Listen to Episode 24 of "Coffee with Gringos" here or on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and Soundcloud.


Paige: You are listening to Coffee with Gringos, I'm Paige Sutherland.

Mariah: And I'm Mariah Wika. Welcome back. This week we are talking about cross-cultural relationships with two of our friends and colleagues who have firsthand experience. Remember, if you get lost when you're listening to the podcast, our transcript and vocabulary guide are on the website to help you out.

Paige: So since you both are new to the pod, introduce yourself to our audience.

Mariah: And welcome. Thanks for being with us!

Anna: I'm Anna. I'm from the United States, Wisconsin and I am a teacher and the teacher trainer at Dynamic English.

Paige: And how long have you been in Chile?

Anna: A little over three years now. Three and a half maybe.

Mariah: How about you?

Rebecca: Alright. I am Rebecca, also from the United States, from North Carolina, and I have been in Chile...I'll go ahead and answer that one. Been in Chile for almost a year and a half now, but been around Chile for about four years, like in and out type of thing, which is how I got a Chilean boyfriend.

Paige: So, let's just start that off then. So Anna, how did you meet your boyfriend, and how long have you guys been dating, and who is your boyfriend?

Anna: So many questions. Yeah. My boyfriend's name is Hans. He's Chilean. We met pretty much the same amount of time I've been here and we met maybe one or two weeks after I got here. I was still living in a hostel.

Mariah: No way, I didn't know that!

Anna: Yeah. So we... I went to Bella Vista with my friends. It's been a while since I go out.

Mariah: Where all good love stories begin. Just kidding!

Anna: I was actually going there to meet another person for a beer, and the person was late, and so I just was with my other friend and we sat on the street instead of our normal table inside the bar and Hans and his friends were sitting next to us and one of his friends, Cata, was like, "Come over and talk to us. I hear you speaking English, we just want to see what you're doing." So yeah, we went there and then there was a whole incident with this street vendor kind of harassing us, trying to sell these weird, artistic things. I don't even know how to describe it. It's like foam paper shaped into a snail on a stick. That's the only way to talk about it.

Paige: So you bought four?

Anna: No—we tried to reject it, and the man was like super intense, you know? Keep buying it, keep buying it, and we're like, no, we really don't need the snail, you know. And so Hans kind of took the guy away from us, like, "Oh, come show me! I wanna buy some and see whatever other things you have to show!"

Mariah: Started dating. The rest is history.

Anna: The rest is history. Yeah.

Paige: Wow. That's quick. Your first week here.

Anna: I know. I wasn't trying. I really wasn't. I didn't come to Chile to find a boyfriend. I came just to teach and practice Spanish more. Yeah, it just happens.

Mariah: And look, here you are.

Anna: I know, still here, three years later!

Mariah: Okay, Rebecca, your turn. Tell us your story!

Rebecca: I actually came to Chile in 2014 to study for a semester, but I didn't study in a university. I studied doing an ethnographic research project, in which I was doing interviews with a ton of university students. Um, and so that's how I initially met my now-boyfriend because he was, and is, a university student. I interviewed him. We kept in touch a bit. I probably met him in the third month out of four months, so it's not like we had a ton of time together.

Mariah: In fact, not much time at all!

Rebecca: And we were gonna just part ways. I mean, we were hanging out, going on dates, but we were just going to part ways and that was going to be it when I left, but that wasn't it. So um, eventually, I think about eight months later he came to visit me in the US. And then for the next three-ish years, a little less, we were visiting each other back and forth, uh, probably five or six times visits, long visits between the US, Chile, and Korea. And then finally, I came to Chile.

Mariah: Because you were teaching in Korea for a year, correct?

Rebecca: Exactly. Yes.

Mariah: That is an intense long distance relationship.

Rebecca: It was. So, it's much better now.

Mariah: I can only imagine.

Paige: So you knew each other about a month here, and he visited you?

Rebecca: Mmhmm. Because while we kept in contact obviously, and we were just, you know, not dating but dating, basically, as far as keeping in contact and talking every day. And then he visited me, as a friend, but you don't talk to a guy usually everyday and invite him to visit you and everything and meet your family.

Mariah: Yeah... he's just a buddy.

Anna: Like how many hours? Ten hours to go meet your family.

Rebecca: Exactly. So, so yeah.

Mariah: Wow.

Paige: Those are some stories!

Mariah: Yeah, thank you for those stories! Let's talk a little bit about language. When you, when you met your significant other, what was your Spanish language level? What was their English language level? Tell us a little bit about that. Rebecca, do you want to start off?

