Upset about the Trump election? So disgusted that you are ready to wait out these four years (they could be eight!!) in another country? Did you boldly declare that you woud leave the country if Trump won (because you believed the New York Times when they said Hillary had a 95% chance of winning)?
Really, moving away is not such a bad idea. Living abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience. (Full disclosure: I’ve been an expat for more than 6 years.) I am ready to convince you that Chile, of all places, is an excellent place to do so.
The country has its own political crisis, but nobody like Trump is anywhere on the scene. There is no major anti-immigrant, racist or misogynist political figure. In fact, the country currently has a female president who also served once before from 2006 to 2010. Chile is becoming more and more open, especially in the capital city Santiago. Though traditionally a Catholic country – divorce only became legal 10 years ago – it has recently legalized abortion under certain circumstances, there is now a general acceptance of gays and marijuana use is tolerated and widespread.
You are young and you like going to parties. Well, Chileans know how to party. You think we go hard in the US? Here is the schedule for a typical night with Chileans. Meet at someone’s house for an 8pm BBQ, which then at 10pm turns into pre-drinks, or a “previa” as they say. In a previa, you will typically drink about a fifth of Pisco, the Chilean national spirit, between four people. Then around 1am the whole group heads out to a dance club, or “disco”. Discos close at 5am on weekends but that does not mean everybody goes home at that hour. There is always the typical after-party or “after”, which can be in someone’s house or at clandestine location. Overall, alcohol, taxis and covers are all cheap down here. Plus Chileans are an attractive bunch, especially if you like the mix of European and Indigenous features.
Chile is a country with unrivaled nature. The Andes mountains and the Pacific ocean span the entire length of the country, and since the country averages only 110 miles in diameter this means you will never be more than a couple hours from either. In the north of the country you have the Atacama desert which is one of the driest regions on earth and home to the desert oasis village of San Pedro, a popular destination for backpackers. In the south of the country you have thousands of miles of forest and lakes stretching all the way to the Patagonia, at the country’s southern tip. There you will find the national park Torres Del Paine, a true wonder of the world. Outdoor enthusiasts from across the globe flock there to climb its famous peaks and observe wildlife such as pumas and condors.
Chile has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and can boast having the highest GDP per capita in the region at $24,000 USD. It is also the second most developed country in the HDI after Argentina, putting it at the same level of many European countries such as Portugal and Hungary. Owing to its market friendly economic policies, many international corporations have a presence in Chile and it is a popular location for their head offices of the Latin American region. Most likely whatever job you are currently doing in the US will also exist in Chile. And if not, you can also always make a good enough living as an English teacher – something countless expats already do down here.
Quality of Life
You can live well in Chile, especially in certain neighborhoods of Santiago that are popular with expats. In Las Condes, Vitacura and Providencia, it feels like a “first-world” country. Chile has a good health and education system though a lot depends on how much money you have. (But is that really much different from how it is in the US?) There are tons of parks across Santiago and people know how to make good use of them. It won’t take too long to get your first invite to a weekend BBQ in a park. Violent crime in Chilean cities is much lower than in the US. Yes, there are a lot of pickpocketers and muggers but the worst that will happen is they will steal your wallet or cellphone. Chile is also a country with a lot of culture and each year Santiago plays host to a wide variety of cultural events such as festivals, expositions and fairs. There is always something going on. I can’t have talked this much about Santiago without mentioning the obvious problem of air pollution. It really is quite disgusting. But levels of contamination are not any worse than in Los Angeles so don’t let this deter you.
Are you convinced now? Good! Because, as luck would have it, Chile has an incredibly open immigration policy. Perhaps in a later post I will explain how I went from having a tourist visa to becoming a permanent resident in 20 months. It is not hard at all! So stay tuned.