Children’s Day (Día del Niño) – friend or foe?

In my attempt to understand the concept of Children’s Day (Día del Niño) which seems to be a big deal in many Latin American countries, I took to the Internet. I found out that Children’s Day is an idea adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. The main message of this day is to recognize children, pay homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well being. Politically speaking, the idea of Children’s Day was enforced to promote the rights of all children around the world.

The Declaration of Rights of a Child, simply put:

1. All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, color sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.

2. You have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.

3. You have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.

4. You have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.

5. You have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.

6. You have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.

7.You have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.

8. You have the right always to be among the first to get help.

9. You have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. you shall not be obliged to do work which hinders your development both physically and mentally. You should not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder your health, and your moral and physical development.

10. You should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.

I completely and totally agree with these rights granted to all children around the world and further, would personally work vehemently to always ensure that children are protected from any and all types of harm. In addition, I agree with the general mission of the UN’s General Assembly’s purpose behind promoting a Children’s Day: “a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.

Truly it’s a great principle, great mission, aims to teach great values and promotes the fraternity among children and the safekeeping of all children. What cold be wrong with Children’s Day??

I’ll tell you: the retailers and their aim to make you feel like a guilty mofo if you don’t go out and get your kids presents they’ve come to expect. These retailers, and their marketing strategy, aim to make you out as the best parent/uncle/grandparent/cousin/friend/what-have-you if you buy the child the latest and greatest gadget “available only at XYZ store” and for a “limited time.” The underlying message here is that if you don’t go out and buy said toy or gadget, you’re weird and plain wicked for not appreciating kids and how important they are to society.

Oh but the retailers aren’t at fault, really. Society believes the hype as we believe the hype about Christmas and birthdays and Valentine’s Day. If you were to encounter someone who say, never celebrated birthdays or gave gifts on someone’s birthday, I’m sure we’d all conclude the guy/woman is a nut and carry on our merry way. In this case, I’m the nut because in the States, I don’t recall ever celebrating – or even hearing about – Children’s Day. As I got older and began to work in the children’s entertainment industry, from a revenue generating level, I welcomed Children’s Day in other territories as a prime time to make some “holiday” cash by selling our goods and helping my bottom line. See? Even I succumbed to the hype surrounding Children’s Day, only it was from the worst angle possible! Using their desires to generate income for a business purpose. Ugly, to say the least.

From a more objective perspective one thing is decidedly clear: based on the advertisements I see on tv and in print, it appears that the Chilean retailers don’t embrace the true nature of Children’s Day. Perhaps they don’t because the consumer goes out and buys what’s necessary because it’s what has always occurred and what’s expected. I certainly get the retailer side of things and the fact that it’s all based on the general public’s actions and needs. I wonder if I’ll even see some kind of organized activity that truly embraces the nature of Children’s Day as the UN General Assembly had hoped: promoting fraternity and understanding between children.

Obviously I’m the big weirdo fighting the power here, and I’m ok with that. I stated on Facebook that I was anti-Children’s Day and I’m sure more people than not thought I was a b*tch for writing that. The thing is, I’m fine with being a weirdo because after some researching, I’m even more adamant about NOT going out and buying kids gifts this coming Sunday! Yes it’s partly due to having never celebrated Children’s Day growing up (though believe it or not, there IS an actual date dedicated to this back home) and yes, it’s partly due to not having kids of my own. But having worked in the children’s entertainment field, I can completely and totally attest that this day is nothing more than a marketing scheme embraced by retailers and all companies that make and sell children’s products. They all want to make a buck off you. Sorry dear parents, but it’s true. Much like Christmas and what it’s become to those who aren’t really celebrating family and/or the birth of Jesus Christ.

Someday in the future this will become a point of contention between G and me. We’re taking his kids snowboarding this weekend, which in my humble, non-parent opinion should suffice as celebration for their contribution to society and their mere existence. But of course, we were at the mall yesterday and he got them each a gift for Sunday as well. So be it. They aren’t my kids and I’m not about to force my wild opinions on him and influence how he is as a father to them.

But trust me. Someday with my own kids I hope to make Children’s Day more about getting along with other kids and less about what the hell I can buy them at Falabella or Jumbo.

Call me crazy.

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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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My anti-Chile moments

Earlier I tweeted the following: “Totally disgruntled today. Am completely anti-Chile and it’s dumb bureaucracy. Today.”

I’ve been living here since July 18th and in a few more days, it will officially be five months since I’ve moved here. I lived through the freezing cold weather that July embraced me with upon setting foot here and I’ve learned to do the every day things that are part of living in Chile (i.e. weighing your produce BEFORE the checkout counter in the supermarket.) I’ve branched out and met some great people and dare I say I have a social life. In short, I’ve done well enough in my five months here that I feel like my fights with Chile are becoming minimal.

Oh, but sometimes … SOMETIMES Chile and I still have it out.

Back in October, a fellow gringa friend and blogger wrote about three things she’ll never get used to in Chile. I am completely on board with ALL THREE of those points because from a gringa perspective, those three are one of the hardest adjustments to living here. Usually the banks closing at 2 isn’t a big deal for me because I work from home and as such I do have the luxury to stand in line at the bank on any given day without my boss breathing down my neck as to where I’ve been for the past two hours (in line at the bank!)

In lieu of the bank bit, I’d like to add the following points. For whatever reason, today, I was thoroughly annoyed and DISGRUNTLED over these Chilean idiosyncrasies.

