GPMBA Class of 2011 is moving right along — nearly halfway through our internships already! As you’ll know if you read my last post, I am interning in Santiago, Chile. The spring weather here is becoming increasingly gorgeous and lucky for me, last week was Las Fiestas Patrias holiday or Chile’s Independence Day! The celebrations for this weekend (celebrated primarily on September 18-19) are so important that in addition to the aforementioned 2 names, there is yet another informal name: “dieciocho” or simply “eighteen” in Spanish.
While the festivals / fairs or “fondas” and cookouts or “asados” and other fiestas were fun cultural experiences for me during the weekend, these festivities are interesting and relevant with regards to my internship and the associated corporate work culture at my office too. As I mentioned in my last post, the Chilean work week is longer than normal US full time weeks (typically 45hrs). The corporate culture at my company a mix of “typical North American” with Chilean. Unlike my previous work experience, greetings are very important — a kiss for hello and goodbye, even if this total interchange last less than 5 minutes. This creates a very friendly atmosphere, as does the very modern, open office layout and design with lots of natural light and glass. Yet at times, it seems to me, that this friendly environment comes at the expense of work efficiency.
So in addition to the daily work culture, I also have gotten to experience Chilean holiday work culture! Fortunately the Friday commencing the Fiestas Patrias events, we were able to have an early “Happy Friday,” finishing work at 1pm for a work asado celebration. The asado was complete with Chilean empanadas (fried pastry filled with meat, onion, an olive, raisins and hard boiled egg), sopapillas (sweet fried breads), choripanes (sausage on a bun), anticuchos (meat skewers) and sodas (no, the company did not provide the traditional alcoholic Chilean dieciocho beverages like piscos or chichas).
In addition to all the delicious foods, a Fiestas Patrias event would be incomplete without dancing cueca, the national Chilean dance. It is an interesting dance, including sliding, stomping, clapping and handkerchiefs. Yet the most unique thing about the cueca is the fact that the male and female dancers do not touch but must maintain eye contact until the end of the dance. To get into the festive mood, my company offered complimentary (and voluntary) post-work cueca dance lessons during the few weeks leading up to the holiday. Unfortunately my schedule (and lack of rhythm) prevented me from participating, but at the work asado my fellow coworkers performed for us!
All in all, I would say that the excited holiday environment was more interactive than my US company holiday experiences, at least for Independence Day (but perhaps that is in part because I worked for a British company in the US, so 4th of July celebrates our independence from them…). The weekend itself was a great experience going to fondas, visiting a nearby artisan town called Pomaire, and of course, more asados! I enjoyed a long weekend with Monday off and even got to see the military parade to the Escuela Militar academy near my apartment.
Of course after all the festivities, it’s back to work!