. G’s paternal last name and my paternal last name are bad. I say this not because the actual, physical spelling of either name is phonetically equivalent to the word shmagina (God forbid), but because they are so blah, so common, so ORDINARY, and so typical, I truly believe it will be a disadvantage to our future children (hey, I didn’t make the societal rules here in Chile, but I’m here and I need to plan for them). Seriously. You might call me crazy or think I’m exaggerating but what I’m telling you is based on the social sphere we find ourselves circulating in more and more and this stuff REALLY matters (in this circle)! So what am I going to do? Fight the power my entire life? With the last name equivalents of Smith and Jones, G and I are seriously considering putting our second last names as our children’s last names, IF ONLY, the proposed new law that is circulating in the congress-equivalent would JUST PASS. After all, if I have two last names that identify me as, well, ME, shouldn’t I have the option to give my future kids one of those two last names? Why does the government get to decide what I get to name my future kids? Truth be told, G’s second last name might secure our future kids a senate seat and why should we have to give up that option just because the government tells us that we HAVE to give each kid the grandfather’s last name? Needless to say (in case you can’t tell) I’m irate over the matter. If being born in Chile means you get two last names, my thought is that of those two last names, one should be able to choose which of the last names you give your children. Plain and simple. It’s not like I’m suggesting Chile adopt the practice of allowing anyone to give their kids ANY last name imaginable! (Imagine if that were the case, what roll call would be like at school: “Manchester United? Here! San Francisco Forty Niners? Here! Lan Chile? She’s absent. Ok, thanks.”) If given the option to choose one of your two last names to pass on, I totally agree that all the kids should share that same pattern of last names so that you don’t have a family of five, all with different last names. I get that consistency and the ability to trace your roots back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition makes sense to some.

In short, I hope this law finds its way to passage. I’d really, really like to give my kids last names other than the paternal ones G and I unfortunately have. Again, nothing is wrong with the names themselves, but everything is wrong with what Chilean society will do or not do, how it will react or not react, based solely on these last names as they are. I have two last names and I should have the right to pass on whichever one I choose. Why the h*ll does the government of Chile get to decide this? And why the h*ll do I have to give credit to and pass on ONLY the paternal one?

What century are we living in, Chilean government? Get with the program and lighten the h*ll up.

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Working from home when living in a foreign country

When I tell people that I work from home the usual response is “Wow, you’re so lucky. I wish I had that gig.” Or something of that nature.

True, working from home definitely has its high points. I don’t HAVE to wake up early, I don’t deal with rush hour traffic (and in Santiago it’s awful), I get to hang out with my dog all day long, even while I work and I never have to deal with sharing bathrooms with coworkers (and the discomfort and too-much-information THAT entails.) Among other things, of course.

I admit that when I told my company that I was moving to Chile, their response was better than what I had expected. “Work for us down in Chile.” Sweet! After all, my position with them requires me to manage the Latin American region so the fact that I was moving to Chile (where we also have partners) made more sense than if I were moving to, say, The Netherlands. It definitely allowed me to cross one thing off the “to-do” list upon arrival, which was “find a job and a way to earn a living so you don’t end up living in a van down by the river.”*

However, as awesome as working from home can be, when you move to a new country, working from home actually TAKES AWAY the much needed social connections you are forced to have with coworkers when you work outside your home. Since I didn’t have that on arrival, it took me much longer to make friends and, a year later and still working from home, I have friends of course but I’m sure I’d have a few more if I worked outside. Further, they’d probably be Chilean, something that’s definitely lacking in the friend department for me right now.

In any case, I could go on and on detailing the pros and the cons of working from home, especially when throwing the fact that I’m new to the country into the mix. But, don’t pictures speak louder than words? I was on Facebook last night and saw that a former colleague of mine in the U.S. posted a comic strip that accurately describes (visually, since it’s what we all like) the good and the bad of working from home. I have to share it because, at least in my case, it’s oh-so-true. Sweetly adorable, chocolate covered truth … Check it out here. (Thanks to the creator of The Oatmeal comic strip for this and to my former coworker for sharing it on FB.)

[* This reference to Chris Farley’s SNL character “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” will only make sense to those who 1) either appreciate all things SNL and therefore watch episodes regardless of date and time or 2) you watched SNL religiously during the late 90s, as I did. Here’s a YouTube link for your viewing enjoyment. ]
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Peacing out of this joint

I’m sure that expats everywhere have those days when you all of sudden TRULY wonder just what the hell you’re doing in your host country. Any backwards, freaky, scary or frustrating experience can trigger it and though I have days when I am pretty convinced everyone in this country has got it all wrong, last Wednesday I hit a limit with Chile and was about one online purchase away from hopping the first one-way flight back to SFO, bulldog in tow (naturally).

I’ll spare you the details and play-by-play’s of what happened that consequently pushed me over the edge, but suffice it to say that it entailed Chileans and their oh-so-wonderful ways behind the wheel and on the road. I made detailed references to some examples of their bad habits back in June but on Wednesday it was so bad, so rude, so frustrating and so unfair that I couldn’t imagine living another day in this country, with these people who apparently go out of their way to make you feel bad. Mind you, this is how it felt on Wednesday when it was literally happening just like that: some guy going out of his way to make me feel bad for something that wasn’t my fault. Do people like him really exist out there and why is it that I have to have the misfortune of crossing paths with them? To make matters worse, it would seem that about 85% of the men in this country are convinced that women are hands down horrible drivers. So you can imagine my horror, my raw, irrational frustration with this guy who not only wanted to make me feel bad but who also went wild insulting my gender!

