The following post is an excerpt from my book Speaking Chileno: A Guide to the Spanish of Chile. Launched in Chile in 2010, this book quickly became a bestseller. Now for the first time it is available outside of Chile in paperback and eBook Kindle.
How To Speak Like a Chilean Part 3 | Non-Verbal Chile Spanish Expressions (Gestures)
This is the third of three posts on How To Speak Like a Chilean. The first two posts, 6 Grammar Hints to Speak Chilean Spanish and 6 Pronunciation Tips to Speak Chilean Spanish are worth reading before this post.
Speaking like a local is not the whole answer to fitting in. Any culture has mannerisms and gestures that mark you as someone from around the corner, or someone from another world.
Many of these gestures are so natural for locals (I am avoiding using the word natives, as non-native people often pick up the local gestures after being in the new culture for a short time), that most people will not realize that they are using gestures not understood by foreigners.
Here are a few of those gestures that you will no doubt run into (and perhaps copy!) after spending a few days in Chile.
1. Handshake, hug, 3 back-pats and another handshake
This one is obligatory and is probably the first you will learn if you’re a guy. When one male greets another male friend (often after not seeing each other for a few weeks or months) the first step is a quick handshake, immediately followed into a hug (one arm below the other guy’s armpit, and the other arm over his shoulder), three pats on the back using both hands, release the hug, and another quick handshake.
BONUS: To really become a native Chilean, throw in the phrase ¿Cómo estai po hueón? as you initiate the first handshake.
2. One hand cupped and covering an eye
This is a possible response when asked if your blind date, or another person, is attractive or not. It basically means the person in question was REALLY ugly, annoying, a bad catch, or all of the above.
This gesture also means that you screwed something up or that things didn’t go well, for instance on an exam at school.
3. One hand straight up and down, touching your forehead in the middle a time or two (as in an axe splitting your head in half)
This means that you have a hangover. The action is similar to an axe hitting your forehead, as in a splitting headache! The Chilean idiomatic expressions andar con el hacha or andar con el hachazo has the same meaning.
4. One hand making a V using the thumb and index finger, like forming a gun with your hand, and then raising it to your mouth (index/gun finger pointing left or right)
Used to communicate that someone is full of crap, that he is basically making up a story or is lying. It also means that the person is a constant liar or is always stretching the truth.
Am I missing any native Chilean gestures here? Please let me know.
Check out these other Chile Spanish Slang Expressions articles.