Sunday, August 9, 2009

Finders keepers, losers weepers

Here I go. This post is loaded, and I'm not even going to make it into the broader topic. There's been something I wanted to post about floating around in my head for a few months, that Sarah touched on the other day and first off, and Cincinati Chile hit the nail on the head with her comment in that thread:
(Viewpoint of a Chilean, and I have observed the same) "The culture in Chile is that if you are dumb enough to leave your stuff unattended then it's my right to take it. It's the person's fault for leaving their stuff out in the open. I don't get this in the US. I think if people steal stuff they know that they are making a choice to do so and don't put any blame on the person they are stealing from or think that they are stupid."

In Chile, I get the impression its always the victim's fault for not being smart enough to avoid being a victim, and sometimes people similarly justify their "right" in taking advantage of others this way.

However, I feel like people look at the problem the wrong way. I see this throughout many areas of society. On Friday on the way to work, an elderly couple got out of the car and the lady that took their place exclaimed it was "sad," and "bad judgement" of them, to go out in town without someone younger to accompany them because they would get robbed for being old and frail. Shouldn't this be looked at from the angle that it is "sad" and "bad judgement" to steal from the elderly?

Well the case that's been on my mind for a few months is specifically the "finders keepers?" lost wallet dilemma. I know in general, in Chilean society, the majority of people would probably be thinking along the lines... "if you were misfortunate (or dumb) enough to lose your wallet, it's mine to take." As nothing is ever so black and white, I had wrongly assumed that many of the people I knew here, based on my assumption that I have honest friends, wouldn't necessarily fall into the majority. I was disgusted to realize my boyfriend wouldn't have necessarily done what I personally consider the "right thing" in a moral sense, at least without an internal dilemma between right and wrong (which, might now consist of something like "I feel temped to the the wrong thing, but on the other hand... my girlfriend will be pissssed!")

For a while I've been collecting a file of articles, mental tidbits, and personal examples revolving around the concept of the "lost wallet." The majority involve the US and Canada and some non-scientific studies.  Sometimes I identify a lot with Canada and the Canadian people, from what I know and those I've met, partially because I think culture-wise, Minnesota is at times more similar to Canada than, for example, the Southern US. In many articles, the sample sizes are too low to be significant, but individual circumstances and small group examples are worthy of making a statement too.

[Side anecdote- To put the Chilean point of view into perspective on the issue of what to do with/or expect from a lost wallet, I tried to add my own Chilean significant other's comments to expand upon this for a bit, but unfortunately, I only managed to pry my boyfriend away from Hillary Duff's "A Cinderella Story" to get the following, in-depth, insight into the chilean point of view... "lo devuelvan sin la plata." (they return it without the money)... and at the commercial break he followed up with... "porque son pillos, po." (because they're cunning)    ....Thanks a ton]

The case that brought everything to my attention was that one of our closest friends found a wallet full of cash, photos, credit cards, etc... in the plaza. This friend is one of the people I trust most in this country, we've left him our house keys at times when we go out of town. But upon finding this wallet, he kept all the money, but returned the wallet itself. I found this appalling- he was easily able to find out who this lady was and return everything to her, leaving the choice of a reward up to her alone (I'll get into rewards in a follow up post, I'm dead tired). He and his friends argued that stealing the money and giving the wallet back was the best you could expect of a person, and giving back the wallet intact wasn't even a reasonable option (because, well if he didn't steal it someone else would, or that the fact that they lost it makes it no longer theirs).

In general, Gallup discovered that Chileans suggested they would expect their neighbors(54%) or police(56%) to return their lost wallet intact, but not a stranger(%7). (Not to mention I feel like the concept of neighbor is different enough from Minnesota to Chile that I imagine Chileans are counting many people I'd call "neighbors" in their "stranger" category.)
When actually put to the test, Latin American countries didn't do so well... Argentina had 44% returned, Mexico 21%.

In this BBC news piece a woman lost a winning lottery ticket and a couple found it on the floor, what was to happen? The article has a decent summary of both some legal and moral reasoning.
"While losers may no longer have physical possession of an item, they still retain legal entitlement to it. Therefore, in England and Wales, as well as in most other countries across the world, the onus is on the finder to take what the law describes as "reasonable steps" to track down the loser." I think this is what is morally right- that people should have the right to their things if that is possible, though of course little tiny things like coins or untraceable items might stay in the possession of the finder as there is no reasonable way to track down the owner.

