Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile

Santiago Plaza de Armas, courtesy of Paul Lowry via Flickr.

Are you are a small business owner or mining industry worker living in a place such as the USA, Europe, Japan, China, or Argentina where the government believes that the secret to prosperity is to print money, accumulating unprecedented debt that cannot be repaid, burdening you and other income earners for at least the next 40 years? Have you considered emigrating to Canada to enjoy their strong economy but are reluctant to suffer the harsh cold climate? Alternatively, imagine living with a responsible government like Hong Kong, in a Mediterranean climate like California. Unfortunately, no such Utopia exists; however, each individual chooses a life based on what he values most and the deficiencies he is willing to tolerate.

If you don’t own a business or work in the mining industry, finding a good job with high pay in Chile might be hard; a pizza chef in Canada or other rich country usually enjoys a higher living standard. If you can choose your location and maintain high earnings, Chile deserves consideration. If you have capital and the desire and patience to build a business, Chile is a better than average country although it stills lags competitors such as Singapore and Hong Kong. New Zealand emigrant Rob Woodward successfully started and expanded Woodward Chile; German/Chilean Christoph Flaskamp expanded Chilean beer choices with Tübinger beer; and one of the richest Chileans, supermarket tycoon Horst Paulmann, emigrated from Germany 60 years ago.

Downtown Santiago, courtesy of Raul Diaz via Flickr.

Access to a large city is essential for earning income in a poor country, and Santiago is the only large city in Chile. While jobs in Chile for Americans are scarce, other than teaching English, many foreigners start their own businesses or possess skills valued by Chilean employers. The best way to describe Santiago is to compare it to San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, and Austin.

Santiago is about as dense as San Francisco, so it’s easy to walk to grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries, and other amenities, and there are many examples of stunning architecture in both cities. Santiago underground transportation is efficient and safe and makes it easy to reach the important parts of the city in 20 minutes or less. There is no dense city in the Silicon Valley and the only dense area of Austin is downtown, so people rely on their cars for even the simplest tasks of everyday life and often waste time in traffic jams.

San Francisco has Golden Gate Park and Santiago has Parque Metropolitano, both long and useful, while the parks in Austin and Silicon Valley are smaller and disconnected.

Santiago bicycle path in median strip of a busy street.

Santiago is a pretty city with many trees with an extensive system of bike paths on flat land that connect many parts of the city, although the system is incomplete. The steep hills of San Francisco and some parts of Austin are unsuitable for bicycling. Silicon Valley is large and sparsely populated, and there are fewer paths, so bicycles are not as useful as in Santiago. Bicycling is most convenient in Europe, parts of Southern California, and the peninsula between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, especially Foster City.

The climate of Santiago is warmer than San Francisco for 9 months of the year, and cooler and drier than Austin in summer. Silicon Valley has an excellent climate that outshines the others. See my climate page for details.

Music for sale in Santiago, courtesy of Steve Evans via Flickr.

Health care in Chile surpasses most countries because private industry plays a substantial role; there are no long waits in private hospitals and clinics, as in Canada and Britain, and unlike the USA, the government does not artificially reduce the supply of doctors and increase prices by limiting enrollment in medical schools and internships.

The Chilean government taxes private enterprise less than the USA and Europe. The government is raising taxes sharply but consumes 19% of the economy, compared to 45% in the USA and 50% in Germany. One of the most popular books in the USA and Europe is a defense of Marxism for the 21st century. The Chilean peso is a stronger currency than the dollar and euro. The national debt is 6% of GDP, compared to 59% in the USA, 76% in the UK, 63% in Spain, and 50% in Argentina (Source: CIA World Factbook). Santiago is growing while other countries stagnate. The IPSA index of Chilean stocks triped in the 2004-11 period although it has declined in 2012-13.

Cerro Santa Lucia

Cerro Santa Lucia is an attractive park in the Bellas Artes neighborhood. Photo courtesy of McKay Savage via Flickr.

