Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'd never thought twice about it...

Thinking back on earlier discussions this year about how in Chile it is essential you cover your mouth when you yawn (something many people from the US don't do, or see a need to do as long as you don't have a ton of food in your mouth or something), and the fact that in Chile nobody bothers, or consciously decides, to say "salud" (functions as does "bless you") when someone sneezes... I realized that I'd never written down my thoughts on one related cultural difference: blowing your nose.

Is it just me, or is it actually pretty universal that the way people blow their nose in Chile is different than in the United States? I remember being surprised by it when I first got here, which makes me think that there must be something to it, but perhaps its another one of those things where I never really took notice until I started observing with confirmation bias.

Trying to put to words the way someone blows their nose was actually much harder than I thought. I even tried to see if someone had a youtube video of nose-blowing but quickly decided that wasn't my route...

In the end I came up with two very strange analogies. From what I remember, most poeple in the US will blow their nose in one huge expulse of air, almost like the "huuuuge push" motion doctors ask for on reality TV when someone has a baby.

However in Chile, people seem to prefer to blow their nose in series of really short bursts of air, where they cut the airflow off in short intervals. The best I can do to relate this is to make you think about the noise we stereotype native americans as making:

(Though thankfully, noseblowing is less of a high schrill than Peter squeeked out there... but you get the idea about the on-off airflow, right?)

Anyway, I'm not sure if its something cultural or something I only notice when I'm looking for it, as turned out with the yawn thing when my mom said we're supposed to be covering our mouths when we yawn in the US also, and most people are just lazy or oblivious to that piece of etiquette.


  1. This is a funny one. As a gringa, I am also surprised at people who don't bother to cover their mouths when they yawn... (why would I want to involuntarily inspect someone's tonsils? And those big fat arm-stretching, gape-mouthed yawns that seem to announce "I'm ready for bed" just don't seem right in public...anywhere! and besides- it gives everyone else the impression that you're just really bored--which you might be, but there are probably better ways to go about communicating that...
    About nose blowing... I've never given it much thought... I always seemed to notice more big honking here than in the US, but again, always thought that discretion was the key.
    And the sad fact that no one blesses or gezunheits me when I sneeze here will always bother me I'm afraid!

  2. Yeah, it's definitely different! I've notices the "short bursts" that you talk about as well as the loud honking that Margaret mentions. When I first got here, someone told me to not blow my nose in public because it was rude. Um, duh. But now that I've been here I've definitely noticed the opposite. The other day, a student loudly blew her nose through out the whole class. So loud, in fact, that when she was blowing her nose I had to stop talking because the other students couldn't hear. Also, people put their used tissues that they are going to use again (gross) up their sleeve to hide them for later (double gross). Have you seen that?

  3. I understand why there would be inappropriate moments to yawn because of the boredom factor, but i remember when I was first told this, I asked..."well what if you're not talking to anybody specifically" and my someone replied "can you imagine sitting next to a guy on the bus and he yawned without covering his mouth???" (as if i were going to react to that possible situation with a disgusted gasp... instead of complete indifference about a guy yawning on the bus. )

    i've heard the honking, especially with my boyfriend who claims some sinus problem, but at the university especially i noticed the short bursts thing a lot.

    Abby- weird about the tissue saving thing hahaha. I havent noticed that. I suppose it would be ideal not to blow your nose in front of people, but i'm assuming people make exceptions if it would be twice the disruption to do something like leave class every few minutes.

  4. Yes, they shuffle honk, and we just blow. Also, I leave the room if I can when I have to blow my nose, or at least turn my back, and people are like, where are you going? I think Chileans are strangely open about the nose blow. I had not noticed the tissue sleeve stash, though I believe my grandmother used to do that. But I do notice that when you have those super cushy Elite tissues, people will separate the plys (tried to write plies, but it looked like I was writing pliés), and use them each separately. That's just strange.

    And don't get me started on the menthol tissues!

  5. ¿Sabes? No es exactamente como sonarse la nariz, pero siempre (desde el sur) hemos notado que en la zona central, (en Santiago y Valparaiso) mucha gente al estornudar como que frena el estornudo; toman mucho aire, como que fueran a explotar en un gran estornudo, pero luego llegan a apretar los dientes conteniéndose. Es difícil de describir en realidad. Mientras, acá en el sur, mientras más aire tomes y más fuerte estornudes, mejor, al parecer.
    Una vez en Santiago con unos amigos tomé aire y casi involuntariamente estornudé tan fuerte que los otros me quedaron mirando. No se si para mostrarme lo fuera de lugar que estuve, pero otra persona empezó a estornudar, (como una bicicleta frenando), y se pegó como 10 estornudos cortos.
    Yo al menos con uno me bastó para que se me despejara la nariz, y como sabía lo que podría pasar, tomé la precaución de ponerme un pañuelo en la nariz al hacerlo, mientras la otra persona evitó expeler mucho aire con gérmenes, pero estuvo estornudando por un buen rato, y además ni se molestó en cubrirse la nariz cuando lo hacía.
    Tal vez tenga que ver con cuán apretada vive la gente, en Santiago todos andan como en una lata de sardinas, mientras en Temuco uno puede caminar todo el día sin llegar a acercarse a menos de 5 metros de otra persona.

  6. That, and I like how your blog looks now, cool graffiti

  7. Hola de nuevo!

    Dios! otro detallito del cual asimilé viviendo suficiente tiempo aquí y que jamás me llamó la atención. En efecto, mucha gente se suena la nariz haciendo "micro intervalos". Ahora que recuerdo, mientras estuve viviendo en Suiza no recuerdo a la gente sonandose la nariz de la manera que se hace aquí, recuerdo que lo hacían de una vez y ya...curioso no? no me he dado cuenta pero en algun momento de mi permanencia aquí asimilé esto sin darme cuenta, y ahora lo hago automaticamente, de alguna manera me resulta más comodo para evacuar toda la mucosidad. Otro de los detalles que "pasan piola" cuando vives suficiente tiempo aquí, ya quedan pocas cosas que me sorpredan.