Of course there are all kinds of drivers and the term “bad driver” is also really relative. I happen to think that someone who manages to maneuver around cars in order to cross a recently-turned-red light is a pretty bad driver. Maybe some idiot guy would think that’s a “capo” (capable) driver. Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe. Back home I happened to think anyone could fall into the bad driver category: me, you, women, men, African Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, Greek, Jews, Italians – and so on. I was an equal opportunity labeler of bad drivers and gave no regard to sex, religion, race or political party. The problem in Chile then is that it’s SUCH A HOMOGENEOUS country they can only categorize and label based on sex: man = good driver; woman = bad driver. This annoying belief which happens to be embedded into the psyche of the general male population here is what truly had me at the point of packing my bags less than a week ago.

When I lived back home, I remember meeting expats from Chile who had relocated in California because of jobs, schools or in general, in an attempt to better themselves one way or another. Many of them found California, the Bay Area, to be really backwards. Gringos were considered “cold” and “too busy” to bother with each other. We were the type who seemed to only care about money and our jobs and didn’t take time to be with family or with our neighbors. Many were surprised to realize that they would never really know if they had neighbors in their U.S. apartment buildings or not. They were also taken aback by how restrictive California seemed: last call at bars at 1:30 a.m., no smoking anywhere and don’t even THINK about littering or jay walking or a ticket would surely slap you silly across the face (in fact, my mom got a ticket for jay walking once, after having lived there more than 20 years). “Que cuaticos son los gringos!” or basically that we make mountains out of mole hills and dramatize even the smallest of things. So we were square, workaholics who didn’t like to really party, who cared more about our environment (and dogs) than we did about forming bonds with the newly arrived Chileans who were calling California their home. In fact, I remember many Chileans I had met going back home to Chile only to later find out from one of their family members that he or she “just couldn’t adapt to the U.S. way of life.”

Aside from the horrible way Chileans drive and the despicable view on women drivers, my problem with Chile is that I don’t quite get their priorities. What makes them work? What’s really important (and of course I mean besides faith and family because I realize that’s a given here.) In the Bay Area I can tell you it’s about being the most successful, the healthiest, the most giving and socially conscious you can be, the customer is (almost) always right … all that and of course vacations are a big deal to Californians too, whether fancy or simple camping. Many other things are important but these are some examples. What’s a big deal here in Chile? … it’s so bizarre what people will truly give you a hard time about and THAT’S what makes living here so hard sometimes.

Why is it that at Starbucks they make a fuss about giving you a sleeve for your coffee, stating that only customers who order drinks “extra hot” are entitled to said sleeve? What part of their brains makes saying “no” to a customer whose hand is burning such a priority? And what part of their brains justifies offering a whole cup to put under the original cup as the solution? Don’t they know that a cup is much more expensive to the company than the sleeve? What’s the priority there? Who are they making the priority? Why spend the 15 minutes arguing about this when handing a sleeve is all it would take to make the customer happy and to get him out of the employee’s face STAT?

Why is it that when I run on the path designated for bikes (for all of a few seconds so I can run around others who are in the way of my regular path), twice already I’ve had people yell at me to get off since it’s “for bikes only.” Why do they care? Since when are rules so respected here that I need to get yelled at repeatedly for making my way around those who are going a tad slower than me?

Are Chilean societal priorities like restricción vehicular? [In Santiago there is a system known as “restricción vehicular” where private vehicles may not be driven on certain days, defined by the final digit of their license plates. Failure to comply with this restriction is punishable by fines.] See, if I had the legend to when certain things are enforced and when they are disregarded here, I would probably have less and less “F-U Chile, I’m peacing out” moments. In fact, it would make adapting here a much smoother process for expats like me and trust me, it would make us less “weird” to everyone else. If cars have a legend that tells them when they can and can’t be driven depending on the day of the week, I’m sure we can come up with something similar so that I can go about my daily life in a much more relaxed manner.

Here’s what I’m envisioning as regular, daily enforced priorities:

This is the day when customer service is put on the back burner. If you just paid US$30 for lip gloss, you’re absolutely not entitled to one-on-one service at the cash register and you are definitely not entitled to eye contact or to the asking of any questions. In fact, we aren’t sure why we’re the ones having to ring you up. This place better get self-serve registers pronto.
Today we’re focused on denying any requests for anything extra at restaurants or coffee shops. If you want a sleeve for that steaming cup of coffee that’s currently causing blisters on your palm, you’re going to want to ask for that little number “extra hot.” Said request on your part will undermine any rule we have regarding sleeves.

No matter what you do, today is the day Santiago has decided that you are the biggest moron it has driving around its streets. If you happen to be following transit laws to a tee, we’ve decided that you are supposed to have skipped the odd numbered pages on that guide so anything covered on those pages is currently disregarded today. If you violate this decision on our part then today also states that anyone, anywhere can yell at you and make you feel dumb. If you happen to be a woman, said badgering will happen for more than 5 minutes and we reserve the right to insult your entire gender.

