15 Stereotypes About Foreigners Visiting Latin America
Oh, stereotypes. What would intercultural relations be without a few simple-minded preconceptions of foreigners? Stereotypes surrounding gringos who visit Latin America are numerous. Some of them are actually a bit true, but, like most black-and-white views of the world, most are a huge exaggeration.
Tourism from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe brings considerable income to Latin American countries. Commercial relations between the Anglo countries and Latin countries have always been a cornerstone of the economy. So it is pretty common to spot rubios y rubias in the region. Here are some stereotypes that are common and sort of chistosos.
1. They fall for all the tourist traps
Real? A bit, but not too much.
People believe that all foreigners will walk into the first establishment that offers crappy food and mediocre musicians performing “local” music. Fact is that most tourists are well-informed, particularly in the age of the internet. Ranking systems like Expedia and sites like Lonely Planet often advice against falling for the infamous tourist traps.
2. They are scared OF EVERYTHING
Real? Nope, not at all.
There is a misconception that gringos are afraid to go out because of the insecurity that plagues many big cities in Latin America (that is sadly true). Fact is, the contrary generally happens: many tourists fill emboldened and do not take the necessary precautions. Gladly there are always good, honest locals to guide them.
3. They encounter poverty for the first time and ask why people just don’t “work more” to solve it
This is VERY common. When encountering poverty in the continent, many foreigners naively ask why people don’t just do more work, implying that locals are lazy. That is not how disadvantage works, compadre.
4. They just cannot consume spicy food
Most cosmopolitan cities are exposed to food from around the world, so many foreginers are well-seasoned eaters. Many can, in fact, out-chili the most daring Latino. Other foods that are widely consumed in the United States, such as Indian or Sichuan, have even more chili than, say, Mexican, so be prepared before you challenge a foreigner on a chili eating contest.
5. Foreigners are damn funny!
Real? Por supuesto
Foreigners have la fama of being bien chistosos once that have a beer or two on them. Well, this is true… particularly when they attempt to wishiwashear songs in Spanish! Foreignerss that are definitely not funny, however: spring breakers who trash hotel rooms and throw up on the street como Pedro por su casa.
6. They walk around disinfecting EVERYTHING
One of the biggest fears that foreign visitors have in Latin American countries is catching diseases. They walk around with a disinfectant in their purse and drink bottled water even in five-star resorts. A little precaution is fine, but too much actually turns insulting.
7. Some expect everyone to speak English
Real? In many cases, yes
The worst tourists get offended when not everyone bows to them and speaks English. When someone asks you if English is your second language as if to insult you, just elegantly say: “Yes, actually, yes, and what is yours?” Even though English is one of the dominant languages in the world, so is Spanish.
8. But some really make an effort to speak broken Spanish
Many awesome visitors make a huge effort to prepare before their trips and spend months learning basic words and phrases and actually attending Spanish school. We have met many that totally try to immerse themselves in the language and culture. Bien por ellos.
9. Older foreign couples fall in love with cute little towns and move there to open an B&B
Towns like San Miguel de Allende in Mexico have become retiree central. Many couples buy a property and turn it into their dream business. They live an Eat Pray Love life well into their seventies, creating employment in the meantime. A win-win situation. These type of resting spots have become famous for celebrities like Johnny Depp, who made San Miguel his go-to place for chilling out in the early 2000s.
10. Young wild foreigners leave everything behind and open beach bars…. livin’ la vida loca
Just like their older counterparts open chill Bed and Breakfast venues, young foreigners, many of which try to escape corporate life, open beach bars in places like Belize and Costa Rica. They live a life of sand, booze and one night stands. They change the suit for the rastas and become central figures in expat communities. Problem is: most of these expat bars are not intended for the locals, so there is not much attachment to the land.
11. Foreigners, in general, cannot sunbath without ending up like camarones
It is not uncommon to see unprepared foreigners rojos como shrimps or a mandril’s butt. This is a bit funny, but also dangerous and something that should be discussed. Skin cancer is the real deal: wear sunscreen, chaparritos. It is not uncommon to see foreigners lather themselves with coconut oil to get a tan, a very dangerous practice that actually burns skin cells beyond repair.
12. They will eventually run to the first McDonald’s they see
Even though sometimes foreigners need the comfort of their food, not all go to Mackers for a Big Mac fix. Part of traveling is eating and most foreigners know this. Tacos, enchiladas, chiles en nogada… bring on the Pepto Bismol!
13. They ask for the Mexican, Chilean or Cuban word for whatever comes to their mind.. It’s Spanish, so.
Real? Sadly, yes
Many foreigners believe that people in Latin America speak… Mexican… Argentinian… Cuban…. and even though we all speak different variants of Spanish, we are united by a single mother tongue.
14. “I know a guy called Juan in New York, he is also from Colombia, do you know him?” Dude, there are millions of Colombians.
Real? Yes, and it is damn funny
It is true and super funny. Would you ask a gringo is he knows a John in Missouri? No last name, no other indicator… just John. No, right? Well, many americanos are sure that every single person of Latino origin must know each other. Oh, it is so silly it is kinda cute.
15. They think the whole region is either a tropical paradise or a godforsaken desert
Real? Carajo, esto pasa muy seguido
The geographical reputation of the whole region is that every single landscape is either a desert where Speedy Gonzalez roams around, or a tropical Brazilian rainforest with massive iguanas. Well, Latin America does have those types of places, but also forests, snowy mountains and everything in between. Learn some geography, guys, it is not that hard.