Retiring In Chile Familiarizing Yourself With Common Chilean Customs

As can be expected when retiring to any foreign nation, those who choose to retire in Chile will encounter certain societal practices and behaviors that may be somewhat different from standard cultural customs in their home nation. Common Chilean customs are a topic worthy of attention and close study by anyone planning to live in Chile for their retirement.

An Overview of the Chilean Cultural Identity

Chile’s population is one of mixed ethnicity. Many Chilean citizens are of Spanish descent, though other nationalities are present in the population, including Germans, Italians, Irish, British and several Middle Eastern countries.
Indigenous cultures are another prominent part of the population. Close to a million Mapuche people reside in Chile’s southern regions, and other tribes such as the Ayamara, Atacameno and Diaguita groups are found in the north. Easter Island, about 400 miles west of the Chilean coast, is inhabited by many indigenous Rapa Nui citizens.

Religious and Familial Influence on Chilean Culture

Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in Chile, and its influences are visible not only in the family-oriented Chilean society, but also in law. Abortion, a legal, though intensely debated practice in the United States, is directly forbidden under Chilean law. Until 2004, divorce was illegal. Both of these laws stem from the Catholic stance on the issues in question.
Family is incredibly important to many Chileans. Many businesses are family owned and operated, and nepotism is a common Chilean business practice.

Common Chilean Customs Useful to Retirees

In Chile, two men will shake hands as a formal greeting, while two women may pat each other on the right shoulder. The appropriate verbal greeting depends on the time of day–“Buenos dias” during the day, “Buenas tardes” during the afternoon and “Buenas noches” at night.
If you become friendly with a Chilean native, social interactions will become more relaxed, but remain formal and polite until your Chilean friend becomes more casual. For example, you wouldn’t use a Chilean’s first name in conversation unless prompted to do so, and if the person has any title you know of, remember to use it until instructed to do otherwise.

Dining Etiquette in Chile

Dining in Chile may be formal in nature. As a result, maintain certain practices of native cultural etiquette when eating.
Don’t sit until instructed to by the meal’s host. Keep your wrists on the table, but not your elbows, and avoid drinking your beverage until a toast has been made. Additionally, it may be considered rude not to finish everything on your plate, so don’t feel hesitant about enjoying the cuisine and wine of Chile.