Thats why the wallet example really heats my blood. You KNOW who lost it. You KNOW whose property it is (or was, if you consider it as such). And regardless of the tense of the previous statement, you can pretty easily assume that that person is worried, missing it, unhappy, and possibly in a lot of trouble without it. Morally, either way I think it should be returned. I think people should follow the Golden Rule, said in one of a zillion ways: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Everybody would prefer to not lose their wallet, and therefor regain full possession of it if that were to happen.

I think the most interesting news piece on a study I read was this one by Readers Digest. 120 wallets were dropped across Canada, with $50, an ID, some pictures, etc... I like the article because the interview some of the people who returned the wallets, both those that were intact or not, catching some of them in their lies, and reporting both the positive and negative about the people observed. However, the positive far outweighed the negative.
Many of the quotes said by the wallet returnees said something along the lines of morals or upbringing.

"It's because of my mother. She taught us never to even consider keeping anything that did not belong to us."
"A wallet is private property... If everyone started taking advantage of others, society would be in chaos."
"God sees everything.
(And a funny one when a lawyer made a big deal out of returning it intact) "See? there is such a thing as an honest lawyer."
"I'd never have taken anyone else's money -- they might be worse off than I am."

Overall, Reader's Digest found that 77/120 (64%) were returned intact. In similar studies of other countries, the US scored in at 67% returned intact, Europe 58%, Asia 57%, 73% of women, 56% of men. Small towns were no better than the national average. Yet young people were not as honest as the rest.

I think one big factor is money. Everyone wonders how that comes in to play, and how that could skew (or excuse) behavior in Chile. Reader's Digest did mention that there is a link between economic crisis and a rise in crime, and higher rates of inflation likewise had more crimes with the intent of financial gain. However, I still think in general, until the situation becomes life and death, the moral issue should come into play first and foremost. In Chile, for the most part, I think people are less concerned about the way their actions affect others. If you read blogs about Chile you'll have long ago noticed this recurring theme from people's indifference to holding up an ambulance, driving and sidewalk habits, etc.. I feel like the Golden Rule doesn't hold as much weight here. People expect to get taken advantage of, people expect to not come out ahead in the face of misfortune, and therefore also feel less guilty and more "in the right" when they are faced with the dilemma of whether to take advantage of someone else.

However, when good morals (or cultural expectations, and other influencing factors) are installed, temptations can often be overcome, Reader's Digest followed up with a touching story of good Samaritan actions despite hardship during the depression.

Not to mention this great example of one of the guys who found the test wallet:
"In Saskatoon Brian Toothill, 36, restored our faith in our fellow-man. Unemployed, he gets by on welfare and the $20 or so a week he scrapes together by redeeming discarded bottles and tin cans. He was going through garbage cans when he spotted our wallet in a telephone booth at a bus stop on 23rd Street East. 'When you are honest, life pays you back.'"

I love this attitude.

Remember the lost and found lottery ticket? The "loser" won.
The courts sided with the woman, saying "It is important for the public to know that 'Finders keepers, losers weepers' is not true and never was true."