In any type of office or retail environment, today is the day we focus on telling you exactly the opposite of what we told you two days ago when you came in. If we told you that your pants were ready today, we actually meant Monday. If we told you that you didn’t owe money to the I.R.S. equivalent, actually we changed our minds and you do – double the amount previously thought. If you called and asked us if we had XYZ product/service before making the 40 minute trek to our store/office, we lied. Sorry!

Today is the day dedicated to random conversations and spontaneous sharing of too much information, sometimes by complete strangers. If you happen to be standing alone, or even if you’re with a friend, it’s more than likely someone will come up and start a conversation as if halfway through. Or you might run into your mom’s best friend’s great-aunt. Be sure to pay special attention and nod accordingly lest you offend the person sharing the story about the boil that developed right over his tailbone, which is now gone, thanks to the neighbor’s son who was visiting from the south where he goes to medical school. Upon concluding the random information sharing, the person may invite you over to his/her house for “once” (tea) but don’t worry, this is just his/her way of saying bye. For the LOVE OF PETE don’t actually confirm your attendance to said “once.” That would just be really weird of you.

Saturday & Sunday
Free-for-all, anything goes. Though note that these days there are always ample amounts of staring and bad customer service. Regardless of your reaction to anything on these days, note that 85% of the time we’re right and you’re wrong. However we’re happy to offer you the following: specifically on Sundays, we’re committed to making your driving experience in Santiago pleasant and accommodating. Since most of us aren’t out driving around OR we happen to already be at the mall, the streets will be pretty empty so LIVE IT UP out there! It’s our thanks to you for choosing Chile as your home.
We hope you enjoy your weekend with your family. God bless!

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Close cab encounters of the Santiago kind

I was once convinced that the weirdest or most awkward of cab encounters were contained strictly to the island of Manhattan. The normal cab experience in New York involves the word “no” yelled sternly from the driver himself in response to one’s query if he happens to be going Uptown. In general, they never seem to be going in the direction you need to go. And there’s always a split second of analysis on their part, as they determine whether it’s worth their while to carry you from Point A to Point B (it rarely seems to be and in the rare instance that they determine it IS, they act as if they’re doing you the biggest favor in the world.)

A few years ago I was once in a cab with a Japanese coworker of mine, during her first trip to the Big Apple. It was winter and it was snowing and because of this, it was naturally 90 degrees inside the cab. Meanwhile, she and I looked like the kid in “A Christmas Story” with the amount of clothing and layers we had on as defense against the storm outside – in short, we were shvitz-ing. She got hot, she rolled down the window. She realized it was down too much, she put it back up. She accidentally kept the button pressed too much so she adjusted it again so it was just right. What did the cab driver do? YELL AT HER to “stop playing with the window.” Of course I sat up in her defense but it was too late. She was appalled that anyone would speak to someone else like that (after all, she’s from Japan, the country of polite). My poor coworker never recovered from that NYC cabbie experience.

On a different trip, I was in the car with a Muslim driver from Iraq at a time when the sun was beginning to set. We were driving into the city from the airport and he realized he would soon need to participate in “Salah” the formal prayer of Islam, done by Muslims at various times of the day. The sunset one was fast approaching, so he whipped out his dinner (packed by his wife, he told me) and proceeded to eat prior to dropping me off and heading to prayer. Except, being the polite man that he seemed to be, he couldn’t bear eating in front of me and not SHARING. And that he did. I don’t know what I ate precisely but it was both weird and intriguing and definitely the first time I had tried Iraqi food. In NYC. In a cab. From foil wrapping.

Given all of the above (and trust me there are other similar stories), you can imagine that it seemed really, really unlikely to me that I’d ever find a city where cab drivers were just as rude, weird or awkward. Be that as it may, Santiago is quickly securing its spot at the top of the “Cities With the Weirdest Cab Drivers” list.

One time, post a fluke night out dancing (we weren’t feeling it), me, G, a gringa friend and her boyfriend, attempted to hail a cab at Providencia with Pedro de Valdivia to take us about 4 blocks in the cold, dark night. Though the cab driver was going in that direction, after we all piled in, he told us to get out because he felt we were “abusing” the right to take the cab because of the “short” distance. Did I mention he was going DOWN THAT STREET and would pass right by where we needed to get out? Hello??? Do the cab drivers NOT care about making money – not to go out of his way, but down the same street? I was floored – not only because of his logic but because of how truly appalled he seemed by the mere notion of driving us four blocks in the direction he was already going. Needless to say, we walked the four blocks, all the while my gringa friend and I bashed the cab driver, Chile and the world in general – we were so pissed. (For the record, G thoroughly believed we were overreacting and when I stated it was “the principle” he asked me why the gringas always fight “on principle.” Aaaaaahhhh!!)

Then there was the time I took a cab to the U.S. Embassy to pick up my new U.S. Passport. An exciting trip for me because I had just become a citizen and thus, was about to retrieve the proper documentation stating just that. As it turned out, the cab driver was a die hard Communist.

[I get into the cab.]
Me: “The U.S. Embassy please. It’s on Andres Bello, please take XYZ route.”

Cabbie: (as he drives onward) “The U.S. Embassy? Why would you want to go there? That place should be destroyed. The U.S. is the devil.”

