Wildly beautiful and absurdly long and narrow, Chile ‒ el pais del poetas (the country of poets) ‒ can stretch expats’ imaginations as casually as it tries their patience.
It’s always good to do extensive research before relocating to a new country, and Chile is no different. Our list of pros and cons is a good starting point for any prospective residents of this gorgeous South American country.
Cost of living in Chile
+ Pro: Affordable rent
Rent prices are certainly one of the perks of living in Chile, as they’re fairly low for a major international destination. Single expats can reduce accommodation costs even more by seeking out Chile’s incredibly cheap shared-housing options.
- Con: Groceries are expensive
Food is cheap compared to many regions around the world, but rather expensive when weighed up against other South American countries. This striking price difference to neighbouring countries is true for supermarkets and eating out.
- Con: Education is expensive
For the most part, expats in Chile send their kids to private schools, which are hugely expensive. Some expats may be able reduce the cost by negotiating an education allowance as part of their employment contract, though.
Working in Chile
+ Pro: Relatively strong economy
Chile has one of the strongest, most stable economies in South America, and quite possibly the region’s most competitive job market. The main economic sectors are mining and agriculture, but finance and tourism may also have opportunities for expats.
- Con: Slow pace
Expats may struggle with a general tardiness in the Chilean work culture. Colleagues may not respond to emails or return calls in a timely fashion, or acknowledge messages.
- Con: Job market restrictions
Companies value qualifications over experience in some sectors, especially degrees earned in the US or UK. This might mean that expats from other parts of the world will begin the job-application process at a disadvantage.
- Con: Language barrier
Outside of English teaching positions, the job market tends to favour Spanish speakers.
Getting around in Chile
+ Pro: Good public transport network
The capital, Santiago, has an extensive, reliable public transport network of buses, taxis and the metro, at relatively low prices. Long-distance bus travel in Chile is also affordably priced, and has a reputation for comfort, efficiency and punctuality.
Healthcare in Chile
+ Pro: Good healthcare system
All legal residents are entitled to free and subsidised public healthcare, which is managed by the government-run Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA). Expats who don’t have residency won’t qualify for FONASA and will have to rely on private healthcare. Most doctors in the public and private systems are well trained and speak English.
- Con: Public, slow; private, pricey
For expats who get to choose between the public and private systems, there is a trade off. The public system drags a bit and waiting times for operations can be long. The private system, on the other hand, can be rather exorbitant.
- Con: Quality varies regionally
While expats will find modern equipment and facilities in major cities, the situation is wildly different in smaller towns and rural areas.
Lifestyle in Chile
+ Pro: Beautiful landscapes
Chile lies between the mighty Andes Mountains and the vast Pacific Ocean, and stretches from the Atacama Desert to the glaciers of Patagonia, transporting travellers to a different fantasy with every change of region. Road trips in Chile are the stuff of legend.
- Con: Air quality
An unfortunate geographical fact is that cities situated in valleys – such as Santiago, Temuco and Osorno – often have their cold winter air sealed in by the landscape, trapping pollution too. Pollution in Chile is seasonal, though, and far less severe than in many other countries.
- Con: The Spanish is challenging
Chilean Spanish has a reputation for being difficult, with some sources regarding it as the most challenging variety of the language. The Chilean habits of cutting the “s” off the end of words, speaking rapidly and mixing in a lot of Chilenismos (Chilean slang) account for why foreigners have been known to struggle with the local Spanish.
- Con: Slowness
Chile isn’t too particular about punctuality, whether in personal or professional life. This can take some getting used to.