Mamacita Chilena said...
Fantastic post Lydia. I tend to link everything in Chile back to the trust issue so I was wondering while I read this -- Do people not return wallets here because they are so mistrusting they assume that no one would do the same for them? But then it's sort of like asking about the chicken or the egg. What came first -- dishonest people being that way because of mistrust, or people mistrusting because of dishonest people.
lydia said...
hahah... so of THOSE questions ;-) I dunno if they're literally worried that "what goes around comes around," as in, it will happen to them, but I think they're aware of the general workings of things and therefore feel excused to participate in the same negative way as they perceive everyone else to. Being honest in this scenario doesn't seem to be the norm, nor is taking the money a guilt-causing decision, and they think they'd be a fool not to take advantage of the opportunity.
Cincinnati Chile said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Cincinnati Chile said...
(sorry had a type-o that I corrected so posting again) Very cool post. You have spent a lot of time collecting info and thinking about this and I'm impressed. :) I can't take credit for the comment though as it came from my Chilean husband. I love these posts through gringa eyes because it gives me insight into the culture that I don't experience as I don't live there. I get little things here and there by visiting but nothing like living there. These posts often spark dialogue between S and I and he usually has an answer or really good insight. He is heady that way. My next comment/question from the last post was going to be how much this is related to someone's upbringing which you talked about in this post. I was at Target returning something and a little girl about 6years old had found a $50 bill in the aisle. Her mom walked with her up to the front desk to turn it in. The mom gave the background and the Target employee explained that they would record it in the book and if no one called to claim it within 60 days the girl could have the money. The mom was explaining to the girl why this was the right thing to do. Other people in line were commenting on how it was so great that the girl was doing the right thing by turning it in and I said to her "it will come back to you, don't worry". It is so true! I once was at a store sampling the lotions and found a 1ct or larger diamond ring. I didn't even think twice about it and took it to the manager. A few minutes later a lady came in freaking out about leaving her ring. I told her that the manager had it and she was so thankful. A few months ago an employee at the tanning bed place called me to tell me that I left my wedding ring there. She tracked me down by who used the booth. S told me that this would have never happened in Chile. I asked S if he thought that this was part of upbringing in Chile and he said "one thing is what they teach and another is what everyone does around you." He thinks that his parents taught him to be honest and they actually did a better job than other people around him. His Grandma apparantly was all about the finders keepers. I guess it shows the importance of instilling this value in your own children and even more important in a culture where it is not the norm.
Annje said...
Great post. My husband is one of the honest Chileans--I know he would return what he found. But, coming from Chile he always marvels at moments of honesty (i.e. getting too much change back and returning it to the store or a friend who found an envelope of cash with an id card and tracked down the owner. He often comments on how many aspects of the system in the U.S. are set up to function based on honesty (i.e. pre-weighing produce, and getting gas before you pay--though that has changed some too) Of course, dishonestly happens everywhere, but I think a big part of it is what is considered acceptable in the social consciousness--in Chile there are always stories of ways people cheat the system or take advantage of other people's bad luck (losing a wallet) and it is almost considered funny to be "pillo" that way. If you tell people that you found a wallet and kept the money you would mostly get the response you commented on. Here in the U.S. most people would be horrified to hear you kept the money.
Emita said...
wow, great great post. I found myself reading parts aloud to the people around me and going, yeah so true! this general attitudes was one of the things that made it so difficult for me to feel comfortable in chile and I still find myself struggling with trying to understand the background of it all. Things like finders keepers, stealing and cheating continues to confuse me in their normalcy by chilean standards. Kyle's chicken or the egg question is where I keep finding myself..clearly it's not a totally modern thing if someone's Grandma is perpetuating the attitude!
Abby said...
Fantastic post Lydia! Not that this is scientific AT ALL, but I was giving an oral exam to a group of 6 people, and one of the questions was, "If you found a wallet on the ground and you knew who it belonged to, would you return it?" Five out of the six said yes, because it's the right thing to do, which actually surprised me (given that it's Chile) but I think Aimee's husband is right about what people say they'll do (or what they're taught to do) versus what they do in real life (or what they see people do around them). Interestingly enough, when asked what they would do if a cashier gave them too much change, all six said they would give it back if it was in the grocery store because they wouldn't want it deducted from the cashier's wages.
JJ Saenz said...
Sadly, I think your analysis is spot on. It's a pity our culture is like that. I was brought up for honesty and have stayed that way, but I remember clearly as I was growing up seeing examples of dishonesty in people I could not believe were capable of that. I suppose my surprise and disgust in those moments is the same foreigners feel when they see dishonest behaviour. You would have liked a beautiful ad campaign there was in the 90s with an ogre and a little chicken, teaching people basically what you call The Golden Rule. It was called "Campaña por la Vida Buena" and was started by a clever Jesuit priest. I don't often agree with catholic priests, but that campaing had my wholehearted support. I wonder how many people understood how deep and important those ads were.
lydia said...
Cincinati Chile and Annje- Thats an interesting concept, understanding the culture through someone without actually being there. Truthfully I find almost all Chileans that have lived abroad to be quite distinct than the ones that haven't. Not to mention from your comments he doesn't seem like quite the typical chilean anyway. i think upbringing is a huge part of it but, as is usually the case, so is environment. the rewards concept was something i wanted to touch on but got too sleepy ;-) i'll get to it in another post jeje. and annje- wow, the envelope example! thats pretty shocking regardless i think....almost sounds like he was being set up for one of those newspaper stories! its not nearly 100% agreement in what to do in these circumstances in the US either, but i do feel like opinion swings the other way. emita- seriously, i think sometimes i have to just keep my mind off these things before i drive myself crazy. and even sometimes when i try to focus my thoughts i get as far as just "...WHAT? but HOW?" because its sometimes not so logical abby- way interesting about the cashier thing. but i think with that example too its a say vs. do. jj saenz- i might try to find those ads sometime... maybe theyre' on youtube? i don't write about it much but advertising is a subject of interest (well, thats kind of an understatement) and i'd love to see some more significant or interesting examples in chiles ad history. not to mention with a great message.
Sara said...
Wow... your post definitely kicks my post's butt. I didn't blog about it, but my boyfriend actually thought I was foolish for helping the Norwegian tourists who almost got scammed by the taxi driver. His attitude was "They HAVE a lot of money in Norway," then he looked at me and added, "they have a lot of money in the U.S. too." He basically meant that if they were foolish enough to get scammed that was their fault, but the fact that they had enough money made it okay. I was not pleased.
Matt said...
A friend hiked up Cerro La Campana a year or so ago and accidently left his us$1000 camera at the top (thinking it was in his backpack). He didn't realise 'til he got almost all the way back to the bottom and had to hike up to the top a second time in a day (that's pretty hardcore). On his way back up he passed all the other hikers and asked if they had seen his camera. All answered 'no'. Back at the top- no at least one of the hikers on the way down lied to his face and had stolen his camera.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vegetarianism in Chile