Me:[in my head “sweet. now is not a good time to tell him about that citizenship accomplishment.“] “Oh yeah? Well you know, sometimes certain documents are required from them, so that’s why I’m going.”

Cabbie: (groveling) “Those damn Americans think they own the world! I’m not surprised you have to do all this crazy running around to get your business done. They don’t make anything easy and like to flex their muscles to the whole world.”

Me: (smile plastered on my face) “uh huh. Yeah well I need something from them to travel. What are you gonna do? It is what it is.”

Cabbie: “I’d like to travel to Cuba …”

Me: “Oh, do you have family there?” (recalling that I had read somewhere once that many Cubans have come to Chile to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families.)

Cabbie: “No, it’s just one of my lifetime dreams. Now there’s a wonderful country and a man who has the right idea, that Castro, God love him.” (pause) (sigh) “Yeah, one of my lifelong dreams is to go there and I’m going to do it! Before I die, I will go there. And you know, those Americans, you have no idea how many times they’ve tried to destroy the Cubans. I know why too – the resources. The Americans want to get their grimy hands on all the valuable resources anyone might have – they’re so greedy they can’t stand to see others have valuable resources!” (cabbie is now adamant.)

Me: (noticing the Cuban flag on his windshield) “Uh huh… yeah I read that Cuba has really nice beaches.”

And so on and so on. He would rant and pound his fist against the Americans, all the while singing songs of praise for Cuba and Castro. In response, I would talk about their beaches and ask about the food and the rum. Perhaps I should have defended my fellow Americans but I ask you: alone in a cab, on your way to get your U.S. Passport, with a ranting Communist at the wheel, what would you have done? I rest my case.

Then last night, I was in a cab and the driver was a pleasant man in his late 60s or early 70s. He gets to talking to me about the woman who was in the cab before me, a “beautiful, striking” woman about 50, who was married to a former military man (so she told the cab driver.) The cabbie says to me, “Do you know that she was in the cab for 20 minutes and during that time her husband called her 5 times? FIVE TIMES!” Apparently the woman had guests invited to her house at 8pm and her husband was freaking out – to the point of stalking her and calling her names – because at ten minutes to 6pm, she still hadn’t arrived at home. Long story short, the cab driver proceeds to tell me 1) what a jerk her husband was 2) how men should treat women delicately and 3) how he himself still “makes love” to his wife and enjoys her as he always has in the past 30 years that they’ve been together. Um, what? Scratch record, stop the music. Then he proceeded to inform me that on some nights, she will put on an apron – not to initiate “lovemaking” – and “serve” him a pisco sour as if they were in a restaurant. Likewise, on some nights, he’ll play the waiter, placing a dish towel across his arm, and serving HER a pisco sour. Again, not as a signal that “lovemaking” time is about to begin, lest anyone be confused.

By then we had arrived at my apartment so I didn’t have time to ask him to differentiate the “yes to lovemaking” cues from the “no to lovemaking” cues that he and his wife had established. I got that the waiter/waitress role-playing game fell into the “no to lovemaking” realm, but what if, say, one day she forgot to put on her left earring? Is that in the “yes” or “no” realm? ….
I guess we’ll never know.

The moral of my blog post is this: if you find yourself in a situation where you have to take a cab in Santiago, don’t bother bringing your iPod. The cab drivers are just as likely to talk to you as if you aren’t trying to ignore them and you’ll find yourself hearing about the intimate details of their sex life OR about how Karl Marx was definitely on to something. My suggestion? Try to steer the conversation towards a topic so shocking, they’ll be the ones asking their friends why all the weirdo passengers choose their cab for their transportation needs.

I’ve decided that my outrageous story from now on will be that my lover, the goat, broke up with me and ran off with the neighbor girl.

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It’s USA Week at Jumbo

Hey, did you guys know that for the next ten days it’s USA week at your local Jumbo? I, for one, did not get the memo from the U.S. Embassy here in Santiago and it’s a good thing that we subscribe to “El Mercurio” (Chile’s leading newspaper) on the weekends, otherwise, how would I have known?? Thankfully, upon opening today’s paper, the following circular slipped out, alerting me to the fact that between July 8 – 18, it’s USA Week at Jumbo.

Obviously my curiosity was piqued and so I took a gander.

Now, maybe I’m alone when I say this, but I’m always happy when I go to my local Jumbo and see products I recognize from back home. Simple things like Snickers bars or Top Ramen soup make me really happy. It’s nice to see brands and logos I know and love in a sea of those that I can’t tell you much about. I know that Campbell’s is “Mmmm, mmm, good” but not sure what Maggi soups are … as a result, I don’t get the same cozy, warm fuzzy feeling about Maggi as I do about Campbell’s soups. This goes for all brands in Chile – since I didn’t grow up here, they mean nothing to me on a personal level. Therefore I’m a marketers nightmare -OR- I’m a consumer a marketer disregards completely because I’m a lost cause. How can a consumer associate feelings with particular brands if they did not grow up seeing these brands and the publicity around them?

