Saturday, March 23, 2013


Now that I've lived in Chile for two months, I feel that its safe to have made some observations about the differences I notice about life here:

1. Plastic, plastic, plastic - at any store or market, they practically throw plastic bags at you!  There are employees at the grocery stores who are specifically baggers, and they take advantage of any chance they have to put each of your items in their own bag.  When I say that I don't need a bag, I get nothing but puzzled looks in return.  How on Earth could I reject the convenience of a free bag?

2. The food is in fact bland and salty - I was warned of this before coming to Chile.  However, I still hoped that I would find some dishes down here with peppers, cilantro, tangy sauces, etc.  This is generally not the case.  Chilean specialties mainly include dough, and friend dough.  Empanadas generally come deep-fried, sandwiches with heaps of white bread are the common dishes, and another common street food called a sopaipilla is just friend dough with toppings.

3. Books are so expensive! - I tried to buy a small paperback about Pablo Neruda from a street vendor, expecting it to be priced similar to the US ($10-15).  It was almost $30 USD!  How could a book about Neruda be more expensive here than in the United States?

4. The (nearly) eternal search for a yoga mat - Yoga has definitely reached Chile.  There are studios all over town, workshops at my university, free yoga in the parks.  Although it is on the Chilean athlete's conscious, the retail side of it hasn't yet caught on.  I searched for days before being able to find a yoga mat.

5. Chileans do one kiss when meeting each other, cheek-to-cheek - Unlike some places in Europe where you greet people by touching both cheeks or kissing three times, here it is just one kiss.  You haven't properly greeted someone until you've exchanged that kiss, and it can get very tedious when you are with large groups of people!  The other day someone asked me how we greet each other in the US.  I held out my hand and said, "like this."  It felt so cold compared to here.

6. You cant always get what you want - in restaurants, making substitutions or eliminating ingredients from the dish is impossible.  The waiter generally seems confused, and then says, "but the sandwich comes with mayo."  When you say that you don't actually want the mayo on there, the sandwich will often still arrive with mayo.  It seems to me that Chileans can't understand why you would give up an ingredient when it comes free with the dish, because then you wouldn't be getting your full money's worth.

7. Street dogs are everywhere, but are taken care of - As in the rest of Latin America, dogs roam the streets of Santiago.  During the day, they generally sprawl out on the sidewalks or plazas and sleep in the sun, often so deep in slumber that they appear to be dead.  Then they roam around at night and control the city streets!  The difference in Santiago is that there are people who take charge of caring for the dogs.  On my campus, they are all very cute, well-fed, and well-groomed.  A teacher told me that they all have names that most of that students know.  When a dog is sick, the group that takes care of them will put them on medicine, and put a little sign around their neck saying something like "Please don't feed Sparky, he's on meds."

A street dog at my morning bus stop.. he must have been able to sleep in because he found the most comfortable spot in the city!


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