Culture Shock in Chile
- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Chile Guide (PDF)
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. Familiar Western brands and food items are readily available for purchase, although prices may be unusually high due to import taxes.
However, expats in Chile will need to familiarise themselves with a number of minor differences. 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 a friend or acquaintance. Meanwhile, men will never greet one another this way but will generally 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 enriches everyday encounters and being fluent also attracts a greater range of employment opportunities within Chile and the surrounding region.
Chilean Spanish can be quite different from traditional European Spanish, and this 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. These differences can often 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 in language schools.
Transport in Chile
While Chile's transport infrastructure is advanced relative to South American standards, using the country's roads requires a working knowledge of Spanish as all signs are in the local 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
Latin Americans 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 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 often 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" is often on the long side.
Time in Chile
The pace of life in Chile can seem slower than that of many Western countries. It is not uncommon for a Chilean business associate to arrive late for an appointment or meeting. Locals tend to focus their time 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.