Posts Tagged ‘Santiago’

Summer – Santiago style

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re sweating basking in the glow of summer. Last year, I spent almost every January and February weekend by a friend’s pool. As a self-admitted tanorexic (no really, you can be too skinny, but I’m not sure you can ever be too tan), pool time is a key feature of any summer.

This year, however, we have a problem. While most newer apartment buildings in Santiago come with pools, over this past year my friends and I all seem to have ended up in houses and apartments without. Obviously the lack of pool is a challenge to say the least. Enter the public pool.

Growing up in California, I never went to a public pool. I had my own in my backyard, as did many of my friends. In fact the only time I can remember ever going to one is in France, of all places. My family and a few others had rented a house in a small village, and when we kids rebelled against the monotony of days filled with the croissants, cafés and contemplation of slow-paced village life, our parents brought us to the local pool for an afternoon.

Club Providencia - ready for the sunbathers to arrive

Club Providencia - ready for the sunbathers to arrive

Today I had my first semi-public pool experience. I say semi because I went to Club Providencia’s pool. The club is a gym and social club run by the municipality of Providencia, one of Santiago’s comunas. The fact that people pay to be members (the gym is members-only) makes me hesitate to call this a 100% public pool, but they do let anyone pay to visit the pool for one day. Works for me.

It seems like a lot (or even most) of the municipalities have piscinas municipales, but I don’t know much about them. I knew La Florida had a few only because they ran a promotion with the Santiago metro system last year offering discounts for charging your metro card with a certain amount. A quick search, however, reveals all sorts of pools all over the place!

Tupahue pool on San Cristóbal

Tupahue pool on San Cristóbal

Despite this apparent smorgasbord of aquatic options, there’s no doubt as to the best-known pools in Santiago. The two pools on top of Cerro San Cristóbal – Tupahue and Antilén – hold that title. They’re really big with fancy designs and great views, and they get packed in the summer. I’ve never gone in either, but after today’s first dip into the public pool waters, I’m starting to think I may have to have this quintessential Santiago experience before summer ends.

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Christmas in Chile

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

That’s right; I said it. The “C” word. Not Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings, but Christmas. Here in Chile, we don’t go in for PC, diverse, inclusive messages of holiday cheer – it’s straight-up Feliz Navidad.

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Outside La Moneda, the seat of the executive branch / CC BY 2.0

My dirty little secret is that I like it. I come from the San Francisco Bay Area, a bastion of all that is, well, PC, diverse and inclusive. I don’t remember when I was taught that it’s better to say one of the non-religious wintertime greetings because I think I always knew. I understand that the thinking is that while I celebrate Christmas, you may not, but I have to say I find it a little silly. If someone were to wish me a Happy Hannukah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan or whatever, I’d take it as their way of wishing me well rather than an attempt at converting me.

That’s why being in primarily Catholic Chile at this time of year is refreshing. Although the weather may not have me thinking Christmas, most apartment and office buildings have a decorated tree in the lobby. And it’s festive, damn it. I like that magical elves (or secretaries, close enough) decorated our office with garlands that have a decidedly red and green bent. They may not encompass the personal beliefs of every person in my office, but they sure brighten up grey-blue cubicle walls.

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I’m not by any means saying that everyone should celebrate Christmas. I’m not religious, so I can’t get too excited about the real reason behind it all, and if you have your own favorite holiday then I wish you a very good one of those. And if I bump into you on the street, I hope you’ll understand what I mean when I say “Merry Christmas.”

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!


Monday, November 9th, 2009

It’s November, and that means that we should be sweating down here in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, however, not yet, much to my dismay.

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In fairness, last summer stuck around a bit longer than usual. So I could forgive an extra week or two of winter. September 18, Chile’s independence day and time for long weekends and general merry-making, is usually considered the start of spring. After that date we still get plenty of grey, chilly days, but it’s usually heating up more or less definitively by mid-October.

But this? This seems like overkill. This morning was overcast, and I froze in my 3/4-sleeve jacket, wishing I’d opted for fuller coverage. Sure, by the time I got out of work it was decent enough, but by no stretch of the imagination was it hot.

Most Chileans I know are similarly frustrated by this shy summer, but they’re not too worried about it yet. That’s because unlike me, they didn’t hear about the Northern Hemisphere’s awful, cold, wet summer. As soon as I saw raindrops fall in California in JUNE, I started hoping Chile wouldn’t get hit with its own weird weather during what should be the warmer months.

I’m not giving up hope just yet. We’ve had enough nice, warm and even hot days to give me hope that this might just be a fluke, and by this time next month I might be missing the cool mornings and downright cold nights. But I will say that I’m starting to get worried. Weather gods, if you’re listening, please bring a little summer to Santiago.

