Now that you have arrived and figured out where you will stay, it’s time to start your life in Chile, and settle in. Whether you are here for a month or a year, or have no return flight booked, settling into life in Chile will take some adjusting.
Let’s get straight to it, one of the best parts of traveling is discovering new foods , right? Empanadas are easily this countries favorite food. They are most commonly filled with a beef called “piño”, onions, olives, and eggs but during your stay in Chile you will come across all kinds of different empanadas: piño, chicken, cheese, shrimp, ham, you name it, and they are all delicious. Another famous Chilean favorite is Mote con Huesillo, which you will see at roadside stands all over the country. It looks extremely intriguing and I think it’s most fun to try this one not knowing exactly what your in for.
Aside from the traditional famous Chilean dishes their typical meals include lots of meat, rice, potatoes, beans, and legumes. Also, you may have researched Chilean cuisine before you left, and you may have heard that they eat a lot of bread down here. If you haven’t heard, you will soon find out.
Bread for breakfast and bread for dinner, if you don’t like bread then you are going to have to get creative with your meals.
A typical Chilean breakfast usually includes bread with butter, ham, cheese, or manjar (dulce de leche). Sometimes, more often on the weekends, they’ll through some eggs into the mix. The most common bread in Chile is a white circular bread usually referred to as “pancito” that you can find for very cheap at any grocery story or bakery.
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Families will typically all get together around 2:00 to take a nice long lunch break. If you’re lucky, whatever work your doing in Chile will allow a little extra time after lunch for a ciesta (mid day nap).
Since lunch is a bit later and a bit bigger, it is not normal to eat a typical dinner. “Once” is usually the last meal of the day and is usually bread (again) with some sort of toppings and a tea or coffee. “Once” is usually eaten around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.
Of course you can eat how, when, and what you want but I am a firm believer in doing as the Chileans do, so following along with a Chilean meal plan is a good start.
Chileans don’t like to eat alone, and meal times are usually very social. So if you are not doing a type of homestay during your time in Chile, try meeting with friends or colleagues for meal times. This is also a great way and time to work on your Chilean Spanish.
Everything starts and opens a little later in Chile. In many countries stores and businesses open by 8:00 a.m. Here is Chile you will see store owners and business people making their way to start their work day around 9:30 or 10:00 a.m.
Some businesses will close midday for an hour or so for lunch and then open back up in the afternoon. Just as everything starts a little later, it ends a little later as well. So if you’re a night owl, Chile is a good place for you.
Chileans in general are very happy people, and don’t tend to complain about long workdays very much. What’s important is that they have work, and it’s a really refreshing outlook on things.
If you are staying for a long time you might want to look into getting a Chilean bank account. If you have come to Chile to work at a paying job, this will probably be necessary to be able to deposit your paychecks. Your work will probably be the best place to ask about which banks to use. If you are coming to Chile for less than a year, or just to travel or volunteer than you can easily get by without a Chilean account. ATMs compatible with foreign cards will typically have a sign that says “Redbanc.” Banco de Chile and Santender are usually the best bets, and make sure to use the foreign card option.
Overall, Chileans are not very punctual. If something is supposed to start at 10:00, nothing will actually happen until at least 11:00. Especially for social events, it is normal to be 1-2 hours later than the announced starting time, so relax. With more formal things like school classes or work meetings things will be a bit more punctual, but still nothing to sweat about if you are one minute you will still be welcomed into the room. The best advice I can give is to step back and observe what the locals are doing. If everyone is rolling into work 30 minutes later than scheduled, you can eventually jump on that bandwagon. It is best to be punctual in the beginning though, because although most Chileans are not, this is still a generalization and there will be exceptions to it.
If your not a night owl, then feel free to crawl into bed whenever you’d like but I wouldn’t doubt that you might become one soon during your time in Chile. Chileans are generally very social people and love to “carretear” at night. People will start to gather together and drink around midnight and parties or clubs will start to get fun around two in the morning. Be prepared to be up all night.
Chileans are very proud of their Pisco, which is a brandy that they make here. It is most commonly paired with sour (Pisco sour) or Coca-Cola (Piscola) and it is delicious. If you’re not into Pisco however, you can order a liter of beer to share with friends, or to keep for yourself if you’re really feeling crazy.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re here. You have probably been planning this trip for a while, so don’t let yourself get caught up in the little things. You are in Chile and this is a very special country. Step back, take it all in, explore, take pictures, make friends, learn the language, eat the food, take chances, and say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, that is the real way to settle in to your life in Chile.