1) There are just way too many people in too small a space. Namely Jumbo (the GINORMOUS supermarket chain owned by Cencosud in Lat Am.) My Jumbo (everyone here has “their own” supermarket, meaning, where we generally shop) is like a Costco – most Jumbos are, hence the name. Imagine Safeway, but five times bigger, and with about 40-50 checkout stands. Yet, PRAY TELL, how on Earth do they cram – oh, 250,000 people – in one store?? There is no such thing as maximum capacity in Chile. It’s like what I’ve been told the subways are like in Tokyo. They actually have people on the platforms who CRAM the commuters into the trains. Yes, this is someone’s JOB! That’s what shopping at Jumbo is like, sans the person paid to cram people into the store. Except unlike most commuters on a packed train, I’m actually wielding a cart, my “green” supermarket totes (save the Earth!) AND trying to find food that’s remotely familiar to me! And this is when I’m not having to take a number for the deli, the bread or the sweets OR having to weigh my produce. I’m just saying there’s a lot to consider once I get myself into the Jumbo and it doesn’t help that there are TOO many people with once cart each, leaving them here or there, and stopping to argue over a kilo of tomatoes!! Grrrrrr!!!!

2) Customer service here is the equivalent of going into a store and having each experience be JUST LIKE your visit to the DMV. It doesn’t matter really where you go (ok, MOST of the time, not always) or how much you’re paying. More likely than not, the person helping you doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like you, thinks your question is dumb, or some combination of all of the above. Now, that’s just a normal circumstance for any given Chilean. Add the element of being a foreigner and speaking with an accent (because apparently I have an accent I’ve been told. Who knew?) AND not knowing how things work half the time and viola – I’m everyone’s favorite customer! Needless to say, my shopping/customer service encounters are never truly stellar.
Just last week I went to a wedding dress boutique to try on dresses, and the owner proceeded to point to my stomach and tell me that “that” (the fat, I guess??) was the result of “too much rice and too many sweets.” Then, when she helped me put on a dress, she pinched my back fat and told me to get rid of it. Oh, and THEN she told me that each dress cost over $1 million pesos (USD$2,000). See? Mo’money doesn’t mean better service. Bottom line is that you just CAN’T expect service that’s above and beyond and no amount of money can make that happen for you. This is a hard pill in good ol’ She-lay.

3) The aforementioned blog from October touched on this but I have to include it in this post because it’s a constant source of grief for me here: the staring. Apparently Chileans (man, woman and child) NEVER GOT THE MEMO THAT IT’S IMPOLITE TO STARE. A couple of weeks ago I was going to a fellow gringa friend’s apt and as I got to the corner, about to cross the intersection, the light turned red so I stopped. Next to me, an older woman in her mid-to-late 60s pulls up (mind you, IN my personal space, but whatevs) and proceeds to blatantly stare at me. I wasn’t wearing anything “weird” and I wasn’t even walking about with no make up on or anything that might remotely cause alarm. I was just standing there, minding my own business, listening to my iPod and waiting for the light to turn green so I could continue on my merry way. And she just stared. And stared. First up to my face (profile since I didn’t actually LOOK at her though I should have), then down to my toes. She stayed with my toes for a while because they’re bright red and here in Chile it’s not a widespread custom to have your toes painted. In fact she stayed with my toes so long that I finally concluded that she was trying to peg me as a prostitute. Not one that was prostituting there on that corner that very second (in her mind) but one who most likely did so at night and that I was just going about my day “normally” during the hours the sun was out. The reason I concluded this is because after the toes, she once again stared at my profile, but then, scrutinizing. Trying to understand what kind of person I was and why I was on that corner next to her. How dare I be there?? ….Well, at least I’d like to think she was doing all that thinking about me. She stared far too much and for far too long for me to feel comfortable knowing she just stared for the simple act of staring. The staring is so obvious and so frequent and so rude, that each time I just have to look the person in the eye and either ask “what” or “Can I help you?” And every time, the person gets nervous, fumbles about and says something lame. In the U.S. we’re taught that it’s rude to stare and if we do stare, knowing that it’s rude to do so, it has to be something PRETTY MAJOR or REALLY different for us to justify the staring bit. Here apparently something as simple as being taller (which is easy in a country where a woman’s average height is between 5′ and 5’2″) or wearing red nail polish on your toes, gives people free reign to stare at you for at least three minutes straight.

I could go on with several more points (i.e. I made a dentist appointment for a teeth cleaning only to be called in for two minutes while the dentist KIND of reviewed my teeth and then proceeded to tell me to come back for two-part cleaning at later dates. Even Gonzalo thought this was dumb) but the thing is, Chile really isn’t a bad country to call home. I don’t want to give the idea that I hate living here, either. I don’t. I have a great life here and I would recommend that most people try living down here if they have the option to do so. But yeah it’s annoying sometimes and yeah, the culture differences repeatedly hit you like one brick after another smashing around you. From my point of view, considering how and where I grew up, sometimes Chileans have really weird and backwards ways of doing things. Sometimes they have forward thinking ways of doing things.
But the purpose of my blog is to highlight what it’s like to LIVE here and my adjustment to life here. And trust me, the backwards highlights always make for a more colorful entry. But once I’m done with that said entry, I’m neutral again, and my anti-Chile stance just melts away until I’m back to being Andrea in Chile.

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