Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 11/22/14

Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile 11/22/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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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?

Washington D.C.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Either close the Embassy (Las Condes and Vitacura are 2-5 minutes drive) or in Lo Barnechea or La Dehesa which are close to the international schools which are about a 20 minute to hour drive if there's traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Costs are higher. All the basics are readily available. We order special stuff from the U.S. via Vitacost.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More clothes. Clothes are expensive here and the quality is not great. Also the styles are distinctly Chilean.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything is pretty available. More expensive than in the U.S. We miss Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese as those are unavailable or just poor representations.

PS- Don't believe the lie that there's no good Chilean food. Try Porotos con Riendas, Cazuela, Costillar, and the ever present delicious pebre with freshly baked bread buns.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available and affordable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes available. Little expensive.

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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?

We don't use ATMs. There's an increase in the use of false facades of ATM dispensers which steal your cash. Credit cards are okay at major restaurants and stores, but not at small informal spots.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

We've heard there are some.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A LOT. Learn Spanish. In-country options are low quality, sometimes scams, and ineffective.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably some but compared with other posts this is likely a more manageable city. The metro stations almost all have elevators, there are bathrooms for individuals with disabilities in major buildings, most apartment buildings have ramps for individuals who use wheel chairs, etc.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

YES. The metro system is better and cleaner than any we have used in the U.S. The buses are a little hard to figure out but googlemaps helps and you can always ask the driver if you're unsure (again Spanish necessary). Taxis are fine and also colectivos which are shared rides that follow specific paths.

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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?

Any car should be fine but check the importation restrictions which are strict.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, sometimes spotty but normally fine.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Meh. You can buy here or bring yours unlocked. Expect to spend some money if you want internet access or if you use your phone a lot.

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Pets:

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?

Not that we know of. Vets are available and pretty high quality. No Kennels we know of. Need to find a family to exchange dog caring with.

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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?

Work permit situation is rough. Really rough. If you are fluent in Spanish and get out there and work hard to find something you can do it but you might end up sacrificing an income. Not the best place for EFM's to progress their careers.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many as long as you speak Spanish. Some get very involved and create great experiences for themselves.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Pretty conservative but Chileans many times wear jeans to work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Generally this is a very safe place to live. Petty crime such as purse snatching and theft happens sometimes. There has been an increase in crimes in residents in Lo Barnechea (where most families with kids live) but if you use your security system you should be fine. During our tour no apartments have ever been broken into. Unlike a previous posting when we have visited the Vitacura apartments (embassy-owned) they seem completely safe and even have big metal security gates as an additional measure.

We have felt absolutely safe here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Not really. Apparently giving birth at Clinica Alemana is a great experience.

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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?

Not great but not as bad as others have made it sound. Yes there is pollution but no you will not choke or be unable to breathe.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Bring allergy medications. Pollution can be rough.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Overall climate is great. Never gets below freezing and therefore we've never seen snow in Santiago. The mountains get covered in snow, great skiing opportunities and the Embassy normally takes an annual trip. It can get very warm in January and February when it can get nearly unbearable sitting outside under the sun. Embassy is just recently investing in air conditioning units which makes things much better. But overall the weather here is great.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Available, seems like they are great schools as far as what we've heard. Apparently Nido has a complicated admissions process to start early.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Yes.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large expat community. Morale varies depending on how flexible the people you are speaking with are.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eat out, entertain in, movies, there are theater events available, day trips.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes. Santiago can be great if you get out, explore, be unafriad to connect with Chileans. We've had great experiences with people from all different socioeconomic groups. You really must speak Spanish though. Only 5% of Chileans speak English and normally only basic conversational skills. Do yourself a favor and take the FSI classes if you're an EFM. It will completely change your experience in Chile.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Chile (the citizens that is) is in a process of slowly beginning to recognize the rights of LGBTQ individuals. Chilean government is already outwardly supportive and has anti-discrimination campaigns etc. On a micro level, LGBTQ individuals will undoubtedly experience moments of prejudice and discrimination but can pretty much live their lives without any dramatic changes to behavior.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are definite gender discrimination issues. Street harassment takes place. There are also racial discrimination issues as the racial makeup of Chile is very heterogeneous. Individuals who look different get stares.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Patagonia, Torres del Paine.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We spend most weekends relaxing at home, going on walks, stopping at the few cafes, getting a bite to eat. If you have a vehicle or you rent a car for the weekend you can take day trips to Cajon del Maipo, the long coastline that's stretched from San Antonio all the way up to Con Con etc, Pomaire (pottery town), La Ligua (sweaters town).

There's Easter Island which gets some great and some less great reviews and a little pricey to get to.

Hidden Gem:
Quintay beach is nice and not too far away.
Casa Botha (not hidden) is a yummy restaurant to go to. Pricey though.
Emiliana Vineyard is organic and adorable with little chickens running around.


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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lapiz (expensive), carpets, copper earrings and other items, paintings.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great day trips (Pomaire, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Wineries, beach days, etc.) trip to Patagonia will blow your mind (take at least 3 days overnight in the park itself), wine is delicious and inexpensive, metro system is excellent (even if busy during rush hour), safe.

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10. Can you save money?

Not really. Prices are pretty high in the areas where Embassy personnel live. Comparable to Washington D.C. prices.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

See above.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yeah probably.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectation of salsa dancing, spicy Latin food, sense of personal space, and good Chilean service. Chile is europe in Latin America.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter clothes, spanish-language skills, VPN.

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