Kyle (USA) and S. (Chile)

“Ahhh, Kyle, gordita, como estas?”

(Translation: Ahhh, Kyle, fatty, how are you?)

This is how my father in law would greet me every time we went over to his house. Although, the word gordita was alternately replaced with “rellenita,” another term, also referring to plumpness.

At first, I thought I needed to be on model behavior for my husband’s parents, so I would just grit my teeth, clench my fists, and smile and nod, when all I really wanted to do was punch his dad in the face, as he insulted me about my weight over and over and over again.

Finally one day I’d had it. When my father in law inevitably brought up my weight at the dinner table in front of everybody, telling me I looked “even fatter than normal,” I took the bait and snapped back, “Well, you look older and more wrinkly than normal.”


Crickets chirping.

Me turning beet red as I realized I’d just said something truly offensive.

Eventually someone coughed politely and changed the subject. But, after dinner my husband took me aside.

“Why in the world would you insult my dad like that?!?” he asked.

I told him, “I’m sick of the weight comments, tell him to stop insulting me.”

And then the error of my ways was explained to me. My husband told me that in Chile, “Gordita” is a term of endearment and is only used lovingly. He also explained that it’s not at all impolite to bring up other people’s weight loss/weight gain and that if people do, that just means they care about you enough to notice.

And then I explained to my husband that telling someone they look fat/fatter is one of the rudest things you can possibly do in my culture and that certain gringas (ahem, not me, of course) are even prone to random acts of violence when old men, who are also fat, feel it necessary to make weight comments.

Needless to say, hubby had a little chat with my father in law and my fatness, or lack thereof, was never brought up again.

Kyle’s blog Just Married Chilean Style has more stories of married life in Chile.

Enjoyed this? Read more stories of cross-cultural encounters from My Partner is a Foreigner.

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