I’ve written a lot about my love of Chile. I love the sunshine, the people, the relaxed vibe. Not to mention the wine, the mountains, the nature… and did I say the wine?
I really do love this country.
But like any country, it’s not all perfect. I’ve been asked by a few people considering the move about the worst things about life here in Santiago de Chile.
Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a personal thing. Here are some of the things to bear in mind if you’re considering a move.
- Shopping. What’s weirder than receiving countless Whatsapp messages alerting you to the presence of tomato puree in tube form? Getting genuinely excited and rushing to the store. Chile produces some amazing raw ingredients, but groceries are limited and / or expensive. Expect underground food finder groups, clandestine grocery smuggling and silly prices.
- Cost of living. Not everything in Chile is expensive. Rent prices aren’t nearly as silly as London’s, but the cost of groceries, and education is. You know when you’ve been living in Santiago a long time when you reckon the equivalent of £12 GBP / $15 USD for a pack of nappies is a bargain. Click here for more on the cost of living in Santiago de Chile.
- Education. Schools in Santiago don’t come cheap. All the expats I know opt for private education and this will set you back. A good school in Santiago could cost around $300,000-400,000 CLP per month. Then add on the exam fee (anything from $20,000-200,000 CLP), the administration fee (around $100,000-350,000 CLP) and finally the incorporation fee (around $500,000-3,500,000 CLP). Now, at risk of sounding a (British private school) snob, don’t expect a lot of bang for your buck. Sure, Chile schools are fine, some are excellent, but they’re definitely not good value for what you get.
- Smog. Pollution here is not just for paranoid millennial. Air pollution is real. In the height of smog season I contracted pneumonia, my newborn got bronchitis and my two year old a chest infection. Not forgetting the constant coughs reverberating round his nursery. Wear a mask, invest in a good antipollution face cream, stay indoors or move to the fresher air of the suburban hills…. you may find smog affects your lifestyle more than you thought.
- Traffic. Picture this, it’s my kid’s first day at school. While some might pause to take a cute #instakid photo, I’ll be shoveling cornflakes into my monster’s mouth at 5.30am. Because the school bus leaves at 6am to avoid the colossal traffic jams. Think we will be moving nearer to his school…
- Sugar, colours, preservatives, fat. Sugar, artificial colouring, chemical preservatives and fried stuff. No birthday party, meal out or trip to the park is complete without them. I’ve had this argument with my Spanish mother in law before, but for the record CHILDREN DO NOT NEED SUGAR. Mine especially. Until I asked my nursery to put an end to the madness, my kids would tuck into goodie bags full of florescent crap on the route home and I’d be stuck with two hyperactive beasts until 11pm. One British Mummy friend was even forced to explain her paranoia to a mum feeding her child cola from a baby bottle. And I’ve been asked to justify my ‘hatred of fat and sugar’ to a mother of a ten year old suffering from type two diabetes. *slap face emoji*
- Special needs. Chile is not great for kids with special needs. Now, let’s be clear, people here are lovely, patient and friendly, but infrastructure, especially schools just aren’t set up to cope. There is a rumour that some schools deny children with special needs and disabilities a place to tweak the performance tables. The excuse is that staff are not adequately trained and they don’t have the infrastructure to cope. Well, the counter argument to that is to train the staff, build the wheelchair ramps, buy the specialist changing tables etc. After all, we’re talking about very expensive private schools here. Some schools, including the school we chose for our son are much better, but I know of parents who decided against relocating to Chile because they couldn’t find a school to accommodate their child’s special needs.
- Winter. I’m British and by my standards last winter wasn’t really a winter. It was a gloriously prolonged mild autumn. But I live in a warm apartment in the centre. If you’re based out in the sticks in a detached house or your apartment faces south, then be prepared to don a few extra (thermal) layers. Chile is used to the warm weather, but many buildings just can’t cope with the cold. It’s not uncommon to be greeted at a dinner party with an extra coat or blanket.
- Crime. Let’s be clear Santiago is not The Wire. However every time a crime pops up on a Facebook forum I shudder. If you’re living in an apartment with a security fence and concierge, if you’re not walking around after dark, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any trouble. Crime tends to follow a pattern of handbag snatching, spare wheel stealing and pick-pocketing. Cases involving masked men with guns are rare, but common enough to make me opt for apartment living right now.
