1. 18 is not only a number.
The anniversary of our First Junta and favorite holiday doesn’t just last a day (the 18th of September), but goes on for a minimum of three days of parties and celebrations. You can find around 42 typical things we say during these festivities. Some people swear on their mothers’ life that it is allowed to drink on the streets, because anything goes. Once, I saw people making a barbecue on the cabin of a pick-up truck, while someone was driving it! Give me Mardi Grass, King’s Day, St Patrick’s, or any other festival: the 18th stands tall.
2. You are not bothered by street dogs…not even 4 million of them.
There are more than 4 million street dogs in Chile. This fact, that really draws foreigners’ attention, doesn’t stand out for you. Most of them are friendly, loyal, and super smart. They are part of local folklore. They escort you to your house expecting nothing but company. I have to admit sometimes they go a little too far: I saw one comfortably sitting in Calama Airport, at the departure lounge!
3. The “guatero” is your best friend during winter.
That plastic or latex bag containing hot water makes it easier to adventure entering the icy bed sheets in the winter. What central heating system is for the developed countries, the “guatero” is for the Chileans.
4. You grew up sick of hearing “Chupacabras” horror stories.
A flying monster that eats animals on the countryside seems unlikely. You don’t know if it exists or not, but as a child you used to fear him. Anytime an old man would show up on the local news without an explanation for the savage death of his animals, you had to reconsider the alleged existence of the “Chupacabras.”
5. You are well aware of how thin the ozone layer is in the Southern Hemisphere.
When you grow up in places like Chile, you know perfectly well how different seasons are and how to best prepare for each.
As a kid in winter (especially in the center and southern regions of the country), your mother would make you wear long scarves, woolen hats, sweaters, jackets, raincoats, and even long underwear…anything that would keep you warm. During summer, santa madre covered your every last bit of skin with sunscreen if you were going to the beach. And you would have never dreamt of going outside without a proper hat: “Don’t you see, mi’jito, the ozone layer doesn’t protect you anymore.”
6. You know what a “sopaipilla” is.
And there’s nothing more sublime than eating one on a rainy day, either at home — comfy and warm — or nearby those filthy street food carts when the carrete (party) is almost over and you basically socialize with whomever is there. Sided with “pebre,” mustard or alone, the sopaipa is a Chilean classic.
7. You are more than familiar with “PLOP!”
You started reading Condorito and/or Barrabases on your own, because you got it as a gift from your father, due to the influence of your elder brother, or just cause it was there, at the hairdresser waiting room. Somehow, it landed in your hands. If you ended up collecting one of these comics, you have unbreakable endearing feelings towards their characters.
8. You don’t drink alcohol; you “piscoleas.”
Despite Chile status as a prolific wine-producing country, if we gather with the “cabros” (friends) for a drink, there is always going to be some pisco (well, at least in the beginning). The consumption is so frequent that it turned into a verb: Piscolear.
It is said that pisco is Peruvian and maybe it is…but we know the biggest display of love is to carry one or several bottles of pisco each time we visit our countrymen living abroad.
9. You are not afraid of temblors.
But you dread earthquakes, which are very different things. In Chile — being a seismic country — we have seism, temblors, and the feared earthquakes. They differentiate according to the magnitude of telluric movements, the earthquake being the most destructive. A born and raised Chilean will be alerted at the slightest movement, but won’t run for his or her life. If the shake persists and gets intensified, then we know it’s time to “apretar cachete.”
10. You watched Viña del Mar festival with friends.
Even though Chileans criticize the festival because of the poor “parrilla” (selection) of artists and because it seems too easy to get a “gaviota” (award), when we travel abroad we realize how famous it is. It’s impossible to forget Coco Legrand or Kramer’s humor routines, Mike Patton’s ass-grabbing (poor Vodanovich), or Enrique Iglesias’ gaviotazo. Because it made us laugh, sing, shout out loud and even curse, the festival is central to Chilean pop culture.
11. You visited one of Pablo Neruda’s houses.
During a primary school excursion or your college years, or maybe with your family, you visited “La Sebastiana,” “La Chascona,” or the famous “Isla Negra.” You walked around his amazing collections, you understood better the relevance of his lifework and you entered into the world of his poetry. If you didn’t, you should: Neruda is one of our few cultural ambassadors worldwide.
12. You went to a “fonda.”
And what Chilean didn’t?! That local tradition built exclusively to celebrate the “18th” is also the perfect opportunity for any foreigner to understand Chilean identity. It doesn’t matter if you stay in the city, or go to the countryside or even to the beach, wherever you are the fonda will include anticuchos, empanadas de pino, chicha and Cueca.
13. La “moneda” (coin) has more than just monetary value.
Just like the United States has its White House, Chileans have “La moneda:” iconic, restored, and even bombarded, it is our Government House.
14. You were overexposed to drama and entertainment during the “27 hours of love.”
The telethon is a fundraising TV event for handicap kids. Heavily scrutinized nowadays for the way it portrays children, it is one of the noble causes that Chile has exported to the world. It has been replicated in several countries in South America.
One can’t help but get very anxious during those last moments, when it seems the fundraising goal won’t be met, only to finally achieve it. It is then that you are filled by a deep pride of being Chilean.
15. You love “la Chilena.”
Of course we like our women, but it’s not only that. We also adore the “Ensalada a la Chilena” (Chilean Salad) consisting of tomato, onion, cilantro, and green chili chopped with lemon juice, the best side for fried fish. Plus, “Chilena” is the most spectacular move in the most beautiful of sports: fútbol (soccer). If it is Chilean, it’s good.