Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 07/12/09

Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile 07/12/09

Background:

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

No, also lived in Seoul

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2. How long have you lived here?

From May 29, 2009 until August 8, 2009

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

U.S. Embassy

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

8+ hours from Miami, about 9 hours from Atlanta

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing seems pretty good. The apartments are spacious.

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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 cost about the same as in the U.S.Produce is cheaper, however. Be careful of the tuna fruit. It has tiny fibers that cut your hands. The taste isn't worth it.

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

Drugstore supplies such as Neosporin, decongestants, herbal medications.

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

There are a lot of bad restaurants here and Chilean food has not impressed me. However, there are some very good places. El Huerto, in Providencia, is a great vegetarian option. I've also enjoyed Cafe Melba, owned by a woman from New Zealand, which is on Don Carlos just off of El Bosque Norte. Their breakfast is excellent. I've heard good things about Bar Liguria but I've never eaten there.

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

At least during the winter, it's fine. I've only seen a couple of very small bugs during my time here.

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Daily Life:

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

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

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

I believe so. I've heard good things, also, about Yoga Shala.

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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?

There are lots of ATMs. I've used the one at the embassy and just carried cash. However, my fiance used his credit card a lot and everything seems to have been okay.

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

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

There are some English channels and a lot of shows are in English with Spanish subtitles. I would definitely recommend, however, using another source for video/TV entertainment in addition to the cable.

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

It would be difficult to live here without Spanish. Also, the Chileans have their own dialect which is much more difficult to understand than the version spoken in other areas of Latin America. They have a lot of slang and they speak very, very quickly.

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

It would be impossible to use public transportation here if you're disabled.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are very affordable and readily available. The metro is great. It's cheap and I haven't had to wait more than a few minutes for the next train. I haven't taken the bus yet. There are a lot of them, but they can get very crowded. Often there are long lines of people at the bus stops. The long distance bus service is good. They run often, tickets are cheap, and they're clean.

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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?

Chile only permits vehicles less than two years old to be imported into the country. The roads seem to be good quality. Although some people complain about the drivers here, they're the same as in D.C.

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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?

High speed is available through various providers. I have VTR and haven't had any problems with it. I've heard Telefonica is terrible.

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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?

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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?

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

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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 are EFM positions at the U.S. embassy and it's fairly easy to get a position teaching English. Other than that, I'm not sure.

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

Professional, suits at work. Chileans dress very conservatively, black, grey, and red are the most common colors. Skirts are almost nonexistent. I feel like my skirt suits immediately identity me as a foreigner.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy, I didn't realize how bad it was until I took a tour of the city and sat in the open air top of the bus. My lungs hurt for the next 2 days. However, my fiance, who has asthma, visited for 12 days and didn't have any problems.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

There's a lot of petty crime, I already know a lot of people here who've been robbed. I've stopped carrying a purse and credit cards and try not to look too conspicuous.

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4. 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 an issue.

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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?

The winter here is fairly mild. However, the nights get a lot colder than the days so I make sure to bring a coat if I'm not going to return until after dark.

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Schools & Children:

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

N/A

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

N/A

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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?

N/A

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

N/A

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large, there's also a group for American women married to Chilean men.

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2. Morale among expats:

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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 good city for different types of people. Although I don't go out to the bars or dance clubs, it sounds like there are plenty of options.

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

I'm not sure. Chileans are fairly conservative so it could be difficult.

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

Yes, I've been shocked by some of the racist comments I've heard here. As a woman, I've also noticed the men can be aggressive. It makes things easier to dress very conservatively.

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

Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, lots and lots of things to do and see in the north and south. Chile is a very interesting country.

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

pottery in Pomaire, lapis lazuli jewelry, manjar desserts (yum!)

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9. Can you save money?

It depends on your lifestyle. It's not much cheaper here than in the U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely, I wish I had a lot more time here so I could do more exploring

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

Skimpy clothes, expensive jewelry, and expectations of good Asian food

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3. But don't forget your:

car (great road trip opportunities!!), winter coat, and books (the books here are super expensive)

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

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Chile is a great place to live. It can be isolating since society here is very exclusive. However, the standard of living is pretty high and the geography is amazing.

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