This has been my first week in Chile and so far I love it! I would never have imagined that I could have bonded with the people I have met so far in so little time. I am living with a host family with the mother, Monica. I have a brother, Cristian who speaks some english. I also have a sister, Gisselle and she has a daughter, Antonia. They have all been so welcoming and helpful in my first few days here. We live in a cute pink house on one of the “cerros” (hills) called Playa Ancha.
Our group of people on the trip is very small with a whopping five people!! We are all from around the US and all miss heating and warm weather. Despite only knowing these people for 6 days, I already have grown so close with them. They are all incredibly smart and beautiful people inside and out! For the past week we have had orientation in which we have small Spanish lessons as well as shop for uniforms, school supplies, and register for ID’s among other things. Already, I have begun to spot many differences between American and Chilean culture. I will sort these by major and minor differences.
Heating: One of the biggest differences that can be noticed immediately is the lack of heating in every building. Chilean winters are not harsh in temperature and in Valparaiso it never snows however, even so, everyday it can be extremely cold. As I am writing this, I am sitting on my bed, now equipped with four blankets and cursed with cold hands. Not a single building that I have seen so far has had heating. Beware: even if you think that you can brave the cold (I believed this, being a Mainer and all), you must swallow your pride and realize that in fact, you cannot. Come prepared!
Public Transportation: In Valparaiso, the most common form of transportation is la micro. These are buses that run throughout the city. Although this doesn't sound very different from that of those in the United States, this is because you have not yet ridden one. Almost immediately after stepping onto the bus, the driver will slam on the gas peddle and speed down the hill. Whether or not you are fully on or not, they do not care. Driving here is one of the most scary things I have witnessed so far. The drivers speed a lot, constantly switch lanes, and drive side by side even when the lane is only supposed to fit one car. It is quite a ride!
Dinner: In Valparaiso, dinner is not in the vocabulary. Every night, at around six, families sit around and eat what is called “la once”. This is basically a second breakfast, filled with toast, eggs, manjar (dulce de leche), butter, and tea. Rather than eating dinner, people eat la once. I have always been pro breakfast-for-dinner so this is no problem for me!
Uniforms: At almost every school, there is a specific uniform that has to be worn. For some people, this is not very challenging because they were used to a uniform or strict dress-code in their home country. Although this shouldn’t take too long to get used to, I can’t say I will enjoy wearing the same clothes everyday and looking like everyone else!
Some minor things I have noticed are that Chileans LOVE tea. At nearly every meal, you will be offered tea. I’m not quite sure why England carries this stereotype rather than Chile but if you are coming, be prepared for lots of tea and many trips to the bathroom! Another difference is that while Americans drink a lot of water or milk at meals, it is most popular to drink soda or juices. Water is not very common to drink and so far I haven’t had a single glass of milk. Lastly, I recently went to the movie theater with my host family. We saw the Incredibles 2 and it was great! However, I noticed that the popcorn they serve there is sweet rather than salty. It’s very good but just another small difference I have noticed while being here so far.