11 July 2019
A while ago I wrote a blog post where I list five things that Chile does better than the United States. This is its counterpart, where I share some of the things that I think The United States does better than Chile.
In most major cities in the United States, you can find world-class food from a wide range of cultures. Whether you want Mexican food, Chinese food, Vietnamese, Italian, Ethiopian…wherever you want to go, there’s a restaurant for you.
There’s less variety in Chile, and the food can be monotonous. Different varieties of meat on a piece of bread, topped with avocado, and maybe a portion of fries on the side. There is plenty of Peruvian food, and some restaurants from other cultures, but not to the same level that you can find in a major American city. Furthermore, cuisine in the United States is a melting pot. Each immigrant group has left its mark on the country, leading to an incredible variety of dishes that are available.
And spice! You can easily find food with a kick to it in the United States. But, not many Chileans like spice. What’s considered spicy in Chile barely registers on my palate.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, there aren’t any Chipotle restaurants. Some days all I want is a big, fat burrito with the crack-like substance that Chipotle puts into them that make them so addictive and unable to be copied.
Two words: Amazon Prime.
Being able to search for something online, compare and contrast products, order it, and get it delivered to you within two days is unbelievable. It seems like any item no matter how obscure, is at your fingertips. Going to a store to buy stuff seems cumbersome in comparison.
One time, I needed to replace the plastic buckle on a backpack I own. Since I was in Child I had to do things the old-fashioned way. I asked my then-roommate where I could find one. He recommended that I look at stores located a nearby street. So, I walked with my broken backpack to the area with a lot of stores that sold sewing/clothing articles. I looked through the storefront windows until I found one showing a buckle. I went in, bought a buckle, and walked back.
Had I been in the United States I would have logged on to Amazon, bought a buckle (well, I might have just bought a new backpack!), hit order, and had it delivered to my door. Ten minutes of effort instead of hours.
The difference in the time I spent actively searching for a buckle might not seem significant, but when you have tons of other things to do, eating up a couple hours just to complete a trivial task like that is a big deal. And you repeat that for anytime you need to get something, and the time spent in the act of shopping can grow by a lot.
I’m lazy in certain areas of my life. Shopping is one of them. I don’t like to expend time and effort researching, bargaining, and buying. I’m more than happy to press a button and let Amazon do the hard work for me.
Stores in Chile aren’t open as long as in the United States. In the United States you can go shopping on Christmas or Independence Day if you wanted to! In Chile on those days you’ll have trouble finding a store that’s open. Many stores and restaurants close on Sunday and even on Saturday, or have just limited hours on Saturday. The banks and government offices close to the public at 2:00 PM. I’ve walked around my neighborhood on a weekday morning at 10:00 or 11:00 AM, looking for a barbershop or a place to get my shoes fixed, and found those types of stores still closed.
In the United States, you rarely have to ask “is this place open?” Many businesses open between 7 and 9 AM and close between 9 and 11 PM. Seven days a week. Starbucks opens even earlier. Convenience stores are open 24 hours. If you need to go, you go and the business is waiting for you.
Pursuit of Happiness
Chile has a more conservative culture than the United States. Whereas in the United States people are more or less free to live their lives as they see fit, in Chile there are more rigid societal guidelines about what you can and can’t do. You go to school, after you’re finished with school you work at a job (the type of job depends on your social class) during the week, and during the weekend you watch soccer and hang out with your family. Thinking big, striving for more, or deciding to do things your own way aren’t traits that are valued here as much as they are in the United States.
It’s funny how being outside of your country can give you a new perspective on it. This was one of the things that I didn’t really think about, but have come to like and appreciate. I like how there aren’t as many cultural restrictions on what you can do. I like how people can come to the United States and make a life for themselves, and that thinking and living differently are things people aspire to do.
Chile is a very homogenous country. Everyone looks and acts very similarly. Coming from a diverse part of the United States, sometimes while walking down the street and seeing people pass by me I think to myself “don’t you get bored with yourselves?”
I’m from Arlington, Virginia. In Arlington you can find people from all over the world. When walking around you can routinely hear multiple languages being spoken. As an example, last year I went to an IHOP in Arlington. I heard the cooks, as well as other diners, speaking Spanish, and the waiters were speaking a language from Asia.
I like the diversity of my hometown. It exposes you to different cultures and ideas. Furthermore, living with people from different backgrounds provides a strong antidote to the boxes that the media and popular culture like to put people into. If you live in a very homogenous area, and the only exposure to Muslims you’ve had is through the television showing terrorism in the Middle East, or your only exposure to Latinos is through news stories and politicians that portray them negatively, that’s the image of those groups of people that you’ll have. But when you go to school with Muslims and Latinos, when you eat with them, when you work with them, when you hang out with them, when you meet their families, you realize that they’re just regular people with their own personalities, hopes, dreams, flaws and problems. Just like you and me.
I like to sleep well every night. So on occasions where I go out, I prefer to go early, have a drink, stay and talk for one or two hours, and go home. That way I can have a productive day, or relax on the weekend.
Because of this I can’t for the life of me understand the Chilean way of going out, which is to start your night at midnight (when I like to be asleep), and stay out all night long, fueled by a steady supply of beer and piscolas.
In the United States, we start our festivities earlier and end them earlier. Provided you go easy on the alcohol, you can have fun at night and do something else the following morning. In contrast, when you’re out till six in the morning you wake up the next afternoon groggy, feeling bad and unable to do much with yourself. It seems to me that you can fit more fun into your weekend that way.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post!