This month, we’re interviewing women from all over the world and asking them about their experiences traveling to and dating in Chile. We had the privilege of speaking with Jennifer Ramos about her experience dating in Chile. Here’s a glimpse into our conversation.
Dating in Chile: A Conversation with Jennifer Ramos
Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where did you date a local, or meet your partner?
I work in international education (International Programs and Study Abroad) at a university in the southeastern United States. I dated a local Chilean in Puerto Varas and Concepcion, Chile. We met in Puerto Varas, dated there, and moved together to Concepcion. We married in Chillan and moved to the United States a few years ago.
What were some of Chile’s dating traditions that surprised you?
I was really surprised he proposed to me in front of his whole family at a typical family barbecue! Chile is very European compared to other Latin American countries, with the exception of Argentina, which is even more European than Chile. Therefore, there were not many dating traditions that surprised me since my family is from the United States and we have roots in western Europe.
It is not uncommon for Chileans to date and become very serious quite quickly. Also, most Chileans live at home until they are married. Although it was not the case in my situation, sometimes Chileans will date and go to hotels and rent out the hotel by the hour since they live at home. Another thing that I saw is that Chileans will make out at the park–and I am talking heavy making out! They are very loving and affectionate in public.
For example, the first time I met my future father-in-law (when we had just started dating) we were at my partner’s house for dinner. I did not kiss him or really show too much affection in front of him as it was my normal reaction, and I thought I was being polite and respectful.
In the U.S. I’d never start making out and kissing my partner in front of my parents. I didn’t think twice about behaving this way, which I thought was respectful and courteous. However, my partner said to me after: “why don’t you ever kiss me in front of my dad or my parents?”
I was shocked by the question and I responded, “Because it’s rude!” He responded, “No, that’s how you show your love here and it’s important they know that you are happy and in love.” Interesting, I thought! That is not the case at my house, and I’ve never seen my parents (who have been happily married for over 30 years) do anything more than a kiss and hug!
What did a typical date in Chile look like?
Very similar to the U.S.– go out for dinner, perhaps a stroll afterwards (depending on where you live). Although I will say it’s common to bring them over to meet their family much earlier than one would in the U.S.
What cultural and/or linguistic barriers did you encounter? What should other women in your situation be aware of?
different from Spanish in any other country. Anyone who has been to Chile will agree, including native Spanish speakers. Chilenismos
are very common and used in daily language, which is always a good laugh when you don’t understand, or if the direct translation in standard Spanish for that word has nothing
to do with the Chilenismo
The Chilean slang is so common that many Chileans do not realize that these are not words used in other Spanish-speaking countries unless they have traveled outside of their country or work with foreigners.
Also, direct translation from English to Spanish and Spanish to English is quite comical and a popular misunderstanding when dating. For example, some direct translations of words in Spanish come off very strong in English and vice versa, so losing things in translation happens, even if you are both fluent in each other’s native language, or if one of you is fluent.
What are the general societal attitudes towards dating women who are not from Chile? Were your partner’s attitudes in-line with these general attitudes, or did they behave differently?
The general societal attitudes towards dating women who are not from Chile are mixed, and I cannot speak for an entire nation. From my experience hearing from other foreigners who were also dating Chileans, it was either, “oh you are so lucky for dating a foreigner, you’ll have more opportunities in your future”, like “good for you”, etc.
However, some attitudes were more along the lines of “oh no, you’ll be leaving Chile if this gets too serious, and the country and culture here…be careful, gringos are very self-centered and egotistical and don’t forget your roots and your language if you do leave Chile…”
Chile is a society stratified by class. Therefore, if you are dating a foreigner, this may be a benefit to you, but it also depends on the appearance of the foreigner. For example, if you the foreigner is pale skinned with light eyes and hair, you may get the benefit of the doubt with the general public, and likewise for your Chilean partner or not.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with women interested in dating locals in that destination?
Chile is arguably the safest country in Latin America. Locals are friendly, curious about foreigners, and very family-oriented. Family is very important in Chile and you’ll see this everywhere you go. If you date a Chilean, be ready to spend a lot of time with his or her family. A LOT.
Chile is a collectivist culture, read more on that here. Many Chileans are raised (whether this is intentional or not) to be jealous and cautious of others from the opposite sex. The idea of having best or good friends that are just friends from the opposite sex does not exist in Chile. The idea of being a tomboy, like I identify myself, is rare in Chile too.
Some young people are starting to live together more often before they marry, but generally speaking it is uncommon. You live with your family until you are married, and since the Catholic Church still plays a influential role in Chilean society, this may be one reason for this tradition.
Dating in Chile: A Conversation with Jennifer Ramos