The Rules of Dating in South America for a ¨Gringita¨


Gringita: a name often used to describe a woman foreigner/tourist of western or European descent by the people of Latin America.

I am a gringita living in South America. I am asked a thousand times a day, ¨Where are you from?¨ and that’s okay. There are perks and there are downfalls living as an ex-patriotic woman in South America.  The perks are obviously engaging in a new culture, experiencing a life completely different from my own and living a life astray from the linear path that I am used to from the United States. The downfalls are clashes in culture, at times feeling alienated, and missing the customs and comforts of my own city.

Dating in South America can be incredibly tricky as well. That is because the ideologies of South American men and woman are very different then the  dating principles we are used to back at home. I am an avid supporter of mixed-raced relationships.  I think you can learn a lot from a partner that comes from a completely different background. There are however, without doubt, some culture clashes that may occur because of different belief systems, environmental conditioning and family values.

After living in South America for over a year, here is my take on being a gringita and the rules of dating in South America.

Recognize machisimo

Machisi-what? You ask…It is a common phrase used to describe men of Latin America who act like a, ¨Macho man¨ often exhibiting behaviors such as possessiveness, aggressiveness and an overall attitude that they own you. It is a common topic in conversation here and some women have become so accustomed to it, that they accept it as normal. I have dated a few men who were machisimo and if I had not recognized the signs in the beginning it could have ended very badly. What are the signs? Obsessively calling, texting, FB messaging. Exhibiting stalker behaviors like showing up at your house without your approval or spreading nasty rumors when you decide that you need some space. Another big sign is when you have heard through the grapevine that they have been machisimo with other partners as well. This rule is not just exclusive for men; women can become very jealous and overbearing as well. Look for the red flags in the beginning to avoid disaster in the end.

Be Patient

So you have found yourself a wholesome, good-looking, sweet South American man. I understand, they can be irresistible with their charm, accent and often seductive dance moves. If you do start dating a Latin man, don’t be surprised if you find out that he has never ventured too far from home. Meaning, your man still lives with his parents and has not trekked outside the confines of his own city or country. This ideology may cause some clash in experience, but it shouldn’t cause you to be overly judgmental. That’s because it is not as common for men to leave the security of their parents nest until they either found themselves a serious partner, or have been saving up for a while to travel. It is not as easy for South Americans to travel to the United States as it is for citizens from the U.S to travel to South America. If you meet a gentleman, and he considers his family, especially his mother as his top priority, don’t write him off as a mama´s boy. It is extremely common for men to hold their mothers in the highest esteem.  If anything, it should be more alarming to meet a man who is estranged from his family, which could indicate a major fall out.

Be Yourself

Amplified gender roles are not just exclusive to South America. We see the macho man and the submissive woman roles being played all over the world. However, in South America, as mentioned above, progressiveness in social roles is a bit underdeveloped. In the west and many European countries, women are encouraged to express their opinions, be open with their sexuality and to defy common gender roles; In South America, not so much. I know a few gringitas who have dated men and have been told that they are a little bit too loud, open, or free with their sexuality. If you find yourself in a similar situation, do not compromise your opinions and freedom of expression – do however, understand where your man is coming from. He is probably not use to such an open minded person and your alternative ways of seeing things may shock him in the beginning. If you can both be patient and be  open to discuss where you are both coming from, you may end up forming a mutually supportive relationship that will only foster an immense amount of learning and curiosity.

What has been your experience with dating in South America?


About Author

Since a young age Jenna has always had an undeviating desire to explore the world and all its hidden niches. This desire has catapulted her willingly into some of the most memorable experiences of her life! Starting with delivering shoes to underserved villages in the Dominican Republic to bussing it down through Mexico and Central America, she currently lives and works in Cochabamba, Bolivia and believes experiencing first hand what foreign culture is really like, serves as her ultimate passion.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Jenna, I’m living in Ecuador right now, and I get hit on a lot by men because I’m a writer and have been doing interviews–and they tend to be with men. I want to maintain professional relationships/friendships, but I am not certain how to do this. For example, I’m not certain if it’s normal for someone to profess wanting to marry me when what I want is a professional relationship. Do I try thanking them and then keep going with other topics? I’ve also had to block certain “friends” after they continued to text as though we were dating. Right now I’m trying to figure out doing a work exchange with someone with expertise I want –in cacao farming — but who has expressed his strong interest in me romantically. What to do?

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