Chile ranks higher than any Latin American country in economic freedom (ranked 7th, ahead of the USA, ranked 10th) and competitiveness (ranked 30th, ahead of Spain, ranked 36th), according to the Heritage Foundation and the United Nations Global Competitiveness Report. Chile was the fastest growing economy of the 20 OECD nations in 2011 and 2012 and is likely to lead again in 2013. Chile is attracting some highly skilled immigrants who are mostly satisfied with their jobs. The cost of living in Santiago is about the same as Austin and much cheaper than San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. Prosperity is driving demand for air travel:

Chile has recorded 17% passenger growth for the second consecutive year, making it the fastest growing market in Latin America. The rapid growth in Chile is somewhat surprising as it is one of the more mature markets in Latin America and the market is dominated by one player, LAN, which can have a stifling impact on competition. But the small country of 17 million continues to support rapid increases in travel propensity, which is already the highest in Latin America, driven by a strong economy and Chile’s unusual geography.

After recording flat traffic figures for 2009, Chile’s aviation market has grown by 57% over the last three years to 15.2 million passengers, according to Chilean Civil Aeronautics Board data.

Real estate has rocketed in recent years, the government created a commission to determine whether it’s an investment bubble, and the New York Times says Santiago real estate booms because the City Is So Charming That Many Visitors Never Leave. One developer wants to entice liberty lovers to a pretty valley near Santiago:

With the oppression of the over regulated, over taxed, war riddled and welfare riddled society consuming the world, Ayn Rand’s famous protagonist character, John Galt, came to conclude that he would not use his talents to support such a society any longer…driving him to create a community where scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and many others would come together to escape from the confines of their daily lives to not only be free…but to thrive.

In today’s world, it is becoming more and more difficult to find true freedom from very much the same oppressive forces Ayn Rand wrote of…which drove John Galt and others to a place where they found their freedom, success and peace of mind.

Cerro San Cristóbal summit

Cerro San Cristóbal is the most popular tourist attraction in Santiago. Locals hike and bike to the summit on weekends. Photo courtesy of McKay Savage via Flickr.

Voucher education in Chile offers the best choices of any country, a successful laboratory studied by researchers around the world; however, a strong socialist movement organized a strike of students and teachers in Chile that threatens the Chile economic model. The poverty rate declined from 45 percent in 1986 to 15 percent in 2009 but that is insufficient according to Chilean socialists.

If you are accustomed to living in the USA or other socialist country, you might be appalled at capitalism in Chile. For example, one young woman recently expressed shock and anger that she pays more for medical insurance in Chile than young men even though her policy does not cover pregnancy. Insurance companies charge more because young women use more medical services even when they avoid pregnancy. In contrast, under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), young men and women pay the same price as mandated by the government; and women past menopause and men are required to pay for pregnancy coverage that they can never use.

Immigration to Chile has tripled in 7 years, from 60,280 in 2006 to 158,128 in 2013. Migrants have mainly come from Latin America and Spain and is likely to increase since Spaniards and Argentines are burdened with enormous government debt.

John Cobin, author of the best blog in Chile, provides a list of 55 reasons why you should emigrate to Santiago in Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

Chile offers a combination of pleasant climate and fewer government burdens than many others. If you’re ready to shed the debt your government has imposed upon you, it is a good destination to consider.

There are substantial downsides to Santiago such as winter air pollution and government harassment of foreigners described in Why You Should NOT Move to Santiago, Chile. There are also more reasons to move to Chile. Panama is another good country to move to.

Related posts:
Young Spaniards Emigrating to Chile
Argentinians Emigrating to Chile
Will Spain Emulate the Chilean Economic Model?

Outdoor fruit, vegetable, and seafood market in Santiago.

Band playing in Santiago a few weeks before Christmas, courtesy of David Berkowitz via Flickr.

Old trees in 500 year old Santiago, courtesy of David Berkowitz via Flickr.

Faces of the Bicentennial, Exposition in Santiago Metro by Guillermo Lorca, photo courtesy of Fabián Núñez Acevedo.

Santiago Street Art

Santiago street art courtesy of McKay Savage via Flickr.

Santiago house courtesy of David Berkowitz via Flickr. Note the couple making out on the bench. Everyone in Santiago does, especially in parks.

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73 Responses to Why You Should Move to Santiago, Chile

  1. Benjamin says:

    I live in Santiago de Chile. Definitely it’s a good city to live in, especially in recent years.

    • Mark says:

      How would you compare Santiago to other cities where you’ve lived? What does Santiago need to fix to attract more immigrants from rich countries?

