Back in the USA, Wow, I’ve Changed.

It has been a year and a half since our family left the USA. We relocated to a suburb of Santiago, Chile known as Chicureo. Our family arrived at Miami, FL, USA at 5 in the morning on Christmas Eve. After landing I bent over to gather my belongings and muttered “Finally! No more being stared at!” and sure enough as soon as I looked up there were two young passengers , point blank , eyes glaring at me like I just landed from another planet and not another country. I had spoken English on a LAN flight to the USA. So I chuckled, pointed at them and proceeded to retract my statement “Not yet, but soon.”
The first stop at the airport was the bathroom as every self-respecting parent knows. In between the male and female restrooms stood my youngest, face-to-face with an unfamiliar object until the eldest cut in front and drank from it. ” Water fountain!” I watched and smiled as they taught him how to push the button and slurp the rainbow of free, clean and bubble free water.
We spent so much time fantasizing about food we missed while living in Chile. Like a prisoner on death row planning his final meal we planned our gastronomical tour of favorite haunts in the USA. Our first meal as a family ended-up being a revelation in terms of defining “American”. Nothing says USA like a Mexican lunch truck serving hot and spicy food, in English and Spanish 24/7.
I am a conformist now. I was quite the opposite in my little town of Chicureo. No matter how outspoken or outlandish I thought I was my adopted country of Chile had tamed me in ways I am now beginning to appreciate. My ears had to readjust to parents shouting at their kids and strangers voicing their unsolicited opinions.
At first I must admit I celebrated when I heard a fellow parent publicly reprimand their child. Back in Chile I often asked the mothers for their secret. I never witnessed a Chilena openly lose her patience and yell at her child. Somehow they found a subtle way to keep their kids in line. I am sure I got my fair share of stares that way, not from disciplining my kids, but for raising my voice in order to achieve it. Point for Chile.
And oh the complaining! Dear God the USA is a nation of whiners. Then again my peers in Chile were raised under a dictatorship so this freedom of speech thing has not become the monster that it is in the USA. While in Chile I begged the people to speak-up and now in the USA I am begging the people to tone it down. Please, I can hear you, all the way across the store.
Before I part ways with today’s blog entry I would like to thank those of you you hit that “like” button on my blog. What I would love more are some questions, comments or suggestions on what to write about. Post a link to your blog or item of interest on my comments so I can do the same for you. I am honored to know someone finds what I write interesting and worthy of discussion or sharing.
Hasta la pasta from Gringolandia.

14 thoughts on “Back in the USA, Wow, I’ve Changed.

  1. First time running across your blog here. Just curious what prompted the move to Chile in the first place? I’ve never been away from the US long enough to feel that sense of returning to it in quite the same way.

    • We relocated to Chile for the same reason we relocated so many times in the USA, chasing an income. After being hit hard by lay offs we learned to swallow our pride and go wherever the income was.

  2. I am living with my hubby and two little girls in Abu Dhabi, UAE and I know I will have a similar experience going back home (I grew up in MI, but lived outside of Chicago and before that in Florida) to visit when we do. Living in a country where you could technically be arrested for swearing in public or showing too much skin, where there is no such thing as freedom of assembly or freedom of speech….it really opens my eyes to how much Americans abuse so many of the freedoms we do have (myself included). I just found your blog this morning, this is the first post I’ve read but I look forward to more!

    • Thank you Chelsea for your comments. I recently met an expat who moved from Abu Dhabi to UAE. She is now an administrator at one of the top schools in Chile. Thank you for not being offended by the cursing. I purposely did not censor it so the readers would feel the same level of discomfort that I did. They did and were nagging at me to “soften” my blog by taking out the cursing or telling me they personally never heard such language used. Again, I am quite sure those US ears have tuned it out. Chile is more conservative in dress (nothing like the Middle East) but yeah, I simply will not buy a running skirt. I just wanted to buy a pair of running shorts. As it is if I wear the spandex ones that go past my knees I hear about it from the male population. Not in a negative way mind you, but they do hoot and holler in my face while I am with my kids which was hard to adjust to. My eldest son and jogging partner,was furious about it so I turned it into a game. We started keeping count…. out loud. So whenever I got a comment we would tally out loud. On our last run I garnered 64 hoots and hollers thank you very much!

  3. Gringa! When will you be back in Chile? I will be visiting your neck of the woods at the end of January and would like to hear more of your thoughts on Chicureo. Please contact me – thank you!

    • First of all thank you Ipeewee for commenting. I would rather 1 comment then 10 likes. I really do blog as a means of exchange. Life as an expat has taught me that online communities can be a great source of comfort and information. If you are moving to Chicureo I will make sure you get a welcome wagon! I run a little expat group there and we actually do things off line like roast marshmallows with the kids, go on coffee dates, costume parties etc. My group page is in Facebook under

  4. GRINGADCHICUREO-What was the biggest adjustment moving to Chile? How did you find a place to live? Thanks for your blogging, I know it takes some effort.

    • The biggest adjustment to Chile was my own prejudice. I thought for some reason I was ready because I was familiar with Latin American culture and fluent in Spanish. Chile is definitely different from the rest of Latin America. I did my research for a home 6 months before the move. There are plenty of real estate agents, but as an expat it is assumed you are of greater means than the average resident so the real estate agents will drag you to all of the high-end areas first. Do your homework.

  5. I landed in Valdivia a couple months ago, having quit my job in the,US and rented out my house. I am a little self conscious on a good day, and sometimes people glare at me…because I’m blonde. But mostly people are warm. I find the language very challenging!! I’ve never been so quiet! How long did it take for you to acclimate? I fantasize about going home…

    • Regarding the language and socializing in Chile: it is on YOU. You need to be brazen. You need to get out there and fumble your speech and beg for them to help you with it. They are thrilled that you are trying to speak Spanish, because English is mainly read in school books not spoken so it is easier on them as well.
      Chilenos are notoriously private people. It is not you. I repeat, it is not you. Before you lose your mind find some fellow expats, and by the way that includes Peruvians, Argentinians etc. Jump start your social life there and slowly, but surely work on bonding with the locals.

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