Paige: You're listening to Coffee with Gringos. I'm Paige Sutherland.
Mariah: And I'm Mariah Wika. Today’s episode, we have a special guest and fellow Dynamic teacher with us. Stephanie Pruitt is here to tell us a little bit about herself and also to chat about Chilean and United States customs. Thanks for being with us, Stephanie!
Stephanie: You're welcome! Happy to be here.
Paige: Okay, so just to start off... I just wanna... you're know to the show, our listeners obviously don't know anything about you. Just tell us a little bit about where you're from, how long you've been in Chile.
Stephanie: Okay! I am from North Carolina... so that's always an interesting point at the beginning of any class. So if you're not familiar, it's pretty much halfway between Florida and New York. So, we have mountains and ocean just like Chile. I've been here for about ten months, and I love Santiago.
Paige: The biggest question... you probably get asked this five times a day is: "Why Chile?"
Stephanie: It'd be a combination of the geography because I love to be outside, I love the mountains, I love the ocean, I love cold weather... so I always wanted to go to the south. And also just looking at different countries, this is a very stable country, and there's a lot of potential here.
Mariah: Can you talk a little bit about what you did prior to coming to Chile and why why you ultimately made the choice to switch paths and come here and teach?
Stephanie: I was working for a while, and I went back and got my degree, and then I continued working... and I found a really awesome home in a Colombian and Mexican restaurant. And I was already at point where I really wanted to go after this teaching thing, so it was the perfect combination of continuing in education and having this family. And so then I got the TESOL certification, and I always wanted to work with adults because there's that want to change, that want to do more... it never ends. And we should never give up on it, I don't think. And everyday that I'm... it's not really even teaching sometimes. Everyday that I'm with the student, they're so ready to do more and happy that they have these moments to do more, and it's worth it. That validates this decision to come and do this, but I also wanted to see more of the world. Of course. I want to go to Asia soon, but I wanted to go to South America, so it just made sense for me to follow the natural path, and that's how it goes.
Paige: Is there anything when you first arrived that was very different from what you were used to back in North Carolina?
Stephanie: I would say the pace here is something that I've had to get adjusted to and the people not really interacting.
Mariah: Okay, so when you say the people not interacting, do you think that that's a consequence of a big city? Have you had different experiences when you traveled to different regions?
Stephanie: I think it is a consequence of a big city, but in a way, what I alluded to about the tranquility here is... this is a more conservative place than the United States. It's conservative in a different way, but it's not so in your face. And that's something that I've really come to appreciate. So, a lot of people will keep their opinions to themselves, and that's been different for me.
Paige: The biggest thing I've seen since I've been here, which has been really amazing is the value of family. I think in the US, it obviously depends family to family. It depends on what state you're from, but here, Sundays you spend with your family... you have brunch or lunch or breakfast with your parents, and that's something that's very much part of the culture here, and I think that is a custom that I would love to bring back home.
Mariah: Yeah, I would agree with that. I come from a really tightly knit family in the United States, but I have sort of an adoptive Chilean family here, and if my Chilean mom had her way, we would eat three meals together a day... and tea in the evening. So, that's been new for me, for sure.
Stephanie: I also have what I consider a benefit at this point of having a bit of an adoptive family as well. I live in an apartment. It's a one bedroom apartment that is an addition to a house, so there is space between us, but I had Christmas with them, I spent the New Year with them, we go on little day-trips together and what-not. But there's definitely a degree of separation and privacy that I know is a privilege in many ways in many cultures but is also a little bit weird... in the way of, I feel like sometimes I seem a bit odd for being comfortable being alone. So, I feel like I get the best of both worlds, and I wouldn't change that.
Mariah: That's awesome. Talk a little bit about Christmas. You said that you shared Christmas with this adoptive family. How was it different from your experience of that holiday in the United States? Was it different? Or was it exactly the same?
Stephanie: Aw man, it was awesome. I had to take a big sigh because I know it will vary family to family, but at least in my family in North Carolina, Christmas is heavily steeped in religion, and I'm not religious in that way at this point. It was also summer here, so that was totally different. And it felt like, at least in this situation, again because the media was not constantly in my face... It was more focused on having a good relaxed time and sharing food together. And yes there were a few gifts, but that was pretty much it. It was just hanging out.
Mariah: Shifting away from that... how about some customs of daily life that you've noticed that may be different here that you may want to take back with you someday. For example, I love stopping and having tea. That's not something I ever did in the US, and I love that a tea and a coffee break is accepted and normal here. Is there anything you can think of along those lines?
