And the number one way to piss off a Chilean…

is for a foreigner to comment on how to piss off a Chilean.

This I found out, to no great surprise, when I published this piece on MatadorNetwork, about how to piss off a Chilean. It’s part of a series on how to piss off a person of X nationality, with How to Piss off a German, and how to piss off a Korean already published, and a Dane and a Japanese person forthcoming. They’re humorous little posts about how to raise the hackles of the nationality involved.

Everything was running along smoothly, until BioBio picked up and translated the piece (and sort of recrafted it, in the strangest case of almost-scraping I’ve ever been involved with).

With currently 122 comments on the original, and 85 on the translation/recraft, this is big news. People question my right to say what pisses off Chileans, suggesting that I sat in a café in Bellavista and interviewed people on the spot. Are there cafés in Bellavista? Like real ones, with delicious coffee? Please do tell. People also doubt my intelligence, my perceptiveness and all kinds of other things. They also argue with each other about whether or not I’m right, whether or not they are right, and how good their English is or isn’t. All in good fun.

A reporter contacted me to see if I’d give an interview about the reactions to the piece, and yesterday on the micro (bus), in between listening to the hinchas (football supporters) screaming León, león, león. (Lion, lion, lion, for the team they support) and beating on the bus walls, I thought up a few things I’d say if he gets his story approved in pauta (editorial meeting).

I like the back and forth. I like it that people express themselves, argue with me, with each other. I think it’s great for people to debate a point and get their thoughts out.

The internet is (mostly) democratic. Anyone is free to write a blog and opine, write or otherwise blather about places they have been, would like to go, might someday go, currently, live, etc. Please feel free to blog to your heart’s content about what the truth is about your place. Or sing a song and take a picture. Direct traffic to it, share it with your friends. Take a page from Madonna 80s style and express yourself.

There are many Chiles, and many Santiagos. I live in my personal Santiago, a mostly starshaped blob that includes the places I go, with my home in Santiago centro at the center. I come and go on my schedule, have my friends, ride my bike, skate on my skates, live my life. The experiences I write about are from my perspective. If yours differs vastly, that doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong. It means we live on different planes, come and go at different times, know different people, notice different things.

I didn’t say anything truly nasty or polarizing about how to anger Chileans. I didn’t pit the cuicos against the flaites, the left against the right, the conservative against the liberal. It would have been easy to take cheap shots against any of a number of groups of people, talk about particular moments when I have been struck by what’s on the surface vs. what later reveals itself to be the truth.

In short, I was kind, and in some ways, too kind, because there’s a lot of anger en desarrollo (developing) here, about injustice, inequality, inaccessibility. But to talk about those things is to divide Chile into smaller and smaller pieces, the people who think X and the people who think Y, ad nauseam. I am tired of people drawing lines among Chileans, this us-and-them mentality, this “antes la gente vivía por acá” (people used to live here, where “la gente” means “la gente como yo/nosotros” or people like me/us”. We may all live in different Chiles, but in the end, we all live in the same Chile. I would like to stop ussing and themming.

In fact, I don’t us and them much anymore at all. Not even about me and Chile. I have more of a nosotros-based attitude, because for nearly eight years, I have called this slice of land my home. But the truth is, and what I didn’t say, and maybe just now I’m figuring this out, because I’m still learning, is that the single thing that pisses Chileans off the most is a person speaking her mind.

And the single thing that pisses me off the most is having people tell me I shouldn’t.


oh wait: and here’s a link to that piece I wrote about how to alienate a Chilean. Because apparently that was funnier.

Author: Eileen

Living in the "wrong" country for nine years now, I bike, photograph, write, eat and talk about language, but not in that order. Chile is home now, and probably will be for a while. I was raised in Brooklyn, and in response to a question I've been asked a couple of times since I've been here, no, I am not carrying a knife (most of the time).

33 thoughts on “And the number one way to piss off a Chilean…”

  1. Things I was just reminded of from reading your Matador post and a few of the comments: people are idiots. None of that was insulting to Chileans. My favorite was probably where someone said that you’d written a post along the same lines that was actually funny and linked to Cachando Chile – is your name Margaret?

    Ah well, such is the internet. And sadly, based on reactions I’ve had from people, I think you’re right about there still being far too many people out there who can’t stand to hear someone else’s honest opinion.

