I just finished listening to a wonderful rendition by Norah Jones of that country classic “Cold, Cold Heart”. As I listened to the song about a cold hearted lover, a parallel thought crept into my mind. I have often been told here in Peru and other parts of Latin America that gringos are cold. That is the stereotype that we are fixed with. We are cold hearted and make our decisions based on facts and logic rather than feelings. Also, we do things in an unfriendly way.
Further into my thought was “Am I guilty of that?” If so, how? What do Latin Americans mean when they say that I as a North American am cold?
Rather than get philosophical, let’s look at some real life situations and see what this gringo may have done to may cause this reaction.
Perhaps you, fellow gringos, can ask yourselves what you do in these situations and thus measure your coldness.
When you enter a room with a bunch of people, do you go around and greet each person with a hug/kiss or at least a handshake?
LARRY: Guilty of coldness. I used to waive at the whole bunch and say hello.
When you leave the party, do you go around and say goodbye with a hug/kiss or at least a hand shake?
LARRY: Guilty again. I used to waive at the whole bunch and say goodbye.
Note: I have improved and now greet and say goodbye properly showing that gringos can learn
When you have a bag of chips/candy, gum, cigarettes, do you share with your group?
LARRY: Guilty–I used to eat the whole bag myself
Note: Now I have learned to share
Do you go to the doctor/dentist/ therapist by yourself?
LARRY: Guilty. Until recently I always went by myself.
Do you allow your wife/ son/daughter/ mother-in-law or any other relative to go to the doctor alone?
LARRY: Guilty, but I have learned the hard way and try to go to every appointment possible.
When someone is making a long explanation, do you ask them to get to the point? Or even think of it?
LARRY: Guilty of the thought. Now I am much more patient.
We could go on, and maybe I will in a future article, but you can see that some of my gringo behaviors run counter to the accepted norm here. But, there is hope. I am learning and becoming better.
On a more serious vein, I know that there are differences that cause both sides to grind their teeth in frustration. In fact both sides have much to learn from each other. That is the exciting thing. Human beings are learning machines and are capable of making changes. However, it does take time, patience and understanding. It is well worth the effort.