Stephanie: I would say a lot of this has to do with the nature of Dynamic because we have classes spread across the city. This is something that I love. It is a really great way to get familiar with the city, but it also allows for time to go here and there or experience new small things. While your day might be extended much longer than you'd like at times, it also allows a bit of freedom, and you're forced to just chill out. And so... I really would like to bring that back.
Paige: I think when I'm in the US, I eat dinner maybe at 6 PM, 7 PM, and I eat a big dinner. It's you know, a big protein, a starch, a vegetable... I think here, the tradition of an once. Toast, avocado, a coffee... that's a tradition I've never taken part in here, and I don't think I'd bring back because I'd be starving.
Mariah: Do you feel like your eating schedule and style has adapted since you came here? Do you eat big lunches now?
Stephanie: No. So... I could eat all day. This is true. I have a pretty high metabolism. For instance, I had a huge cazuela last night at 9 PM, 8:30. But at 10:30, I was ready to eat again.
Paige: But when you were eating in the US, were you eating big meals, like a traditional dinner... not like a snack, an once.
Stephanie: I eat a big meal at night. If I eat a big meal at lunch, it's nap time after that. So it's not a good idea.
Mariah: My Chilean mom always gets furious at me because she's like, "Mariah! You can't just eat a sandwich! You're going to starve! How will you have energy to take on the day?!" I'm like: "Because I have eaten a sandwich for lunch my entire life!" And I'm still here! Surviving.
Paige: I completely agree, if I ate a big lunch, I could not go teach a class. I would be falling asleep. It would be way too much food. That's why I eat at dinner.
Mariah: Winding down.
Mariah: Is there something that you miss about your life in North Carolina? Whether that's a daily tradition or a general tradition or holiday?
Stephanie: I miss having in depth conversations in English sometimes, and sometimes I miss a hug.
Paige: What are your thoughts on the greetings here? Because they're obviously different from the US, where when you first meet someone, it depends who you're meeting... y'know it's a handshake, maybe it's a hug if it's social. Here it's always a kiss on the cheek. So do you prefer the side cheek kiss, the hug, or the handshake?
Stephanie: Ahhh, okay. I... hmmmm, I prefer the not necessarily touching faces side kiss with a handshake.
Stephanie: Just for your everyday, but I'm good with the side kiss. I think the hug is good for close friends or family.
Paige: I don't love the side kiss. Mostly because as much as a hug is intimate, I think it's less intimate than a kiss on the cheek. It depends on the person you're getting it from. Sometimes it's a full kiss, which is a little off-putting. Sometimes it's like an awkward...
Mariah: A full kiss on the cheek, to be clear. Not a full kiss on the lips.
Paige: Yes, yes. Yes. On the cheek. Sometimes it's like an awkward, where you're like close to the cheek, but you're not... or you go in for the hug, but it's not a hug. So, I'm not quite comfortable with either.
Stephanie: What about you, Mariah?
Mariah: Oh, I love the cheek kiss more than I could possibly explain. I think that it's fantastic. I love the uniformity of it. When I greet somebody, I know that's what's going to happen.
Stephanie: Yeah, there's no doubt.
Mariah: There's no doubt, you know? And, yeah, there are some times where I've had experiences where somebody sort of just plants a kiss on your cheek, and I think... "You didn't have to do that, that was a little weird..." But I think that in general, it's kind of a caring and affectionate thing that especially feels good with good friends and people that I care about. I think it's a nice way of greeting each other. I think about those times when you're at the United States and you see an acquaintance from high school, and there's this moment of... do I hug you? Do I touch your hand? Do I just stand here and wave? What do I do with my body? Where is the side kiss when you need it? You know? And so I think that what I love about it is it's just the answer. It's just the uniform answer, so I appreciate that.
Paige: Are you gonna bring it home with you?
Mariah: I wish I could! But I don't think that's how cultural traditions and customs work. There are some things you can bring home... and some things where can you imagine?
Stephanie: A side kiss in Blaine?!
Mariah: A side kiss in Blaine, Minnesota... I would be famous for all the wrong reasons.
Paige: Do you hear Mariah's going around kissing everyone? It definitely removes the social awkwardness of deciding because it's uniform. So, that does make sense because you're always kind of like... do I hug, do I handshake, do I wave? It does remove that anxiety a little. I guess I need to embrace it more so I'm less awkard. If you see me do a side kiss, you think... she IS a gringa. The other custom that I like, and I'm not used to in the US is the elevator. In the elevator, people say, "Hola! Como estas? Chao!" In the US, it is quiet. Nobody speaks in the elevator. If you leave on your floor, not a sound is made. So, I've noticed here, without fail, every elevator I go in, there's a greeting. Do you like it? Do you think that's something you might bring home?
