What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in Chile?
Interviews

What’s it Like Being a Jamaican Living in Chile?

Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Chile.? On our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder Xavier Murphy spoke with Nicole Little-John. She is a Jamaican living in Chile.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Chile? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. And today in Jamaicans to the world, we talk to Nicole Little-John who lives in Chile. Hi, Nicole. Welcome.

Nicole: Thank you for having me. Hi.

Xavier: My first question is, what part of Jamaica yuh (you) come from?

Nicole: Well, I spent my first 15 years in Kingston and then I moved to St. Elizabeth and I finished at Black River High School and then went on to UWI. So those two parishes definitely.

Xavier: Okay. How long have you lived in Chile?

Nicole: I’ve lived here for eight years total and moved in 2010 to do my Masters in International Relations with a scholarship from the Chilean Government. I met my husband, fell in love, got married, went back to Jamaica for two years, and then we returned to Chile. We’ve been here a total of eight years, but this time six years.

Xavier: Okay, what do you love about Chile?

Nicole: Wow! There are lots of things about this place, to love. I would say my biggest thing would be the internal tourism that they have, where you can go to lots of different attractions, lots of different places. You can ski and surf on the same day, if you plan your trip right. There are adventures to have. You have the driest desert in the world. You have the Atacama. Of course, I also love the wines, seafood is really big here. Lots of things. Lots of things in general. Yes.

Xavier: The next question will be, what you don’t like?

Nicole: Well, what I don’t like?

Xavier: Or what you like the least?

Nicole: The thing is every country has its ups and downs, issues, problems, whatever. Recently the government has been struggling to address the problem of social inequalities. But they have been working towards that. They’ve been trying to improve education, healthcare, all of these things but, I would have to say that’s the biggest thing for me. But again, it’s an issue that you could find anywhere, you know. You could find that in other places. Well, my hope is, we will continue to move forward and improve that-

Xavier: Okay.

Nicole: I would have to say.

Xavier: I’m sure when folks encounter you and they hear, you know, “Nicole is Jamaican.” Give me one of your funniest or most interesting experiences when someone finds out that you’re Jamaican.

Nicole: Wow!! Lots of things happen because you are Jamaican here. Okay. Chileans are fascinated with Jamaicans and Jamaica in general. I think one of the coolest things I had to do, I represented Jamaica on a football program for Copa America. It was huge. They had a couple of live shows and whatnot, but I would say my biggest thing would be, one day I was walking on the beach. Just a regular day with my husband and we met this guy who had dreadlocks. Okay, when he heard that I was Jamaican he was over the moon. He is a full Rastafarian, he has never been to Jamaica. But he tells me like all of this about Rastafarians. The culture and everything, he was so passionate about it. And apparently, some Rastafarian Jamaicans, they would go to visit with them. They lived in a camp.

Basically what I understood from him, it’s as if Jamaica was there. They created that same atmosphere and the culture, everything was on par. He was telling me things that I didn’t even know. Okay. To that point. He was just fascinated by my being Jamaican. He also did not understand my hair. That’s another thing too. He did not understand that this was dreadlocks, yes. Most Chileans take a while to realize that this is dreadlocks because they are expecting the bigger ones. They haven’t actually gone digital yet. So when they see my hair it takes them a while to understand that it is dreadlocks. It takes a while.

Xavier: Is there any other Jamaicans there in Chile that you have met up with, or even a small community?

Nicole: Yes, there is. We have a very small community and of course, when we started finding each other, we all thought that we were the only Jamaicans living here. There is one among us who has been here for almost 30 years. She got married to a Chilean, moved here and was living here. We had no idea. Each of us thought that we were the only one. Now, we get together from time to time to celebrate Independence and  birthdays. We support each other as a community. We speak Patois. We do Potluck. That’s a very big thing too. We cook Jamaican meals and when we get together, it’s like a big party with reggae, and dancehall, and dancing, and just having a very good time.

