Top 10 Annoyances of Living in Chile

To follow up with my last post on the Perks of Living in Chile, here is a list reflecting the other side of the coin.

Top 10 Slight Annoyances of Living in Chile (in no particular order):

1. Bureaucracy
Just so you have an idea of how it can be and how ingrained it is, this is the process to buying bread at a bakery: 1. you ask for what you want at the counter; 2. they weigh the bread and hand you a bill; 3. you pay for it at the cash register; 4. go back to the counter; 5. hand back your receipt; and 6. finally receive your bread. Some places will add a step, and of course there are lines in between. This is just buying bread, so don’t even get me started on stamping official documents!

2. Refrigeration
One annoyance that my international friends and I could agree on is the refrigeration. Both cooked and uncooked food is left out, uncovered  for hours and things that should be refrigerated are sometimes left out as well. This has really grown to be a pet peeve of mine.


3. Crazy Driving
Oh Valpo, how I love your beautiful hills, yet I cannot tell you how many times I held on for my life during a bus/taxi ride through them. Bus drivers in Santiago aren’t so maniacal, but taxis are in a different ball park.

4. Proxemics
Proxemics (distance between you and another person/group of people) varies based on personal relations, culture, social norms and even population density. In Chile confortable spacial distances are generally closer than in the US. In Santiago, home to 1/3 of the country’s population, you might experience little bubble space which can be uncomfortable, especially in normally crowded areas like downtown or the bus and metro during rush hour.

Photo: Cachando Chile

5. Variety of Food Products in Grocery Stores
Self explanatory. Chileans tend to live off of the basic food items, and when you’re craving something out of the ordinary, specific health foods or gringo items, it’s either very hard to find or freakishly expensive. I was recently on the hunt for maple syrup when it came to an abrupt end when I saw one for $30 USD. To say the least, I settled for blueberry syrup.

6. Nescafé (No es café) and Tea Bags
Chile has a high consumption of tea and the coffee suffers (it’s usually instant). Actually the tea isn’t so great either as it stains your cup and is usually low-quality, bagged ceylon. I suggest buying your own if you’re living with a host family or in the work place.

7. High Quantities of Bread, Salt and Oil 
Despite the bureaucracy involved in buying bread, Chileans are only second to Germany in the world’s bread consumption. As you can imagine, they eat tons of it! Salt and oil are also used liberally. I never saw salt dashed on a salad until I came to Chile.

8. Language
Chile is like the Oakland of Latin America; they use a lot of slang. I find it interesting how it transcends social groups and age. You can hear professionals use some of the same slang as teenagers. Some words have been used so much that it’s plainly become part of the Chilean dialect. On top of that, for a non-native speaker, Chileans speak very quickly, drop letters like the “s” and “d” (very common in other dialects), and sometimes don’t enunciate very well. Even a Chilean will tell you it’s a hard place to pick up Spanish.

On the other hand, if your Spanish is poor or you have a gringo accent, sometimes people may try to speak to you in English. In my experience, few speak very well and other times you want to just yell “SAY IT IN SPANISH!” either because you understand Spanish or their English sucks.

Recommended Resources: Diccionario de uso del español de Chile (DUECh)

Ther is no “jungle” in Chile, but great dictionary for beginner Chilean speakers.

9. Expensive Material Items
When I first came here, I expected shoes, clothes and technological products to be cheap, however it is quite on the contrary. Computers, cameras and phones can be up to double the price you would pay in the states! Thank god I go back a couple times a year!

10. No Toiletries in Public Restrooms
This becomes really annoying when you are out with friends, having a great night out and having a couple drinks. Have to pee? Sorry, no toilet paper! Don’t forget to BYOP (Bring Your Own Paper!). There is usually no soap or napkins either; however restaurants and cafes are usually good with the supplies.

Honorable Mentions: 

1. Protests and Tear Gas
Since last year, Chilean students have been protesting for education and it continues. Once the water cannons and tear gas come out, it stays in the air for a while. The protests themselves aren’t annoying, but accidently walking into tear gas a couple times because you didn’t know a protest was going on earlier that day can be a little frustrating.

Photo: Carlos Vera/Reuters

2. Potentially Getting Robbed or Hustled
I never had this problem since I’ve been told that I look Chilean, but I know for some gringos this can be something to keep in mind when traveling since they generally stick out like a sore thumb and they might not be familiar with how things work here. On my way to a concert with Francisco, a taxi cab driver boasted about how he hustles fellow gringos into paying initially paying more and having them pay extra when arriving at their destination and blaming it on lack of understanding.

3. Slow Customer Service
Coming from a very fast paced society, I feel like a wait around a lot due to bureaucratic systems that exist everywhere or just that the customer attention is not as strong or because everyone is on CST (Chilean Standard Time = late for everything). I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to be an obnoxious, American and complain, but I see it as practicing patience. Sometimes you have to look on the bright side!

4. Late Lunches!
They start around 2-3pm!

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