  2. Michael says:

    I hear a lot about Chile being the most liberalised nation in South America and if I was to move to your continent I would likely settle in Chile, however don’t the governments even most Allende have a bad record for nationalisation?

    Also there are only two billionaires the late Anacleto Angelini and President Sebastián Piñera. Both started to make and accumulated most wealth prior to Allende but nobody post Allende/Pinochet seem to have made huge fortunes unlike many who have made billions post 70s in Australia. Is there something to say about government institutions and regulations that limit opportunity for ambitious people to build a fortune?

    • Mark says:

      Young Australians want to see the world, and are rich enough to do it, so many live in London for a year. Chile needs a similar arrangement with the USA and Spain. Border controls hinder trade and freedom.

      Piñera mainly became wealthy in recent years, as LAN Chile and his other investments have grown. Every other country in South America has a poor record of nationalization and are not worth considering as emigration destinations, although many are worth visiting on vacations/holidays. Chile is creating wealth faster than Australia and might catch up in 20-30 years. Unfortunately, Chile often copies dumb laws that Australia, Britain, and the USA promulgate, so continued growth is not assured.

      Many ambitious Chileans have become wealthy and there are comunas in Santiago such as Vitacura where rich people are concentrated. There are some Aussies in Santiago.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks for the replie Mark. I saw your blog from one of your comments as mises.org so it is interesting to see a critique of Chile from the perspective of an Misean.

        Overall from your posts it seems Chile is in a good position with only a few issues such as controls on labour, immigration and a belief in intervention (eg start up subsidies) threatening to hamper growth.

        Hopefully as the USD and by the domino effect the United States further contract and collapses in the next couple years Chileans will be inspired to reject government and embrace freedom taking the governments 19% of GDP closer to 0%.

        Best,
        Michael

      • Darrell says:

        “Border controls hinder trade and freedom.”
        What it does is insure GOOD NEIGHBORS stay that way and trade and freedom can be worked on. OPEN BORDERS in this day and age is only a problem. I live in Wash. State, USA, you want to see what we get to deal with?
        http://www.komonews.com/news/local/124439689.html
        http://www.komonews.com/news/local/124396994.html
        With open borders this would have been worse AND there would be alot more of them. But you do have a good point in other mentioned facts. Thank You for the information.

        • Mark says:

          Thanks for the links.

          It’s a tragedy that Khalid Abdul-Latif, aka Joseph Anthony Davis, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Domingue, Jr., may have attacked a military recruiting station, but they’re both citizens, not immigrants. Sometimes people change their religion, and many Muslims are violent. Restricting migration won’t mitigate the problem. The borders should be closed to criminals and people with communicable diseases, but open to ordinary people.

          • Nonya says:

            “many Muslims are violent”? Wow. How can such an ignorant statement come from someone apparently so worldly?

            Like any religious grp including christianity, there are always small pockets of extremism that do not speak for the majority, neither are they described as such.

          • Mark says:

            When was the last time a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, or atheist flew two airplanes into enormous buildings such as the former World Trade Center? There were many black Christians in Hawaii in the Second World War who had grievances with the political system, but none of them flew their planes into the office towers of Honolulu. I think it’s fair to say that many Muslims are violent, even though they’re a minority. In fact, the Japanese kamikazes were the last people I can think of who committed suicide for the mere thrill of killing even more of their enemies.

    • Francisco says:

      As you say, in Chile, we made kind of the wrong decitions in the early 1970′s, wich included Allende’s nationalization programs, and many expropiations, these ended up with General Pinochet Coup de Etat, and 17 years of dictatorship.

      Today, the chilean people has learnd the lesson, i really doubt anyone really thinks that is the way to go.

      Now, don’t be mistaken, in Chile there are many rich people, the two that you named arent even the richest people here, there are no laws against ambitious people getting rich.

  3. mikel says:

    Santiago it is not definitely a good city , maybe have nice place, interesting architecture , but, is a city very bad, the most people must to travel 1 hour or 2 for your work place, the transport is very expensive, if your compare with the minimun salaries, Santiago is only a good city for rich people.Santiago de Chile is one of city with less three in relations with Inhabitants.

