Why To Visit Chile
By: Lauren Hutton
- Chilean Spanish is endearing
Weon cómo estai? Oye perro, sácate unas minas po culiao. Bacán. Shesumadre, caña de mierda. Filete. Fome. Sipo. Yapo. Po-po-po…Cachai?
Before arriving in Chile you’ll most likely be warned about how impossible it is to understand Chilean Spanish. Although it’s true that once in Chile, you’ll need to update your textbook Spanish vocabulary with some chilenismos in order to make it through the trip. This process can actually be extremely gratifying, as Chileans use a ton of fun-sounding words as well as playful expressions in their everyday lives.
The first thing you’ll probably ask yourself is “Who the hell is Po?!” And that’s a valid question, because Chileans like to say “po” a lot! Po a slang word for “pues” (well) and is somewhat comparable to the Argentine ”che” as it is used to emphasize what is being said, as can it be used in practically any sentence.
“Sipo” – yes, “Yapo” – ok, “Vamos po” – Let’s go guys , “Qué bacán tu auto po”- Your car is awesome…
“Mi pololo me dijo que no, y yo le dije que ná que ver po”… You get the gist.
The word “po” is so heavily ingrained into the Chilean vocabulary, that even my lecturers at the very prestigious Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, managed to slip it into every other one of their sentences during seminars.
But asides from “po” there are so many other fun words you’ll never want to give up even once you’ve left Chile. Such as “taco” for traffic, and replacing “mucho” with “harto”.
And let’s not forget my personal favorite, “pololo” and “polola” for boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s so much more fun to say than “novio”. Try it! PO-LO-LO.
Although some may complain that chilean Spanish is unintelligible, to me it sounds warm, playfulness, with just the right amount of attitude to keep you on your toes.
- Carrete! Chilean Nightlife
Chileans know how to have fun and they definitely know how to party. An opportune time to witness this is during the Fiestas Patrias in September when the air will waft of asado you´ll be surrounded by a sea of people holding the national cocktail; the terremoto. Terremoto literally mean an earthquake, and consists of pisco, cognac, rum, grenadine syrup, and a scoop or two of pineapple ice cream on top.
Santiago nightlife is also vibrant, especially around Bella Vista which is always full of drunkards, monday till sunday. Santiago is also diverse and LGBT celebratory; I would find myself in gay bars more often than not, and even attended a “Drag” Beauty Queen contest – “Reinas de la Noche” in which my friend’s father was competing. (He came in 3rd place, we were very proud.) This was a completely new experience and I was blown away by the entire catty, yet well-humored charade.
The point is that Chileans are a well-humored people, with a more open mind than they are often accredited to.
There is a stereotype that Chileans are somewhat timid when compared to other Latin Americans. One of the first things I learned about Chileans, was that they were shy, reserved, and antisocial, in comparison to their Argentine, Brazilian, and other Latin American cousins. And this can be true sometimes. But I’ve figured it out!
What I’ve found is that the best time to approach Chilean people – is to wait for the right moment. And that moment, my friend, is when they are heavily inebriated. Damn, Chileans will treat you like their best friend when they are inebriated.
That’s how I made all of mine.
- Sunsets and Landscapes
In a country with such picturesque landscape, it’s no surprise that Chile homes a nation of nature loving, introspective people. Chileans love their sunsets; they love to contemplate their country’s beauty. In fact, it’s pretty typical for a santiaguino to end their workday by mountain-biking to the top of “Cerro San Cristobal” making it just in time to watch the sun sink behind the jagged silhouette of the Andes, before speeding their way back down. Or if at home, a moment will always be taken at that time of the afternoon to stand out on the balcony and witness in awe as Santiago’s hilly cityscape basks in the sunset’s glory.
Chile is a country of extreme biodiversity, with desert, coastline, mountains, forest, lakes, volcanos and glaciers, all within its borders! There is so much to do and see, so many places to go.
In need of a mini-break from the hustle-bustle of Santiago city life? That’s not a problem, an hour’s drive will have you snowboarding and skiing the slopes of the Valle Nevado. Or if you’re more of the surfer-type, in the same time you can be at Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, riding the waves and enjoying the beaches.
Or perhaps you’re in search of a soul-healing experience. In that case, a two-hour flight up north will get you to the arid deserts of Atacama where you can lie beneath the cloudless night skies and stargaze into infinity and beyond.