Because all of us know... Chile's favorite vegetarian option is ham.

Probably for a huge mix of reasons (such as lack of popularity/trend, difficulty to work around certain foods, less ability to be picky, traditional foods with meat, etc...) vegetarianism isn't very common in Chile. I would guess the majority of people don't even know what it is or that it exists. To their confusion, it does. And grasping the concept seems to be one very. difficult. task.

I am probably the easiest "vegetarian" to please in the world. One rule- "don't feed me chunks of animal flesh." But in Chile, this rule is soooooo difficult for some reason. Nobody gets it!

I would guess that this is the reaction when I tell someone "I can't eat meat from an animal",

(click to enlarge- broken down by personal percentage estimates)
70% - OK, would you like ham instead?
10% - What? How? Is that possible?
10% - Can you eat chicken?
5% - OK, interesting, we'll work around it.
3% - What about fish?
2% - So do you like steak?

I say Im probably the easiest to please because I don't even argue usually if someone makes a dish with meat and just lets me separate or eat around the meat. Heck, I'll eat chicken soup and just leave the pieces of chicken in the bottom. I'm obviously not trying to save any animals here. And I love fish, I eat eggs, etc...

Its interesting though because the majority of the people here just cannot grasp the concept. They find it so weird they dont even pause to consider what a vegetarian might or might not eat. When I first came to Chile for study abroad I remember over and over and over going on field trips and getting the vegetarian option (there were about 3 of us) and it nearly always had ham, or a meat sauce or something.

People who find the concept strange but try to understand usually wayyyy overreact in the opposite direction. Like at a lunch of spaghetti with alfredo sauce and some chopped up pieces of hot dog, instead of offering me the spaghetti with alfredo sauce without the piece of hot dog...they'll serve me a plate of flavorless slices of tomato and carrots and beets or something.

I'll remind you all I'm from Minnesota, and often tend to be nonconfrontational and especially willing to please, so often times I will eat something with meat if its too awkward for me to say otherwise (meaning, for the umteenth time someone hasn't understood and I'm not willing to throw a fit once its on my plate) Luckily I can usually just take a bite, say "mmmm" and pass it off to my boyfriend. It was about a year of Saturday and Sunday family lunches before my boyfriend's mom, who means well, stopped serving me cazuela with a huge chicken leg occupying half the bowl.

