Living in Santiago de Chile

Although living in a city on the other side of the world often makes people dream, an expatriation is also a source of anxiety because many factors remain unknown: the importance of the culture shock, changing your eating habits, dress code, lifestyle, circle of friend… In order to prepare you as best as possible, we give you below an overview of your future life in Santiago if you go and live there.

The Chilean capital, located in the center of the country, has almost 6 million inhabitants, that is to say a third of the total population of the country. Santiago is the city that hosts the most foreigners in Chile, so that expatriate communities are important and active.

Climate in Santiago

First, let’s not forget that you will change of hemisphere if you come from a country located in the northern hemisphere. Thus, the seasons are reversed: the temperatures begin to cool from April, whereas they increase from November and the days begin to lengthen from September. Therefore, the Chileans celebrate Christmas in T-shirt and sandals, summer holidays are in January and February, back-to-school season is not in September but in March… You may lose your temporal markers at the beginning!

Santiago has a very pleasant Mediterranean climate. Summer is long (about 5 months), days are hot but nights are cool. As for winter, it is cool without being too cold and it rains very rarely. However, Santiago is very polluted in winter (from June to September) because of the city’s geographical situation, so that exhaust gas is not swept by the wind.

Cost of living in Santiago

The cost of living in Chile has nothing to do with neighboring countries such as Peru or Bolivia. Indeed, if you move soon to Santiago, you need to have a consistent budget. The average salary in Chile is US$780 but it is difficult to live in Santiago with this amount of money. For more information on the cost of living in Santiago, you can check out our dedicated article.

Food

As far as food is concerned, you can find almost all the products you are used to in your home country. However, the Chileans are highly influenced by the American culture, so they consume a lot of prepared dishes and soda. Eating a balanced diet is not a priority for the moment, but organic products are gradually appearing in supermarkets.

Several supermarket chains exist in Santiago:

  • Jumbo: it is the most upscale supermarket chain, offering a large selection of imported products.
  • Tottus: it is Jumbo’s competitor but a little cheaper. The range of choices is a little more restricted but still very sufficient.
  • Santa Isabel: it belongs to the same group as Jumbo and is the more “popular” version of it. You will find fewer imported products.
  • Líder: it belongs to the Walmart group and is a relatively basic chain, where you will find essential products if necessary.

For fruits and vegetables, local markets offer better quality than supermarkets. 

Accommodation in Santiago

In Santiago, it is quite easy to find an apartment or a house to rent or buy at affordable prices. Indeed, prices are incomparable with those in London, New York or Paris. To give you an idea if you want to buy a property in Santiago, the average price per sqm is USD$2,300. It can go down to $1,500 and reach $2,900 depending on the location of the property and the time of year.

If you want more information on real estate prices in Santiago, for sale or for rent, you can go to Bretagne Propiedades website.

Santiago’s neighborhoods

Santiago is divided into 37 municipalities and has many neighborhoods with different ambiences. Barrio Bellavista is the neighborhood of Santiago where to go out, Barrio Italia, a bohemian neighborhood, is ideal for a brunch on Sunday morning…

Many neighborhoods are pleasant to live in Santiago. Vitacura, La Dehesa, Lo Barnechea and Las Condes are the most upmarket ones, where most expatriates live. Ñuñoa, La Reina and Providencia are also nice neighborhoods, but cheaper than the previous ones. For more information, you can consult our dedicated article “Municipalities in Santiago: where to settle?

Public transport in Santiago

Santiago’s public transport network (bus and metro) is quite dense and efficient. However, be aware that the metro is often crowded. Regarding the bus, it is better to know the city before using this means of transport or have a map of the city with you because the stops served are often not indicated. It is therefore difficult to find one’s bearings. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your belongings in public transport, as these are subject to numerous thefts. We advise you to always keep your bag closed, in front of you or on your lap. For more information on public transport in Santiago, you can consult our dedicated article.

If you decide to drive, you should know that driving in Santiago is quite sporty and not always faster than public transport.

Safety in Santiago

Do not panic, Chile is the safest country and the country with the lowest crime rate in Latin America. However, as in all countries, there are some safety rules to respect. First, watch your belongings because thefts are frequent, especially in public transport and tourist areas. If you have a car, do not drive with the windows completely down, be it on the passenger or driver side, because pickpockets are very quick and can steal your stuff in seconds. However, carjacking has strongly decreased over the past few years.

Come to Chile with your children

Except for the air pollution in winter (from June to September), Santiago is an ideal city to raise children, all the more so as the safety level is high. For family outings, Santiago has many green spaces, not just small squares but big parks such as the Cerro Santa Lucía, a hill in the middle of the city that offers a wonderful view of Santiago, or the Parque Metropolitano.

As far as the education system is concerned, the Chilean academic pace is peculiar. Each school has more or less its own rhythm. As for the school calendar, back-to-school season takes place in March, and the year ends in December. If you move from the northern hemisphere, your children will probably have to spend a few months in the year they already were in their home country. Only the Nido de Aguilas school follows the school year of the northern hemisphere.

Every school offers a bus system that consists in picking up your children at home in the morning and bringing them back at the end of the day. This service is well developed and works very well.

Having a “nana”, that is to say a maid, is a widespread practice in Santiago. The nana can live at home or come one or several days a week. She can help you a lot at home: babysitting, going out to the park with the children, cleaning, ironing, cooking… It all depends on the working time and the salary granted. In order to avoid any legal complication, we advise you to declare your nana. Word of mouth is often the best way to find a good nana.

Leisure / sport

Santiago is less than an hour from both the Pacific Ocean and the mountains, so day trips or weekends are very easy to organize. During the winter season, it will only take you 45 minutes from the center of Santiago to reach the first ski resorts: El Colorado is the closest station and Valle Nevado is the largest ski area in the southern hemisphere.

If you are fond of hiking, the Andes Mountains offer a lot of trails, for all levels. However, be aware that there is no IGN map, so you will have to do with a GPS or maps provided at the entrance of the national parks.

In Santiago, most multi-sports clubs are private. To access it, the easiest way is to know a member who can then invite you. Membership fees vary but can be very high in the most select clubs. If you have a smaller budget, you can consult the website of your municipality. Most of them organize sport activities at a reduced rate for their inhabitants.

Moreover, Santiago is a cultural city, as it has many museums, such as the famous Pre-Columbian Art museum, but also the Natural History museum and La Chascona, which was the house of the poet Pablo Neruda. Take time to have a cultural parenthesis every now and then!

Find a job / do business in Santiago

Santiago is a growing city which has changed a lot in the last ten years. It was named first city in Latin America to do business. Thus, you can find work or start your business without much difficulty.

However:

– if you are looking for work, you should know that if you are not qualified, or if your profile is not in line with what companies are looking for, it will be difficult to have a decent salary allowing you to live well.

– if you do not have a visa, very few companies will wait for you to go through the procedure. It is therefore necessary to initiate all the steps from your country of origin, before coming, because paradoxically, it is much faster than to make the visa procedures from Santiago, once you are there.

Relationship with Chileans

In general, Chileans are very welcoming and most foreigners are well received. However, in the long run, it appears that the society is quite homogeneous and is not used to the contact with other cultures and thoughts, so even though relations between Chileans and foreigners are pleasant, it seems that friendship remains very superficial. Actually, Chileans mainly weave links in their families, which are often very large.

In short, expatriation in Santiago is relatively easy because the change of scenery is not very strong. It is an ideal city for a first expatriation or an expatriation with your family.

In this article, we try to answer the most common questions about living in Santiago de Chile. If you have other questions, do not hesitate to contact us.