“Day in the Life” of an Foreigner in Santiago, Chile

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Since moving to Chile a few weeks ago, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from family and friends about what it’s like living in Santiago. I figured I would take a minute to explain a little bit more about what my day-to-day life is like!

Language Barrier

My Spanish was definitely rusty when I arrived. Chileans speak really fast and they use a lot of slang, shortened words and they don’t enunciate. There is lot of mumbling and context clues, so it’s quite different than the Spanish I learned in school. I’m not great at responding in anything but the present tense.
I can understand some things but it takes me a while to think of the words myself. Throughout this trip, I’ve been trying to work on my Spanish through my job and speaking with Chileans. However, Chilean Spanish is incredibly difficult to learn. Chileans say it isn’t Spanish, its “Chileno”. Chileans are also very long winded and beat around the bush.
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This is all a lethal combination of difficulty and I struggle to understand.  Even though I’ve picked up on a few things, I’m not as good at speaking as I hoped. I understand when people talk clearly and I usually can figure out what they’re saying. But my replies probably sound like a 6 year old since I always use the same tense and verbs.

I’ve improved a lot and I am a lot more confident in my speaking abilities than I was when I arrived. When Sam arrived, he was like “Wow! You’re spanish is soo good”, so maybe I am selling myself short. I am comparing myself to Americans who have lived here for over a year. Nonetheless, I only want to continue improving my Spanish skills through conversation and lots and lots of practice!

Food

Overall, I’m not super impressed with the cuisine here. It is fairly bland, which I was surprised about. There also isn’t really a culinary tradition that I can detect, so a lot of the dishes seem familiar to me. Chileans eat a lot of grilled meat, raw vegetables like onions and tomatoes, and carbs — lots and lots of carbs.

Chileans love ice cream though and that is something I can get behind! Daily ice cream stops, walks through the parks and naps characterized my relaxing first few days.

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There are a few AMAZING dinners to highlight though, including Astrid and Garston, one of Chile’s premier Peruvian restaurant. I shelled out the big bucks for this meal, but was well worth it once we tasted our modern dishes. I had Chilean grouper with scallops over a asparagus risotto and a sweet potato sauce, while Sam had a squid ink gnocchi with calamari and grouper with a coriander and tamarind sauce. Wow, were we blown out of the water by the light but rich flavors of these complex dishes.

Accommodations 

Accommodation was not included in my internship experience, so I was responsible for finding my own apartment. I brazenly came to Chile without a clue about the neighborhoods or where to live. When I arrived, I realized this was naive of me and I had to figure it out on my own.
Thankfully after only a few days of searching on Chile’s version of Craigslist, I found the most wonderful apartment. It is located only 4 blocks from my work in this newly built high rise. It is in a very safe neighborhood of Santiago called Nunoa. I live with 2 Chilean girls, one student and one young professional. I have my own room, WITH attached bathroom and it has very comfortable living room with a balcony opening up into a cute courtyard and an old Catholic church behind. The church even rings church bells once a day.
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The kitchen is long and narrow, but equipped with all the essentials, including a juicer. And finally, the building has a pool :) I got so lucky to find such a great place, and even though it was a little more than I intended to spend, I know I will probably save money by not paying to commute to work or pay a gym membership. So happy :)

Experiencing an Earthquake!

I experienced my first earthquake while living in Santiago — a 7.1 reicthhr scale quake. At the time I didn’t even realize what was happening. I was laying in bed and everything started like rattling and swaying a bit, and I was getting a weird vertigo thing. I thought maybe I was hallucinating or getting a migraine. But then I heard my roommates kind freaking out in the living room, and got up to see what was happening. It only lasted for like like 45 seconds and then it was done. No major damage and no casualties. I am perfectly fine and healthy. But wow, what an unexpected experience! I never thought when I moved here that I would experience that! Here’s an article on it if you want to read more.

Bus Rides

The only means of long-distance transportation to use in Chile is the bus system. There are plenty of airplanes and they would certainly be faster, but they are quite expensive and infrequent. So bus becomes the preferred method of travel.

Thankfully the bus system here is INCREDIBLE. There are buses throughout the day that go to any destination you can think of. The buses are more comfortable than the coach buses in the States and way cheaper. For example, I took a 10 hour bus to Pucon and it cost $22. I don’t understand how it is so cheap, because everything else here costs about the same as in the States.

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City Life

I was really surprised how modern Santiago was when I first got here. It has lots of skyscrapers, modern architecture and excellent public transportation. It is very easy to get around the city and a majority of the downtown area is quite safe! The subway runs until midnight and I live just off a major stop, so it’s really easy for me to get home at night. There are plenty of modern amenities here, and I packed way more than I needed because everything is available here!

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Author: Megan Arz

I am a travel and food obsessed Midwesterner living in Chicago and dreaming of the world. I work as a full-time program manager for Greenheart Travel, but I am also committed to integrating the travel lifestyle into my every day routines. I am passionate about ethical travel, meeting new people, creating unique memories and eating local cuisine!

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