Mariah: Yeah! I like greeting people in the elevators in any country I'm in, frankly. But maybe that's just who I am. Like if I'm in...
Stephanie: I like it too because I'm always just like, let's just say, "What up?!"
Mariah: Let's just acknowledge we're both in this tiny space together.
Stephanie: But there's also this fine line because once I complimented this lady's purse... these are the things where there's that slight difference. I complimented her purse in the elevator, and she was like, "Huh? What?!" You can say hello... those things are fine, but if you get personal... nice watch! It's like, "What? Are you gonna take my watch?" Things like this... I'm like, okay, I get it.
Mariah: And of course, this podcast is for language learners, right? And we've all had the experience of being language learners here in Chile, so can you tell us a little bit about your experience learning Spanish?
Stephanie: Yeah! I already had experience learning Spanish from the US, but it was limited to a degree based on my profession or having been many years in the past. It's been a little awkward in the beginning because of the Chilean accent. It's so accent... and kind of muffled sometimes. So I felt like I needed to repeat myself a lot, even though I knew I was speaking clearly. But over time, I would say, the constant lesson here for me is always to just relax. And go with the flow. And just listen. And I would say that's the best thing to do in class as well and just be open to try and say what you want to say. And the people are there to help you... and that's when you can really connect to learn the words that you need to learn.
Mariah: Yeah, I mean, I think that's fantastic advice for our listeners too. Staying open... giving it a shot, remembering you're not alone, people will help you through the process...
Paige: I think that's the hardest step is to be vulnerable because everyone's afraid, especially when you're an adult learning is you don't want to not be able to speak... it's something you learn as a child, so it's tough when you can't say what you want to say. But like you said, great advice, just try!
Mariah: Relax and go for it! Stephanie, thanks so much for being with us today and for sharing your story. We really appreciate it. It's been great to have you.
Stephanie: No problem, my pleasure. Thank you.
Mariah: Thanks for listening, and we'll talk to you soon.
KEY VOCABULARY, PHRASES, AND SLANG
Prior (adjective) - before
Example: Can you talk a little bit about what you did prior to coming to Chile?
Ultimately (adverb) - finally, in the end
Example: Stephanie ultimately moved to Chile for personal and professional reasons.
Switch paths (idiom) - to change life directions
Example: Stephanie switched paths when she moved from the United States to Chile.
Pace (noun) - speed and rhythm
Example: From my perspective, the pace of life in Chile is slower than the pace of life in the United States.
In your face (idiom) - very obvious
Example: Stephanie said that she thinks Chile is really conservative, but it’s not so in your face.
Custom (noun) - a special tradition that people repeat
Example: Many people here spend Sundays with their families. Sunday lunch is really important. That’s a custom I would like to continue in the future.
Tightly knit (adjective) - describes very close relationships
Example: My family in the US is very tightly knit, but we still spend less time together than Chilean families.
What-not (slang) - used similarly to “etc” or “and stuff”, most frequently used to end a list when a person doesn’t know what to say
Example: I had Christmas with my Chilean family, I spent the New Year with them, we go on little day-trips together and what-not.
Chill out (phrasal verb) - to rest and relax
Example: Stephanie likes that her schedule gives her time during the day to just chill out!
Along those lines (phrase, idiom) - related to the topic
Example: Are there any Chilean customs you’d like to bring back to the United States? For example, I love tea and coffee breaks. Is there anything you’d like to continue along those lines?
Take part (phrase) - to participate
Example: Do you take part in a traditional Chilean eating schedule? Or do you still eat dinner early like most Gringos?
Furious (adjective) - very, very angry and frustrated
Example: My Chilean mom is furious at me when I just eat a sandwich for lunch because she thinks I will be very hungry and not have enough energy during the day.
In-depth (adjective) - deep and complex
Example: I miss having in-depth conversations in English.
Off-putting (adjective) - strange and uncomfortable
Example: Paige thinks that sometimes the traditional cheek kiss greeting can be a little off-putting.
Acquaintance (noun) - a person that you know, but they’re not a close friend
Example: It’s difficult to decide how to greet an acquaintance when there is no standard greeting. Do you hug or give them a handshake?!
Awkward (adjective) - very socially uncomfortable
Example: Sometimes learning greetings in other cultures can be very awkward.
To compliment (verb) - to say nice things to a person
Example: Stephanie compliment a woman’s purse in the elevator, and the woman thought the moment was awkward.