Chile is a beautiful diverse country, rich in tradition and a growing economy. According to Wikipedia the economy in Chile is ranked as a high-income economy by the World Bank. It is also considered one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. The Global Competitiveness Report OF 69 for 2009 – 2010 ranks Chile as being the 30th most competitive country in the world, and the first in Latin America, well above Brazil (56th), Mexico (60th) and Argentina which ranks 85th. With mining playing a critical role in its economy, Chile offers tremendous opportunity for expatriate miners looking for new opportunities. As an expatriate, life in Chile can be very different to what you are accustomed to, so it’s important to understand and be aware of what life in Chile is really all about. Chile is a country that has a lot to offer, including an affordable cost of living, low crime rate and good climate. Depending on where you live in Chile, the weather ranges from areas where the climate is desert like, to a Mediterranean climate, to a cool damp climate, depending where you are. Exploring Chile you are bound to come across breath taking glaciers, forests, lakes, rivers and beaches. It truly is a diverse, beautiful country. Rural Chile is beautiful and unspoiled with its towns and cities offering top level infrastructures and facilities.

There are currently around 17 million people living in Chile, around 89% of whom live in the cities and bigger towns. The official language is Spanish. Chile is also known to offer the highest quality of life amongst the South American countries. Salaries in mining are also generally competitive. According to the results of our recent salary survey, some local mining professionals in Chile are earning very comparative salaries to those in regions such as the United States and Canada.

Chile has a reputation of having the best most advanced medical care in Latin America. Many of the medical professionals in Chile have an international education. It has an efficient public health care system, although there is also the option of private health care. Private healthcare is also very affordable in comparison to regions such as the States and the United Kingdom. With modern healthcare facilities, highly trained medical personnel, and sophisticated equipment, expatriates should not need to worry about medical issues in Chile.

Drinking water is safe in Chile, with 95% of the population having access to a safe water supply. However, if you have a sensitive stomach it is recommended that you initially drink bottled water when arriving in Chile, and ensure you wash fruits and vegetables with bottled water before eating them, to allow your stomach time to adjust. Another thing to remember is that although Chile has a reputation for making amazing wines and lagers, the average Chilean does not drink very much.

Expats who want to work in Chile need to keep in mind, that according to the InterNations Connecting Global Minds, the country has the highest amount of working hours in the world. In recent years the number of working hours was reduced from 48 to 40 hours per week. However, as long work days do not necessarily make for higher productivity; there are some Chileans who still work those extra hours to meet their deadlines. Some people in Chile also have a reputation of not answering emails or returning calls as quickly as many would like, this can be frustrating for expatriates who are accustomed to having work issues dealt with promptly. On the upside, because the cost of living in Chile is so affordable compared to many other countries, expat retirees find that they are able to live very comfortably on their foreign pensions.

Chile offers tremendous opportunity for mining expats, with many of the world’s biggest mining companies running offices in Chile, many of them based in Santiago where they have operations in the north of the country. Mining is an industry that as a whole pays well in Chile, with very competitive salaries to many other regions. Once you have a job offer, getting a work permit is a relatively simple process, normally sorted out by the employee.
Many expats love it, but there are those that find it hard to adjust. It is not as glamorous as living in Australia or California, but it is a country that has a lot to offer. When living in a foreign country it’s important to try to adjust to the way of life. Superficial things such as how you shake hands and greet people, food, language and basic etiquette are very important aspects to master when living abroad. They are also all things that can soon be learnt by observing how the locals live and interact with each other.

One does need to remember however, as with any move overseas that it can be hard adjusting to life away from home, and Chile is a country that one would preferably need to try before committing to, but has plenty to offer expats. While taking off and actually moving to Chile may seem daunting to many, there are countless opportunities for those who are ready and willing to take the plunge!

3 Responses to “The expatriate life in Chile”

  1. Pedro Pablo Díaz

    Congratulation this is a great article and very accurate.
    Pedro Pablo Diaz
    Ambassador of Chile in Australia

  2. Rodrigo Plaza Avendaño

    Hi Susan, I’m Chilean currently living and working in New Zealand and I’m looking to return to my country. As Mechanica Enginer, I have been working in mining industry for last 14 years (10 in underground and 4 in open pit) always in charge of the maintenance of mobile plant. In Chile I worked for Contructora Gardilcic at “Mina El Teniente” and “Mina El Peñon”, and in New Zealand I worked for Oceana Gold in Reefton Mine and Macraes.
    For more details please feel free to contact me.

    Regards / Saludos

  3. Jaime Yasky

    Hi Susan, congratulations for you review of Chile and for highlighting such things as traditional rural life and the variety of climates it has. For the record, the work hours per week went down from 48 to 45, Although not at levels of Eastern Europe countries, Chileans do drink robustly (alcohol is cheap and readily available). Unfortunately, public health is not good in the big cities. Meeting a few ‘compadres’ or ‘comadres’ (mates, buddies) to show you around is a must to taste the goodness Chile has to offer. Páselo bonito.


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