  2. it’s all good. I did link to the Cachando Chile post and cross posts, because it was relevant. But that was how to alienate, not to anger, and well, they’re different. But really, the times when I’ve made people the most uncomfortable, it definitely had to do with me just opening my mouth and letting my (mostly) unfiltered thoughts come out.

    I have become so much more circumspect here, and yet saying what you think is still such a big no-no. It’s not that I want to get what I have to say so much as I’d like it if other people got to speak their minds. So I’m kind of enjoying the back and forth, even if there’s a bunch of negativity. Anyone want to tackle a post on evidence and causes of negativity in Chile?

    1. Norbert Lechner, en “Los Patios Interiores de la Democracia”:
      “La sociedad norteamericana tiene una capacidad de elaborar pluralidad que la sociedad latioamericana nunca tuvo (…) Todos viven atemorizados de que la pureza de lo propio sea contagiada por lo ajeno (…) Recalco: en ausencia de un referente colectivo por medio del cual la sociedad pueda reconocerse a ‘si misma’ en tanto orden colectivo, la diversidad social no logra ser asumida como pluralidad, sino que es vivida como una desintegracion cada vez mas insoportable. De ahi nacen el recelo a lo diferente, la sospecha y aun el odio al otro. Perdida la certidumbre que ofrecen los referentes colectivos, la diferenciacion social solo puede ser percibidad como amenaza a la propia identidad. Este pareciera poder ser afiermada unicamente por negacion del otro: la defensa vital de lo propio se identifica con la desturccion de lo ajeno.”

      (Shall we go ahead and try to rip Lechner apart so we all feel better about ourselves? He is technically German, so we could say he doesn’t count.)

        1. I think if you asked Chileans they’d say they don’t feel threatened by my presence, but I did notice the gringification of the candy aisle this eve in the super. Two kinds of milky ways, snickers, twix and m and ms. Were those there before? Not before me, but before, in general.

    2. How are people treated in a Chilean classroom when they get a wrong answer to an oral question? Is there an embarrassed silence? Are students allowed to mock the incorrect person? Is there a discussion to try and understand the error and help all of those who are making the same mistake? Are students told that if one person made an error, there are probably others out there ready to make the same mistake?

      1. Good question. I have taught in Chile, but never been in a traditional Chilean classroom, though I have given a talk at a university. Seems relevant to find out. I know that when I first got to Chile I noticed that people didn’t like to stand out, to be the best or worst in a classroom situation. Seems worth investigating, Steven.

  3. I am grateful that we (still) live in a country where we are free to express ourselves. Your piece for Matador was opinion and observation based on your experiences. I don’t read into it the denigration that, obviously, some Chileans see in it, but it’s certainly stirred up a lot of other opinions!

  4. Well, I laughed.

    You forgot the one about how their country is accidentally attached to the wrong continent and how they’re really European, but hey….splitting hairs.

  5. Después de leer ambos artículos y 30+ comentarios en cada uno, creo que muchos no entendieron el contexto ni la idea del mensaje, que a mi modo de ver, es una opinión basada en tus experiencias.
    Como chileno, creo detectar qué pudo haber molestado a algunas personas; puedo estar equivocado, pero tal vez al leer el artículo sin concentrarse mucho, se puede ver una enumeración de cosas en que Argentina es mejor, en que Perú es mejor, y que Bolivia es una víctima, respecto a Chile, sin mencionar nada positivo del país.
    Tengo clarísimo que esa no es la idea detrás del artículo, que su objeto no es hacer comparaciones, si no mencionar cosas que podrían molestar a los chilenos, sin ningún mal ánimo.
    Sólo se me ocurre que es, metafóricamente hablando, como si por motivos académicos o científicos, hicieras una gran colección de calcetines sucios… Podría ser muy ilustrativa y útil, pero igual atacará las narices de quienes quieran ver la colección.
    Probablemente muchas personas sólo vieron un artículo escrito por una extranjera resaltando cosas en que países vecinos son mejores que Chile.
    No me molestó en absoluto nada de lo que escribiste, por que creo que lo entendí, y al mismo tiempo, creo darme cuenta de el por qué algunos se enojaron, y replicaron con un montón de reproches en contra de EEUU, o se enojaron con quienes no se molestaron al leer el artículo.
    Personalmente, lo único que sé que me molesta un poco es cuando un extranjero llega y a los 5 minutos empieza a decir “En mi país, el metro tiene mas carros” “En mi país, los edificios son más altos”, “En mi país hacemos las cosas de esta forma, ustedes deberían hacerlo como nosotros”, “En mi país hablamos X idioma, ¿por qué ustedes insisten en hablar español, si nosotros hablamos X idioma? Al menos deberían saber hablar algo de X, para cuando vengamos…”
    En fin, me gustó el artículo, escribe más, hahahha

