This is in response to the group blogging that Kyle has been organizing. Go check out her blog for links to other participants' blogs.
I've been resisting reading everyone's posts so I won't be influenced by things people have already said, but I imagine I'll repeat things here just because many of us have a lot of shared experiences. Nevertheless, here goes.
What do Chileans think about gringos? My gut response to this question is simple: I haven't the foggiest idea. In fact, most of the time when I catch a Chilean unabashedly staring at me, I shout (internally, of course), "What in the **** are you thinking? Is there food on my face? Is my fly open? Does the capitalistic society I represent disgust you? Do you find my obvious foreignness fascinating? Are you thinking of every MTV stereotype and applying it to me?" Although to be honest, I'm usually just thinking, "Please stop undressing me with your eyes. Please. Right now. Now? How about now? No? ****it."
But the question is not what Chileans think of me necessarily, it is what they think of gringos in general. But I have a doubt, as my students like to say. First of all, do we interpret this as gringos in the States, or expat gringos? Is there a difference? In my experience, it totally depends. For example, it seems that for some it is particularly difficult to understand why a gringo would leave the
Speaking of truths, a student of mine (grown man, very high up in the production company he works for) often likes to tell me how gringos are. Just the other day he told me that all gringos have huge cars. I tried to tell him that yes, while many do, there are people who choose to have smaller cars, or hybrid cars, or (gasp!) no car at all. They do exist. He informed me that I was wrong; "the gringo has to have a big car, it is his way". Thus spoke Mr. PP.
In terms of personality, however, I have heard some interesting conflicting perspectives. During a conversation where I was the only gringa, I heard of the shameful character of "the gringo" from someone who had firsthand experience with them (it seems they had all forgotten I was in the room, or that I was a gringa, because no one thought about their experiences with me...I was invisible, which is surprising because I am usually the gargantuan white elephant in the room, so to speak). In this situation, these people railed on the gringo as "cold" (probably the most common criticism), not affectionate at all and very difficult to get to know. The men are all business, the women all self-obsessed, and instead of raising their children, they spoil them.
At the same time, however, Chileans have told me how friendly gringos are, often using the term "buena onda", they are fun to be around and know how to have a good time. For example, when D came to the States to visit me (over 2 years ago) he was pleasantly surprised by how warm and welcoming my family and friends were. It seems, similar to Chilean culture, if you have an in, you can learn a different, often more positive aspect of the culture and the people.
It is difficult to demonstrate all the different perspectives I have come across and some days I think it's all horrible, others all superficially positive. Suffice to say, my life here has been terribly easy thanks to the fact that I am white. If I could count all the times I've tried to field questions and dispel myths about African Americans, well, I can't. And that, my friends, deserves its own post.