When you live in another country (as opposed to just visiting another country) you start to ask yourself questions that you´ve never had to think about before. For example,
If I am living in Chile on a student visa, am I still a United States resident?
I still haven´t figured out the legal answer to that one yet. Or here´s another one…..
Is my home where I am from or where I choose to be?
The answer to that one isn´t quite so black and white. And I suppose you could say that it´s not an either-or question. I can always have a home in Wisconsin, where I grew up, but I can also make my home wherever I choose to live. At the moment, I call many places home. Wisconsin is still home. Tufts is home. Santiago is home. And a few other places where I have special memories and people who are dear to me.
Okay, so here´s another question I started asking myself after living in Chile for 6 months.
How long do you have to live in a country to become fully integrated into the society? In other words, when will I become Chilean?
Now obviously, I will never be Chilean by blood. And I can say cachai all I want, but I will likely never completely get rid of my gringo accent. But there are definitely things that I do differently now than when I first arrived, which I think definitely help me fit in at least a little better. There are even some things I didn´t realize I did differently until I went back to the states for the holidays.
So, since I´m a fan of lists, here are two more: evidence for and against my being Chilean:
Evidence that I am, in fact, becoming a full-fledged Chilean:
1. I wear super cool boots (that I bought here) just like all the stylish young girls
2. I have definitely incorporated Chilean slang into my vocabulary… I add po to the end of all my sentences, I say cachai with frequency, and I even swear in chilenismos….. in fact, the other night my host mom got so excited because I exclaimed “p*** la wea.” I was pleased that she was happy I swore in chilenismos, instead of being angry that I swore….
3. I know transantiago (the public transportation system here) like the back of my hand. I can take the metro practically anywhere in my sleep, without the reading the signs, and I even give people directions about which bus to take where.
4. I refer to the cordillera (the mountain range) when giving directions. It is actually a very useful reference point. They lie to the east, and they´re big and beautiful. The only problem is when the smog blocks the view and you have no idea which way is north or south…..
5. I have finally become accustomed to kissing everyone on the cheek when I walk into a room. This one took me a while to master, and I think I may have offended some people along the way, when I was not yet comfortable kissing people´s whose names I didn´t know.
6. I´m a good 20-30 minutes late to everything. Granted, when I arrived, I was already in the habit of being about 10 minutes late to everything. But I am now full Chilean: 20 minutes late at a minimum. And I definitely don´t stress out as much about being late. After I leave the house there´s nothing I can do to get where I´m going any faster. (Chileans have got this figured out– that´s why the only people you ever see running to cross the street are foreigners. ) If you leave the house late, you´re going to be late. No use running and working up a sweat.
7. I bike all over the city! Granted, only some Chileans do this. And my bike doesn´t have a basket…. but I´m getting there.
8. I wear scrunchies! Sometimes, when I feel like it. Scrunchies are in style in Chile! who knew?
9. I have actually developed a taste for eating onces instead of dinner…. now when I get home in the evening, the thought of eating a whole meal is overwhelming, and yummy bread covered with jam and cheese just sounds like the best idea ever.
10. When I have time for vacation, I hop on a bus to the beach in the north or the forest in the south, just like all the Chileans.
11. I have become friends with the security guard guys at my apartment building. They recognize me when I show up with my bike and open the gate for me. I even have a favorite one– his names is Manuel and he´s super nice.
12. I joined a volleyball team! And I now know all of the volleyball terms in Spanish. (although an English expletive occasionally slips out)
13. I photocopy my readings for class instead of buying the books. Actually this is a much more economical and less wasteful practice than buying books… I should try to do this in the states.
14. My notebooks are neither college-ruled, nor wide-ruled. They have graph paper. Don´t ask me why they make notebooks like that in Chile… but they do.
15. I have a Chilean pololo (boyfriend) and I don´t even complain when he calls me “monkey” (which he swears is a common pet name in Chile) or when he overdoes the PDA (which is very typical in Chile)
16. On a Friday night, you´re much more likely to find me in a café downtown or at a late night barbecue than at a big party. Granted, I have never been much for frat parties or the typical college scene. But that´s great because in Chile, that makes me normal!
Evidence in contrary: that I am in fact still very United Statesian:
1. I walk much too fast. And I get frustrated with the people that seem to have nowhere important to go, but take up the ENTIRE sidewalk.
2. I still don´t have a favorite soccer team…. but don´t tell my boyfriend that I´m not a Colo Colo fanatic like him
3. I carry pepper spray everywhere with me. Which is something I think Chilean women should do…. but the trend hasn´t quite caught on yet.
4. I still refuse to wear those harem/parachute pants whatever they are…. Sorry, I can´t do it
5. I dressed up for Halloween. Sorry dudes. Old habits die hard.
6. I am still convinced that getting in line at the store is effective. Let me assure you, it is not. Either you have to take a number from those little dispenser things, and if you don´t, SOL, or you have to push through the herd of people until you arrive at the register. I have been skipped by many a person because I waited patiently in line….
7. I use big bags… my giant backpack and my Mary Poppins purse. This immediately makes me stick out as a foreigner. What can I say? I was a girl scout, I like to be prepared. And carrying everything you could possibly need requires large bags.
8. I carry a re-usable water bottle. Very un-Chilean. Although, this is another thing that I hope catches on here. Don´t get me started on the evils of plastic water bottles…
9. I eat while in route. Chileans won´t be caught dead eating on the street or on the bus, unless it´s a sopaipilla they bought on the street corner or an ice cream they bought from one of those guys that gets on the bus. Well, I´m always running late, and I like eating. Hence the eating en route.
Okay so maybe I can´t quite claim the right to be called a Chilean, but I am well on my way. Just wait another semester, and you never know… I might forget how to speak English, or I might even keep my room clean.