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Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Even More Chilean Bloggers

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I originally started blogging to replace the mass e-mails I’d been sending to family and friends detailing life after the big move to Chile. It seemed like a good way to let people keep up with what I was doing without cluttering their inboxes. As it turned out, barely anyone I actually knew read my blog – or if they did they never commented. But thanks to the blog, I met several fellow gringas in Santiago, some of whom have become close friends. I’ve also found other people whose writing I really enjoy, even if we haven’t met in person quite yet.

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Cachando Chile, written by Margaret Snook, is one of the purest Chile-focused blogs I read. Margaret’s from the US but has lived here for years (18 if I’m not mistaken!), and she’s got some interesting insights onto both the little and big quirks of life in Chile. Plus, if you like her style, she’s now got a radio show on Santiago Radio, and you can listen online.

Bearshapedsphere, brainchild of Eileen Smith, is well-written, well-photographed, and just plain funny. Eileen’s post on 5 places she’s biked from Santiago cracked me up, although I am very glad I didn’t have to take those trips!

Kyle Hepp is back in Chile – yay! I suppose I should add that this is the first Chile blogger I met, and she just so happens to be both my wedding photographer and an honorary bridesmaid. All bias aside, however, the girl’s got some good stories about Chile and the photos are AMAZING.

Abby chronicles her adventures as an English teacher in Abby’s Line. Although I’ve never taught English, I’m in the minority among gringas, so if you’re considering a move down here and want to get an idea of the lifestyle, definitely check out this blog.

Leigh of Crooked Compass is a less regular blogger, but I found her latest post about birth control in Chile really interesting.

Rounding out my list is Colchaguino, written by property agent, house remodeler and funny Brit Matt. He’s recently moved from the coastal city of Valparaiso to the wine country town of Santa Cruz and shares the occasional ensuing confusion. Plus he can help you buy a winery!

That should be enough to get you started on some Chile blogs, but if you’re looking for more, check out my blog roll. And if you find a new one – or are yourself a Chile blogger who I haven’t met – please let me know!

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Eating local in Santiago

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

One thing I really enjoy about living in Chile is that I eat much more seasonally and locally. In the US, sure, I understood that tomatoes tasted better, strawberries were bigger and stonefruits fell off the trees in summer. But beyond that, I couldn’t tell you when celery was in season or where my lemons came from.

In Chile, by contrast, eating out of season is harder than consuming in-season prodcuts. The bigger supermarkets do now tend to stock produce year-round, and I’ve traded the “product of Chile” stickers in December for “producto de California” stickers in July. But when I have the option of spending a bundle for a rock-hard nectarine that’s traveled thousands of miles or for the same price coming home with a bag full of oranges from a few hours away, the choice is pretty clear.

Imported products are also expensive. It’s a long, skinny country, so I suppose technically not everything I consume is local even if it is domestic. Most milk, for example, is produced between the 9th and 10th regions in the south – about 10 hours from Santiago. But that’s still more local than products whose ingredients are flown into US processing plants from around the world, and most fruits and vegetables come from farms relatively close to the city. Plus, the short distance from the coast to just about anywhere means that fresh, local sea food is always available.



The difference in price and availability has made me much more aware of what food grows when. Not surprisingly, in-season produce is not only cheaper, it tastes better too. I’d rather really enjoy delicious, juicy peaches for only a few months each year than force down a hard, flavorless one in the middle of winter. It’s also made spring more exciting, as the open-air markets burst into color as myriad fruits come into season. I had my first strawberry the other day, and not only was it delicious but it made me excited for the advent of summer.

We usually buy our groceries at the supermarket for convenience. Nothing can compare, however, to taking a weekend trip to the Vega Central, Santiago’s main open-air market, and seeing stall after stall stacked high with fresh produce. The colors and the smells are enough to tempt me into making the trip, and the products taste better than the industrially produced stuff that hits supermarket shelves.

Clearly I'm not the only one who likes to shop at la Vega!

Clearly I'm not the only one who likes to shop at la Vega!

Chile certainly can’t compete with California in terms of the organic movement, and there isn’t much awareness of the enivronmental benefits of eating locally and seasonally. That said, the simple fact of the matter is that it happens, regardless of the reason, and I for one am appreciative that living here makes it so easy for me to make what I consider to be better food choices.

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Getting sick in a foreign country

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Alright, so I’ve got a bit of a cold. I’m not going to complain, and I’m not writing some treatise comparing healthcare in the US with the health system in Chile. I’m talking about why we get sick, the explanations that each culture gives for that cough, sneeze or headache.

Of course the answer seems pretty obvious: we get sick because there are viruses and bacteria, and sometimes they win in their fight against our immune systems. Sure, back home in California I’ve heard people say “you’ll catch your death of cold” or warn someone to come in out of the rain in order to avoid falling ill, but for the most part we write off the idea that people could get sick from a chill or some water as an old wives’ tale. It may be true that being cold and wet can lower your defenses, but only germs can actually cause an illness.

