I feel so fortunate to be able to come to Chile nearly every year to be with my familia. My grandmother is 93 and I promised that as long as she's alive I'd try to visit as often as possible. My Gringo and my kids are here with me and we were just talking about the biggest differences between our American (and more specifically New York) and Chilean lifestyles.

Read more ¿Qué más?: STOP making working moms feel like they're not good enough!

The first major difference you immediately notice is the concept of familia. My grandmother, mom and youngest sister all live within short walking distance and they see each other nearly every day. While staying with my grandmother, I noticed that every morning she gets calls from her grandkids, my uncle, cousins and nieces. The phone never stops ringing! The number of people who are considered to be part of the familia is much more extensive than in the U.S.

Also, we do EVERYTHING as a collective unit. As you can imagine, deciding where to go and what to do as a familia can be a bit more stressful than back in the States. The second difference is the role that food plays every moment of the day. As I am writing this, my grandmother is trying to stuff my Gringo (who she calls too flaco) that he should be eating more for breakfast: "How about eggs, jam or ham with your bread?" she keeps asking, in Spanish. My husband insists that he's had enough without trying to offend her. We have not stopped eating since we got here and yet my grandmother still expects us to eat substantially before our multi-course, celebratory lunches and dinners.

The third major difference is the quality of life or humanity. I am not saying that Chileans don't work hard, but they work because they have to do so to survive. But they don't let work dominate their lives. We are staying in the capital (Santiago) and yet it feels like suburban or even rural America in terms of mentality. The balance still seems to tip towards life versus work and Chileans choose to live their personal lives more intensely, celebrating every moment.

As a New Yorker, I am so used to efficiencies. It drives me nuts when I'm trying to get my shopping done here while the cashiers are "wasting" time interacting longer with each customer and people behind the counter yet none of the Chilean customers seem to have an issue with it. "Lucia, relájate and enjoy your cultura and life," I tell myself! What's most ironic is that when my grandmother, uncle and I discussed the differences between my American and Latin cultures, they pointed out how Chileans are losing their traditional values as they try so hard to imitate American lifestyle.

Here in Chile, English words or phrases are commonly used in media, ads and in daily colloquialism. American brands dominate the shopping malls, supermarkets and restaurant chains. While Chileans are emulating what they think is the American lifestyle it seems that back in the States we yearn and are trying to bring back the traditional values that for now define mi gente in Chile!

Image via Lucia Ballas-Traynor

Add Comment Are you celebrating the holidays in your country of origin? What are the huge differences you see or remember from when you were living there?
About the author
Lucia, Co-founder and EVP of MamásLatinas, has led Hispanic media brands such as Univision's Galavision, MTV tr3s and People en Español. When Lucia is not traveling for work or in her office in NYC, she's at home with her husband and two children in New Rochelle, New York. 

Read More
Filed Under: culture, latin culture
LIKE WHAT YOU JUST READ?
Click LIKE below to find other posts like this one!
CUÉNTAME
Add Comment Are you celebrating the holidays in your country of origin? What are the huge differences you see or remember from when you were living there?

To leave a comment on this story, please log in with:
  • Facebook
  • MamásLatinas
  • Comment as a Guest
you are logged in as (logout)
Submitting comment, please wait...