Ok, last night I was about halfway through my blog post when my computer shut off with no warning. This keeps happening and I don’t know why. Unfortunately I was writing in Word, it was 2am and I hadn’t saved. Bye bye What Chileans Think of Gringos post. So now, since it’s day time and I have actual real work, I’ll write mine up as soon as I can. But in the mean time here are other blogger’s posts which I am holding off on reading until after I’ve written mine. Go ahead and paste the group blogging list in your blog if you please!
This is how I feel many gringos are perceived by many Chileans. And unfortunately there are far too many gringos that do nothing but perpetuate the “weon,” or dumb idiot stereotype. As an exchange student I was guilty of having a night out on the town that involved drinking pisco straight out of the bottle, dancing with friends, making a spectacle, puking on the curb, almost getting arrested and finally being carried up to my room at 4am by my host mom where she changed me into my pajamas. I felt like a horrendous person, not only for embarrassing myself but for embarrassing gringos as a whole — for being just another insanely obnoxious one of them. I learned my lesson, it happened once. The worst part was that when I bought my host mom flower to apologize for the whole incident she shrugged it off and said, “This happens once a semester with every exchange student we host.” They had hosted 8 or 9 students before me. That only made me feel even more terrible. Not only was I a bane on society, but all of my people are. So in that aspect, I completely understand why a lot of Chileans just tend to brush off most gringos as pretty socially retarded in general.
On the other hand, I feel many Chileans perceive gringos as stupid in another sense of the word. They think we are all weones because we come from a society in which we trust our neighbors and the system and pretty much everybody we know. So you arrive in this country, you go to a Starbucks, you sit down, work on your computer for a while…and then you get up to go to the bathroom and you leave your laptop unattended for a minute. The next thing you know, there’s a guard in your face speaking to you like you’re the densest person to have ever walked the planet, “What were you thinking! Why in the world would you leave a computer alone, someone is going to ROB you!”
Leaving my computer unattended in public places, going jogging at 2am by myself, not locking the doors at my house, asking any random person on the street for directions, leaving my car running and unlocked while I run in to a gas station really quick — these are all normal parts of my life in the U.S. that never gave me a second thought until I moved to Chile.
In a way I actually feel fortunate that I was assaulted on day number 5 here because it wisened me up pretty darn fast. Otherwise who knows how long I would have gone around obliviously without ever once thinking of my own safety and well-being. Chileans call that stupid. I call it being naive. How I was supposed to learn that there are thugs waiting to rob me around every corner (or so the Chilean media would have you believe. It’s actually not that terrifying in Santiago at all, but the news is full of paranoid reports, like everywhere in the world) if that was something I had never dealt with before?
When reading about living in Santiago before coming here, guide books and things tell you the same thing I’m telling you right now — it’s a very safe city but you still need to be careful. I took that to mean, don’t go to bad neighborhoods and avoid talking to creepy looking men. To me, in the U.S., that’s what be careful meant. In the U.S., locking all my doors all the time and holding onto my purse so tightly that you’d have to pry it from me with the jaws of life means paranoid — so I didn’t do that, until I learned that in Chile if you don’t you’re a weona.
So, I do think that the stupid gringo stereotype applies to many of us when speaking of obnoxious non-culture sensitive behavior. But when it comes to the stereotype that all gringos are just idiots because we aren’t careful with our safety, I think that it’s more misunderstood naivity than anything else. I can also back this observation up throughout various conversations that I’ve had with S. over the past couple of years. I know for a fact that he used to perceive me as stupid (not in general, just with safety) and now he still perceives me as naive (I disagree. I’m not as naive as I used to be but I do still try to always expect the best of people, which he continues to see as naive).
Alright, now that I’m done writing my thoughts on one small sliver of this topic, I’m off to check out what you guys had to say.