Which is why, from a marketing point of view, I have to commend Jumbo for reaching out to the American population that is constantly expanding here in Santiago. Even the cover of this circular speaks to us because an African American woman (or perhaps AA decent) is depicted on the cover – something we Americans completely regard as natural even though the majority of the people who live in the U.S. are not of African American decent. In all areas of marketing in the U.S. it’s important for companies and brands to make sure to be “equal opportunity” and to do the best they can to depict the melting pot that is the population at large in the 50 States. [Of course one can argue that if a company or brand fails to do this in their promotions, they can be targeted as “racist” and well, that would be a PR nightmare for any business.] In general, Chilean advertising never depicts people of darker color. First because Chileans don’t associate with that and further, don’t aspire to that (perhaps the main reason why most models in advertisements are blonde) and second, Chileans are pretty homogeneous in their looks and simply put, there aren’t many dark skinned people walking around the country. Therefore, I’m concluding that this woman was used on the cover to specifically speak to Americans in Santiago.

On a similar note, perhaps it’s that Jumbo is advertising to those who aspire to all things American. After all, this country definitely looks north for trends and success stories, so why not harness that attention and promote food from the U.S.? Whatever the motivation for this focus on our food, the bottom line is that somehow, with someone, this promotion must mean mad money to Jumbo.

So what’s being advertised in the circular?

“Productos Exclusivos” (exclusive products) for the most part and many of them brands I don’t even recognize! I realized that perhaps the reason for this is because Jumbo (or Cencosud, owners of the Jumbo supermarket chains) have an exclusive agreement with Food Export Association of the Midwest USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the midwestern region of the United States. That probably explains why the peanut butter being advertised is “Algood” and the maple syrup is “Shur Fine.” I’m from California, so my main thought is “where’s the Jiffy and the Aunt Jemima?” I’ve never been to the Midwest so can’t attest anything about these brands, but one thing’s for sure: beggars can’t be choosers and I’d much rather have the choice between chunky and creamy peanut butter versus no peanut butter at all. Even if that means consuming Kmart’s Blue Light Special private label or whatever unknown brands are being imported. Call me crazy.

But that’s the key thing to keep in mind, right? Beggars (as in me) can’t be choosers. I’m in a strange land with strange food and labels (most yummy though, I will admit) and if I can find pancake mix, cranberry juice (trust me, it’s no picnic trying to find cranberry anything here) or root beer, I’ll disregard the relatively unknown label in lieu of having a small slice of home in my Chilean refrigerator.

In any case, hats off to Jumbo for embracing their American population and those who favor all things American. Yeah USA Week is a little late since 4th of July was LAST weekend but hey, I’ll take it. Plus it helps promote the food that’s manufactured and grown there. That’s a nice thought considering how much food we import ourselves from Chile and Mexico. So, thank you Jumbo. I may not be changing my shopping habits all that much, but I’m happy to see some peanut butter and Ocean’s Spray cranberry juice all up in here:

Some good ol’ American style stuffing:

But find it really, really funny that on the page advertising American sodas, A&W Root Beer (#4) is promoted as “Cerveza sin alcohol Root Beer.” Or non-alcoholic beer Root Beer.

I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. We wouldn’t want people purchasing the root beer and thinking they can get a buzz off drinking several cans of it. That would be false advertising for those who don’t get that the “beer” doesn’t really mean beer. Oh Chile… don’t ever be so funny and fabulous in your advertising!

Note: you can check out the online version of this entire catalog here. This link will most likely still be active about a week after July 18th. Enjoy!
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Santiago the Segmented

I’m noticing this odd phenomenon about social classes here in Chile. There is a weird obsession over them that reaches every corner of this country. Further, there seems to be a constant need to identify which class people fall into.

…or maybe it’s because I’m studying Marketing and for all types of reasons, marketers need to segment the population at large…Ok, I won’t discard that this might be the reason why figuring out where people are “located” in the social class hierarchy seems to be a national past time for those who immediately surround me.

There are several factors that determine what socioeconomic class people fall under here in Chile and one of those factors in Santiago is the “comuna” or neighborhood you live in. Note the map below for a quick glimpse of the comunas that make up Santiago:

I first became aware of this chasm between classes when I visited some cousins in Chile for a three-month period back in 1998. My cousins, aunt and uncle live in a three bedroom house in Puente Alto. I didn’t personally see anything “different” about them or how they lived since they had all the things I had at home … in fact, I’d argue that they lived far better than we did back then because they certainly always had a good amount of food readily available for a quick asado (bbq). They had cars, tvs, phones, mircowaves, fridges, etc, etc. It wasn’t until THEY said to me “Vamos a ir al barrio alto” that I even had a notion that a “higher neighborhood” (as in upper class neighborhood) even existed in such a manner that it had it’s own nickname. See, to them, going past the Ñuñoa neighborhood is like venturing into a completely different country. Anything from the Providencia neighborhood and on, is mostly foreign to them. In fact, a couple of weeks after the earthquake, another cousin of mine who happens to live beyond Providencia, mentioned that she had gone to the mall, Parque Arauco, for a one-time job and she was FLOORED that people were shopping and eating out. She literally said “It’s like another world up there.” Up there being the Las Condes neighborhood.

Aside from neighborhoods, another factor in determining what class you fall into are what the Census calls “Good” (or “Bienes.”) Does the family or household have a tv, a land line, a refrigerator, a car, a microwave, a shower (yes, you read that correctly. They want to know if you have a shower)? There are about 10-15 items that are considered to be basic and depending on whether a family has them or not, helps determine where in the social class spectrum they will ultimately fall. The higher class will obviously have 100% of all items, in multiple quantities, whereas a lower class household may have certain things, but definitely not 100% of them.