My favorite story involving the issue still manages to crack me up. At one point about half year into my first stay in Chile I was looking for a new place to live. Someone offered to introduce me to a couple that rented rooms in a boarding house. The family invited me over for dinner, and realizing the potential for an awkward moment (that could potentially be permanent), I was very clear I couldn't eat meat from any land animal. I gave them suggestions that we could eat some type of pasta, tortilla, quiche etc, but they assured me not to worry as they had heard about vegetarians before. On the day of the lunch they invited me in to sit and told me that they knew I was a vegetarian so not to worry, they had made something special for me: beef soup. I felt too bad to crush them with my harsh words explaining that beef was, in fact, cow meat, I just ate it. To make matters worse it was the type that pretty much has the texture of a bouncy ball and I had to chew each piece about about 2 minutes.

Then came surprise #2: "vegetarian dessert." This part had me curious because, well, never in my life have I had a conflict with a dessert for any reason, its basically an irrelevant food category! But this time they got it right, kind of. I watched, baffled, as they took out a blender and added a little bit of nearly EVERYTHING from the refrigerator that was not meat. All together. The result was an applesause-like brownish mixture I nicknamed "Plant Potpourri."

Anyway, bit by bit consciousness of the concept is growing in Chile.
Thankfully, for the sake of people who are more strict about their diets and exceptions than I am. One piece of interesting evidence, Allie wrote about a while back - the Papapleto...
Its a traditional Chilean hot dog with avocado, tomatoes, and mayonaise but with the meat replaced by french fries! Its been around for a little while now but now vegetarians have mid-morning night-out-in-town junk food options too.

Also in Valparaiso there are a number of low-priced vegetarian restaurants:
Epif- I can't rave enough. The place is excellent as far as food, drinks and atmosphere and not particuarly expensive in terms of price
Bambu - This place is a little more expensive that some of the other options, though not expensive. I thought the food was good though not the absolute best. Its on the street Independencia, number 1790 on the second floor. I did like the green decorations.
Natur-in - on the street Colon, the place is kinda hidden and has
excellent juices, and nice main entries but overall the food is a lot of quantity with little flavor.
Govinda's- The Hare Krishna place actually has quite decent vegetarian
lunches that are pretty healthy, tasty and cheap. Its in the plazuela Ecuador where it departs to the street Ecuador on the second floor.
Mora - Oops I still haven't been but it looks kinda cuteish.
Jardin del profeta - Its half block from the Plaza Anibal Pinto on Esmeralda or Condell. I've found the food quite good with tons of options, though inconsistent. Its a little less in terms of quantity so prices can rack up if you order multiple things but I think I'd rank it #2 behind Epif overall.


Maeskizzle said...

Hilarious! I love the graph, it reminds me of the onion. ehehehehe.

Imagine being vegan here! hahahaha

My friend D always orders "completos falsos" which she describes as a completo without the hot dog. There's a bomb place to grab one in Santiago in Bellavista, just off Pio Nono, I believe on Dardinac.

Instead of papas fritas that the papaleto has, you can order it with porotos verdes and cheese and then of course, avocado and tomato.

The papaleto sounds REALLY tasty. I should see if they make those there. It reminds me of the Argentian hot dog. They also have french fries, but are a far cry form the completo, since they have no avocado.

Cincinnati Chile said...

I can imagine it would be very difficult to be vegetarian there especially when eating out. Trying to order one of the smoothies on the menu without one of the ingredients (like a banana) you would have thought I was asking them to change the law of gravity. I can only imagine trying to order spaghetti without the meatballs or something like that. I don't think they have many Indian restaurants there but I'm convinced I could be vegetarian with Indian food. Good luck!!

La Chilengüita said...

My question for you Lydia (btw it was good to see you Monday night!): What are your reasons behind being vegetarian?

Because it seems to me that it doesn't have much to do with the fact you are trying to save animals if you will still eat chicken soup but leave the pieces at the bottom. Maybe it grosses you out? I somewhat understand accepting a dish with meat and separating it, but I also know vegetarians who won't eat anything that has touched meat. So I guess I am just curious what it is about meat, chicken, ham, etc. that you decided to stop eating it?

I think you can use your vegetarianism to teach people here about it, enlighten them if you will--perhaps they would understand better if you gave them your reason for not eating it. I know not all vegetarians are that way because they want to save the animals, but at least giving a reason to someone who has a thick skull (ie. can't understand) or has thin skin (will be offended if you don't eat their food) will help out your cause and I'd imagine they will be more helpful.

