Customs in Chile

Countries  »  Chile  »  Local Customs

Customs in Chile

  • Although modern in many ways, Chile remains basically traditional. You will do far better if you do not openly denigrate or flout those traditions. People speak in conversational tones.
  • Unlike other countries in Latin America, the Chilean police force is admired for its honesty and competence. Report any complaints to the police the moment you receive them, including criminal activity. Bribing is not acceptable in Chile in contrast to the rest of Latin America, and you will likely get arrested if you attempt it.
  • Do not assume that your hosts in Chile will have a low opinion of Pinochet. May be a surprise, but his government still has many supporters, so be careful when raising the issue. Even if you want to talk other political subjects than Pinochet, people still can get very opinionated and even raise their tone when it comes to politics. Depending on your opinions, they can either call you "communist" or "fascist".
  • Chileans are very friendly people. Most of them will be willing to assist you with directions or advice in the street, bus stop, subway station, etc. Just use common sense to avoid danger.
  • Be careful: many people can speak and understand English, French, Italian or German, be polite.
  • Chileans hate arrogance. Be arrogant and you will have problems; be kind and everyone will try to help you.
  • Chileans will know that you are a foreigner no matter how good your Spanish is. Don't get upset if they call you "gringo" - most foreigners are called that, it's not meant to be offensive.
  • If you are of black race or dark skinned, you might be called "negro" in a friendly way. This is by no means similar to the n-word. Most Chileans are not racist, but unlike other South American countries, nearly every person of african heritage is a foreigner. Besides, "negro" is a common nickname for people with dark skin. (Negro is the Spanish word for black).
  • Between 1879-1883 Chile fought a war against Peru and Bolivia over what is today the country's northern territory. Chile won against both countries but lost a portion of Patagonia since Argentina threatened to attack. Many years later, the Chilean people feel bitter about losing terrain in the south and proud over annexing what is today northern Chile. Bolivia still claims to get back that area, or at least, an "exit to the ocean" which has angered many Chileans and some express racist comments towards guest workers and illegal inmigrants from Peru and Bolivia. On the other hand, there are also many Chileans who do not find any wrong in reaching an agreement with Bolivia and grant them access to the ocean. Ask as many questions as you want, but be careful with phrases like "Peru or Bolivia has the right to the northern territory.
  • A few Chileans of German heritage (mostly in the south) are rather proud of being German. Some knowledge in the German language is useful here. Chile has also a 500.000-strong Palestinian community (it's estimated that less than 1% actually speaks Arabic), so be careful when expressing Zionist or Pro-Israel viewpoints(or avoid traveling if you are a pro-Nazi or Zionist) - there might be a Palestinian-Chilean that feels offended.
  • If you are a Israeli, be gentle, Israeli reservists are reputed to be rude and leave without pay in Patagonia.Besides environmental damage after the fire in Torres del Paine some people believe that Israeli soldiers have mental problems and are arsonists or dangerous. Must convince them that you're just a tourist.

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