Finally, another important factor that helps determine where a household falls is the level of education reached by the head (or heads) of household. Those in the upper sections of the spectrum will have totaled an average of AT LEAST 16.2 years of schooling and most have certainly graduated college and further, hold a Graduate degree from a known institution.

So then, how are classes “classified?” Not in the typical fashion we hear about in the U.S. – Upper Class, Upper Middle Class, Middle Class, Lower Middle Class, Upper Lower Class, etc, etc until you get to the standard Lower Class title. In Chile, each class has a letter or series of letters assigned to them as follows:

ABC1: These are college graduates who hold executive level jobs or otherwise “prestigious” jobs. Likewise, these individuals hold powerful positions within their companies and they live in the best and most exclusive neighborhoods of Santiago. Their monthly income is calculated at about $3.5 million pesos (about USD$7000) a month or more. These individuals make up about 10% of Santiago’s population. They own two or more cars, all or most luxury makes and models, and the cars are less than 5 years old. Usually the “AB” segement is grouped together with the C1 segment because the AB alone would only make up about 2.5% of the population (incidentally, this segment alone would be quite difficult to analyze since they are the ones who will have most of their “goods” completely guarded and all info on them would be heavily shrouded.)

C2: This is considered to be the “most typical” middle class of the city and make up less than 20% of the population of Santiago. They tend to live in more traditional neighborhoods of the city, sometimes further away from the downtown areas and with clean, well maintained homes,streets and sidewalks. The heads of households are generally also college graduates with executive-type jobs or are heads of departments in their companies. Their income is an average $1 million pesos a month (about US#2,000) and they own at least one car (sometimes two). Unfortunately in this group, savings is not a reality for the most part.

C3: Middle class noted mainly for its simplicity. This group tends to live amongst the C1 group and the D group, typically found in the more traditional, sometimes older neighborhoods of Santiago. Socially speaking an interesting point about this group is that in their neighborhoods, one can note an elevated level of domestic activity on the streets (i.e. housewives sweeping, children playing, etc). This group is said to make up 25% of the population of Santiago. The average household income is $600 thousand pesos (about US$1,200) and they tend to not have cars but might instead own very old, handed down trucks. Only 10% of this group has a land line in their homes.

D: This is the lower class group that makes up approximately a reported 35% of the population of Santiago. They have an average monthly income of $300 thousand pesos (about US$600) and they tend to live in smaller, older, mainly deteriorated homes. It’s reported that these households rely on only one revenue earning member. That being said, because there are so many individuals who fall in this category, they are notable for business purposes as they are a force as consumers due to amount of people in this group. Those in this group tend to not have steady jobs but rather will work seasonal or non-contractual jobs (i.e. parking lot attendants). They live in very populated ares of the city, generally on streets that don’t necessarily contain pavement.

E: This group is considered to be at almost poverty, if not poverty, level and they make up 10% of the population in Santiago. Their average household income is $90 thousand pesos (about US$180) and this income is either very sporadic income or money granted to them by the government. This group cannot afford to cover the most basic of necessities and generally rely on third party assistance (i.e. the government in many cases). Due to their lack of purchasing power, unfortunately they are rarely regarded in consumer studies.

Why did I feel the need to write about this? First of all, on a selfish note, I really needed to understand how consumers are segmented in Chile. For obvious reasons, businesses and companies in general, focus on the ABC1 and C2 groups mostly because of their purchasing power. After all, these are the people who have the money to spend on goods and services. Logical of course.

I also wanted to understand, in depth, how one group differs from another because Chile really is a segmented culture. In fact, this study I explored done by AIM (Chilean Association of Market Studies) in 2008 contains 38 pages of information. Information that is so detailed, it even tells you how each group DECORATES THEIR HOMES!! Crazy.

I think that Chileans segment themselves and they do this because this is how it’s been all their lives. This is certainly not known as the “land of opportunity” and I wonder how many D class individuals ever make it to the sphere of ABC1 or even C2! Is that even possible here? I take a look at my own family members (ones I wouldn’t even dare classify!) and wonder why they never go out in other areas of the city, why they don’t have friends who live in other areas and why they only move around in their neighborhoods. The same goes for those who live in Las Condes and beyond – do they ever go to Puente Alto to have a beer or a quick bite to eat? My guess is no.

It’s interesting how my graduate studies have made me look at people and wonder how their socioeconomic class, as dictated by Chile and themselves personally, makes them tick and motivates them one way or another.

Is it possible to make leaps and bounds in such a segmented culture (and city)? Discuss.

Sources: AIM Chile, Novomerc Study, CERC.

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Identifying with "Lost in Translation"

I’m more analytical than I give myself credit for and in the recent weeks I’ve been analyzing my current state of affairs as my one-year anniversary of arriving in Chile is quickly approaching.

I think my feelings on the matter can best be described by the original trailer to the movie “Lost In Translation.” I’ll give you a minute or so to check it out below.

Incidentally, I’ve been to Tokyo and aside from being FABULOUS it really IS how it’s depicted in the movie. The thing being that the movie is focused on two different (or similar) reactions to that environment.