And on a side note, you mention the non-confrontational thing--if not eating meat is important to you then I think you need to learn to be confrontational about it. Hell, with a ton of things in Chile it is necessary to be confrontational or you will just get walked all over.

I think part of the reason it is hard for people in Chile to understand it is because this country LOVES its meat. On the news talked about the avg. yearly consumption of meat in Chile vs. in developed countries like the US. Chileans eat 2 times the amount of meat that we do in the US per year. Just think about how important the asado is here. I definitely think more food diversity needs to be introduced, but change is slow.

Just my two cents....

emilyta said...

im not necessarily a vegetarian but growing up my parents never cooked red meat and so i never really developed a taste for it. if im cooking for myself i dont even really think about meat being an option....

at my work we all eat in the cafeteria and there are three options for menus: normal, vegetarian and diet. i ate the normal at first but then switched when i saw how much better the vegetarian options always are. just an example of a chilean company that does it right!

lydia said...

maeskizzle- we tried to convince someone in santigao once to make the papapleto (on a really hungry night where everything was closed) and they were so weirded out and wouldnt. finally we bought the completo "falso" (love it! hah) and the fries seperately and mixed them ourselves.

i should try that other version or the argentinian one! they sound interesting, i would lovvve adding cheese.

cincinnati chile- hahah i know right? its really funny though when they consider it the principle ingredient. then again, i once worked in a restaurant in the US where people HATED people asking for adapted orders, though out of principle, not that they didnt understand.

yeah indian food would be great...but its not easy to find here.

la chilenguita- ah, haha. i didn't state my very simple reason behind it all- i dont like it. its the texture i dont like, not the flavor, so thats why i dont mind eating things from the same plate and whatnot. also why its not of maximum importance that i hold my ground because its ... my eating something i don't like vs. someone else probably feeling pretty bad/disappointed/uncomfortable etc.

however, since i dont eat it hardly evvver if i do eat a lot it probably wont sit very well... but in the times i do i just have a bite or so.

i dont really like the whole meat industry in general but not enough that i want to be preachy.

emily- awesome! i think in the US often the veggie options are better, often more creative too....but im glad its that way some places here.

Allison Azersky said...

Hahaha, since I wrote that blog post I've become ever more intrigued by the papapleto. I feel like I should have one before I leave Valpo... in about two weeks. Want to meet up for one??

Oh my god. I can't believe I just asked someone to go out for papapletos. :)

Annje said...

I actually gave up being vegetarian while in Chile--it was just too hard--with the plate of over-boiled veggies, a hard-boiled egg and ham--as you said. (actually it started in Ecuador where I agreed to eat chicken... and then had it almost every day for 4 months withm y host family) Plus, in Chile I tried an actual steak for the first time in my life (after growing up on ground beef) and then I was all: "animal rights??? bla bla bla gimme some more of that rib-eye. (with all due respect for animal rights, of course) I just kind of forgot why I had become vegetarian anyway.

Of course the chilenguita has a point that if it is important to you, you might have to become more confrontational.

lydia said...

Haha, well... like i said in the original post and my reply to her.... its not.
If someone reallllly doesn't get it and has served me a special meal with meat I'd rather just let it slide and get out of not eating in a way where I dont have to say anything. Having an extra hungry boyfriend asking to take some extra bites can be pretty sly.

That is... until he becomes 100% vegetarian too! haha but Chilean at heart, as long as someones out there having an asado I think thats not likely to happen.

Bummer you had to give up. Sounds like we dont/didnt eat meat for entirely different reasons though... mine are pretty flexible, so I dont actually think i'll ever have to give it up. Though hopefully it gets easier over time and with an increasing variety of restaurants and sauces and stuff.

Was ecuador as bad or worse? Luckily my only host family here was vegetarian! They made quite good food, though still really fried. But thats pretty rare.

Allie- yes! haha, quite the date eh?!

Sara said...

I have no idea how I missed this post before. Vegetarianism. the concept eludes most of the continent. A friend took a picture of the menu from a restaurant in Montevideo and it was "vegetarian sandwiches" all of which included ham, or even beef. Because beef is so vegetarian. Maybe if you could like just take the part you wanted and then like put the cow back in the pasture. but seriously? We cracked up.