I'm moving to Santiago, Chile! What now?
May 15, 2012 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Santiago, Chile! What now?

I got a job teaching English in Santiago! The school is going to help me with my visa but what else do I need to know/do? What should I bring or not bring? What neighborhoods would be best to live in? How do I find a good (read:cheap but cool neighborhood) apartment or hostel to stay in until I find a place? Should I just keep my money in my (American) bank? Resources for (roughly) beginners Spanish? What kind of shots do I need? What travel insurance (required by the school) should I get? What should I eat/not eat? What questions (aside from job-related) should I pose to my employer?

Apologies for rambling but I'm nervous/excited. Any recommendations for resources would be appreciated.

Background: Young American Male with love for music and cycling, a desire to learn Spanish and not a ton of money
posted by saul wright to Travel & Transportation around Santiago, Chile (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats on the gig. I lived in Santiago almost a decade ago now. I lived with a family in the Nunoa neighborhood, which was charming, a bit out of downtown, but downtown Santiago doesn't offer all that much anyway.

I wish I could offer more. My one big piece of advice: travel! Chile has some of the most astounding natural diversity in the world, from the deserts up north to the glaciers down south, and the volcanic lakes in the middle. Most of my fondest memories of the period aren't from Santiago itself but from the surrounding nature.

Also read some Pablo Neruda and visit his house on the coast, still one of my all-time favorite museum visits. Also Valparaiso. The place has pirate blood.
posted by vecchio at 12:20 AM on May 16, 2012

Eating - you can probably eat most of it. we eased into drinking the tap water (with Brita filters for the taste), but no real problems. Wash your fruits and vegtables with the veggie washing stuff you get at the grocery store, and watch out for worms in packages - we lost a cupboard full of pasta and stuff to some mystery worm. Sigh.

The CDC has reccomendations for what immunizations you need (nothing special).

Sorry, can't help you on the insurance

Find out where the school is, can you get there easily by public transit? Do you have to get a car? Traffic is terrible during rush hour.

Rent is fairly reasonable on my personal large city rent scale of things, we've got a nice apartment for about what I paid in Toronto for crappy (with good location) student digs. Most of the expats with kids end up in La Dehesa. Vitacura, providencia, nunoa and las condes are all upper class neighborhoods in the city. The subway doesn't reach in to these neighborhoods very far though, but buses are everywhere. As vecchio said, downtown isn't super special.

I've found some information on http://www.allchile.net/, but I've never participated in the community.

It's a fun city, the people are friendly. Chilean spanish is a pain to understand at first. Watch your pockets in the center. Watch your stuff everywhere, bags have legs here. If your bank is part of the global atm alliance, you can take money out without additional fees. Your online bank may offer to cover any fees as well, but the ATMs here charge $5 for 'not your home bank' fees. Find out if your credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee. I think the capital one cards don't.
posted by defcom1 at 11:11 AM on May 16, 2012

Medical stuff:

Regarding shots: Your GP should be able to help you with this.

Once you find a neighborhood, find a good hospital. The best hospital in the city is Clinica Alemana (ranked 4 in South America), but there are good private hospitals in most parts of the city.
The difference between the public and the private medical system can be huge (both in quality of service and education level of personel - as in: full nursing degrees vs 2 years at a tech college), and anyone who possibly can goes private.
We use the Clinica Alemana although it's not terribly local for us - but the doctors there are fantastic.
As a gringo, don't be surprised if your local ER has a revolving door especially for you when you first arrive. You will almost certainly be dealing a few really pyrotechnic stomach flus as you acclimate. On the other hand, Chilean hospitals deal with stomach flus in a FAR more efficient manner than other places - particularly if you're a gringo (and thereby presumed to be more suceptible) you're on a bed with fluids and anti-spasmodics being pumped into you before hospitals in most other places would have you cleared past the front desk. And you'll be out in less than 2 hours.
If you DO get a bug, and it's not so bad that you need an ER, but it lasts more than a couple of days, SEE a DOCTOR ANYWAY. There are a lot of bacterial bugs floating around, and the longer you let them work on you, the more fun you have trying to get rid of them.

The pollution and seasonal allergies are pretty bad (shading to VERY bad if you have pre-existing problems with this stuff), so if you deal with asthma or allergies, get hooked up with a doctor sooner rather than later.

And - as when moving to any new country - make sure you bring a few months supply of any and all drugs that you are taking to cover all eventualities!

Housing: Chilean dwellings are generally not climate controlled. Winters are cold and humid, so you will need to bring some warm clothes for when you're inside at night. Where central heating is installed it generally runs on gas. Chile has no gas reserves of its own - it imports all that it uses - which means that running it is EXPENSIVE. Dress warm.

Food: The cuisine here heavily emphasizes meat. Lots of meat. And lots of seafood (the Chilean machas parmesanas are to DIE for.) If you swing veggie it's a little harder but in the last few years vegetarian restaurants have been opening up around the city. There's a fad for sushi here, but one of the leading newspapers recently did an expose of kitchen hygiene, and lots of people don't really want to eat sushi anymore.
Chilean cuisine is reasonably unadventurous. However, Peruvian food (and its Japanese Fusion variant) is very VERY good, and there are a LOT of good Peruvian restaurants in the city. The supermarkets have pretty much everything, but vary in quality from store to store, so you'll probably shop around a bit as you get your bearings. The fruit&veg can be fantastic. The BEST way to get fruits and vegetables is to track down the floating fruit&veg markets that appear in different parts of the city on different days of the week. The quality is often higher than supermarket stuff, and shopping the outdoor markets is seriously FUN.
Food is generally cheaper than in North America. Clothes and shoes are generally more expensive.

Other stuff: the nightlife in Santiago is a lot of fun. You'll have a ball. The people you meet will love to show you around. There's also a reasonably big music scene that is not at all difficult to tap into. Cycling is not as easy - there aren't many dedicated bike lanes in the city, so to ride for pleasure you'll have to ride TO the areas that are good for riding (there are trails along the Mapocho river etc.) However, riding to anywhere is not something to jump straight into - the traffic here is a little less ordered than you will find in North America. Pedestrians and cyclists maneuver at their peril.

There is a very good public transport system - from the subway and an extensive bus network to a network of 'micros' - taxis that run specific routes and charge by distance traveled. If you're in a pinch, regular taxis are quite affordable.

Language: Chilean is to Spanish as Cockney is to English. It's a fun one to figure out! The accent is highly particular, and the local vocab is highly creative and poetic.
Regarding lessons - your best resource would be the language school you are going to be teaching in. They'll be tapped into the language-classes network.
A lot of people speak a little bit of English, and almost everyone is happy to help you figure out what you need.

Other things - travel travel TRAVEL! Chile is narrower than California, but from north to south spans every single possible climactic zone - from deserts where it has NEVER rained, to Alpine mountains and lakes, all the way down to Antarctica. You will find yourself spending every spare peso you have going places. There are various ways to do this - from air travel to decent long-haul buses with nice reclining seats for the overnight hauls. You will not regret spending a single penny you make doing this.

CachandoChile is a fun blog to poke around - it discusses chilean culture and language from the perspective of the interested gringo.
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:05 PM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

btw: in terms of other extracurricular activities, it's worth noting that birth control (condoms and the pill) are available everywhere, but abortion is completely illegal.
posted by tabubilgirl at 3:11 PM on May 16, 2012

Great stuff here. Thanks so much!
posted by saul wright at 3:57 PM on May 16, 2012

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