As with every country, there are many words and habits that are distinctly Chilean. I’ve encountered several so far, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you all, so here we go!
Bacán = cool, dope
Cachai = right, got it (ex. Vamos en diez minutos, cachai?; Hay mucha gente mala, cachai?)
Buenas ondas = good vibes
Cómo estai? = Cómo estás? = How are you?
When you come home or go to sleep or leave the house, etc… you do a little half hug with an air kiss and touch right-cheek-to-right-cheek.
A lot of the plumbing systems are pretty old, so toilets can’t handle too much, so you have to put the toilet paper in the trash can. Also, a lot of public places don’t supply toilet paper, so it’s BYOTP.
People don’t acknowledge strangers unless they’re secretaries or someone providing a service. If you’re just on the street and make weird eye contact, the norm is to just look away instead of smiling or anything. Break those habits of friendliness!
The coffee is mostly insta-coffee — not high-quality. And lower your Starbucks expectations so that you are not disappointed.
Although my host family makes good food, I have heard from my compañeros that Chilean food generally doesn’t have much spice or tons of flavor. (There’s a Venezuelan arepa stall near my school, though, which is a pretty great lunch option.)
The food is also super cheap. Lunch for $1.500 (about $3 in the US) is not uncommon!
Most buildings don’t have air conditioning, which is weird in a place that gets so hot during the summer, but it really isn’t necessary in homes. Because it is such a dry climate, if you’re not in direct sunlight, the temperature is generally quite tolerable. Also because of the lack of humidity, the temperatures drop considerably when the sun goes down, so evenings and mornings are gloriously chilly — a fairly unfamiliar idea to us East-Coasters during the summer!
Some of these things are super strange while others are just wonderful changes, but for the less-pleasant parts we’ve all been learning to adopt the attitude of “It’s not bad; it’s just different.” It’s all about the attitude!
I’m definitely getting more comfortable with the culture, but it hasn’t even been a week, so there is clearly much more to learn and adjust to — entonces venga!
Peace and Blessings x
(From Santiago, Chile)