Anyway, the case in point isn’t about Tokyo but about my identity crisis in this new chapter of my life. For as long as I can remember, this was the trailer to me:

“Andrea who is originally from Chile, works in anime and is on a mission from God to find THE ONE. Andrea fills her time and space with reading historical fiction and US Weeklys, hanging out with friends, traveling for work and engaging in spontaneous bouts of physical activity otherwise known as cardio excercise. She likes to dabble in drinking wine and playing computer games and is a big fan of greek yogurt. She owns more jeans than she has time to wear and looks forward to baseball season so she can watch games in the sun with her friends (using the term ‘watch’ loosely). She routinely hosts movie nights and girls’ night at her cute, albeit small, apartment. Her cooking skills cover a variety of salads, mostly consisting of lettuce and avocado, with a generous gob of minced Dungeness crab. Andrea has questionable opinions towards all things Mormon and all things ordinary.”

This little paragraph pretty much summed up who I was for a big part of my life and in comparison, my life now looks NOTHING like said points mentioned above.

The trailer for “Lost in Translation” stated in the beginning “Bob is lost.” In this case:
“Andrea is lost as she begins to come to terms with what it means to live her life in another country. Andrea is new to being a wife and suddenly finds herself in charge of a home where two, sometimes four people dwell. She owns a dog who recently chewed up one of her two pairs of high heeled black boots – she is the master disciplinarian. She’s also balancing her career working remotely for a company based abroad, all the while managing her humbling grades in Graduate School. All this grouped with trying to cement bonds and friendships with other women living the Expat life as well. Andrea spends the majority of her days completely alone, reaching out to the world via social online mediums, something she never did before back home. Old Andrea – meet new Andrea.”

I’m learning about being a wife, a “dueña de casa” (verbatim, “owner of a home” which has more do with running and creating a home vs fiscally owning a home), being a pet owner, doing my job well but knowing that eventually I’ll need to have a secure job locally if I’m ever going to establish my career whole-heartedly here, branching out, learning how to maneuver myself in this city, so on and so on. All of this is grossly misaligned with what I knew of me before so to me, it’s no wonder that I’m in this perpetual state of crisis with regards to my identity.

In “Lost in Translation,” the character Bob (Bill Murray) asks the character Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) “What do you do?” to which she replies “I’m not sure yet actually” and later, in a different scene, she tells Bob “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”

Chile is full of nuances, bureaucracy, crime, traditions and social norms – things that can make anyone’s head spin even before they have to come to terms with all of a sudden being a wife and “mom” to a six month old dog in a foreign country where no one seems to understand where you’re coming from. As such, it’s pretty hard to determine what one is “supposed to be” at any given point. Shying away from the ordinary and in a land where a) being different isn’t rewarded and b) being different isn’t something easily accessible, you find yourself wondering where your path is and how you walk down it at your own rhythm once you’ve determined said path.

But “the good news is, the whiskey works” to quote the trailer/movie again. And in my case here and now, the whiskey is all things that make being here better than being there… the whiskey is all that stuff that nudges me and says “Hellooooo, remember this?” After all, as much as I loved my single life and LOVED my old apartment, the fact of the matter was that it was lonely on many occasions and even then I had days when I’d be home alone and talked to no one … the bad news being that I didn’t have the reality of G walking in through the door and sharing the evening with me. And if there’s ever one common denominator in the field where all that’s good belongs, it’s G.

In summary, am I having an identity crisis? Yeah, I think I am. I’m in this strange land with its strange customs, where I don’t know tit from tat and on top of that I’m all of a sudden a “housewife” in more ways than I care to recognize. Simply put, the housewife bit is not the gig I was thinking I’d have this time in life and I’m fighting it with blood, sweat and tears. The wife part I like – something one can definitely get used to, but this is also a learning curve. I’m attempting to introduce old Andrea to new Andrea …one’s lost and one’s found. Both are versions of me that I know and love, though the former one is that which I’ve known for a lifetime minus the last year.

In the end it’s the environment, where I am, what I do and who I surround myself with that’s changed. I don’t recognize the usual suspects because the usual suspects are played by completely different people now. It’s on me to get with it and adapt already. I have yet to learn to identify with my new roles in my new world. This is the main reason for said identity crisis I’m proclaiming. In the end, I imagine it happens to others who find themselves in warp speed towards another chapter in life … or is that just the new Andrea wishful thinking?

I have faith in the final thought in the “Lost in Translation” trailer above … “Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world, to come full circle.”

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Red Asphalt is missing in Chile

When I was 15 and in high school, I was required to take one semester of driver’s education as part of the basic curriculum of all students. This practice is all but gone in many schools across the U.S. but during the 70s and well into the early 90s when I was in high school, the course was alive and well. We all looked forward to this semester our sophomore year because it was the first step we embarked on towards the freedom that a California state Driver’s License offered us.

Part of the excitement of Driver’s Ed was the mystery that surrounded the infamous “Red Asphalt.” Red Asphalt is a series of instructional driver’s education videos produced by the California Highway Patrol. And to put it bluntly, all it did was feature gruesome scenes of bloody accidents, most of which were caused by drunk or speeding drivers (or both). Before Driver’s Ed, we’d only heard about the film, which supposedly featured bodies cut in half, strewn on lawns, cars a wrangled mess of metal with blood splattered on the windshields and seats … and all we had to frame our own reactions of the film, were those reactions of students older than us. Some were overly dramatic and claimed to have had to walk out of class; others were sadistic and took it all in gladly. In either case, it was the talk of the school whenever the sophomore class had seen the film that particular week.

