A Million Miles Away

So I’ve talked a bit about my traveling and adventures here in Chile, that I feel like I’ve neglected some of the cultural and daily life aspects. So, here goes my best shot at explaining some of the differences between Chile and Texas.

Family Life

I’m hesitant to stereotype this too much. However, one thing I’ve said constantly to my roommate and friends back home is that I feel like family life is more important here than in the USA. Now, don’t get me wrong – families are, for most people, the source of strength and happiness in the US. But here, it’s different. Many college students don’t have their own apartments – they live with their families. And during the recent Fiestas Patrias (more on that in a second), instead of only partying with friends, they would spend the whole break with family. It’s different – and my friends who live in homestays here in Chile have also attested to this fact – but I believe that Chileans place a stronger emphasis on family life than we do back home.


First off – I severely miss Texas BBQ right now. And spicy food. Chileans do not like spicy food, and their barbecue is very sub-par compared to Texas. Now, having said that, the food here in Chile is pretty good overall, albeit with a much different eating schedule. The normal daily meals for Chileans are as follows:

  • Breakfast – usually pretty nice and filling, but since I have to make my own meals, I’m not really experiencing the full Chilean breakfast.
  • Lunch – the main meal of the day, will last somewhere between 1 and 3 hours! Usually a very filling meal based on some meat such as chicken. Chileans view lunch as the time to sit down and enjoy the company of friends or family, hence the long meals. Our university actually shuts down for an hour each day from 1 PM to 2 PM, during which there are 0 classes scheduled and most people are eating lunch with friends.
  • Dinner – In most Chileans day, does not exist. For all extranjeros, we do not like this haha. Most Chileans replace this meal with a meal called Once, which consists of a small pastry or dessert, maybe small pieces of meat or cheese, bread, and tea.

Now, I have tried two traditional Chilean meals (in the sense that they are unique to Chile) – Chorillana and Curanto. Chorillana originated in the coastal town of Valparaíso, which is where we tried it. It consists of meat on top of sauerkraut on top of french fries. A greasy mess, but actually very tasty. Curanto comes from the island of Chiloé in the south, and consists of mussels, clams, meat (ours has chicken and a beef rib), and potatoes. The awesome part about Curanto is that traditionally, it is cooked in the Earth! Chiloetes will dig a trough, put the food in there, cover it with leaves and dirt chunks, creating a pressure cooker. By far, this has been the most filling meal I’ve had here in Chile.

Chorillana from Valparaíso
Curanto from Chiloé

Fiestas Patrias

Special post for Fiestas Patrias – this is the celebration of Chilean Independence Day. So, Independence Day was on the 18th. Naturally, everything is closed from the 17th to the 19th in celebration. During Fiestas Patrias, there are community parties called Fondas – think State Fair of Texas. At these Fondas, vendors sell all kinds of food, such as empanadas, choripan (sausage in a hot dog roll), antecuchos (meat and grilled veggies on a stick), and other delicious small snacks. They also have performances, such as Cuecha lessons, which is the national dance of Chile. Families will have giant barbeques in the park, and people just enjoy being outside with friends. An incredibly fun celebration, and the national pride becomes blatantly obvious during these days, as every building has a Chilean flag on the outside of it.

Part of the Fonda at Estadio Nacional
One of the shows at the Fonda at Estadio Nacional. Here, this man was teaching people how to dance the Cueca, Chile’s National Dance

Random Thoughts

Sorry for the long post, this is the last little bit. First, Chilean pace of life is incredibly slow compared to back home. In the USA, we’re always running from activity A to class B to club event C to party D to homework study session E. Here in Chile, Santiago without a doubt has a much slower pace of life. In fact, it’s considered very rude if you do not stop and talk to someone you know if you pass them in the street/hallway/wherever, even if you’re running late for the most important meeting of your life. Outside of Santiago, the pace of life is even more slow! For example – when in Ancud in Chiloé last weekend, over 50 people showed up to the main plaza to hangout and watch a church cross be placed on top of the steeple of the Church. That would never happen back home, people don’t have time to just sit around and relax anymore. This has been one of the aspects I’ve learned to value the most about Chilean culture.

The other is about materialism – the United States, in my opinion, is a very materialistic country. We love having the latest iPhone, the biggest TV, the flashiest cars. Here in Chile…that doesn’t matter. When returning from our hike in Chiloé, our guide passed by his house and proudly pointed it out to us – it was maybe the size of 2 dorms room in Jester. Tiny…but in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountains and rivers that I had ever seen. I really respect the Chilean approach to life, and can without a doubt feel it beginning to change my values of what’s truly important at home.

I’ll post soon again to recap recent adventures to Mendoza, Argentina, as well as Chiloé. I’m also traveling to Easter Island in a couple of weeks, so it’s a very busy time here in Santiago, but every day I feel more and more at home here. This is a truly amazing country, more impressive than I ever would’ve imagined. I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of the amazing nature here in Chile.

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