When I moved to Chile three months ago the most asked question that I got from all my german friends and family members was which arethe biggest differences between Chile and Germany. Now that I’m living here for a while and have seen some different spots and explored the country a bit, I´d like to share my thoughts with you.
But first of all I want to make clear, that this is not a judgement. It´s only a list of differences that I recognized and I don´t want to offend anyone. If your own experiences have been different, please let me know in the comments below and I will love to chat with you about it.
The biggest differences between Germany and Chile
One of the things that surprised me the most is how expensive living in chile is. For daily products like food, hygienic products and the living people pay way more than in Germany, even though they earn less money. There is a large discrepancy between rich and poor, and it´s hard to escape those classes.
The minimum wage is only around 385 € per month and pretty often this income has to feed a whole family (time: February 2020).
L I V I N G
֎ Language: Most Chileans speak only Spanish and only a few of them speak English fluently. If you´ve learned Spanish in school you should also be prepared that lots of words are different in chile and that you might need a bit of time to get used to the strong accent and fast Chilean speaking.
֎ Safety is the key: In Chile you either have large apartment blocks, that are surrounded by high fences and to get to your apartment you have to unlock several doors. Or you live in a big building with a concierge. As a visitor, you have to talk to the concierge to register yourself as a visitor and sometimes they even want to see your passport. In one building work, different concierges change their shifts. On holidays like Easter or Christmas, it is typical to give them a little gift as a nice gesture.
֎ Alarm systems are necessary because there are lots of housebreakers that even climb up a house wall to get into a high apartment. There are lots of different systems in chile and some of them you can even turn on/off over your phone.
֎ There is always more than one bathroom. Even when the apartment is not so big, you will pretty often find one bathroom per bedroom. While in Germany you have normally only one bathroom in a 3-room-apartment, you will definitely have more in chile. What also surprised me is that it´s normal to have a guest room, which pretty often isn´t used that much. In Germany you would always use that extra space for something more necessary like a work space, a room to hang up the washing or something else in the daily use.
֎ The window system is also completely different. Often you have only one glass pane that you can´t open or a sliding window which opens completely. While in germany you have tilt windows that only let in a little breeze of fresh air and that you can let open over night or while you are not at home, the chilean windows only open completely. So at nighttime in summer you have to choose between being too warm for sleeping or risking a housebreaker, which happens actually pretty often.
֎ Every bedroom has a built-in-wardrobe and I´ve never seen a nicely decorated single closet like in Germany.
֎ Helpers: Having a maid, a cleaner or other type of helper is way cheaper in chile and even people who don´t have a big apartment or good paying job have a cleaner that comes every two weeks. The more wealthy families have maids, which is a full-time nanny that cooks and looks after the kids. Pretty often there is even a little room in the house for the maid, so that she can stay over night if she wants to.
֎ Holidays: If a national holiday is on the weekend, it gets postponed to the next monday, so you get a long-weekend and never miss-out on a holiday. Chileans take their celebrations very serious and when it is their national holiday, people usually take of a hole week in mid-september to celebrate. The law even says, that every house needs to be decorated with a Chilean flag.
֎ Expenses: Chile is a very expensive country. Even though the majority of the Chilean residents earn less money compared to germans, living in chile is more expensive. Daily products like food and hygienic products cost way more and in chile you also have to pay for the school/university of your children extra as well as doctor invoices.
F O O D
֎ Ordering food is really easy in this country and you can get your supermarket order within 60 minutes.
֎ Supermarkets are always open, even on Sundays and holidays often up to 11 pm.
֎ Plastic reduction isn´t a big thing here yet. Lots of products come in unnecessary plastic bags and some products like jam or ketchup come in a plastic bag instead of a jar.
֎ You can´t buy alcohol at all times.
֎ There is a job for everything in chile. In supermarkets, there is a person who weighs your fruits, then another one who is doing the same with your bakery products. Next to the cashier is also someone who helps you pack your bags and if you came with a car someone will help you to park out.
֎ Waiting is a real thing in Chile. Some processes in this country are not well organised nor do they work efficiently, so if you want to live in chile, you have to get used to waiting in line. Pretty often you also have to get a number at the service counter, even if a store is completely empty and there is no reason for getting a number and waiting.
֎ One of the things I miss the most from Germany is the bread. Luckily they are a few german bakeries (and also some french ones as well) that save my breakfast.
R E L A T I O N S H I P S
֎ Friends for a lifetime: If you grow up in Chile you will meet the friends that you will spend all your life with in school or college. Chileans take their social circles very seriously and the first question that always comes after asking for the name of someone is from which college he graduated. ALWAYS!
This question seems so weird to me, but by telling the college name, Chileans rate the potential of a person, know in which social circle someone is and decide if they want to deepen a conversation or not.
It is really hard to break out of these circles and I met a few people from other countries like Venezuela, Colombia or Argentina that say that they´ve lived in chile for years now, but haven´t really found deep connections ´cause Chileans don´t let new friends in their circle.
֎ Finding friends: So like I said it can be pretty tough to find new friends. I was lucky as my boyfriend introduced me to a ton of his friends and they all welcomed me nicely. I also looked in a german Facebook group for some germans and created a girl’s group that now meets at least once a week for dinner. So I guess it depends on you and how hard you are trying to find friends. To me, everyone was very welcoming and I love how passionate and warm-hearted my Chilean friends welcomed me.
֎ The love aspect: Two things have been pretty weird to me. First of all, couples don´t live together until they are married, which means that it is totally normal for a 27-year-old-one to still live at home and let your parents or maid do everything.
֎ The question: The second thing that always surprises me is how often people ask you when you will get married. I always found it so weird when I saw this in American movies because no one would ever do that in Germany, especially not random people from the street. But whenever I´m going to a party or dinner with my boyfriend people ask the marriage question even though we are just a couple for 1,5 years and still have lots of time.Who would have thought that there are so many differences between life in Chile and Germany? Klick um zu Tweeten
M O R E D I FF E R E N C E S
֎ Weddings I: As I told you already Chileans love their celebrations. In the summertime, there are lots of them and for the last couple of weeks, I´ve been to 12 (!) weddings. The weddings here are totally different from what I was used from Germany. Pretty often they are huge with over 500 guests and often there are people at the wedding that don´t even know the bride or the groom. In chile, it is typical that the parents pay for the wedding and therefore they invite their friends as well to the wedding. There is even a table for the friends of the brother of a bride (and in chile families are big as well, couples usually have 4 kids – so you can imagine how many tables only the siblings of the married couple get ;-)) So going to a wedding is a big event here, which normally last until the sun rises and the locations are so beautifully decorated as if you would live in an American rom-com.
֎ Weddings II: You don´t go to a wedding without a date. Seriously. You don´t. On Chilean weddings you mainly dance with your date, so no one ever comes solo.
֎ Buses: If you want to take a bus, you have to wave to the driver otherwise he might not stop at your station. If you leave the bus you normally thank the driver with a loud ”gracias”. To take the bus you need a bip-card, which looks like a credit card and can get filled up with money. There are also lots of metro stations, but most of them don´t work at the moment due to the burning protests of the end of the year (2019).
֎ Homeless dogs are everywhere, but they are no problem in general. They even cross the streets and know when ist green and they can walk or if they have to stop at red. It is really impressive and sometimes fun to watch.
So these are the differences between Chile and Germany that I recognized so far. Have you ever been to Chile and found some more?
What was the strangest difference for you?