In the streets, I stand out a lot. I knew that this would happen, as most Chileans are “morenos/as” or “dark”, but when I saw other blondes I thought I would be able to blend in a bit more. However, a fair amount of Chilean women are overweight, and most are shorter than I am. The combination of the three assets – blonde, relatively tall, and thin – mean that I am a sight to see among the crowd.
The neighborhood that I’m living in is more cosmopolitan and has many more tourists, so I absorb better into the crowd, but when I went into the center of the city, I must have looked like a lighthouse. Gringa is a common term for people like me: white, female, and foreign. I get beeped at by cars, whistled at, and called at. Guapa, gringa, chica. I asked my host and she said that men will call but rarely will they approach you, so I don’t need to worry. Just keep walking. She laughed when I asked if gringa is a bad word: it’s simply a way of explaining who I am. The language isn’t conducive to political correctness. I try hard to not look confused when people talk to me: they talk wicked fast. New England fast, but in Spanish. I do a lot of smiling and nodding, and reading their tone in order to respond appropriately with a sympathetic face or a laugh. All in time!