Our gas bill is generally accompanied by a small magazine similar to those hospital magazine/advertisements we used to get in the states. You know the ones. There would be an interview with a doctor; an exceptional success story; some recipes; photos from a fundraiser, etc.
The picture on this month’s cover of our gas company’s magazine cracked me up because it illustrates what winter is like here in Santiago. There is rarely snow here in central Chile – so we don’t get a picture of some bundled-up, snow-sprinkled kids coming in the back door, tired but happy, greeted by their smiling mother who has hot chocolate waiting. No pictures like that here in the Santiago area.
You should know that winters here are really not very cold at all. We only had a handful of nights where the temperature dipped below freezing. Daytime temps were generally in the 50s-60s (Fahrenheit). The things that make winters tough here are the buildings.
Being in an earthquake hazard zone means that the buildings are made of concrete and steel. The buildings are slow to heat up and cool down, and in the dead of winter, it’s just impractical to try to heat the “bones” of the building, which, since there is no insulation, is what you’d need to do. Any heat just seeps through windows and doors…
So, lots of people – I’d venture to say most people in Santiago – do not heat their homes/apartments at all. It’s just too expensive, and it doesn’t make a big enough difference. It’s not unusual to see windows and doors left open to the outside air on cold winter days. Why? It’s colder inside! Or the temperature is the same, so why not let in some fresh, smoggy air?
Note from the image above…
- the mat on the floor and the wooly socks — the floors are cold!
- the polar pants — nothing warms you like fleece layers.
- the shawl — shawls/scarfs are essential layers for any fashion-conscious woman here who cares about form and function.
- the cup of tea — every well-equipped home has a tetera – an electric teapot that boils water in 3 minutes. Why? You’ll want to drink lots of hot liquid ’cause it’s cold indoors! There’s no fireplace to stand by, no working radiator to huddle near (since most are practical folks who know better than to try to heat the outdoors). So, we have a tetera and a thermos and use them like a water station. (And in general, Chileans are tea – not coffee – drinkers.)
- the position of the woman – she’s right up next to the heater since she’s dumb wealthy enough to have and use one. Likely that’s the only place that she can feel the heat, ’cause all that warm air is making a bee line for the drafty windows.
There’s one thing in the photo that does not reflect reality:
- bare skin showing on the legs, arms and around the neck — Are you kidding? On cold winter days you can see flesh on the hands and face and that’s about it. Chileans are cold-natured and know how to layer. Think tights and long johns.
Now, my hot-natured kids are another story. They never put their shorts and short-sleeves away. I’d have to tell them, “No, you cannot wear shorts outside.” We’d be going down the elevator and neighbors, wearing a bulky jacket and scarf would look incredulously at my kids with their sleeves pushed up. “No tienen frÃo?” (“You’re not cold??”) Those are Gringo kids for ya.
I remember one occasion when an elderly couple was sharing the elevator with Rosebud and I. We were heading out on a winter day, and she wasn’t wearing a coat. The lady looked at Rosebud like she was a poor little orphan and asked her if she was cold. As Rosebud shook her head no, her husband piped up, “Of course she’s not cold. She’s a Gringa!”