Fancy a road trip? Why don’t you head south down the Ruta 5, stopping along the way at the hot-springs of Chillán, maybe visit a winery in Talca, and the Laja waterfall, before arriving at the lake district where there are number of quaint towns such as Pucon, Villarica and Puerto Montt to explore. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the amount of activities available such as watersports, day treks through wildlife, mountains, volcanos. The experience can be intense, but the views are well worth the vertigo.
Chile is a place to be outdoors! Its sublime natural beauty makes for a truly humbling experience
Music is another reason to fall in love with Chile. Not only were musical groups such as “Los Prisioneros” an active, and iconic part if of the Pinochet dictatorship counter-cultural rebellion during the 80s. Today, contemporary musicians such as “Los Bunkers” and “Francisca Valenzuela” continue to contribute to Chile’s solid musical status in the spanish speaking world.
Not to mention that whilst in many countries street artists are regarded as nuisances, this is not the case in Santiago, with it’s practically magical street music scene. As you make your way through the crowded streets and metro, there are designated areas for musicians to impress passers by. These musicians’ skills are acknowledged. As do they bring a certain surreal essence to the city experience of stumbling through the santiaguino streets; almost as if you are being followed by a movie soundtrack throughout your day.
- Chilean Spirit
History has been harsh on the world, and Chile is no exception. Having endured two consecutive military dictatorships until 1990, the people of Chile endured massive oppression that included massacres and disappearances. Perhaps this has something to do with the sentimental core of the chilean people. In no other country have I seen so much love and affection towards friends and relatives; relatives gazing and waving frantically through the glass window at customs, cherishing every last moment to see their loved ones off.
Even the way chileans treat the stray animals on their streets demonstrates a loving spirit. Most street dogs I have seen in Santiago and well fed, dressed in doggy coats during the winter, and in the summer are usually seen sunbathing in such a carefree manner that they almost look dead.
Why Not To Visit Chile
1 ) Santiago can be dangerous!
I personally never felt under threat walking the streets of Santiago during the daytime hours. However, if walking alone at night, especially where I lived, downtown Compañía de Jesús, I’d often have to walk past Plaza de las Armas to get home. And boy would I power walk! The good thing is that there are a fair amount carabineros dotted around that do provide a sense of safety. But I would eventually find out that it’s not always walking alone at night that you should wary of…
I remember driving down the highway one night with my sister and a friend, we’re all laughing, singing, and then BOOM. The back window of the car was shattered into tiny little pieces that covered the back-seat where I happened to be sitting. I was incredibly freaked out, I thought it was a gunshot! But no.
Luckily our friend knew what was going on and continued driving until we were safe. I later learned this was a trick used by crooks to hijack cars.
2) Smog and pollution
Chile has a pollution problem. Not only can the downtown air be a smoggy place to breathe, but past 8pm the streets fill with garbage bag mountains that require one to hold their breath and power walk past a good 45 seconds until the air no longer reaks.
A memory that sticks out to me was the day after new years in Valparaiso (lovely place); to leave the hostel to the bus stop it felt like an obstacle course not to bump into a garbage bag scattered across the piss-drenched streets. Not cool Chile. Not cool.
This reason is fairly obvious – earthquakes within the ring of fire. And Chile as part of this seismic brotherhood have the subject covered down to it’s very own cocktail, the terremoto (see reason 2). Tremors are every-other-day occurrences in Chile, and most people are accustomed to these. But once in a while, a 7 richter scale strikes; and if you’re sitting in your 19th floor apartment alone and the room suddenly begins to swerve, wobble and shake – well that can be quite terrifying… Until you look outside your window and realize that everyone else is continuing with business as usual. The earthquakes of Chile may not be for the faint hearted, but this country has invested so much into its architectural infrastructure that earthquakes are rarely a valid concern, unlike Mexico, for example. Which I did happen to experience first hand, and boy was that shitstorm.
It’s no secret, Chile is a downright classist country in which many people will judge where you fit into society in less than 5 seconds, based on your appearance.
A Chilean friend once demonstrated how easily he could differentiate between the “flaites” lower-class Chileans and the “cucios” upper-class Chileans. It can be complicated, but more often than not the rule goes, if you’ve got light skin and European features, you’re already at an advantage and it’s very unlikely you will ever have to do certain jobs. Whereas if you’ve got darker skin and indigenous features, it’s already going to be a lot harder for you to go far in life. The racism is so disappointing.
Every country has its pros and cons, but that shouldn’t get in the way of travelling the world and delving into new cultural experiences (except for North Korea, I don’t know why anybody would go there.) Chile is an amazing country. GO!