Chile: First impressions

I’ve been in Santiago, Chile for a month now and thought to share my first impressions in a quick update.

  1. There are lots of skyscrapers, gigantic shiny glass buildings and more are on the way. Does the building work ever stop?
  2. British supermarket brands reign supreme. Waitrose, Tesco, Asda… they’re all here. And a Chilean version of Boots the chemist is here too. On my first morning here in Chile, waking up to British cornflakes, it all felt rather surreal.
  3. It’s very green. There are parks everywhere and palm trees line the avenues and highways. Well, at least the pretty little pocket where we live. It certainly makes the banking district look more welcoming, Not all of downtown is quite so lush though.
  4. Chile feels very safe, but… You’ll see people chatting on their mobiles in the street, kids cycling on the pavements, families strolling seemingly without a care in the world. But crime is still an issue. Car jackings with guns, tasering of mums in the streets (apparently mothers with strollers are a prime target as they’re more distracted) and handbag snatching is very common. Walking around after dark is a no no. I don’t want to become paranoid, but as a newbie I’m erring on the side of caution.
  5. Children are very, very welcome. What is it with the people here? They LOVE kids. Even my double trouble Rafa and Sebastian when they’re screaming their little heads off. Young professionals rushing to protect Sebastian when he was cycling dangerously close to speeding traffic, police guys stopping en route to wave to my kids ‘hola! ninos!’, a general addiction to kissing babies…. Did someone put something in the water? Babies and children are given preferential treatment almost everywhere, including at the visa office, meaning we got to skip this very, very long queue.
  6. Thank goodness for nanas. Nannies are called ‘nanas’ here in Chile and they’re priceless. Without ours, I’d never dare to let my kids have so much fun.
  7. You really feel the mountains. While we’re living in a very urban area, it’s refreshing to feel the nature of the mountains close by. Come this weekend, we’ll be exploring more of Santiago’s rural side. The mountains are also a useful landmark for newbies like me. The pointy volcanic one is to the north, the range of other mountains to the east and as for the south… well I guess it’s to the other side (I never was good at geography). 
  8. The sunshine is perhaps blurring my sense reality. Moving here in the summer was a smart move. For the kids it feels like one long vacation – swimming, paddling, playing outside until well past bed time. A couple of weeks ago my eldest child asked me, ‘Mummy, can we stay in Chile for every day?’ Fingers crossed the honeymoon feeling doesn’t wear off when the winter chill sets in. 
  9. Manicures are cheap, compared to the UK anyway. £20 for a full mani and pedi? Don’t mind if I do.
  10. Driving is confusing. Motorways that morph into giant spaghetti junctions without any warning, traffic that changes direction according to the time of day and taxi drivers who follow their own set of rules. For now, I’m sticking to Uber.

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