Tell me about Santiago, Chile

I have been offered a transfer to Santiago. It will involve being the head of a project that the company I work for is doing in South America. (A GREAT OPPORTUNITY!!!) I will be there for 3-5 years.

I know nothing about Santiago. I would be moving there by myself, since there is no significant other in my life and my children are grown. If my kids were still dependent on me, I would not even consider it.

I do have some questions, though.

Specifically about Santiago: What would it be like to live there? Would I have to learn the language, or would I be able to get by on English. What is the crime rate like? Are there places in Santiago that I could walk down the street without being overly concerned? Is Chile a fairly stable country, or is there a possibility of civil war in the near future? What else should I know about Santiago that should be a factor in this decision?

More Generally: What would it be like to move, by myself, to a different country, different culture, where I know nobody. I’m generally a fairly sociable person and enjoy being around friends. Anyone have experience in this area?

Any comments, concerns, or advice would be appreciated.


It’s shakin’.

Have you been living in a cave? There was an 8.8 magnitude earthquake there on Feb. 27, 2010 and hundreds of earthquakes since then, including a 6.9 today. Major damage in Santiago and surrounding areas. You need to check with the company that offered you the transfer and see what damage they suffered.

Yes, I am very aware of the recent earthquakes. If I accept this offer I will not be moving for 6 to 9 months, so I am operating under the assumption that the current situation in Santiago will not be a factor. Or am I mistaken about that?

Santiago Chile? I was there twice last year.

Just down the street from the Estadio Olimpico you’ll find Celinto Catayente Towers. If you’re going I’d recommend that you drop in and take a gander at it yourself.

Oh for goodness sake, GO. You have a chance to live in another culture and experience a whole different way of life. Plus you get to be upside down on a globe. Sure there are earthquakes there, and there are earthquakes in San Francisco, Tornados in Okalahoma City, Hurricanes in Miami…Well you get the picture


You’ll get by and even if you don’t enjoy it so what? 20 years from now you’ll be on this board saying “Gee I wish I had gone.” Especially if you’re under 30 you have no reason NOT TO GO. You gotta take chances in life and this sounds like a good one.

Go out and have an adventure and when you get settled YOU TELL US, what it’s like to be a stragner in Santiago.

I’d go in a second. I was there in 2002 and there weren’t a ton of fluent English speakers in the shops. I would imagine there will be a fair amount of English speakers amongst the professionals. It’s a beautiful city and parts of it are super modern and would not look out of place in L.A. It’ll be a great opportunity for an immersion Spanish language education. Most of the downtown seemed pretty safe to me. There’s all kinds of cool things in the country. Ski resorts, glaciers, Torres Del Paine, volcanoes, Valpariso, and hot women. Hell, take a cruise to Antartica.

Plus you can bop up to Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina or Brazil!

I’d sign up for Spanish classes yesterday if I were you; many people won’t speak English (or will speak it at about the level you’ll be speaking Spanish after 3 months of classes), but even when you’re with someone who speaks English it’s considered a Very Good Thing to be able to communicate in Spanish, even if it’s minimally. Foreigner who had several months’ warning he was coming over and/or has been living here for months and can’t speak a word of the local language = utter asshole; foreigner who can say “I’m sorry, my [insert local language here] is horrible” = nice fella. There may be times when you find yourself having conversations where you speak English (with some Spanish mixed in) and your counterpart speaks Spanish (with some English mixed in).

It is a modern, stable country. It has some areas with extreme climates, which are poorer than the country’s average, but as reported by relatives who have been there on business in recent years, “it’s like being in Spain only with different stars.”

There are some English-language TV stations available through cable/satellite (with open subtitles in English), as well as others which use cross-language open subtitling (movies in English are subtitled in Spanish, movies in Spanish are subtitled in English). Do you belong to any international organizations that have local branches there? I have found Mensa’s SIGHT program invaluable for dealing with local bureaucracy and cultural shock; I imagine Rotary Clubs must also be good for that.

I lived there for a couple years about 12 years ago. I loved every second of it. I lived in Tomas Moro, a pretty affluent neighborhood. Other relatively well-to-do areas are Las Condes and Nunoa, unless they’ve changed. Are you male or female? If male, you should have absolutely no trouble walking around by yourself depending on where you are; however, if you’re female, while you should have absolutely no problem walking around during the day by yourself, it’s probably best to have a companion when walking around at night. It’s just like any other large city - use common sense and you’ll be fine.

If you go, you absolutely should learn Spanish - at least conversational so you’ll have a good base to build on. You’ll find more people speak English in Santiago, but if you travel outward, you’ll definitely need it. Plus, as in any country, at least making an effort will pave your way far more than not bothering at all.

It’s a very modern city - it reminded me a lot of some European cities. The beauty about Santiago is that it’s almost smack dab in the middle of Chile (well, sort of) and is within a day of many of the most beautiful areas you’ve ever seen. In the south is Lago Todos Los Santos, which so very, very blue and near two active volcanoes that you can climb. You can go further south to Patagonia, too. In the north are places like La Serena, which is also beautiful and a great place to just hang out. There are also wonderful places to ski, like Portillos. You can also use that as a jumping off point for seeing other countries in South America, like Peru (if you can, visit Cusco and Macchu Picchu - if you go, go by plane during the day so you can fly over the Atacama and see the Nazca lines), Argentina and about a zillion other places.

Oh, and other than the occasional student riot (which I don’t think have happened in a while), there is very, very little civil unrest, so don’t let that be a factor in your decision.

So, yes, yes, yes - GO. But then again, I’m a tad biased.

This is perhaps not a timely reply.

I used to live in Chile. Worked as a translator.

Those who do not live in Santiago, and many who do, will call it ‘Santiasco’ which basically means “the place that makes me gag.”

Personally I do not care for Santiago. It is expensive and noisy, and in many places trashy, and in other places very trashy. But the worst (or among the worst) feature is the foul air. Even the WHO rates Santiago as having some of the worst pollution in the world. I think it is the 11th worst city in terms of air pollution. Many people who visit and are not immediately affected by the bad air will come away with the usual tourist expressions about how lovely and bla bla bla but there is a big difference between being a tourist and living there for the cumulative effects.

Actually, come to think of it, most Chilean cities have bad air pollution. There are two Chilean cities on the WHO "twenty worst cities " list.

There are many reasons I would not wish to live in Santiago.