Santiago: Initial Observations

I’ve been in Santiago just over 48 hours now. I haven’t done much other than sleep and meet a few people. I got through customs without a problem (I even declared my Turkish hazelnuts, Turkish Delight, and salep that I brought from Turkey, and I’m happy they didn’t throw them away!).

Last night, I met a Chilean, Loreto, who is a friend of Tyra’s. She gave me a quick tour of the historic city center of Santiago. Then I met an American expat, Shawn, who is also a friend of Tyra’s and has been in Santiago for seven years. Shawn introduced me to Vanessa, a Puerto Rican who just moved to Santiago two months ago and works for Deloitte.

The owner of the house I stay in is named Claudio. We signed the contract yesterday morning, and I couldn’t understand his Chilean Spanish. I tried to tell a little about myself and told him I’m Greek, and he immediately started speaking back to me in Greek! He lived in Greece for 15 years and worked on the ships there. It made communicating during the contract signing a lot easier.

In my house, there is Michelle, from Milwaukee (and, sadly, a Packers fan), Tessa from the Netherlands, and Ben and Guagua from Germany. Guagua isn’t her real name, but that’s what everyone in the house calls her. There is also a couple from Spain.

These are my initial observations about Santiago:

  1. This language they speak here, it’s nothing like any Spanish I ever heard. It’s…weird. It will destroy everything I ever learned about Spanish.
  2. Sushi, Peruvian food, and hot dogs are everywhere. I have yet to try anything Chilean. I’m looking forward to some Chilean wine and empanadas (one of my favorite foods).
  3. The weather is hot but dry. Very comfortable.
  4. I picked the right neighborhood, but the WRONG neighborhood to live in – Barrio Bellavista. It’s the Bohemian area of Santiago, but also where the clubs run until 4am. My window faces the street, and it sounds like the people are partying in my room.
  5. One very cool thing about my house is that it’s on the same block as Pablo Neruda’s famous house, La Chascona.
  6. The people I have met so far are very friendly and love to smile. The only problem – apparently, sarcasm is a no-no Chile. I like being sarcastic with my friends and even strangers. I can feel some awkward moments coming up.
  7. I will have to do a border run every three months, because getting a residence permit is next to impossible here, and a work permit even more next to impossible. My first border run will most likely be to Argentina for a week or two. I’m not complaining, it will allow me to see a lot of South America. I’ll try to do a different country or two every time.
  8. I should be able to find a job easily, but I will probably have to sit tight until March unless I get some private lessons. Chileans are now on their summer break and most will not be coming back to Santiago until the end of February.

That’s all I’ve got for now. My next entry will probably focus on how my cultural assimilation is going, and the differences between Turkey and Chile.

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