Rebecca: Sure, I was studying here and I was already three months in. My Spanish had improved a lot, I already spoke some when I came to Chile and I think my Chilean Spanish, that improved a lot and we were able to communicate. I do remember one like moment where I was trying to tell him like he was being nice to me and I wanted to say like, "Oh, you're embarrassing me!" But like the way I said it was like, "You're embarrassing me." Like, like that kind of thing. Like it wasn't a long drawn-out thing but I could see on his face that he was hurt, I was just like no, whatever I said, I didn't mean it that way! But since then, these days we don't have too many barriers.

Mariah: But you navigate your whole relationship in Spanish?

Rebecca: More or less, yeah. We try to practice some English because you should always practice English, but mostly it's been in Spanish.

Paige: What is his level of English?

Rebecca: I would say he's intermediate, but kind of like low-intermediate. So, room for improvement.

Paige: So, he should listen to the pod.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Mariah: Just like everybody should listen to the pod. Alright. Anna, tell us about about you and your language level when you met Hans.

Anna: When I met him, I had lived in Argentina for about two years or so before that and I studied Spanish at school, so I was in a pretty good place, but I spoke a different kind of Spanish than Chile, so for us it was more about learning about modismos and things like that that I hadn't heard before and to me didn't make sense all the time, so we don't really have too many issues communicating. It's all in Spanish. Some words I just insert in English between us because you can't say them in Spanish. They don't have a word in Spanish. So for example, creepy is one that we both know and use, but yeah, other than that, I mean once in awhile we misunderstand each other, but I think it's almost a benefit because with another English speaker I could easily get upset that someone doesn't understand me. Because you grew up speaking the same language, same culture. There's nothing there, but with Hans, and we both talk about this, it's kind of we get into little tiffs or fights and you know, he'll say something quickly and I'm like, wait, I only got one word of that, what? And he's like, no, you're not listening. I'm like, I am. I just didn't get it. And then it kind of breaks the ice and we end up laughing usually because it's like, oh, okay, we just didn't understand each other. It's okay, we'll move on. So. I see it as a plus.

Mariah: Those basic miscommunications.

Paige: So what would you say Hans's level of English is then?

Anna: He definitely is one that understands more written language. Like if he reads for his work, he'll read informes and reports, things like that, and he will understand in English. Speaking wise, I would say maybe an A1, A2, but to be fair we don't really speak together so he could different, I don't know. And we just both kind of have a mutual agreement that we don't often correct each other in the other languages. It's better that way.

Mariah: Better for the relationship. I think that's tough for people where we're completely comfortable with a teacher or even a friend correcting us, but when our significant other tries to... I don't know, I think it sometimes feels more vulnerable or like you're being judged. It's more sensitive.

Anna: And for me it's kind of like bringing my work home because that's what I do for a living. So it's like him teaching me about meteorology, which is what he works in, you know, I don't, I don't need that in my house!

Mariah: Okay. So we understand that, obviously you're both dating Chileans, but that doesn't mean that we can make generalizations about Chileans in general when it comes to dating, but were there things you noticed in your courtship time or when you started dating that were maybe culturally distinct or that were different from dating experiences you'd had in the past?

Rebecca: Obviously, I mean there are stereotypes about, especially Latinos, not just Chileans being more emotional...

Paige: Expressive, passionate...

Rebecca: Passionate, expressive, these types of things. So it's definitely true, but I think mainly because I'm so practical, not emotional. But it's a good balance for me.

Mariah: Maybe it feels true in contrast to your personality.

Rebecca: Yeah, so it's definitely different from past relationships but not in a bad way at all because, like I said, we kind of balance each other out because I'll be like, I don't know, I'm not thinking of things that maybe I should be thinking about as far as like, oh, asking, you know, Latinos are very about asking : "How's your family?" And things like that. So I've learned a lot from him about that. Like, oh, I should be asking things like that. Not just like, eye on the prize, type of American, like, yeah, like just going down my path and doing my own thing. I should be asking those questions. Thinking a little more.

Paige: We talked about this a little in a previous episode because of the different culture. Has Your PDA increased since you've been dating?

Anna: I think my general comfort level with it has, but we still also have a mutual agreement about that and like I will have some PDA in public, obviously... PDA. But, I do try to keep it a little bit within the realms of my comfort zone, which he understands. And so I think we've been together long enough now where we kind of know what the other person feels like and is open to at the time. But I agree with what you said about family. Actually just remembering, even before we talked about what we studied or what our hobbies were, we honestly talked about our families, like he told me about his whole family first, like showed me pictures. Not that it's super intimate or anything, but I usually don't bring up my family first thing when meeting someone. But I guess that was, that was different. And then maybe just, I think one thing we talk about a lot is the difference between gringos and when we're out, like at a club or a party. It's kind of an inside joke with us. It's always the Chilenos out there and dancing right away and you know, kind of having life of the party, they probably didn't drink anything, you know, but they're just gonna go for it and they're gonna dance and sing more openly. Whereas, gringos will always be like, oh, I'm going to have a drink first and then I'll meet you out there.