- Distance. Chile is a long, long way from the UK. Which, when it comes to Brexit shenanigans is rather refreshing. But it also means that unless you’re loved ones are latam based, you’re going to face a long flight or wait for a visit. On the upside there are so many fabulous places to visit nearby so you won’t get bored, just don’t expect to see your relations too often. Unless… hang on… maybe that’s an advantage?!
As I’ve said time and time again, I really do love living in Chile however. If the above hasn’t put you off, here are my top reasons to visit (and move to) Chile. If you’re moving to Santiago, you can download my directory of all the places I love in town here.
This article requires an update for 2022. Things have definitely taken a turn for the worst down these parts.
Thanks Javier, you may be right. I am no longer in Chile so I can’t verify for sure, but I am told that danger out on the roads is worse in some areas (e.g. carjackings). I hope you’re enjoying life in Chile nevertheless.
Hi Nina / Javier, is it possible to elaborate a bit? Car jackings – is that commonplace?
And Nina, is it possible to ask your contacts for an update on cost of living in 2022?
I’d also be interested to know whether coastal regions have the same issues regarding smog and air pollution? And the cost of living – has that gone up quite a bit since this post?
Are there many fruit / veg stalls and is all or most of the fruit / veg imported.
Health food shops? Cost of nuts, oat milk etc. would be useful.
I do not mean to scare you, no carjackings are not common, however they do happen. Here are some stats: https://www.numbeo.com/crime/in/Santiago
Nothing happened to me and I felt very safe but this was a few years back. If you’re new in town I’d recommend you live in an apartment first so you can get your bearings. As I’m sure you’re aware don’t walk around after dark, don’t wear expensive jewellery, and check with locals for more on the ground advice.
Re smog, the higher areas of Lo Barnechea seemed to avoid some of the smog in Santiago, but prices can be high. The air is for sure cleaner in other parts of Chile, yes.
Re cost of living, I’m told yes it has increased, but just as it has in the rest of the world. I found groceries to be pretty expensive, so I would shop around. For health foods I would make my own – I’d blend my own oat milk, order nuts in bulk. This post is a little old, but hopefully still within date mostly:
Wishing you all the best
apologies if this post is not appropriate. I do consider to move to Chile in a year as a nomad visa. please advise where I can chat to expats and get more info. thanks
Maybe check out Discover Chile Facebook page? There are closed Facebook groups and they might have more updated info, however do please check with a professional. I worked with EY consultants.
All the best
Is there any changes in Chilean community when their government privatized their river in 2020?
I’m really not qualified to speak on the topic of the privatisation of water in Chile. I do have countryside dwelling and farming friends who have been adversely affected by the privatisation, and I understand it was one of many issues discussed in the recent social uprisings in the context of a new constitution. Although as I say, I’m not qualified to answer, you’ll have to check with locals. You might like to check out El Movimiento de Defensa por el acceso al Agua, la Tierra y la Protección del Medioambiente (MODATIMA) http://modatima.cl
All the best
whats crime like in santiago? are there good healthy english speaking communities? if so where are they located?
So unfortunately word on the ground from friends is that the crime situation has deteriorated since I left. I understand that there are more crimes on the streets, for example carjackings, than when I was in Chile. This is not to say it’s dangerous, just that an extra level of precaution is required. I would advise against walking on the street after dark, don’t wear nothing flashy like a nice watch etc, and checking with locals about places to avoid. If you’re new in town I would recommend living in an apartment until you get your bearings.
As for English speaking communities, yes there are LOADS. Check out Discover Chile on Facebook (closed groups) for some ideas. When I was there they were cookery clubs, comedy nights, book clubs, parent meet ups, language exchanges, art nights…
Wishing you all the best!
Great advice! Thanks! Would you have any hints about taxation? I’m from Canada and currently reviewing a job offer in Santiago but wondered if the move’s worth it given that I’ll have to declare income taxes… Any hints? advice?
Sorry, this just depends too much on your personal circumstances for me to comment, and I’m not a tax expert.
Craig is a financial expert for expats and might be able to help / point you in the right direction.
Wishing you all the best