    • Mark says:

      Santiago is the only place I know of where the First, Second, and Third World live in the same city, and you can see them all from the summit of Cerro San Cristobal. Everyone I know in the northern part of the city works at home or has a commute of less than 30 minutes to work. In the USA, 40 minutes is a typical commute, and 60-90 minutes is not unusual. The only people in Santiago who commute that much are the poor people in the south and west.

      Michael Munger wrote a good article on Transantiago. Although it was a fiasco at first, it is working tolerably well now. It is expensive, that’s because the riders pay most of the costs rather the taxpayers, as in most countries.

  4. lily says:

    “The only people in Santiago who commute that much are the poor people in the south and west”….thats more than 60% of the people in Santiago!! Sorry, but its true.

    • Mark says:

      It may be true that 60% live in the south and west and suffer poor commutes, but look at the bright side; 40% have escaped the Second World! How many in Argentina, Peru, and Brazil can say the same?

  5. JK says:

    I am Argentinian and I´ve been several times to Santiago and let me tell you the article is somehow chauvinistic if not close-minded.From the point of view of a tourist:public transport is thought out only for inhabitants who already have bought Transantiago´s mandatory pass and by car the story doesn´t change much since avenues are poorly signed or hidden.Accomodation in the downtown district lacks refinement and hospitality just to say the list.Oh and BTW prices are preposterous in decent places.
    Architechturally speaking there are very few buildings or public infrastructure worth paying a visit,not even “La moneda” follow a clear design trend.
    To sum up,as much as the governments try to disguide it , Chile is a poor country trying to overcome decades of social unfairness and backwardness with receipts copied from the 1st world that only work for the wealthiest.

    • Mark says:

      You’ve got a good point that the mandatory pass is inconvenient for tourists. I found easier to take the bus in Buenos Aires (BA) than Santiago.

      I think it’s unwise to use a car in any gigantic city, BA or Santiago. Cars are for western USA cities with many wide roads. Santiago and BA are for walking!

      Santiago is 500 years old and has architecture from many different epochs, as well as residential towers and single family homes. It’s a fabulous variety, especially if you ride a bike on the paths for 15 km. BA has the classical architecture, but not as many new buildings like the Titanium Building and others in the financial district.

      Santiago real estate is much more expensive than BA. If Argentina protected property rights better, there would be more demand for residential and commercial buildings, driving up prices.

    • Michael South says:

      To sum up, as much as the governments try to disgui[s]e it , Chile is a poor country trying to overcome decades of social unfairness and backwardness with [recipes] copied from the 1st world that only work for the wealthiest.

      If the government is truly allowing economic freedom, Chile should be cheering for this development. It does not work quickly for those with less money. Schemes that work quickly for those with less money usually come down to some sort of looting. But if this description is accurate, then your paragraph above is a great thing.

      It means “time to buy in at the ground floor”. Rich people, come here where you can safely risk your money, give people jobs, and keep the money you make. Economic freedom is an investment magnet. I hope that it works incredibly well for them and that we can point to it and tell our friends in the US (who are bent on destroying our economy with the long, slow looting system of entitlements coupled with the get-rich-quick looting system of the Fed)–”hey, remember economic freedom? Let’s try that again”.

  6. Paige says:

    Chile is a fantastic place to live! I have spent about 9 months there over the past couple of years and have enjoyed every moment. If you live in Santiago, you have quick access to the mountains, the beach and vineyards on the weekends. There are also smaller and more quiet places to live like Vina del Mar that are very close to Santiago and the hub of business. I work in the travel industry so I can’t go without saying how beautiful the country is from top to bottom. An amazing country to explore full of incredibly diverse landscapes and activities!

  7. truthChile says:

    Sorry Mark but it is a shame you do not know nothing of nothing,your comentaries are false totally about the life in Santiago . maybe you must to Know more about the world and life, you need make a trip like traveller not like tourist ,Like tourist. Santiago maybe is nice .but many people know that not is true

  8. Rene says:

    Your article is very Snob view , Santiago is very bad city for to live

  9. Ant says:

    Can English speakers get by in Santiago?

    • Mark says:

      I’m a bad person to ask because I speak a fair amount of Spanish. I’ve met English speakers who enjoy living in Santiago, but there are more bilingual people in the big cities of Argentina, Mexico, and Panama than Santiago.

