I’ve been in Santiago for over six weeks now. This wasn’t supposed to be my midway point in Santiago. The original plan was to stay here until at least December, putting my midway point somewhere in July.
But then something happened – I won the lottery for tickets to the World Cup. I had two options – stay here and work and skip the World Cup in Brazil, or skip work and go to the World Cup. I chose the second option.
So, I made arrangements to leave Santiago on 26 April and return on 27 June for the month of July. After July is up in the air, but I have lots of interesting options that I’ll keep you updated with in the coming months.
Now that I’ve settled in, I would like to update my initial observations of Santiago from 1 February with my mid-term report. I’ve copied my initial observations below and am writing my current thoughts after each one in green:
- 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. Yes and no. My Spanish has improved, thanks to living with Argentinians, Colombians, and gringos, but I still can’t understand Chileans very well.
- 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). Empanadas are awesome, and the wine is great. Staying away from Chilean food for the most part.
- The weather is hot but dry. Very comfortable. Nothing has changed! I haven’t seen rain since coming to Chile.
- 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. It’s definitely the WRONG place. I’ve since moved to a very nice area near Metro Manuel Montt in Providencia. It’s also safer and much much quieter. I can actually sleep. Also, the landlord of the last place who spoke Greek turned out to be a real jackass – he gave my room away for March BEFORE I even moved in – and didn’t tell me!
- One very cool thing about my house is that it’s on the same block as Pablo Neruda’s famous house, La Chascona. That was one of my highlights of Santiago. I’ve visited all three of Neruda’s houses since.
- The people I have met so far are very friendly and love to smile. The only problem – apparently, sarcasm is a no no. I like being sarcastic with my friends and even strangers. I can feel some awkward moments coming up. They’re very friendly on the surface, but very difficult to mix with. I have one Chilean friend. Maybe. I’ve made friends with more foreigners so far. In Turkey, I had a good balance of foreign and Turkish friends, and the Turks were much more open and genuine.
- 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. No border run necessary as I’ll be leaving for Brazil!
- 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. Found a job, but as I said, I had to scrap it. Might be an option when I come back in July, but we’ll see.
More observations over the past six weeks:
- You have to tip the baggers at the supermarket. I wasn’t doing this and went shopping about four times until someone told me they work for tips only. Now I know why they weren’t so friendly.
- No yogurt. I love yogurt, the plain kind, and I’m used to eating lots of it in Turkey. I can rarely find it here, and only in small individual packets. It isn’t cheap, either.
- It has its safety problems, especially at night and in certain areas. I have to be extra vigilant, but so far I’ve been fine.
- The metro closes at 11! For such a big city, I’m shocked!
- The inter-city buses are awesome. They’re much more comfortable than in Turkey, with bigger seats and more legroom.
- The sun is dangerously strong here. The UV factor is much higher than I’m used to, and I have to be more careful than usual.
- Every non-Chilean Latino I’ve met here has had a “warning” about Chileans. They like to separate themselves from Chileans and let me know they are nothing like Chileans.
- It’s very expensive! I pay US prices for restaurants and groceries here. I wasn’t expecting to save money when I came here, but with the same amount of money in Turkey, I can do twice as much.
- Chilean Time = Greek Time
- It’s definitely not “Istanbul crowded” which is good. By that, I mean people aren’t crowding the streets and public transportation is not jam-packed at every hour of the day.
Overall, Santiago is a very nice, easy, and comfortable place to live. I’ve enjoyed it so far, and have plenty more places to explore over the next six weeks before I leave.