Below is an 8 minute clip of the original Red Asphalt, though I can’t recall if this was the one we saw in 1992/1993. I doubt it, but even if we had a more updated version, what they would have updated would be the statistics… the general idea of the video is nicely conveyed in this short clip, should you wish to take a gander.

So not only did we have a semester’s worth of learning California driving laws, but this was mixed in with curriculum focused on scaring the living sh*t out of us by outlining every possible factor that could result in a deadly accident the minute we stepped foot behind the driver’s wheel. I’m not condoning nor am I criticizing this tactic, I’m simply stating how it was presented to the general student population at our school, and from what I hear, how it was presented in general in the State of California.

Further to this semester of education and scare tactics, our school also hosted “Drunk Driving Awareness Week” once a year. This involved assemblies where we’d hear first hand about how real people were affected one way or another by drunk driving, movies featuring images of drunk driving accidents and also included what was left of a car on our school’s front lawn. This was an actual car that had been involved in an alcohol related collision, mangled doors, shattered windshields, dried blood – the whole nine yards – on our front lawn so that every day for a week, we saw it on our way into the building. I have memory of the cars looking something like this every year:

Perhaps not this exactly, but similar enough that I recall thinking “How did anyone survive that?”

And so, if it isn’t already obvious to you, my conclusion about all this is that, in the early 90s at least, California CLEARLY favored educating teenagers about the rules of the road while at the same time, scaring us into never wanting to step into a car either as a driver or a passenger for the remainder of our lives. And at least with this teenager, fear tactics work their “magic” in such a way, that I’m like one of those dogs who wears those collars that send electrical charges through them whenever they bark.

As we got older, the messages surrounding driving under the influence continued. They evolved into more sophisticated messages of the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” nature and stopped featuring gross, bloody scenes that bordered on resembling bad Hollywood movie types. The bottom line being that in California, we were constantly fed, via the formal education system or the media, messages that it was simply NOT OK to drink and drive. Even if one had done it, that person carried with them the GUILT learned through all of the above, because it’s embedded in our brains that no matter how you slice it, it’s.just.plain. wrong. And trust me, I’ve seen that guilt scare the few people I know who have driven drunk into NEVER doing it again. Those are the happy cabby people (i.e. they take taxis left and right a la Paris Hilton post jail stint).

THEREFORE, dear blog reader, you can simply IMAGINE my disgust at the seemingly culturally accepted tendency in Chile to drive regardless of the number of drinks one has consumed. I’m not talking about evidence on the news (which, believe it or not, shows bloodier scenes than in the U.S.!) but occasions I’ve witnessed FIRST HAND of this acceptance. The “no he’s fine, he hasn’t had a drink in an hour and I just gave him a cup of coffee.” Or “no she’s fine, she lives just about five blocks from here, and I asked her to call us when she gets home.” And I’ve experienced FIRST HAND being in the car with someone DRIVING who has whipped out a can of beer to drink it while driving (that time, I made him stop the car, I got out and told my two cousins who were in the back seat, after refusing to get out with me, peace out. Baby don’t play that game.) The shadiest part about that story is that the guy driving is a DETECTIVE for the Investigations arm of the Law Enforcement here in Chile. Nice, right?

No one wants to be the “mala onda weon” who tells an inebriated – or even buzzed – friend that maybe he shouldn’t be driving. AND no one wants to be the “mala onda galla” who tells her friends she’s only having two drinks because she has to drive home. That would be met with immediate looks resembling “WTF is wrong with you? Did you have a lobotomy, is that it?” If someone WERE to stick to their guns and not drink or continue to drink (and be responsible, at that!) I’m certain the general public would immediately disregard him/her as someone cool and fun. And God forbid promoting the idea of designated drivers here in Chile. Not once in my personal experience have I ever been to any social gathering here where someone merely stated “Nah, I’m good. I’m the DD tonight.” Unless that person was a pregnant or nursing woman, everyone drinks and there is simply no limit.

Anyhoo, what’s the moral of my story today? Nothing really. I can only do so much to change perceptions, which is limited to those directly around me, and even then, I can only influence so much. I’m not condoning scaring teenagers in Chile from getting behind the wheel because as it is, a good lot of them never learn to drive and when they do, it’s later on in life. Nor am I saying that California had it right because God knows I’ve witnessed those same Californians doing some stupid, stupid things related to drinking and driving. I’m not sure that in general, those scare tactics used in my high school even worked. Yeah, they worked on me for the most part but that’s because my mother’s M.O. as I was growing up was the use of scare tactics. Thus it’s the sure way to discipline me. The whole notion of “If you do/don’t do ABC, then XYZ will happen (to you).” Gets me every time!

Plus, can I also attribute all this “awareness” to the fact that California as a state is all about making us aware? Aware of the effects, aware of the surroundings, aware of the aftermath, aware of the consequences. We’re an aware bunch in CA, or at least, our government aims for that. Does that mean Chileans are, in comparison, unaware? No. I think they’re a very aware bunch as well … it’s just that they’re quick to forgive or turn a blind eye to something they are aware is bad.

THIS is the biggest issue I have with the culture right now.

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