In Chile, however, I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that a change in temperature is will cause a cold. Walking out of the steamy, warm bathroom after taking a shower and into the cooler bedroom could have me laid out with pneumonia if I don’t get completely dressed and dry my hair first. Wet hair in and of itself is a killer, as is walking around in bare feet. I’m pretty sure that Chilean host mothers around the country pray every night that their gringo host children will buy themselves some slippers before they have to make that awkward phone call to the child’s biological parents informing them that unfortunately, Johnny has died of a case of cold toes.

I don’t mean to say that the whole virus/bacteria concept hasn’t reached Chile. It has – in fact healthcare here is on par with what I’ve seen in the US – but it hasn’t eradicated the belief that not staying warm enough plays a huge part in any illness.

The truth is, after a while the argument starts to make sense. Staying warm probably does help keep my defenses up. Case in point: that cold I have? I’m convinced it started Monday night, when I was at a barbecue outside without enough warm clothes on. These Chileans might be on to something.

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Secrets my doorman knows

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Here in Santiago, Chile it’s not unusual for an apartment building to have a doorman or conserje. Conserjes not only add to a building’s security by making sure nobody gets in who shouldn’t, good ones like the men in my building also perform all sorts of helpful tasks like grabbing that bag of groceries just as it’s slipping from my fingers, receiving packages and holding onto my boyfriend’s keys when he’s gone and I’ve accidentally left mine at home.

There’s a clear relationship between resident and conserje, which means we use the formal verb conjugation usted and don’t get into details of our private lives. But despite all that, my conserjes know plenty of things about me that most people don’t.

They know my friends and in one case my friend’s dog. They know my in-laws and my own dad from his visit here. They know what time I go to bed every night because it’s right after I take the dog out, how often I go to happy hour (and come home perhaps a bit more smiley than usual) and, perhaps most embarrassingly, just how often we order pizza.

And yet they don’t know big things, like the fact that I’m not married but did recently get engaged! They’ve assumed we were married since day one, and correcting them seemed pointless, so now to cheerfully exclaim “We’re getting hitched!” would require a lengthy explanation. I can’t wait to see their faces the day I come out of an elevator in a white dress. They have no idea where I work or what I do.

I don’t plan on sitting down for a heart-to-heart with my conserjes any time soon. When in Rome, as they say, and in this Chilean version of Rome I’d probably only succeed in making some very nice men feel very uncomfortable that the chatty gringa wanted to share her life story. But I do laugh a little to myself every time I look at my engagement ring or answer the door to the sushi delivery guy – my conserjes get a very different view of me than anyone else does. I wonder what they think about it.

Emily Williams wrote this article for where she talks about expat life.  She shares more about life as a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Size matters

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I had to both laugh and nod in agreement when I read Julie’s post. At 5′9″ there is no reason for me to have bought some size extra small shirts during my latest trip to the US. Sure, I have a slim build, but what about the slim 5′2″ people? Where do they find clothes? Have I just missed out on the new US fashion – perhaps inspired by the recession – of using your t-shirts as both dresses and sleeping bags? Either way, it’s a far cry from what I’m used to in Chile, where my 1.75 meters pretty much make me a giant. Let’s just say shopping is tricky in Santiago.

That said, I don’t know if I agreed with Julie’s point about the portions in the US being bigger. Yes, I know that we have an obesity epidemic, and I know that both our dinner plates and our restaurant meals are far larger than any person needs to survive. But if you think that the average dinner in the US is bigger than the average Chilean almuerzo, you clearly do not have an abuelita, a grandmother.

As an expat, you of course won’t have your own Chilean grandmother, but you can latch on to a significant other or close friend – abuelitas are usually happy to welcome another hungry mouth to the table. My boyfriend’s usually tells me that I’m too skinny before loading my bowl with cazuela, a Chilean soup that’s a meal in itself, what with the large chunks of chicken, vegetables and potatoes. But it’s not a meal, just your appetizer. My plate then comes piled high with more chicken, steak, more potatoes and a variety of salads.

Because abuelitas tend to be good cooks, and my surrogate abuelita is no exception, I finish my portion through sheer will – I’m never actually hungry enough for all of that food, but it’s too good to stop before my plate is clean. And then she asks if I want seconds. And remarks that I eat so little when I explain that really, I might explode if I take another bite!

I’ve seen the statistics on US portion sizes. But I think that when it comes to the biggest portions out there, Chilean abuelitas could give US restaurants a run for their money, and at least the restaurant doesn’t guilt trip you into eating more. And who knows, if I stay in Chile for the long term, maybe some day I’ll work my way up to a US size medium!

Emily Williams wrote this article for where she talks about expat life.  She shares more about life as a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

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