There are some things that I definitely wish that people would have warned me about when I moved to Chile. I had read a lot about Chile and its culture and people before arriving and thought that I was quite prepared for what was to come. But within the first week I realized that I was quite ill prepared for the little custom differences.
Some of the unexpected things that happened to me that nobody warned me about:
1. Chilean people greet you by grabbing your hand, pulling you close to them, placing the other hand on your shoulder and then kiss you on the cheek!! I don’t really do public affection and definitely don’t like strangers touching me. Having strangers touch me makes me very, very uncomfortable and I usually respond by pulling away. And actually having strangers kissing me is freaking me out a lot!! The morning of my first class, when I met my student (male) for the first time, I went to shake his hand and he leaned in to try and kiss me on the cheek. I immediately stepped back and ducked this, thinking weirdo!! For the whole first lesson I thought my student was some kind of pervert who tried to kiss me the first time he met me!!
My second class started off the same way and I had 3 students grabbing hold of my hand and shoulder and placing kisses on my cheek. I was freaked out!!!
I was only told later that day that this is the normal way for Chileans to greet each other. It would have been nice to have been warned beforehand just so that I could have prepared myself for all this unwanted physical contact from strangers.
2. I know that each country has different dishes and prepare things differently and I usually have loads of fun trying out all the weird things they dish up. But every once in a while I am in need of some comfort food, something familiar that in my mind is “normal”. You do expect some things like hot-dogs or hamburgers to basically be the same all over the world. So I was definitely not pleasantly surprised when I ordered these dishes when I needed some comfort food and they ended up not being what I expected.
- Hot dogs here are served with salsa, guacamole, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard! It is not a very tasty combination and I had to force myself to actually eat it. If I wasn’t so hungry that afternoon I would have thrown it away!
Why would you combine guacamole and mayonnaise?
- I ordered a normal chicken burger one Sunday afternoon and it arrived with a combination that I would never have suspected in a million years. On my burger I had chicken, tomato and NOT lettuce but GREEN BEANS!! Yes, green beans and this all they covered with mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard!! After I scraped off the green beans I could actually eat the burger. My students told me that this is normal for them and couldn’t believe that I didn’t enjoy it.
3. Chilean people start their evenings very late and a lot of the restaurants in the Bellavista area only open up around 7pm. They then stay up most of the evening thus sleep in very late, especially on weekends. During my first couple of weekends here I would go walking around the city early Saturday and Sunday morning around 8 or 9am. Santiago looks and feels like a ghost town that time of the morning!! There are no people around, the streets are deserted and you can not find anyplace open for a nice morning coffee. This made me really skeptical about this place I had chosen to live in for a while. People only appear out doors after 12am in the mornings. Something that will definitely take me a very long time to get used to.
4. Chilean people are very relaxed and take things very easy. Don’t get me wring I think that living a chilled life is excellent, but them being so relaxed about everything has caused me some irritation.
- First of all they are never on time!! They are always late and cancel things at the last minute!! For someone like me who always arrives on time or even early this is a big irritation.
- Secondly, they permanently walk like they are on a Sunday stroll. Most of the time this is ok but during rush hour when I am trying to get to work on time this does irritate me endlessly. I am always swerving around people and feel like I am the only one rushing somewhere or trying to be on time for work!!
Maybe in time I will be able to adopt this relaxed attitude, although I do think it will take quite a while.
5. It is very, very hard to find a good cup of coffee in Santiago! I can not start my day without a cup of coffee and usually end up having about 3 or 4 cups of coffee during my day. I love sitting in café’s with a cup of coffee and a good book on weekends. I have tried a couple of different coffee shops and I have basically given up on a cup of good coffee at a local cafe Which is quite sad as Santiago has quite a couple of cafes with lovely outside seating. Chilean cappuccinos have more cream on top than there is coffee in the cappuccino and the coffee is very bitter. I have now started looking out for Starbucks cafes as here you know exactly what you are going to get when you order a cappuccino or latte!!
I am sure that there will be a few more surprises for me before I leave Santiago and actually look forward to experiencing them.