Santiago, Chile Report of what it's like to live there - 07/21/10

Personal Experiences from Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile 07/21/10

Background:

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

4th expat experience.

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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 DC - 12 hours on most carriers with connections in Miami to Santiago.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

Government, US 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?

Housing is a morale issue at post -- two different areas: Apartments in Las Condes near the embassy for singles or couples without children, and family housing developments in the La Dehesa and Lo Barnechea areas, which are a considerable distance for commuting and which means hefty expenses for fuel and road tariffs.

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

Similar to the US, and sometimes more expensive. Comparable to Washington DC with grocery chains. There are bargains available at the Mercado Central, which is a popular Farmers' Market.

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

None.

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

All the major chains that you can find in the US, except for Wendy's. But why would you want fast food when you can enjoy the spectacular seafood that Chile has?

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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?

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?

Widely available at US$30+ dollars a day.

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

Yes, prices are comparable to US gyms.

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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?

Reliable and safe in most areas of Santiago.

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

A few.

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

There are a few, and some English TV channels offered on premium cable television packages.

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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?

You will need to have a working knowledge of Spanish to get around Santiago.

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

It would be complicated -- Santiago is not user-friendly for the handicapped person.

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Transportation:

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

Chile has a very reliable public transportation system which includes buses, taxis, collectivos, and a subway system.

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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 vehicle type will work down here. Be aware of the import restriction, however: the vehicle cannot be older than 18 months. Most newcomers will purchase vehicles from expats who are departing post, and others purchase their vehicles in the U.S. and export them to Chile.

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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 - fair prices start around US$80 a month for DSL.

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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?

You will need a quad-band GSM phone down here. If you bring a normal cell phone from the US, it will not work in Chile. U.S. standards are actually behind with the approved frequency standard.

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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)?

Good.

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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?

Not many, and it's extremely bureaucraticto get employed on the local economy.

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

Conservative dress: suit and tie for men, dress or skirt for women.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just the same precautions that should be taken like in any major city -- avoid areas where crime is more prevalent.

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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?

Excellent medical care available, but not cheap.

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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?

The air quality is unhealthy with smog, however during the winter when it rains it cleanses the air for a few days.

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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?

Santiago is much like Sacramento, California, in climate. Hot and dry during the summer months, and almost freezing temperatures during the peek winter months in the evenings and early mornings.

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Schools & Children:

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

Nido de Aguilas is the American school in Santiago.

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

In most of the elite schools they offer programs for children, and many of the communities within Santiago offer programs for children.

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies. Many have a difficult time adjusting to the isolation of Chile and the affects it has on the culture. Others make the best of it and enjoy local relationships within the community where they live.

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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?

There are all different types of entertainment in Santiago. Depends on the group mix of people at post.

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

It's good for everyone.

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

Chileans are quite conservative with their moral views, so it's not as widespread as in other parts of South America.

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

Chileans are reserved with people of different races and cultures, especially those with darker skins. It takes some time and patience to penetrate the conservative shell the Chileans have -- once you do however, you will enjoy your experience with the culture far much better.

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

Traveling the country has been the highlight of my tour.

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

There are many things to do in the area, such as skiing, river rafting, beaches, mountains, vineyards, and many other outdoor related activities.

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

Local crafts and products, travel throughout the country.

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

The eco-tourism is spectacular. The geography is magnificent, and there is much to offer for the adventurist.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely not.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I probably would still go, but I would make sure that I lived close to my place of work to save money on gas and other expenses.

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

Expectations that Chile is like other Latin American cultures -- it's definitely not.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and sense of adventure.

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you like the outdoors, then Chile is a must. If you're looking for a cosmopolitan experience, then Chile may not be what you're looking for. Traveling outside of Santiago will make your first impressions of the country fade away, as you will begin to see the country in a different perspective.

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