“Tienes un pololo?”

When you move abroad you never know what your story will be. You can’t predict the kind of people you will meet or what relationships will form. I suppose that’s the case with moving anywhere, not just abroad. The difference is you are entering another culture where people come from very different backgrounds.

I just recently finished writing three blog posts about my trip to Brazil where I got to spend two weeks with my boyfriend. If you read about it, maybe the question crossed your mind of how exactly did we meet anyway? I’m an American living in Chile, and he’s a Brazilian still in Brazil. The chances of us meeting and pursuing a relationship are rather slim. I didn’t expect this to be my story.

Before I packed my bags for the big move to Chile I had friends, coworkers, and family teasing me with the idea of “you’re going to find somebody down there, just you wait.” I was told many stories of other acquaintances and friends who had gone abroad and fallen in love. “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” was my response, waving them off, “just don’t jinx it.” Having been single for so long I thought surely I would be the exception to those stories and not find anyone at all. No matter, my motive for moving was not to find love.

What I’ve learned since being here is that as a gringa, you tend to get snatched up quick. I’m not kidding. I have taken classes with other foreigners or gone to language exchanges where all English speaking females have Chilean boyfriends. And usually the native Spanish speakers at these exchanges are single guys…it’s a funny mixture. And the Chileans never fail to ask, “Tienes un pololo?”

Pololo. It’s probably my favorite Chilean word just because it’s fun to say. Pololo. It means boyfriend. And the reason I say Chilean word is because it is not a Spanish word. The normal Spanish word is novio, but here that word usually means something more serious like “fiancé”.

I’ve been asked this question before by Chilean guys and then asked if he was a chileno. My response, of course, is: “No, un brasileño,” to which they usually seem to take some sort of offense and give me a hard time about it. Maybe their thought is that I didn’t find chilenos good enough and so went for a Brazilian instead. Haha, that definitely wasn’t my plan, and I realize that I’m still an exception. Like I said before, most foreign girls here are dating a chileno, and my story seems a little extreme even to them.

One of the other international couples I know here in Santiago are just so: Amanda, the gringa, and Andres, the chileno. One of the reasons we became friends is because she’s also from Texas! One of the last times I saw them, Andres was practically preaching on all the positives of international relationships. You learn so much from dating a person from another culture, and it forces you to grow and change your perspective. Plus, it’s just exciting! You already find each other a little exotic, and if you can make it work, you always have another country to travel to where that person knows the ins and outs of everything.

Making it work is no easy task. Someone in the relationship has to be willing to make a huge sacrifice in order to be with the other person. So like with Amanda and Andres, who will both be moving to Texas around the same time I’m going back, Andres is getting ready to start fresh in a new country. And in my case, Carlos has bravely decided to pack up and move abroad on a student visa to pursue his masters in Texas.

It sounds crazy when I first tell people how we met. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“You have a boyfriend?”


“Someone from the states or a Chilean?”

“Actually, he’s Brazilian.”

“Brazilian! And he’s living here in Chile?”

“No, he lives in Brazil.”

“What? Where did you meet?”

“In Santiago…”

Yes, we met in Santiago, and only three days after I first arrived. He was staying in my hostel, and if you want to see a little evidence of our budding friendship back then, you can take a look at this old post: Has it been more than a week?

Somehow, something stuck even after he left. I didn’t have any clue then what may eventually come from having met him, but I couldn’t be more grateful now for how everything turned out. He’s an amazing guy who loves the Lord and loves me well. I’m just ready for it to not be long distance anymore!

Perhaps our favorite part of the beginning of our story is that the night before we actually met, there was a dinner the hostel was serving with pasta and wine. We both went to the dinner and actually sat right across the table from each other. I didn’t realize it then, but he had already noticed me around the hostel and I’d managed to catch his eye. I was still dealing with some major culture shock and feeling very frightened about my whole situation. People around me at the table weren’t speaking English and I didn’t have an appropriate level of Spanish then to attempt to converse with them. So I ate my meal in silence, feeling a bit lonely and isolated. And then there was a point just before I left where I looked across the table and made eye contact with Carlos. Despite my sad state of mind, I smiled at him and he gave me a beautiful smile back. It was a small act of kindness that warmed my heart a little bit that evening.

The next day, we officially met and acknowledged the smile from the dinner. He was very friendly to me and helped me overcome several of my fears about being in Chile. He showed me around the city, turned my bad attitude over on its head, made me comfortable and able to enjoy Santiago, and persisted in being a good friend even after he left. We love to think back at the irony of how sharing a smile with a stranger could just possibly be the onset of a romance. You know, like fiction…how is that real life? Nonetheless, I wanted to capture that memory in a special way, causing me to write the poem below a few months later.

What a gift it was, that first moment
When we shared both time and place.
I lifted my eyes by chance that night
And they rested upon your amiable face.
At that very same moment your eyes turned to mine.
Unbidden, a smile passed from me to you,
It was quickly returned and lifted my spirits,
The smile was easy, but the sentiment was true.
In just one moment, when our eyes met,
Our lips turned up then our eyes turned away.
We could not have imagined what such a glance
Might mean to us in this present day.

Entonces sí, tengo un pololo brasileño. Ahora es difícil porque él vive lejos, pero no me arrepiento nada.

Anyone else have stories of romance abroad?



2 thoughts on ““Tienes un pololo?”

  1. loved hearing your love story! so happy for you and hope to meet him someday!
    When will you be returning to the states?


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