…. or I am not worthy to sit at your table.
One thing that was and is hard for me to understand is the HUGE mental barrier between the “upper” and “lower” class in Chile. Even though in Europe me and Liz would probably be middle to lower middle class for sure we are considered upper class here in Chile.
I grew up in Austria in a little & beautiful village with 2000 inhabitants. For me it was normal that when someone comes to do work in the house that they would be offered lunch and we would usually all sit around the table with the workers and have a great conversation. My parents (who had a small business) even invited the tax inspector to have lunch with us as they were going over the tax records to check if they are able to find some irregularities.
When Liz and me moved in to our new house here in Chile there was a carpenter we relied heavily on. He put in the wooden floor in the entire house and broke one wall to make a big living room out of a previously tiny room which was parted from the hallway by a wall. On their last day Liz and me were already living in the house and we served them lunch at our table. We had an awesome conversation and got to understand part of their lives. Franzisco, the main guy is very young but has been a self employed carpenter since the age of 14 (!?) and his coworkers were his dad and his younger brother who is about to join the army. I did not feel any awkwardness but remember my Nana asking me if they are going to sit at our table. She was surprised. She was also invited to join us but politely declined.
Since it never rains in Santiago and Liz and I travel a lot for work and also for leisure we need an automatic watering system else the garden will never be green. In summer you need to water daily else the grass will burn. So we had the automatic system put in by workers. They worked here almost a week. The first day I invited them for lunch and they refused. They were very happy to accept the lunch but said they do not want to eat with us. They said it was much better to have it outside so they can get back to work faster. It was really cold outside. Liz had warned me that the workers will not feel comfortable with me inviting them to our table. That is the norm in Chile. I discovered it multiple times and also discussed it with friends. Workers will not want to sit at your table. They don’t feel comfortable.
My Nanny (the housekeeper).
We have here 2 times per week and pay her significantly more then the average Nannies are paid here in Santiago. This is probably because I am foreign and not used to the concept of being served and wanting to be a good “employer”. In the UK I was living in shared accommodation and we sometimes hired a cleaner but she would take per 2 hours what my Nanny here in Chile gains in 7 hours of work. Needless to say that the housekeepers in the UK are more efficient with their time than the Nannies in Chile ;)
I love cooking and hate cleaning… Nannies here in Chile often cook for their “bosses” but I never asked mine to cook for me since I prefer she uses her time to wash and iron and clean the house. I actually cook for my Nanny :) which I believe she must find hilarious and probably is part of her evening conversation with friends and family. Despite the fact that I cook for her and I knew she ate I never knew where she was eating until on Friday I discovered it. I was shocked. She was eating in the laundry room. See the picture for details:
Not only is it not very comfortable there but being winter it is also very cold in this room so I asked her to please eat at the lunch table. Since I was leaving she did and she thanked me (?!.) Again I spoke to Chilean friends and they told me her behavior is very normal. That is how it is in Chile. Before posting I asked my wife to quickly check what I am writing… She doesn’t think it is because they believe they are not worth it… I do. What is your opinion? Does your Nanny eat with you? At your table or after you – I would be happy to hear your thoughts…..