After being in Chile for two and a half weeks, I’ve come to notice something – everything here is enormous. Normally when you think about any country other than the US, you imagine a more proportional lifestyle without Wal-Mart Super Centers and the bottomless buckets used to serve beverages to all of the kids in the back seat of the eight-passenger SUV. Other countries have control over their globalization-induced consumerism.
Al contrario, mi amigo. Consumerism has taken Chile by storm.
One of the first things my host mother suggested we do together was go to the supermercado to do the weekly grocery shopping so she would know what kinds of food I like. I agreed, chuckling quietly to myself. “You wanna see a supermercado?” I thought. “Wait until you visit the US one day. The size of our grocery stores will astound you.” I dutifully hopped into the front seat of the family’s auto and we were off to the local Santa Isabel, a chain of supermarkets in Chile.
As we turned into the parking lot, my mouth dropped open (which was a useful reaction seeing as how I would now have to insert my foot into it). This massive behemoth of a building puts Super Wal-Mart to shame. My host mother whisked me through the sliding glass doors into an endless array of any variety of food you could possibly want. Bread? Twenty freshly baked and delightfully aromatic possibilities. Cheese? Just take a number and hope there are a lot of people ahead of you because you have more choices than you ever imagined. Fruit? Don’t even get me started on the fruit…I told my host mother that I liked peaches (honestly because it was one of the only fruit-related words I could remember at the time: durazno). She steered me to an aisle of peaches, pointing out all of the different types I could choose from. I had no idea where to begin so I just put on my puzzled look (which I’ve almost mastered at this point) and she just started stuffing them into a bag.
After an hour clinging to my host mother’s side in the Santa Isabel (because I hadn’t thought to bring bread crumbs to leave behind to find my way back out and there was no way I was finding the bread counter again on my own), we finally loaded our purchases into the auto and drove home.
Then I started thinking. They have big supermarkets in Chile. So what? Everything else is reasonably-sized, right?
I won’t describe for you each of my awe-inducing experiences with the oftentimes oversized Chilean lifestyle in detail. However, I will tell you that they involved a mall that appears to be as large as the state of Texas (in which I ate a completo – a Chilean favorite composed of a hotdog hidden under a mound of avocado, tomato, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard) and an enormous multiplex movie theater, complete with bucket-sized popcorn and beverages (which I thought only existed in the good ol’ US of A).
The downside to this super-sized lifestyle, of course, is that all of this excess can only do bad things to my waistline. The upside? Well, I’ve always said that home is where the strategically hidden hotdog is. So slather on another layer of mayonnaise, por favor, because I’m home.