    1. gracias por el comentario marmo, y justo hoy día, le tuve que comentar a la persona que trabaja en el servicio al cliente en el banco que en mi país, hubiese esperado 2 semanas por un talonario nuevo de cheques, y acá se da en el momento, cosa que encuentro maravilloso!

  6. Well, I’ve read the thing a couple of times now and really, you were pretty puffball with them, Eileen. Jeesh, if it were me writing that kind of thing they wouldn’t get off that lightly.

    They be thin skinned? Yes, they be thin skinned.

  7. otto, please write one, I would love to hear what you have to say. And yes, I was very “light” with them, which makes it so hard for me to understand why everyone is in a snit. Except if they feel they don’t have a voice, in which case, I say, “hey, I wasn’t given this voice, I went out and got it, go get your own.”

    1. a good point, I wasn’t saying you should write it necessarily about where you are. Maybe somewhere else? Also, not after messing up anyone else’s family life, but you know I value your straight-shooting style.

  8. Gosh, and I thought the Matador piece was remarkably restrained! I see some of the comments it attracted have not been. Do I detect a change in tone on the biobio verion? It’s something hard to get right in translation, and maybe they were trying to be provocative.

    Still, reading below the line on any news site, no matter the subject or nationality, is usually an exercise in masochism.

    1. I don’t know, the biobio version seems a little gruñona, and they refer to me as “Smith” which sounds very alienating to me, but I’m assuming that’s just their editorial style. And yeah, I was reading the comments, but I started laughing so much with the ABC1 comments that I got distracted. Living downtown, as I do. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, hope BA is treating you right!

  9. Yep, I’ve been thinking about all this lately as well. I remember that it wasn’t all that long ago that we actually talked about this… that not many people had left negative or hateful-hurtful comments on your blog. Guess you just hadn’t pushed the right buttons.
    But you sure did this time! And the weird thing is that you did not say anything critical at all!

    1. The funny thing is that I write about Chile all the time, and I’m willing to bet MatadorNetwork gets a lot more hits than BioBio, but, apparently, not enough Chileans are reading MatadorNetwork!

    1. Thanks for commenting, neighbor. It was actually not my intention to piss anyone off! But now I’ve got some pissed off people, and some who thought what I said was at least defensible. Just another day in sunny Santiago.

      I wish BioBio had translated the funny parts as well as well as made it clear that I still live here (though maybe it’s better that they didn’t!), but I guess you get what you pay for, and they scooped that story for free, without linking, and without trying to contact me, so I guess they had a good “news” day! At least they have good translators.

  10. La mejor forma de “alienar” a un chileno, es que alguien de nacionalidad estadounidense, responsables por la muerte de millones de personas en todo el mundo y de varios miles en Chile (en distintas instancias), por mucho que haya vivido siglos en el país, venga y trate de parecer divertida, realizando una crítica al comportamiento chileno.

    Yo entiendo que no tienes nada de culpa, pero tu país si, y es fácil desahogarse contra ti si realizaste un pseudo-ataque en primera instancia.

    El resentimiento es infinito.


    1. Gracias por tu comentario, Andrés. Dudo mucho que el hecho de que la gente se ofendió tenía que ver con mi nacionalidad. Basta con que sea extranjera, y pierdo el derecho de opinar sobre lo que veo, lo que estimo, lo que he vivido. Es muy evidente en las críticas, que me quieren mostrar como ajena. Persona ajena, de un país ajeno. Pero sabes? No me molesta. Si la gente quiere opinar, que opine. Si tienen algo que decir, que lo digan (aunque eso no quiere decir que les respondo a cada comentario, ni que los publico todos). Encuentro fantástico haber eligido vivir en un país donde todo esta discusión sea posible. Y si llevo casi 8 años acá, es por algo.