Xavier: Let’s move on. Yu say yu (you) cook yu (your) food and so on. Do you get your typical Jamaican produce to cook your Jamaican food there?

Nicole: No, there’s no Yam, green banana. No. You’re not going to find that here. What I have tried to do is whenever someone is coming from Jamaica, I asked them to bring scotch bonnet pepper. I walk with my scotch bonnet peppa (pepper). We support each other as a community, doing that, bringing products from Jamaica that you can’t find here. Your jerk sauce cannot be replicated. Trust me, we have tried. Okay. Patty cannot be replicated. There was one among us, she went back to Jamaica, but she was in charge of patties and stuff. She did a fantastic job but, hmm … oh, it’s patties you could not find in Jamaica, but we do have lovely chefs as much as possible. You know we still miss the food.

Xavier: Good.

Nicole: In terms of Chile, and I guess Chilean food, what would be your favorite Chilean food that you would say, “I really enjoyed this.”?

Nicole: I want to say Chorrillana. It’s chicken and beef, eggs, sausages, and onions. Yes. All put together and they presented to you on a bed of fries. Okay. I usually add ketchup, but they add mayonnaise. So, I would have to say that’s my favorite, but the seafood here is also spectacular. Just spectacular. And the price for what you get, amazing.

Xavier: In terms of the language itself, when you moved there did you speak Spanish?

Nicole: I thought I did because one of my degrees from UWI is actually Spanish. But the Chileans, they speak really fast, and they use a lot of slang. Okay. They’re not shy about it. So it took me a while to adjust and my husband is Chilean so he helped me a lot with that. That was just amazing. After a while, because all my classes were in Spanish as well you know. That was a big thing for me. I had to learn and learn really fast.

Xavier: Do they speak, what they would say, Spain’s, I guess, Spanish, or do they have their own little version of Spanish?

Nicole: I’m going to have to say they have their own little version because, it’s not even just my opinion, okay. All the Latin American nationals that come here they’re like, whoa, what. What is happening here? You know Chileans should have their own language. Yes? They have baseline Spanish but they stun and marvel even the other Latin American countries. So if you can have the Chilean Spanish you can handle any Spanish anywhere.

Xavier: In terms of the people themselves, how would you describe Chilean people? You know, how would you describe them? I don’t want to compare, but just describe them, you know, mannerism in terms of friendliness, in terms of, you know, how would you describe them? And keep in mind your husband is Chilean so if he watches this.

Nicole: Well, he would agree with me. Yes, because it’s something that we have talked about often. You know, the Jamaicans tend to — dem nuh haffi know yu fi talk to yu (they do not have to know you to talk to you). If you are in a space with a Jamaican for more than maybe ten minutes, a conversation is going to happen, okay. The Chileans are not like that. It takes a while for them to warm up to you. It is easier if they meet you like in a social gathering like maybe at a party or church or something like that. But for them to just walk up to you on the street and make friends, that is a little bit tricky. The more adventurous ones will. But in general, they are reserve until you meet them. When you meet them then you will see a totally different side. Totally different side. They are really warm, nice, friendly, helpful, very helpful.

Xavier: Okay. What would you say was your biggest adjustment moving to Chile?

Nicole: Well, the language, definitely. That I mentioned earlier. That was huge and I’m going to also have to say the food. With Jamaican food, when you bite it, it bites you back. Right? Chilean food is not like that so it took me a while to adjust and get used to that. But beyond that, everything else was just an open mind, this is different. Different does not mean bad it just means an opportunity to grow. So the rest of it, I just had to accept it.

Xavier: If I was to visit or anyone was to visit Chile, is there a place that you sey (say), “Yu haffi (you have to) go see dis.”? You know, see this one thing or this one place, what would it be?