Mariah: Or two or three.

Paige: Liquid courage.

Anna: Yeah, not that we're alcoholics, but I think it's definitely...

Paige: Wisconsin though!

Mariah: Yeah. Just so just so our listeners know, to be clear, Wisconsin is famous for, for beer and for having a very strong drinking culture.

Anna: My city was once known for having the most bars on a city square block and we also have the world's largest six pack.

Mariah: You heard it right here folks.

Paige: Well, you mentioned it a little bit, but I'm very curious about how meeting the parents went. I know that obviously language barrier was probably a big factor, especially for your boyfriends going home to the US. I guess maybe tell us a little bit about that.

Anna: Meeting his parents or his family was, you know, pretty good. Both were good, but I met them almost right away. Um, so I went home with him for Christmas and we, you know, it was, it was good. We spent maybe five or six days together, but luckily they're good people and you know, I felt very comfortable and welcome there.

Mariah: You spent five or six days for a first meeting?

Anna: Yes, but to be fair we had to drive six or seven hours.

Mariah: And it was Christmas. That's an intense first meeting.

Anna: It was.

Mariah: Welcome to the family, Anna!

Anna: But it was even better because once we were in the car going to his house and his brother's girlfriend says, "Hey, how long have you been dating?" And I'm like, "You know, about two or three months." And everyone including the mom turns around and says "WHAT?!" And I'm like... I don't know. Um, yeah, three months I think. And she's like, "You're dating?!" And I'm like, "Hans, you didn't tell them?!" He was like, "Well, they didn't ask." I just said, "Anna's coming."

Rebecca: So I met Diego's mom when I was studying here, like before we were dating, um, and it's just because I think one of our dates or whatever, we were just going to watch a movie like at his house and he lives with his mom. Uh, so it was pretty casual. I don't know, Christmas or anything probably mean a little awkward I guess because I still didn't speak. I didn't have like all the modismos to know what I should say. Just kind of like, "Heyyy I'm Rebecca." And I mean obviously everyone always asks you where are you from and what are you doing here? And all this stuff. So I mean conversation was easy enough but that was me meeting his mom, and I've met a lot of his family since then, without any problems. It's just weird for anyone when you're, when you're the only person there that's not part of the family and you're a gringo or gringa it is awkward but no, no harm done.

Mariah: Right.

Rebecca: And then it's even easier, maybe better with him meeting my family because since his English is not at a super high level to be having conversations, you can't say anything offensive. And he's such a little cute smiler, so he just wins everyone because they're always just like, oh my gosh, you're so cute. Look at that smile. Like all my aunts and my grandma, my grandpa, my gosh, they love him. Yeah.

Paige: But they've probably never talked?

Rebecca: I mean, especially with my parents, they've had like, you know, broken English conversations

Mariah: Enough to get by.

Rebecca: Yeah. But no, my family. Well now they've been around each other together, you know, four or five times and they really like him.

Mariah: I think it's amazing how much you can show about your personality and who you are as a person without being fluent in the language. You just have to be creative, right? It's about your body language and like if you go and do the dishes and you're helpful and you're kind and people can sense those things for sure.

Anna: Yeah, absolutely. I think meeting my family went well. I hope no one said anything yet, so...

Paige: You just introduced him, right?

Anna: I know, recently, after three years together, well, almost three years, he met my family, so it was definitely delayed compared to me meeting his family. They had said "hi" on Skype, but that's about it. So they did communicate. There was a lot of technology used basically... Google Translate, me, things like that, but he was definitely making an effort to talk with them, but with my dad it was watching sports and playing sports, which you don't need to talk, so he learned how to play kickball.

Mariah: Awesome.

Anna: At my friend's wedding reception or the rehearsal dinner and so he became very popular because of just his athletic skills and charm and playing in dress clothes and dress shoes. And that was impressive.

Mariah: If only it were that easy to win over somebody's family for everybody. Like I just showed them my kickball skills... and I impressed them all.

Anna: Oh, and he made a Chilean Asado for my family and that was basically all he had to do, so they still talk about it. Oh, that's a fabulous idea. Yeah, they were so amazed by the whole concept. They were like, "How did you make it so good when you didn't put any marinades on it or anything?" It's just, you know, salt basically.

