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5 Expats Talk About Living in Chile

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: 5 expats talk about what it's like living in Chile. Expats appreciate the focus on family in Chile, the strong work ethic and the slower pace of life.

Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile

We asked expats living in Chile a series of questions about deciding where to live in Chile, the Chilean culture, international schools, crime and more. Their answers are a must-read for newcomers and expats in Chile.

Deciding Where to Live in Chile

When we asked expats living in Chile to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"There are two ways to live in Puerto Varas: in town or out of town in the parcelas. There are a lot of parcelas neighborhoods to choose from, but they all have excellent spacious houses on large pieces of land. Our neighborhood has a (private) dirt road and all of our neighbors are professionals. We feel pretty safe even though we are 3 miles from town as the crime is low and law enforcement is good. Plus, all of the neighbors are constantly in touch via whatsapp," said one expat living in Puerto Varas, Chile.

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Meeting People in Chile

Expats living in Chile talked about meeting people in Chile and local clubs and organizations:

"Finding other expats here in Santiago is not very difficult at all really. Just take a stroll down Isidora Goyenechea or El Bosque and you´ll feel as though you found a street somewhere in the U.S. On one side of Isidora you have Bennigan's and directly across from that you find Starbucks's, Ruby Tuesday's and Hooter's. If you walk down the street just a bit farther you will come across TGI Friday's as well. In any of these places (especially at Bennigan's and Starbucks) you will find PLENTY of expats. You can also find, in the same area on Roger de Flor, a place called Cafe Melba which is run by a woman from New Zealand and caters specifically to the expat, English-speaking community. Not too far from there is the NY Bagel. There is certainly no shortage of places in Santiago to find fellow expats," said one expat living in Santiago, Chile.

"My experience from visiting the last 2 years is to just start a conversation with someone who speaks english. DON'T rush. They do things much slower in Chile then the US. Relax- and just let things happen. It is surprising how well you can get to know someone over a 10 minute conversation. Get a drink or coffee- whatever you do- If you want to make friends- DO NOT BE AFRAID TO MEET THEM," mentioned another expat in Chile.

Expat Life in Chile

What is it like living in Chile? Here is what people had to say:

"Here in Chile, I believe that I read that they have the longest work week in terms of hours than any other country. I can believe it. Work days can be very long. I've also noticed that days begin later here for folks but they also end later. Eating your final meal of the day at 10 or 11 o'clock at night is not an unusual thing at all. On weekends however, the city is virtually closed except for the major supermarkets and the big malls. Most weekends you will find Chilean families either going out to one of the many parks around the city or spending the day at one of the malls. Restaurants and pubs mostly don't open on the weekends until after 4pm," said one expat living in Santiago, Chile.

"Family- Friends- NOT MONEY If you like tennis and futball- it would even be better," mentioned another expat in Chile.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Chile what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"The focus on family! It is the most important focus of everyone's lives here! Also, the sense of community. People here seem like they are united when it's important to do so - during the earthquake, a political issue. They are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, nor unite during times of turmoil. I admire the nationality of this country for these reasons," said one expat living in Valparaiso, Chile.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Chile

Then, we asked expats in Chile what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"The main thing is you have to use extreme caution in certain areas and protect your home," said one expat living in Santiago, Chile.

"Getting to know people. How strangely people look at me when I prefer to drink a glass of water instead of a "bebida" (pop/soda), and when I want to use my own bags at the supermarket instead of getting the bag-boy to give me a new bag for every two items I buy," mentioned another expat in Chile.

Diversity in Chile

We asked expats about diversity in Chile and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"Santiago is a very diverse city in terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural matters. They seem very accepting of any religious groups but I have noticed here a strong tendency towards "classism" and a definite prejudice (among some) towards any darker skinned people. There is a definite divide among different social classes. Homosexuality is also something that is not well tolerated here. Of course, this is not true of all people here, it is just an observation I have made about some general tendencies," said one expat living in Santiago, Chile.

"Of course- mostly catholic- few minorities for me to comment on that- wide spred economic groups. BUT again- MONEY is not a real issue. The world centers on friends and family," mentioned another expat in Chile.