Nicole: Wow!! That would be incredible. Because it depends on what you’re looking for, okay? If you’re the adventurous type, I would definitely suggest Sand boarding in the Atacama or bungee jumping. Okay. You can go parasailing. There is everything you can imagine you can find it here. Okay, for me personally, I like to go camping. I like nature. I know natural beauty, if that’s what you’re looking for as well, I would suggest from the Patagonias South. Okay. Off the beaten path, but it’s the dirt road and you’ll need a four-by-four to do that stretch. But there are lots of beautiful things to see. Lots of beautiful things to do. There’s also many places where you can see Aurora and the different animals. Lots and lots of things. I could not say just one.. Okay. That would be unfair to the splendor that is here would be unfair. I have been to so many different places in like the six years well the eight years and I still have not done half. Okay. You can go skiing in the Andes Mountains and the list goes on. The list genuinely goes on.

Xavier: Wow. Quite extensive. What would be the one thing that you miss the most about Jamaica?

Nicole: Wow! Okay. So quite a lot but I would have to say, the rhythm of the people. The rhythm, you know. Like it’s almost as if each person is a heartbeat. Okay. And they have their own tone but when they come together, we all mesh, almost like music. Even if you look at the way we drive. The way we drive we get in it. The way we think. The way we interact with each other. There is just a certain movement to that. A certain connection when you can say okay, I can fall in this river and I can also flow, I miss that. That feeling. I don’t know how to best express it or to describe it. But that feeling.

Xavier: I think you just wrote the Jamaica Tourism Board commercial saying each heartbeat and rhythm of the people make you feel like one. I think you just wrote a commercial and a poem there that that was a great way of explaining it. If someone was thinking of moving to Chile. A Jamaican was thinking of moving there, what would be one piece of advice that you’d give to them?

Nicole: It depends on if you’re coming for an extended period or like a short period. Like definitely for the women, I would tell you if your hair is processed, bring your hair care products because here you’re just going to find Vaseline. Okay. Our culture here is far more digital. I would definitely recommend bringing everything you think you might need outside of electronics or appliances. But come with an open heart and a willingness to explore. Buy your winter clothes here for here, because it gets really cold. So don’t bring them from anywhere else. Buy it here because you are going to need the clothes for here from here. Alright.

Xavier: Let me ask you another question. I know you and I spoke earlier, you have a four-year-old and you’re trying to make sure that the Jamaican culture, passes on. That he learns about that side of himself. You know he is half Chilean, half Jamaican. What do you do to ensure that he learns a little bit about the culture? What do you do?

Nicole: Well, I speak to him in Patois and in English. I don’t speak to him in Spanish. No, I avoid that. Of course, I cook Jamaican dishes. I ensure that he interacts with his cousins and my family in Jamaica. We’re also considering at some point maybe when he’s at High School age, to return to Jamaica so that he can go to school there, so that he can see first-hand why his mother is like she is. Not if she is crazy. I just going to say why she is like she is. So understand when my husband went back he was able to understand why I am the way I am. Okay. And my place of birth is responsible for that. It is very important for us that he understands that side of me as well. And understand that when you have that burst of flavor, you know, where it’s coming from.

Xavier: From Jamaica. Nicole, I appreciate you spending some time with us to tell us your story and giving us some tips and advice on, if we were to visit Chile. Great information. I just can’t thank you enough. I’m going to give you the last word and if you could tell us bye, in your best Chilean Spanish and any closing thoughts and any closing words. Again, thank you for agreeing and giving us this advice. Last word from you.

Nicole: Well, thank you for having me. It was wonderful. Yes, again, just come with an open heart. Take Spanish, okay. Explore scholarships. They are, I would even say a window to the world. I cannot stress how important those international scholarships are and the one for Chile is incredible. It’s a full scholarship and they give you living expenses. Explore the scholarships. I would definitely say that. My best Chilean goodbye would be, adios.

Xavier: Adios, Nicole, and again, thank you. Blessings to you and your family.

Photo Source: DepositPhotos

About the author

Xavier Murphy