Rebecca: That was the same with Diego, but he made completos. I wasn't that impressed, but my family and my parents liked them, so that was good.

Anna: Food. It's always universal.

Mariah: That's such a cool idea though and just sharing a little, like a little part of their culture in the process of meeting your family.

Paige: So you've both been dating your boyfriends for roughly the same time - about three years? Would you, in Spanish, call them a pololo or novio?

Anna: We were just talking about this yesterday or Monday. I do say pololo, but I feel - we were talking about - it feels kind of childish sometimes. I know it's a word that they use. It's common, but more often than not sometimes I'll say, pareja, like my partner.

Rebecca: It sounds like more serious, but not novio.

Anna: If I'm talking with someone that's more formal. If it's maybe someone my age, I'll say pololo. So, I wouldn't say novio necessarily, but once in a while. I don't know, what do you think?

Rebecca: No, I always say pololo because that's, that's what he is. Because to me, I mean I don't know the exact line, but I'm assuming from what I've gathered, like novio is like, you are...

Mariah: You're engaged.

Rebecca: Like yeah, you're on the marriage road. Yeah, here, exactly. If I'm talking to my friends in Central America, so if I'm talking to them, I know to say novio, but it equates to pololo.

Mariah: What's something that you've learned through being in a cross-cultural relationship that you maybe wouldn't have learned if you were dating somebody that's from your same cultural context? Whether that's been about distance or language...

Rebecca: Yeah, no, actually, like I never, I always jokingly suggest it but dating someone, if you want to learn a language, and you date someone that speaks that language, and especially for example, my Spanish is better than Diego's English, right? It always has been. So we practiced, we speak more Spanish. That is a big thing. I mean, like I said, I wouldn't date someone solely for that, but it worked out so...

Anna: I think for me, yeah, language definitely, but also patience and just perspective because I'm constantly questioned. I think that something is just the way it is because that's what I know. That's how it's always been and then, you know, he's quick to not call me out, but sort of and say, you know, "No I don't agree. This is my experience." And so that's been really interesting to see something that I thought was a fact is not really depending where you're from. So I think that's something that I've really enjoyed learning, but it's been frustrating too.

Paige: Have you felt being here...I mean you've been doing your boyfriend's for three or more years now. Do you feel, it's probably less so now, but that you're like the Gringa couple, like the Gringa-Chilean couple when you go maybe hang out with their friends or when you're, do you feel any of that?

Anna: Kind of. But the ones that I know now that I've seen many times, I mean it's just normal or with his family, you know, they tend to mention that I'm blonde but that's fascinating. But some of them are blonde too, so it's silly. But I think one thing that has been funny I've noticed is we don't look alike at all, really. And so when we're out and about, you know, people often ask us separately, like if we go to a store, just the other day we were going to buy a Coca Cola or something and they helped me first and then like, "Okay, and what can I get for you?" And we're together, but that's a common conversation. They don't assume that we're together even though we're standing next to each other talking. So it's interesting.

Rebecca: I have a great story I want to share about that.

Mariah: Please do.

Rebecca: So one of the times when I was visiting, I fainted in the subway, but luckily I was with Diego and so he like, like I don't remember, but he got me off of there, and I remember a guard or someone came down there to help us out and they were like, "Oh, you know, do you have any gum or she needs to eat something." Like, so we went up to like a convenience store to buy a Snickers bar. And he went to buy it because I was obviously like still fainty. Yeah. So I was waiting on him, and the cleaning guy, like the guy that cleans the metro came up and he was like, "You need to be careful with your stuff that guy's going to like steal your stuff." And I was just like, "He's my boyfriend of two years, so I'm not worried."

Anna: Sometimes Hans does say that too. When someone asks, he's like, "Yep, I'm gonna rob her." It doesn't happen a lot.

Rebecca: To me it was more funny than anything. Just like, that the guy said it. And it was funny too because the guy, he was like this little moreno guy, like he wasn't some haughty quico guy, so that was what was funny to me.

Mariah: But it shows some of that racism based on skin type here too.

Anna: It's everywhere unfortunately.

Mariah: Wow. That is. That's wild that that happened.

Rebecca: Yeah, it was a good time.

Mariah: So now we have lots of success stories, and we know some of the challenges of intercultural relationships, so if any of you are looking to date in Chile or elsewhere, hopefully this episode is helpful.

Paige: And as Rebecca said, if you really want to learn English, get an English speaking girlfriend or boyfriend! But thank you so much for being here guys. It really, really added to the show.

Anna: Thanks for having us.

Mariah: Thanks for listening, and we'll talk to you soon.