Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 09/16/11
Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
La Paz, Bolivia; Chiapas, Mexico;Guatemala, Guatemala; Madrid, Spain.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Ottawa, Canada. Direct flight from Santiago to Toronto, almost 12 hours
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Canadian foreign service.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is a huge variety. Lots of apartments and lots of houses. Lots of options of different places to live, but most expats live in Las Condes, Vitacura, or La Dehesa. Commute time would depend on the time of day and where you are going.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Fresh fruit, vegetables and fish/seafood is much cheaper when it is in season than in Canada. Anything imported is significantly most expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Customs is very strict so you cannot bring fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey, etc.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
LOTS of American-style fast food restaurants are available. There is a wide range of cost for restaurants and it also depends a lot on which part of the city you live in. But I generally find that restaurants are more expensive than in Canada.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
You should be able to find anything you need in Santiago, although it will likely be more expensive than what you would pay in Canada or the US.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Moths and some flies. There is one poisonous spider.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
UPS and other large companies operate in Chile.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help is available and typically costs approximately CAD$30 for 1 day. It is pretty easy to bring a nanny with you from another country.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, lots of options for gyms.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs and credit cards are common. The max withdrawl from ATMs tends to be CLP200,000 (approx. CAD$400). Foreign credit cards are not always accepted and there can be significant discounts for using a local credit card (eg. LAN flights). Depending on where you are making purchases, it can be cheaper to use cash than to use a credit card.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
There are a few local English-language newspapers. You can get several English-language channels through cable.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish certainly helps, but you could certainly survive without it, especially if you have a friend who speaks Spanish who could help you deal with cable companies, etc.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Easier than many Latin American cities, but would still pose some challenges.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Both safe and affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
There are about 10 cars on the list of commonly-stolen cars (one of them is the RAV4). In general, 4-wheel drive is not necessary.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and comparable cost to Canada.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
It can be difficult to get a pre-paid plan, but pay-as-you-go is easy to get.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are definitely lots of jobs available, especially if you are fluent in both English and Spanish, however, Chileans tend to hire who they know and don't always advertise jobs. So, if you are new to Chile, you will likely have to rely on international organizations for jobs.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Generally quite formal and conservative.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It depends on where you live. In Santiago, Las Condes, Vitacura, and Le Dehesa tend to be quite safe. Other parts of Santiago can be extremely dangerous. Car theft is extremely common. But compared to most Latin American capitals, I consider Santiago to be quite safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Excellent medical care. There are several private clinics where many of the doctors have trained in the US.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air is terrible in the winter when it doesn't rain. When it rains it's clean immediately after. In the summer it's moderate. It doesn't help one's personal air quality that people smoke so much here.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mediteranean. Hot but dry in the summer (around 30 degrees C) which lasts from September-April. Cool in the winter (dropping down to 0 or -1 at night) which lasts from April-September. It almost never snows in the city, but you can drive an hour up into the mountains to ski during the winter. I would say that the climate is ideal.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are several international schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Several seem to be available with Vitamina being very common.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, although I have no personal experience.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Quite large. There are lots of foreign mining companies, banks, and lots of people who have chosen to move to Chile.
2. Morale among expats:
Quite good, although it can be very difficult of make Chilean friends or to find a job.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are lots of great restaurants, lots of theatres, lots of concerts. There is always a lot going on. You will not have trouble keeping busy.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Excellent city for families, good city for singles/couples. People from Santiago aren't the typical outgoing friendly Latin, so don't expect to make a lot of Chilean friends immediately.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It could be difficult, primarily if you have adopted children.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are definitely prejudices against Peruvians and Bolivians. Lots of prejudices against indigenous groups in Chile. Probably against other ethnic groups as well.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Trip to Patagonia where I saw wild penguins, dolphins, seals, ostrich and much more. Planned trip to Easter Island later this year.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Skiing an hour away in the winter. The beach 1-2 hours away year round. Vineyards of varying distances, but as close as 30 minutes. Lots of easy weekend trips. Nice malls. Lots of art/culture.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Wine, lapus lazuli, pewter.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy place to live.
11. Can you save money?
It depends on where you live and what your lifestyle is. You could save money, but if you want to live comfortably, you will probably not.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat (unless you go skiing or go to Patagonia).
3. But don't forget your:
Skis and sunscreen. UV is very strong in Chile.