I have really tried NOT to write this blog, I really have. But after more than two years on Chilean sidewalks I had to face the facts: It has nothing to do with adaptation, not even with tolerance, acceptance or patience. I simply will never learn it nor get used to it. So as first-world-arrogant-cultural-snobbish this might sound, I just HAVE to say it: Chileans do not know how to walk. And I know I am not the only gringa/o out there who has problems to survive in the Chilean pedestrian jungle. Realizing that neither I am going to get used to it, nor Chileans are going to change for me, I decided to just let it out.
Maybe my parents taught me or maybe we had some general walking training classes in kindergarten, I don’t remember specifically, but somewhere along the way, I feel most Europeans and North Americans have learned the same basic rules of how to move on a public street. Before I came to Chile, I thought these rules were universal but as I kept bumping into pedestrians, I started paying more attention the the very unique Chilean way of walking. By now I have made out these five main types of walkers:
Perhaps I grew up in a mad and fast running world but as hard as I try to be patient and considering and enjoy this less hectic life style, the Chilean way of slow walking just DRIVES ME CRAZY! Admittedly, it is nice to enjoy life, pay attention to details and not to always be in a rush – but seriously – at 8 am I just want to get GOING and not slouchingly “enjoy” the mass movement on Plaza Italia. No thanks! Why not just walk past them slow-walkers? Please move on to Chilean walker type Nº 2.
If our slow-walker happens to be also a slalom-walker (90% chance this applies) there is no chance you can pass them. You make a step to the left, they slalom-slide to the left. You run back to the right, they slalom-slide back to the right. I get a feeling the slow-slalom walker is actually not malicious but acts out of instinct (I don’t even want to THINK about what kind of instinct that might imply) … either way, it’s obnoxious (yes, obnoxious!).
These come either as love birds or best amiguis and seem to be glued inseparably to each other. Every move they take, they take it together. Of course, love is wonderful and friendships need to be cherished but there is a time and place for everything and the main street during rush hour is neither the place nor the time!
A common phenomenon on the streets of Santiago, you walk calmly, minding your own business and before you know it: boom – you just ran into a stopper. The stopper seems to live in his or her own world, never noticing that they are actually not in their living room but on a busy street. So they stop. Suddenly. Always. Without. Warning. They stop because their cell phone rang. They stop because they have to write a text message. They stop because they have to check out the shop windows. They stop because they have to make a u-turn. They stop because they have to tie their shoes. They stop because they … pleeeeeassse stoppers, just stop it!!!
This specific species of pedestrian has either worked&traveled in Australia or spent too much time watching the royal weddings of the Windsors (though I have never met anybody from Australia, New Zealand, Britain etc. who had a similar walking restriction). Whatever the motivation, the ingleses are obsessed with walking on the left side. If it is a street, an escalator or a hallway, they just never seem to have understood that you walk on the right side and pass on the left side. Or, if you want it the British way, at least get your sides straight!
I am sure, there are a lot more “types” out there so feel free to complete my list. Overall though, I have to say, despite my little “issues” on Chilean side walks, I have gotten into only one serious fist fight over walking rules and I hope this *¡’0¡’¿?ç* is still in pain!!