      Pero la verdad es que no fue nada de ataque, ni cuasi-ataque. Fui muy tierna con Chile, porque Chile ha sido muy tierno conmigo. Hubiese sido facil (como digo arriba), dividir a la gente, hacer diferencias, decir que los chilenos están opuestos al matrimonio gay (y que se enojen con el tema), por ejemplo- Y después vienen a sacar en cara y decir que hay un movimiento de orgullo gay bastante fuerte en Chile. Lo mismo con educación, si hablan de una educación gratis alegan. Pero llegan los que están protestando y dicen que no es así. O con la agricultura transgénica, hidroaysén, fracking, otros temas ambientales.

      El punto al final es que no importa el contenido del artículo, ni de donde soy. Lo que mas perturba a aquella gente que se molestó mucho que existiera un artículo así sobre Chile. Los que no leyeron el original a lo mejor no se dieron cuenta que había mas texto, y que bien, el artículo es parte de una serie de articulos hablando como “piss off” a la gente de otros países.. El artículo sobre “How to piss off a German” habla de como orinan, de pie o sentados. Es harto mas fuerte que este artículo. Pero los chilenos se molestaron mucho, y los alemanes no tanto. Bueno, con el transcurso del tiempo, veremos como reaccionan los coreanos, que también tenemos un artículo en MatadorNetwork, y luego vienen los daneses, y después los japoneses. Apuesto que el chileno que se ofendió mucho encuentra harto de reirse sobre los otros países.

      Quizás no es nada mas que una diferencia cultural. Pero hiciste muy bien en comentar “alienar” un chileno, porque “piss off” puede ser muchas cosas y enfurecer está al limite del rango de que podría significar. Saludos

  11. Why did you write that opinion? Do you want to have more visitants, get to chilean Tv, do you feel intimidated by the silent hate of Santiago people, or what? Do you live in Chile right now, dont you? o.o The link of this blog now is in a lot of chilean forums…

    1. I feel no silent hate in Santiago. I wrote the piece because it’s part of a series on how to piss off various cultures. MatadorNetwork has an irreverent streak. That’s it. I have no secret agenda. I was very circumspect and kind, and I picked things that would just ruffle people, not enfuriate them. But what pissed people off the most, from what I see, is that a foreigner would dare to opine. It’s great food for thought, in fact. I did not even consider that it would be picked up by the Chilean media. I write about Chile in English all the time, and it never has before. It never even occurred to me that it would.

  12. Sr. X is kind of creepy. If you did write this to get more hits to your website, sounds like mission accomplished now that this is on a bunch of Chilean forums.

    You know you’ve written a good piece when you get a few haters commenting… at least that’s what I tell myself 🙂

  13. I read your article and I even read some of the links from the article in cachandochile.
    As a Chilean, I don’t find it offensive. I find it a little bit partial and not so accurate in some points.
    Particularly, the situation between Bolivia and Chile. Chile has granted unrestricted and perpetual access to two ports in Chile to Bolivia from 1904. It is so open, that no even custom officers from Chile can scan Bolivian goods or goods going to Bolivia. If you remember a few years back, there was this diplomatic incident where Chilean authorities collaborated with the FDA and seized a huge cocaine shipment that came in one of those “sealed” packages. This led to a major officer of the Bolivian government to be detained in the US and Bolivia accusing Chile of not respecting the old treaties. Furthermore, Chile built the train from Arica to La Paz only to make sure Bolivia got easy access to the Pacific Ocean. And that train is still working today, and Chile is again going to pay to fix it (including the Bolivian side).
    I’m not saying we are the goods ones in the movie, I’m just stating facts that you might not have been aware of.
    Regarding Chilean attitude to open thinking and stating your opinions. I kinda agree with you. Chile’s culture and language are very particular to Chile and most of the Chileans I know are very proud of it. I’m proud of using my passport and show the cóndor and huemúl to immigration officers all over and I’m proud of being difficult to understand when I speak Spanish. I would even go to the extreme, that I love that few people understand my dialect unless they are Chileans. And that gets even more interesting here in Norway where there are about 7,000 Chileans most of them descendants from political-refugees from the 80’s that do not understand my modern Chilean (which gets outdated very easily since I only travel to Chile once a year in best cases). I would confess openly that Peruvians speak much better than Chileans. That is a fact. And there is an explanation for that. Neither Chile nor Argentina had enough gold, so after the conquistadores came, they realized that we were a bunch of trouble makers and left a few dozens here and then moved back to Peru. Basically Chilean has evolved from the mixing of Castellano (the old Chilean aristocracy), native languages (Quechua, Aymara and Mapudungun) and other european languages (the “ai” ending comes from Italian, the “es que” comes from French and so forth). Now, how does this relate to expressing your opinions? it is kinda hard to get if you were not born in Chile, but I will say it has to do with our ability (or disability) to assimilate things. We Chileans like uniformity, we tend to distrust radical things and we definitively are not good at tolerating opinions that disturbs the “order”. That’s why such a small country has so many laws, we are looking after order even if it never happens.
    As a closing,I apologize if we have offended you and I wish you a very pleasant stay in my country.

