August 2011 Archives

Message for U.S. Citizens

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In Chile right now, there are student protests going on all over. Also, the leading unions are going on strike. All of these are against the public policies of the President (the most conservative since the dictatorship of the 70's and 80's). If you are interested, check out more on the subject via a major news source.

Here is an update on the matters from the U.S. Embassy in Chile concerning the nationwide protests/strikes:

The "Direction" of Spanish

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I had a chat with a friend also studying in South America about our observations of the difference in language. He had a very interesting observation that I think everyone should be aware of:

He noted that in Spanish there are much (about half as much) less words than English. That being said, it is more difficult to "tippy-toe" around a sensitive subject, or something of the like. Therefore, the language permits the culture to be very direct.

I have noticed the same phenomenon. If I say something incorrect (a prominent occurrence) I am told that it is wrong, one and how to change it, two. At first this constant correction took me off guard, but I am still growing to be comfortable with it.

In English, one can creatively talk about a subject to a person in different ways. The person talks to spark an certain emotion concerning the said statement. For instance, if I were to ask my roommate to shower more because I was uncomfortable with his hygiene (surely, a sensitive subject), I might say (to not spark too much of an aggressive emotion), "Hey, man, its been smelling kind of bad in our room lately. I'm gonna do a better job to take care of my dirty clothes and make sure I shower often so the stench doesn't linger. Would you mind putting in a similar effort?" Whereas if I were to ask the same favor in Spanish, it couldn't be as "tippy-toed". It might sound more like (direct translation), "Hey, man. Can you shower more to make sure the smell doesn't stay?" This saying is a lot more direct, and I'm sure would make many people uncomfortable, yet the "direction" of the language is colloquially understood.

At the same time, it is great to know such a creative language, because it allows you to try to stretch the boundaries of Spanish. Often times, however, I find the Chileans correcting my Spanish to the simplest form when I would like to say it in a more creative way! This may be one of the more interesting differences in between culture stemming from differences in language.


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How amazing it is to live in such a skinny country:


And two days later...


Anti-Machismo Propaganda

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"If a woman says NO that means NO"
"Enough of public sexism"

There are genuine efforts to stop "el machismo" in Chile. "El machismo" implies male superiority and dominance over women. There is propaganda all over the busy streets in Chile. Although a valiant effort, there are still definitely problems with this. One can notice when women are on the street or at a night club, Chilean men often hoot and holler at the women, and in extreme cases go up to the women and bother ("harass") them. There is an important lesson to be learned for any woman who studies abroad in Chile, especially if they are young and foreign-looking.

View from my Homestay

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Culture, Language, and Geography

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Hello, Honors students,

Well, my fellow students and I have been here in Chile for over two weeks now, and it has been quite the adventure. The differences in culture, language, geography, etc. are all starting to become normal for us.


The differences between United States and Chilean culture are quite apparent. It is really interesting to analyze these distinctions. For one interesting example, the relationship in between males and females. There is no such thing as casual dating in Chile. Once a person has a significant other, they spend almost every minute with that person. The girlfriend/boyfriend relationship in Chile is very serious. That being said, with the combination of children living with their parents until they are 30 years old (this is normal) there is SO much PDA. It is likely to see a couple making out (or perhaps more) several times per walk through the streets/parks/beach.

Overall, Chilean culture is very much affected by United States culture (note my use of "United States" instead of "American"; I have been caught using this and it is really not liked here in South America. Using this term in a different Western Hemisphere country other than the United States can really show how ignorant one is). The presence of McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Walmart-affiliated stores demonstrate this very much. This can be nice to have some familiarity, yet most of the time it makes me question the (questionable methods of) capitalism taking place in developing countries.


I have been taking Spanish since I was a freshman in high school (6 full years), thus my knowledge of the language is somewhat extensive, or so I thought. Chilean Spanish is filled with slang, contractions, indigenous influences and such. On top of this, Chileans are known to speak the fastest Spanish of all of the Spanish-speakers. Learning how to communicate in this dialect is and will continue to be very difficult. Apparently, however, Chile is one of the best places to learn to speak because once you have a grip on such a difficult dialect, other dialects come with a less steep learning curve. Yet, I find myself constantly saying, "Más despacio, por favor" to just about everyone. My host family understands this predicament, and they are have been super helpful to speak slower and clearer.

Interestingly enough, the men speak more clearly than the women. The women (those who don't know another language, such as my host-mother) tend to speak much faster, fuller with slang, and quieter. This, I think, is a direct result of the patriarchal society that Chile has. The women (especially of the older generations) do not, and have not worked a day in their lives outside of the home. This is speculation, but they don't practice their Spanish outside of the home that much and definitely affects their capability to clearly pronounce their words. This is one of many negative effects of "machismo" (somewhat opposite of feminism) that is much more prevalent in Latin America (perhaps due to the ubiquity of Catholicism, yet that could be disputed).


The geography and topography of Chile is quite interesting. Last Wednesday, some friends of mine and I went to a beach close by to watch the sunset over the Pacific. At this time, there were 25ft waves as well. It was one of the more beautiful things I had ever seen. Ironically, that Friday some friends and I were snowboarding in the Andes at ~13,000ft. Seemingly polar opposite types of geography a hop, skip, and a jump from each other, especially because transportation between the two costed (one-way) $23 U.S. This proximity offers quite the learning experience being they are so financially accessible, relative to the U.S. where going from 25ft swells to 2 mile high mountains can cost a fortune.

I will keep this blog updated. As soon as figure out how to correctly format photos for the blog, I will put a plethora on here.

First update from Chile

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Hola todos,

I am writing in this blog for the Honors students at UMD.

I have been in Chile for 4 days now and so far it has been quite the experience. I will post photos of the trip, differences between cultures, facts about the history of Chile, food, etc.

Stay updated to see some parts of the Chilean culture.


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