  10. Danny says:

    I’m Chilean-born, now a Southern California resident and citizen of the US. I lived in Santiago most of my young life and can say with all honesty and complete sense of objectivity that it is a city that has been on the rise for longer than people tend to think. Thankfully, as another poster above seemed to allude to, the rise has been on a progressively positive trend and has not been abrupt and unnatural. As a result, people in Santiago are much more accustomed as a populace when compared to other Latin American countries, to what could be seen as “big city” living. I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, but it’s the best way I can think of describing it. Part of my argument stems from the way members of my extended family have experienced visiting me here in the United States and how I’ve adapted to going back “home” when I visit. For the most part, there are very few surprises to the mundane qualities of life for the Santiago native visiting Los Angeles, where I live. Disneyland and Hollywood impress due to what their names represent (and who doesn’t love Disneyland?), but life in itself is not seen as an unfathomable reality available only to Americans. My family is frankly middle class in Santiago and what I would call an average Chilean family as a whole; they’d be lower middle class here in the States. Yet they’re able to travel freely and are not burdened by subsistance issues common in other big cities in Latin America.
    I’ve travelled to 6 of 7 continents (have not been to Antarctica), travelling extensively within the Americas, Europe, and Australasia (and to a lesser degree Asia and Africa), and find Santiago to be well above par in comparison with many of the great cities of the world. While economic inequality is a problem in Chile, real-world differences are not as drastic as I have seen in many other places (perhaps in most?) and I find that it is often a misunderstood problem, that doesn’t translate easily into real-life situations. Villages I’ve seen in other countries without water or electricity are virtually non-existent in Chile; while life in Santiago is somewhat more cosmopolitan, I find it hard to see significant differences in quality of life when compared to relatives I have in Iquique (in the far North) and Valdivia (in the South).
    Keep in mind that Chile is a relatively small country, making its consumer base more international than many countries have to rely on. However, I would have to say that I was intrigued by this blog post as I’ve often thought that Chile and California share a number of similarities, which at the national level (for the US) would be impossible to compare with Chile. Santiago is a really wonderful place and as bias as I may be, Chileans really are wonderful people whose attitudes and demeanor don’t come off as being of the 3rd world. There is much progress to be made as the stage is set for a true economic, social, and culture boom, which in fact, for a person looking to thrive, is essentially the type of place you want to be in.

    • Mahnaz says:

      Hi Danny,
      Thanks for the real, logically and nice comment. I think you are a positive and honest person in rising your believes to others.
      I am an Iranian woman and very interested to relocate to Chile-Santiago..for improving my Spanish Language and start to live.
      Let me have your idea…..my pleasure to have an email from you.
      Take a good care and have a wonderful times…
      Mahnaz
      mstwt@live.com

      • Mark says:

        Santiago is a nice city to live but a terrible place to learn to speak Spanish; other countries like Peru and Panama are better. However, given that you’re Iranian, you might be pleased to know that Chile welcomes people from the Middle East. The Palestinian community in Chile is believed to be the largest outside of the Arab world. They’re the wealthiest ethnic group in Chile, analogous to the wealthy Jewish emigrants in New York and other areas of the USA. There is also a large rock with a sculpted plaque of the Father of the Turks in Plaza Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on Avenida Apoquindo, the main street in the financial district of Santiago.

        I’ve lived for decades in the USA without ever encountering a tribute to Atatürk; of course, I’ve never seen a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi in a public place in the USA, either, even though hundreds of streets and a national holiday are named after an imitator of Gandhi, Martin Luther King. However, private USA citizen Steven Spielberg rectified the omission by producing a movie about Gandhi’s life.

        • Doc says:

          When Gandhi died some of his ashes were sent to Los Angeles California where they still reside in the Lake Shrine just off of Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades. The rest of his ashes are in India, so those at the Lake Shrine are the only portion of them outside of India. It is a public memorial, meditation spot, and tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, and yes, it is in California.

  11. Al Wingate says:

    Nonya. The man is right about Muslim culture. Most are friendly and peaceful people. But the radical fringe of Muslims fighting Americans, attacking American infrastructure do not speak well of Muslim peacefulness. All you have to do is look at the record between Sunni’s and Shites to know that there is something wrong here. So to say some Muslims are violent is an accurate statement. Muslim people are living in Old Testament times with stonings and honor killings. That certainly wouldn’t make me proud of my culture. You are on board with stonings for adultry and the lack of freedom of speech?

    • Jamie says:

      I am a US citizen from San Francisco. I have served in the US Army and am religiously neutral. I plan to visit Chile in a few months.

      Unfortunately, most Americans don’t see the train coming. “Blowback” is a b*tch. Don’t be a propaganda sponge. Think for yourself. A picture speaks a thousand words. Which exactly is the country of peace?

      http://dont-tread-on.me/?p=21522

      “The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

  12. Patrick says:

    Compared to San Francisco, we have much more actual park area, just look in Gmaps. The parks we have here are actual nature reserves that generations before us chose to preserve. Google Mid Peninsula Open Space. The only thing different is that housing is not as dense here as there and our public transportation system sucks. But transportation in SF compared to NY or DC is horrible.

    • Mark says:

      The Mid Peninsula isn’t in Silicon Valley! It’s between Silicon Valley and San Francisco! People in Silicon Valley drive to open space in the mountains.

  13. Bobby says:

    I was thinking of moving in here before but my wife doesn’t like the sound of much lively city on her mind. She loves the quiet and peaceful living we have here in LA.

    • Mark says:

      Santiago has quiet areas in Vitacura and upper Las Condes. LA and Santiago and interesting lively places, but Santiago has better public transport.

  14. Scott says:

    Nice looking blog ~ interesting topic. I only just made it to Argentina last year, I think this year I’ll have to give Chile a try.

  15. gijoe says:

    rumor has it white people have blown up a few buildings and waged a few wars too… just a few.

  16. dorothy kerfoot says:

    Retired UK/USA dual citizen, lady 70, just started to learn Spanish. I am fairly fit, thinking of moving to Santiago Chili but needs to know cost of living, and costs of HEALTH CARE, food etc. BUT sharing apartment w/friend, so need total costs without rent. Infrastructure, smog? air cleanliness? safety walking downtown, Art galleries and art classes for the English speaking foreigners like myself. Going to live in the ”Las Condes” area, Santiago Chili. Any EX – PAT English speaking Communities? How far are the beaches and the wine country areas from Santiago?

    • Mark says:

      There are about 100,000 expats in Santiago who speak English as a first language. The beaches are 90 minutes away and the wineries are much closer. Concha y Toro even operates a winery within Santiago city limits. Costs are about the same as middle America. Other countries like Panama and Mexico are cheaper. The Spanish schools will put you in touch with expats. You can also try hanging out at Flannery’s Irish Pub, near the Tobalaba train station, any night of the week. If you highly value speaking English, try Buenos Aires; the Argentines speak English as well as Europeans.

  17. Linda says:

    Oh, thank you for posting both sides of the story, though! Santiago is a good option for some, but not others

  18. Anonymous says:

    Santiago Chile is heaven compared to Argentina where importations are limited and US dollars are none existent. The Christina goverment is really communist in disguise.

    • Mark says:

      The Kirchner government may be communist in disguise but it doesn’t seem to be fooling anyone. Argentines seem to like her and want imports to be limited. Maybe they’ll start to dislike her as the economy deteriorates.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Rodrigo says:

    Hey Guys,
    Sorry to burst your bubble but you’re definitely speaking as tourists. Chile is not a a good place to live. I’m Chilean and have lived in Santiago my whole life…and hated it every second of it. On 2009 I was fortunate enough to finally leave and went to study in Australia. And though it was bloody hard, those were the best years of my life. I was forced to return to Chile 6 months ago because of the ‘wonderful & marvellous economic system’ some of you believe we Chileans are ‘enjoying’. Such great economy resulted on my family being unemployed for almost 18 months by now. I had to abandon my studies when I only had one year left and is not exactly comforting to know that it will take me 15+ years of wages to save enough for my last year of University. Isn’t that great? And I’m not exaggerating. Governments try to make believe the economy is great but that’s only the macro-economic results which only represent the 7 wealthier families in the country. Micro-economic results are way different: 80% of the population has to live with an average wage of $5,000-7,000 a year!!!
    Somebody mentioned trees…well, you’ll only see them on the upper class neighbourhoods! Parks are so few you can count them with your fingers. The city is just a big block of concrete, unpainted most of it and even stained with smog. Which by the way is always there screwing your lungs. Oh and did I mention the rubbish on the streets? Well, yes it’s everywhere.
    And about transportation, you’re in for a treat. Going anywhere takes at least 1 hour in average. Many people has to spend 2 hours every morning to get to their jobs and again another 2 hours in the late afternoon to go back home. That is 4 hours of your life wasted, yes wasted, on a bus. Subway train is not good any more because of densities of up to 7 people per square metre. What a joy!
    Oh and to finish this long summary, bikes are excellent if you want to get ran over! Bike paths are just a few not many as the article writer thinks they are. So you can ride on the streets but motorists are known for not caring about bikes and wil someday run you over, you just don’t know when it will happen.

    So, as I always said to Australians, you guys just don’t know how lucky and fortunate you are for living in a developed country.

    Cheers.

    • Mark says:

      It sounds as if even though you completed 3 of 4 years of college, 75% of the requirements, your earning power is less similar to a college graduate than to one who completed nothing, never attended college. This lamentable situation applies not only in Chile but in the rich countries, too. The reason is that the purpose of college is not to build human capital; instead, it signifies that the holder is willing to comply with the system, persistent in completing a task that requires years to complete, and sufficiently intelligent to read. Essentially, it’s a “union card for yuppies.”

      College is a waste of time and money. You would’ve been smarter to learn something useful that builds human capital such as sculpture, painting, or computer programming. Don’t listen to conventional wisdom, the government, or your parents; they don’t have your interests in their hearts. Instead, find out what you can tolerate doing that other people loathe, for that’s where money can be made.

      • Rodrigo says:

        Hey Mark,

        First of all, thanks a lot for correcting my mistake on my website! Even after all this years I still make silly mistakes! :-)
        Regarding the purpose of college, in a certain level you may have a point there but I mostly disagree with you. I don’t know about “colleges” as the kind of institutions you have in the USA so I can’t comment on them. But I’ve been in 2 Universities, both in Chile and Australia and I reckon that even though there are things that are perfectible, they are necessary and they have a valuable role in society. They do build human capital, no questions about it. I can’t make an informed comment on other knowledge areas because my background is on Science but just think on where are the scientific discoveries made? Many are at Universities. Even those breakthroughs made in private companies, they usually came from somebody who studied a PhD! Not to mention that you most definitely would want your M.D., nurses and Veterinarians to have graduated at University, wouldn’t you? So you see, Universities create knowledge that later on may be adapted into technologies which are then marketed as products to the whole population. Computer programming wouldn’t exist without all the previous knowledge!
        Human societies have many different facets so you can’t expect for everyone to be doing the same things. Every profession or trade is needed. The problem is many are not adequately valued.
        Now, regarding where money can be made…well, I wouldn’t think of sculpture or painting as good examples for it! ;-)
        Regarding of listening to my parents, well they do have my interests in their hearts! That’s why they made a huge sacrifice on sending me to University in Australia. I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t fortunate to have yours supporting you but that is not my case. I’m not studying at Uni because of pleasing them, it’s me who wants to study! :-)
        So you see, I’m actually doing what other people loathe! haha.

        I’m off now. Thanks again for your help.
        Nice blog, by the way!

        Cheers.

    • Alix says:

      Wow! I’m so disappointed in your comment although a lot you say may be true. I’m from Haiti and I look forward to move to your country Chile. Besides not enough trees and pollution , everything else seems ok to deal with.

      PS. Love your country Chile.

  20. Brian says:

    It is incredible to see that…is the same chileans that make our country sounds like a terrible place…I’ve been in several other cities in Europe, American and Asia and I must say….chileans don’t appreciate what they have

  21. Mahnaz says:

    Hi to everybody,
    I am so interested to know about Santiago, so here I can get enough information to take decision to relocate.
    I am thanking of all to express his/her idea, it is so useful to me.

