1 ) Santiago can be dangerous!
I personally never felt under threat walking the streets of Santiago during the daytime hours. However, if walking alone at night, especially where I lived, downtown Compañía de Jesús, I’d often have to walk past Plaza de las Armas to get home. And boy would I power walk! The good thing is that there are a fair amount carabineros dotted around that do provide a sense of safety. But I would eventually find out that it’s not always walking alone at night that you should wary of…
I remember driving down the highway one night with my sister and a friend, we’re all laughing, singing, and then BOOM. The back window of the car was shattered into tiny little pieces that covered the back-seat where I happened to be sitting. I was incredibly freaked out, I thought it was a gunshot! But no.
Luckily our friend knew what was going on and continued driving until we were safe. I later learned this was a trick used by crooks to hijack cars.
2) Smog and pollution
Chile has a pollution problem. Not only can the downtown air be a smoggy place to breathe, but past 8pm the streets fill with garbage bag mountains that require one to hold their breath and power walk past a good 45 seconds until the air no longer reaks.
A memory that sticks out to me was the day after new years in Valparaiso (lovely place); to leave the hostel to the bus stop it felt like an obstacle course not to bump into a garbage bag scattered across the piss-drenched streets. Not cool Chile. Not cool.
This reason is fairly obvious – earthquakes within the ring of fire. And Chile as part of this seismic brotherhood have the subject covered down to it’s very own cocktail, the terremoto (see reason 2). Tremors are every-other-day occurrences in Chile, and most people are accustomed to these. But once in a while, a 7 richter scale strikes; and if you’re sitting in your 19th floor apartment alone and the room suddenly begins to swerve, wobble and shake – well that can be quite terrifying… Until you look outside your window and realize that everyone else is continuing with business as usual. The earthquakes of Chile may not be for the faint hearted, but this country has invested so much into its architectural infrastructure that earthquakes are rarely a valid concern, unlike Mexico, for example. Which I did happen to experience first hand, and boy was that shitstorm.
It’s no secret, Chile is a downright classist country in which many people will judge where you fit into society in less than 5 seconds, based on your appearance.
A Chilean friend once demonstrated how easily he could differentiate between the “flaites” lower-class Chileans and the “cucios” upper-class Chileans. It can be complicated, but more often than not the rule goes, if you’ve got light skin and European features, you’re already at an advantage and it’s very unlikely you will ever have to do certain jobs. Whereas if you’ve got darker skin and indigenous features, it’s already going to be a lot harder for you to go far in life. The racism is so disappointing.
Every country has its pros and cons, but that shouldn’t get in the way of travelling the world and delving into new cultural experiences (except for North Korea, I don’t know why anybody would go there.) Chile is an amazing country to discover. GO!