Culture Shock in Chile

Arguably one of the most developed countries in South America, very few expats will experience a tremendous degree of culture shock in Chile.

Most Chileans are welcoming and friendly, and familiar Western brands and food items are readily available for purchase, although prices may be unusually high due to import taxes. However, there are a number of small differences with which expats in Chile need to familiarise themselves. Some of these nuances include the lack of concern with being on time, the countrywide fascination with football, and the pricing of bread or produce by weight rather than per item.

Meeting and greeting in Chile

Expat women in Chile may unexpectedly find themselves on the receiving end of many a kiss on the cheek  in Chile, this is a common way to greet someone you know. Meanwhile, men will never greet one another this way but will shake hands instead.

Language barrier in Chile

Spanish is the official language of Chile, with a few indigenous languages also spoken by small percentages of the population. The easiest way to adopt a Chilean lifestyle and overcome culture shock is to learn the language. Being able to converse in Spanish certainly enriches everyday encounters, not to mention that being fluent also attracts a greater range of employment opportunities within Chile and the surrounding region.

However, Chilean Spanish can be quite different to the traditional Spanish language which can easily throw off expats. The most noticeable differences are the heavy use of slang, the fast pace of talking, and the tendency to drop the letters "d" and "s" from words – all of which can make a conversation hard to follow. Expats learning Spanish in preparation for moving to Chile can get a headstart by specifically learning Chilean Spanish rather than the global Spanish usually taught.

Transport in Chile

While Chile's transport infrastructure is advanced relative to South American standards, using roads requires a working knowledge of Spanish as all signs are in this language. It's also important to brush up on Chilean road sign symbols as some are different from those in Europe and North America.

People and lifestyle in Chile

Latinos are often stereotyped as loud, vivacious, passionate and energetic people, and there is some truth to this image. Chileans tend to lead very active lifestyles, which isn't that surprising in a country with kilometres of beaches and extensive ski slopes. 

Learning to balance an active social life with a busy work week is key to surviving in Chile as an expat. Meals are central to forming connections and as such they are quite big social events that last into the early hours of the morning. With this potential for late nights, work tends to start later in the morning and the "lunch hour" usually turns into "lunch hours" as siestas are vital.

Time in Chile

In Chile, the pace of life can seem slower than that of many Western countries. For instance, it is not uncommon for a Chilean to arrive late for an appointment or meeting. In essence, Chileans seem to have developed their own sense of time and much of it is focused on interacting with people and family, rather than making a desk and computer screen the focal point of their existence. Many expats moving to Chile find their new lifestyle choice a refreshing and exciting one.