  14. Your article didn’t bother me, which must be proof that it takes more than a year living in Chile for me to consider myself Chilean! That be said, after spending a year in Argentina and a year in Chile, I feel much more affinity towards Chile than Argentina (though, I must admit that I miss the medialunas…) It’s funny how something so light-hearted could cause such controversy – it must mean that you’re doing something right since people care, and that’s what matters.

  15. Que lata que la gente haya reaccionado así. Yo soy Chileno y soy mucho más crítico, sobre todo con los Santiaguinos. Creo que tienes razón, se han ensañado porque eres extranjera, si yo dijera lo mismo que escribiste, nadie haría tanto revuelo.

    Porque quieras Chile, eso no te hace ciega. Además, concuerdo contigo, no fue nada del otro mundo.

    Lo que si me cayo como pada en la guata es el comentario de Thorny Rose,

    “I am grateful that we (still) live in a country where we are free to express ourselves”
    Seguro, por algo siempre intentan censurar todo en USA, libros, internet, etc. Que la gente sea distinta, con distintas culturas, no implica que en Chile la gente no pueda expresarse. Tampoco implica que en USA la gente sea libre de expresarse.

    “You have the right to free
    Speech as long as you’re not
    Dumb enough to actually try it”

  16. You were enormously restrained and even downright gentle in your article… I’d say it takes some time living in Chile and with a Chilean to first of all detect the chinks in their armour, then a little bit more to fashion and hone the arrows of one’s scorn, and finally a whole lot more to deliver the payload in near-perfect doggerel Chilean Spanish while dancing a little war-dance of enormous satisfaction 🙂 Not a mention of their cute bowler hats, their serpent-shaped country (with the inevitable aspersion cast on its inhabitants), and the undeniable fact that Chile is at the rear end of the world – you let them off lightly, and they don’t appreciate that. Some of the commenters have focused more on killing the messenger and not listening to the message, even though I’ve seen that a well-thought-out barb incorporating the ever-present “weon” in every second word but delivered in one’s partly-learnt, only so-so Chilean dialect is a wonderful technique for pissing Chileans off. Actually, not just Chileans… it works pretty much anywhere and perhaps has to do with the impossibility of retorting effectively due to the language barrier… whatever paltry results your language studies have delivered, they are most probably an insurmountable obstacle to your would-be Chilean putter-downer, who will be reduced to the meanest of replies, addressing himself to his cumpas…

  17. Oh, hace un tiempo vengo leyendo tu blog (llegué por motivos que he explicado mil veces a otras personas que ya me aburrí de decirlo de nuevo >_>) y me parece genial!
    Ahora, al tema.
    Maestra! Al parecer tu post demuestra perfectamente tu punto, y llegaste a molestar a todo el mundo xD
    El único punto que podría reparar del post original (y con el cual mereces el premio al mejor trolleo no intencionado de internet) es que Bolivia si tiene acceso a un puerto en Arica, mantenido por Chile y libre de impuestos.
    Lamento que la gente haya reaccionado así, pero al menos demostraste tu punto ^^
    Bueno, a seguir leyendo (ya terminé de leer tu antiguo blog en 3 días, a seguir con este!)
    Psdt: Espero algún día vengas a la puerta norte (Arica), con toda la variedad de verduras y perros que hay te faltarán megas en la cámara xD

    1. Hola! Gracias por el comentario! Ya no tengo aceso al original, pero entiendo tu punto. En cuanto a Arica, quizás cuando estaré de nuevo, pero feliz voy a sacar fotos. Espero no tener que ir a la clínica en este ocasión (culpa de Bolivia, lamentablemente).

      Bien perseverante tu estudio del blog! Espero que te haya gustado, hay de todo un poco. Únete a las conversaciones cuando quieras y nos vemos en el blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *