Life as an Expat in Chile

by Mark Wynn

One of the most obvious differences in Chile and the US you would first notice is the lack of cops on the roadway. They don't ticket people here EVER. They don't have tickets on them. That's not their job! You do see a checkpoint on a summer day on a road trip once a year. The one time I got stopped. He realized I was a gringo , he pointed out my license was expired, smiled and waved me on. It was my first exposure to not-for-profit policing. You have to literally insult the police with your driving to get stopped here and that's only a guess cause I've never seen it in 7 years.

You know another much smaller difference in the US and here is no predatory towing industry. I can't even tell you exactly what happens. If you can't find a parking space, and you can't get on the sidewalk, you can stop in the road with your hazards, run in do your business and people go around you. Stuff still functions. People are happy to share that option.

There is a less governed level of personal responsibility here. There's no noticeable insurance industry here or lawyer industry for that matter. For instance, you are not responsible for auto insurance here. If you get in an accident you exchange info and hope for the best. But the roads here are in excellent shape. The highways are like new. The sidewalks are use at your own risks sometimes.

There's no auto industry. So the govt is not in the position to defend anyone. You can buy super affordable and reliable vehicles from various cheap labor countries.. Electric cars and work trucks, 5 wheel electric motor vehicles. Lots of 125cc motorcycles for cheap. Up to like 8 person industrial work trucks that have 8 foot beds for like $16,000. You can find dozens of VW buses in the area. Soviet made Ladas even. Indian made Mahindras (a badass truck). I own a Chinese Dong Feng mini cargo van. It hums along at 100...that's kilometers.

One industry Chile does excel at is the affordable housing industry. Because earthquakes mainly, the prefab housing industry is unbelievably affordable. $5000 you can get a basic 2 bedroom place with a porch. There is no equivalent in the US. Death and TAXES are indoctrinated into you at an early age in the US. So the govt can inspect and value your life for taxes. The Chilean govt doesn't seem to put a burdensome expectation on your civic contribution. I have one electrical inspection on my house and that's when I get hooked to the electric grid. Imagine if Floridians could rebuild every year if they needed to? If your house is going to blow away do you want to invest $150,000 or $5000? The US could have this if it wasn't for the govt protecting the countless industries that depend on your home being too big to fail. That's life in the US. They have a lot riding on you and your productivity.

Maybe the second thing you would notice is that Chile offers a pre Walmart type of life. For every industrial offering there are countless neighbors bodegas offering the same thing. You have to go out of your way to go to Walmart. I can just cross the street and buy everything I need for weeks on end. And it has a pleasant effect on the neighborhood. We are literally here for each other. People say Hello every chance they get. And little kids talk to strangers. "Stranger" is a weird concept that doesn't even enter their vocabulary. Kids always call you "Uncle". The first time a kid yelled that at me from across the road I refused to look up cause there's no way that kid just called me uncle. I was wrong. How would that not make a stranger welcome?

Chile has a pre industrialized diet. If diet is important to you Chile can't be beat. There are giant markets in any town. The range of fruits, vegetables and fish available to every Chilean every day is unequaled in the US. Fresh bakeries are everywhere too. I can buy fresh bread at 5 or 6 places within 2 blocks. Food is so available here you can live without a refrigerator! It is a community that still excels despite Walmart. There's a Papa John's and a Domino's but how often are you going out of your way for that when you have to pass so many better options.

Your neighbors here are cobblers, bakers and mechanics. There are shoe shiners at the plaza. Do you know how enjoyable it is to get a shine at the plaza and ask the old guy what the coup on Sept 11th 1971 was like cause he remembers the troops taking the plaza over. This is just an unbelievable place.


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