Living and living in Viña del Mar
It’s best to book a hostel or AirBnB for the first few days and then look at the apartments on site. On compartodepto.cl you can find some rooms and apartments. During the introductory week you usually meet nice international students who are also looking for accommodation. In the Facebook and WhatsApp groups, offers are also diligently shared and roommates searched for. Usually you can find a permanent place to stay within a short time (a few days).
I was a little lucky and took over a room in Recreo, a district of Viña del Mar, from a German student abroad and already organized this from Germany. I first lived in a four-person flat share with two Chileans and another German, and shortly before the end of my stay, the roommates changed. The landlords lived above the flat share and were very nice and helpful. Internet, electricity, water and laundry were included in the rent. I was also allowed to receive visitors for a few days free of charge. The roof terrace with sea view could also be used.
The standards in Chile are different from those in Germany. The houses are not well insulated and have no heating. So from July to September it was still pretty cold in the apartment. I bought an electric radiator for the equivalent of € 32. Recreo is a very quiet, safe area with a perfect location. It only took me 15-20 minutes to walk to the university (5-8 minutes with the Colectivo) and I was in Valparaíso within 5-10 minutes with the Micro. There were also a few mini markets, restaurants, bakeries, a greengrocer’s and cafés within walking distance. In Valparaíso, the neighboring town, it is certainly nice to live, too, but it is a bit less safe here at night than in Viña del Mar.
The Chileans speak extremely quickly and have poor Spanish, which means they use a lot of colloquial language and like to leave out the “s” in words. It is also said that once you learn Chilean Spanish, you will understand Spanish anywhere in the world because it is so difficult to understand. Here is an example: Cachai? = Do you understand? Cachai comes from to catch (from English) and instead of the s at the end, the Chileans often say an i, also with Cómo estai? (actually Cómo estás? = How are you?) Also: palta = avocado, bacán = cool, great.
The Chileans are extremely proud of their country. This is evident not only in football, but also in the week of September 18, the day independence is celebrated. On the occasion of this day we had a whole week of vacation, which I and many others used to travel. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to miss the festivities and went to some fondas (comparable to a fair, but with typical music, games, traditions, food), learned Cueca (Chilean national dance) and celebrated with my Chilean friends.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit payhelpcenter.
I have never seen a more bureaucratic country than Chile. There have been many situations in which I have noticed this, especially at university. Sometimes you have to insist on things to get what you want. At university, it was best to talk to people in person and keep asking them for something, an email often wasn’t enough. Patience is often required because processes take much longer here.
The spoken word doesn’t count for Chileans. It is best to put important things in writing – including agreements with the lecturers. Unfortunately, the Chileans cannot be relied on. They always appear at least half an hour late for appointments, if you meet in a larger group, the delay can be 1-1.5 hours.
The Chileans are very helpful when asked for help. But they often offer help on their own. A couple of fellow students and a lecturer drove me into town in their car after the lecture.
“Carrete” / going out culture:
If there’s one thing Chileans can do, it’s partying. In Viña del Mar and Valparaíso there is the possibility to go out every day of the week, be it bars, clubs, or salsa and bachata bars. Entry is free for international students, provided you have entered a list in advance. Everything from reggaeton to electro is played in the discos.
At the vegetable markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, I bought extremely cheap fruit and vegetables every week. The Chileans are known for their high consumption of avocado – “paltas” are available on the market for the equivalent of around € 2 a kilo, 2 kilograms of mandarins for around € 0.90, to name just a few examples.
There is a lot of rubbish lying around on some streets (unfortunately rubbish separation is also missed) and plastic bags are practically thrown afterwards in supermarkets and on the Ferias. In supermarkets, the so-called “Propineros” earn their money by packing their purchases in bags and apparently the following applies: the more bags, the more tips. Slowly, however, there is also a rethinking in Chile and a few supermarkets no longer offer plastic bags.
Many (peaceful) street dogs live in Viña del Mar. They are part of the cityscape and you quickly get used to them. But you shouldn’t feed them, because then they won’t leave your side and follow you everywhere.
In Chile, but generally in South America, a lot of handicrafts are sold and also offered on the street. Since Chile’s largest industry is copper mining, there is a particularly large amount of copper jewelry sold.
I took four courses: “Dirección Internacional de Empresas” (International Business Management), “Temas Contemporáneos de Latinoamérica” (Current Topics in Latin America), “Culturas en Contacto” (Cultures in Exchange), and “Gramática y Composición B2” (grammar and composition B2). I liked this mixture a lot because, in addition to classic business administration topics, I also covered topics that are not offered at my university. I was able to learn a lot about the South American economy, politics, culture and society.
I already spoke Spanish very well when I arrived in Chile. First of all, I needed something to understand the Chileans because, as I said, they speak super fast. However, I quickly got used to it. Thanks to the grammar course, I was definitely able to improve my language skills significantly and in the other courses I also learned some new vocabulary. After a while, I even added Chilean words and phrases to my vocabulary – sí po!