Expat Health Insurance in Chile

Expats living in Chile interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

International Schools in Chile

"This is a school clinging to a bygone era of achievement. This school has a good reputation but I don't think it is necessarily merited anymore. Only about a quarter of students get in, and mostly because of contacts or because of family ties. If you don't do well as a student, you have to sign a contract and will be kicked out if any special needs issues. So really it is up to you as a student to achieve. Good staff leave pretty quickly and are snapped up in better organizations. Lots of internal bullying issues. School identity is unclear, and it does not feel British at all. There are strengths, such as the emphasis on sports. It is hard to find information about curriculum, and anti-bullying. When issues happen there is more of a lets shake hands and forget approach. If your child falls behind be prepared to be blamed and sent to see a psychologist. I wouldn't say it is all bad, but a lot of work to bring it out of the past. If you are wanting your child to be globally competitive then not the right option - especially with the rector saying that computer access and technology would be reduced. If you are looking to be in the whos who of Chile, then this is the choice for you. I am neutral on the education. Some good and some bad. Tutoring would be needed if you want your child to attend another school later on. If you have been to other schools abroad, you will quickly see through the pomp and ceremony and recognize those who are knowledgeable educators," said one expat whose children attend The Grange in Santiago.

"If you want your child to have Spanish immersion and perhaps go to university in Chile one day, then Nido is not the school for you. If you see Chile as a temporary stop, want your child to keep up with international education standards and get some Spanish, and you have an employer paying or can afford the fees, then I wouldn't hesitate to go with Nido," added another expat with kids at Nido de Aguilas in Santiago.

Expats living in Chile interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

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Expats in Chile enjoy the stable economy, friendly people and relatively affordable cost-of-living. Many find becoming close friends with Chileans, who primarily socialize with family, a big challenge. But, the expat community in Chile is strong and offers a great support system for newcomers.

5 Important Tips about Healthcare for Expats in Chile

After considering their individual health, Expats moving to Chile should carefully consider the health care options where they'll live, and what else is available in the immediate vicinity.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Comments about this Article

Jul 23, 2018 22:58

I am from the USA, speak Spanish, will be retiring from nursing in two years and am seriously planning on moving out of the USA. For some reason I want to retire/live/stay in Chile. I plan on living off a VERY small/modest retirement. But I also want to give back to the community/country of my ne whome. Is there places to volunteer? Clinics orphanages, hospitals? Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make this dream become real?

Sep 25, 2018 11:43

I have retired and am in the process of moving to Chile. In the process because we purchased a home in Pucon and are slowly remodeling it and adding insulation and double pane windows to make winters a little more pleasant. Many of these posts are quite accurate. Living there, two miles out of town, on a hillside with a private unpaved road, expat neighbors, no bars on the windows, for that matter, no shades either because we have a great view of our own large lots, Lake Villarica and the volcano but no other homes in sight. The food is great, all fresh seasonal groceries organic by nature, no mosquitoes, natural spring water, no smog, we can hear a car coming up the road half a mile away but only if the birds shut up. I can even hear people talking in their boats on the lake two miles away. Sure it is surprising to find that on a Sunday the local El Tit hardware store, ( sort of a Home Depot ) is closed! In the US they would be open at 6 am for all those guys who wake up at 3 am on a Saturday or Sunday morning planning on the repairs or projects they can't wait to get started on. Yes you have companies that will sell you US style insurance with your usual co-pays and deductibles and limits for a comparable price to what you can get in the US, but you will find that the national system FONASA equivalent to Medicare part A&B will cost you 7% of your US social security check even though you have never contributed before and the service uses the same doctors and hospitals as the insurance company. Even without insurance, medical services are cheaper than what you would pay for with insurance in the US. People complain about the waiting times. I never had to wait more than 2 days for any service. Most times it was just knock on that door and see the doctor. In Texas I had to wait 6 weeks to get a 6 minute visit with a general practitioner, and that was with AETNA.'s Medicare supplement that is costing over $250 a month! 12 months a year. FONASA is about $120 a month but only the months I am in Chile. Liability insurance is provided by the government. it is compulsory just as it is in the US. It costs $18 A YEAR! Just imagine what profits the private insurance companies in the US are making by freeing us from a socialized "not for profit" service.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018

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