Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 07/17/08

Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile 07/17/08

Background:

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

No, I've lived in several SE Asian Countries as well as India.

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2. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

I work for the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Direct overnight trips to the USA.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In town housing is mostly all apartments, and tends to be fairly spacious. We love our apartment, and have terrific views of the mountains, when the smog isn't too bad. Our place is only a 25 minute walk from the embassy. Out of town housing tends to require more upkeep and repairs, and requires a longer commute to work.

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

Groceries and household supplies tend to be much more expensive. Even coming from DC, we had a hard time adjusting to the high cost of things. After a couple months here I disovered a local fresh fruit and vegetable market, called La Vega. It's huge and has nearly as much available in the line of fruits and vegetables as the supermarkets and is cheaper.

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

Bring anything you can, because it'll almost always be more expensive here.

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

Most food chains you'll find in the USA are available here. There are even a few Taco Bells, but they only have a couple options available and we've never eaten there. TGIF, Ruby Tuesday, McDonalds, KFC, Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut and the list goes on.

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Daily Life:

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

We have DPO. It isn't customer friendly as APO, but it works. If you want to send packages the cheapest way possible, you must have stamps, otherwise you can print priority postage from the postal website.

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

More expensive than Asia, but still somewhat cheap.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Most places are equipped for this.

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

I think there are a couple non-demoninational English speaking churches. We attend a Spanish speaking church.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The embassy has a plan with a local newspaper so we can read it online and in English. There are several English TV stations as well. Not sure of the cost.

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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?

You need to know at least a fair amount of Spanish as not many people speak English.

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

Some difficulties, but many places have ramps or elevators available for those in wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

The right.

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

Public Transportation seems to be pretty good here. We've used the bus a couple times. Taxis are easy and safe to use, just be sure you get all your money back when you need change. There are collectivos, which are kind of like group taxis that travel a specific route, they are cheaper, but crowded. Santiago has a pretty good and easy to use metro system. We find it easier and cheaper to use than DC's system.

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3. 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?

Anything will do for here. We have a small Toyota and it's perfect for most things. With the high cost of gas (about US$6+) a gallon we're happy with a small fuel efficient car.

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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, for cable/internet/phone it's about US$100-150 a month. Sometimes the phone bill doesn't arrive, and you'll suddenly discover your phone has been cut off. This happens with some frequency. Our internet has never been cut, although it's part of the same plan. However, it gets frustrating when you have to go to the company's downtown office and request your bill so you can have your phone turned back on. Beware, because you may also get charged a late fee, even though you never received your bill.

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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?

They're expensive to call from a landline, but as always, convenient and nice to have.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

We use Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets and Kennels are plentiful and up to par.

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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?

There seem to be.

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

Professional.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy in the winter, I've had some serious problems due to the pollution. The rest of the year isn't too bad.

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

Normal big city issues. Just beware of your surrounding. Keep your purse on the floor of your car, and out of sight, even if you're in the car. Never set your purse down. Even in a restaurant, keep your purse always on your lap. Don't wear lots of jewelry out in crowded areas.

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

The pollution can be very bad during the winter. But the rest of the year it isn't too bad. I've had a really hard time health wise dealing with the pollution, but my husband hasn't been effected too much. Medical care seems to be as good as the USA.

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

Like CA, just opposite seasons.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several good international schools. NIDO seems to be one of the preferred choices.

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good.

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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?

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

It's a great place for everyone. There's always a wide variety of choices in things to do. Great outdoor activities such as hiking and horseback riding, hot springs, the beach (though it's usually too cold to swim), lots of wildlife to see. There are also lots of restaurants, theaters, museums and activities within the city for children.

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

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

Not that I've noticed, although there is some class discrimination.

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

Hiking, Patogonia, Ferry/Cruise, wildlife to see, the beach, mountains, museums, theaters, restaurants, and so much more. Chile has virtually everything available that you'd find in the USA. It's a very long country, as so there are always new and vastly different places to explore and visit, such as the desert in the north, to Patagonia in the south.

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

There are a few local artesan markets. Specialty jewelry and copper items are plentiful.

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9. Can you save money?

If you can save money in the USA, you can probably save money here. Things seem to be more expensive here than in the USA. Hotels and travel are also expensive, but if you're willing to stay in backpacker type places you can save a little.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I think so. But I think that one term here is enough.

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

We've been happy for everything we brought as things are very expensive here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen. There's a big hole in the ozone here and you'll burn faster than you've ever burned before. Even for a few minutes out in the sun, I have to wear sunscreen or I go around with a constant rednose.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

It's easy to get frustrated with the people here. They seem very self focused, easily angered and distant, also very impatient, especially when it comes to traffic. It's also sometimes difficult to not expect things to be just like America as life here is very modern and similar. Just focus on your attitude and you can have a great time.

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