Aerial view of Santiago, Chile with mountains in background

Diversity in Santiago

Click to scroll down and read more

CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location. 
The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location. 
No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues.



Chilean people can be very direct and honest about a person’s size and weight, for example greeting each other by saying “You’ve put on weight!” or “You’ve lost weight!” This should not be seen as an insult and is not meant in a rude way. It is simply the equivalent of saying they have noticed you and they care about you. Chileans also make many comments and assumptions based on physical appearance, but it is usually because they are interested and want to learn more.

It is also important to note that Chile is a culture with more physical contact. Personal space is much smaller and there is more casual touching, (kissing of the cheek, touching the arm or shoulder).


Public facilities in Chile are usually not disability-friendly, it can be difficult to find elevators (although most places would have one). Host institutions mostly have disability access pathways and elevators. Universities are also developing resources to align to more inclusive access to educational experiences. Clinics, hospitals, shopping malls, and most public transportation, bus and subway lines have access points.                               

Students are encouraged to provide as much information as they can related to their specific disabilities (or related needs) prior to arrival so CIEE staff can assess potential challenges and arrange for appropriate accommodations.



In this regard, Chile is a very traditional country and there are strong ideas around gender roles. However, among young people, there is a growing awareness of and desire to support trans students and non-gender conforming students. 


X Gender Marker

While non-binary genders are not officially recognized in Chile, as local law only recognizes the male and female gender binary, activists have put the issue on the table, and changes have been rapidly reflecting institutionally and socially. 

In 2022, Chilean activist Shane Cienfuegos was the first person in the country to get an official local ID with X gender marker. This decision was made by a judge, so it may not yet be extended to the whole non-binary population, but the expectation is that government and private organizations will begin to adjust their administrative documents for non-binary people. 

While this happens, we encourage CIEE students to be prepared for some inquiry by local police while crossing the border.



Chileans will generally be very excited and proud to receive heritage speakers. They will be very eager to speak to these students but may be slightly surprised if they have only a low level of Spanish or knowledge of Chile.



Chile is a relatively homogenous society and has only experienced immigration within the past few years. Chileans will be curious about foreigners and people of color. Chileans will normally have many assumptions about those who are different from them. It is also normal for Chileans to make racial generalizations. In Latin American society it is not seen as rude to call someone by their skin color, for example. Foreigners may attract a lot of attention in the streets, especially among people who have not seen many foreigners before

To address both overt and latent racism and discrimination – although rare – CIEE Santiago staff are available to provide support and resources to help all CIEE students enjoy and learn from their study abroad experience, irrespective of – indeed, celebrating – our diverse racial and ethnic identities.  CIEE Santiago is sensitive to the range of these issues and will provide information and support to proactively create an inclusive community.



Chile is a Catholic country and observes many Catholic holidays. Many of our host families observe these holidays and may attend church. Students are often invited to participate, but by no means are they obligated to participate. Some students participate to increase cultural understanding even if they are non-religious.



While attitudes are changing, many people will still have conservative views. It is generally not a conversation topic and sexual orientation is considered a private matter. During orientation and throughout your program, CIEE staff are on hand to provide advice and support regarding these issues.



Chilean people will very rarely ask students questions pertaining to money matters; however, culturally locals are used to discuss and occasionally ask questions about salaries, housing prices, or cost of living overseas. Some may assume that as a student has come from the U.S., that they have a lot of money. Students should not feel pressured to answer these questions in detail as it is merely curiosity. The cost of living in Santiago is lower than in the United States. In general, students to save money eat out in places near university neighborhoods known as “barrios universitarios,” buy snacks in supermarkets nearby their housing or schools or get fresh vegetables and fruits from markets. “Ferias,” or grocery stores “almacenes” are cheap options too. There are always options to make the best out of your budget; local staff can provide tips and information about food, clothing, and travelling.

Programs in Santiago