  22. Carlos says:

    Wow Rodrigo,
    Really? I am also Chileno and have COMPLETED all my university education in Canada. It has taken me 10 years to pay it back, but my education has allowed me to have a great job where paying back my incurred debt has not been a probelm at all.
    I am currently working for a Norwegian firm in South Africa and have a home in Canada and Santiago, my wife is also a proffesional and makes a good living. The fact that you where able to study in Australia shows that chile at least gives its people opportunities to succeed. Its up to each individual to make it work for them. That is not the case in other countries.
    As far as santiago, its a fine city, but the reality is that it is still in the developing world. Parts of the city are first world while others are 2nd world, i would say chile has very little if any 3rd world. If any of you have ever been to africa, you will know what i mean.
    Santiago is growing up fast and that will always cause shocks, but there is no doubt it is going in the right direction. I eventually plan to live there with my wife and 3 children, the weather is great, food is good and people are relatively nice. Also it is one of the easiest cities in the world to escape to nature, you can be at the top on the andes, or at the beach, or at winery estates in under a couple,of hours.

    • Mark says:

      You make a good point about how easy it is for Chileans to attend college. Many Chileans squawked recently that the interest rate on college student loans, 6%, is too high, so the government reduced the rate to 2%. When you consider that the inflation rate is 3%, it’s clear that the country is embracing socialism and like Europe and the USA, too many people will attend college. Governments shouldn’t incur debt to make it easy for colleges to attract students; they’ve failed to embrace the Internet to reduce prices and retarded the growth of better educational opportunities such as massively open online courses (MOOCs) including Coursera and Udacity. Colleges encourage students to pursue credentials while MOOCs encourage students to learn useful subjects.

      • Gabriel says:

        Mark, while i completely disagree with you on the importance of college eduction; i can not possible support the idea of blaming your parents for not finishing your education (Rodrigo). I studied by my own in the USA while supporting my own parents back in chile. They did not loose their job, because they never belonged to the social status where you actually have a job.
        I am not sure if you even have a college degree, but i take your opinion to be more guts than fact. The true is that a very small percentage of people does well economically without a college degree, and in most cases they do well with the help of others with the college degree on hand.

        • Mark says:

          “College education” is a misnomer. Education is very different from schooling and it is foolish to allow your schooling to interfere with your education. College students use 20% of their time on educational activities while the remainder is wasted on socializing, getting drunk, and studying things that won’t be useful to their future lives. College mainly exists to provide jobs for professors, administrators, janitors, and others. The biggest contributor to the Obama campaign was Harvard University; colleges couldn’t survive in a free market. They can attract customers only with government subsidies.

  23. Sophie says:

    I was wondering…as an Australian thinking about relocating to Santiago to work at an international school…what would I be in for realistically? I understand that some posters here think Australia is ‘developed’ and a fantastic place to live. However… things are VERY expensive here and the middle class is eroding fast. We are crippled by high taxation, high cost of living, high wages yes…however, try running a car, paying registration, paying insurances (contents, car, health), educating one’s children (public schools are not up to scratch and neither are the private schools if one takes the latest international literacy statistics seriously), poor infrastructure (unless you are a millionaire and live in the inner suburbs, you have crap access to transport so rely on cars to get to work and are stuck in traffic, poor roads, and an abysmal urban sprawl), and the biggest issue of all..housing (in)affordability. To even think of buying a house in this ponzi scheme they’ve created in Australia one needs at least $100,000 deposit for an average mortgage which is now at around half a million dollars! Add to that a shitty quality of life if you are married with children and stuck living in the dead zone suburbs which go to sleep at 7pm, (nightclubs and fancy pants restaurants are great if you are single or a couple but do nothing to enhance living for a family who can’t get childcare, can’t get government assistance and basically are stuck at home in the suburban wastelands watching tv and wondering what the hell happened to their lives).

    I know this makes Australia sound grim but really…if you want a quality of life rather than ‘quantity’, Australia is not the best place to be. A vibrant up and coming economy may serve my family better.

    Anyone have any suggestions? How much would a 3 bedroom flat/unit/house cost to rent? Would we need to buy a car if we’re a family? is petrol expensice? Car insurance? Registration?

    • Mark says:

      Yes, the middle class in Australia is disappearing due to the high cost of living, especially housing. Like Canada, Australia enjoyed a real estate bubble that still hasn’t popped; however Canada suffers heavy debt while Australia is nearly alone among rich countries in servicing a manageable debt load. Housing in Santiago is affordable not only in the outer areas where one needs a car but also in the more central areas that are served well by trains and buses. I rented a 3 bedroom apartment in Santiago for $1600 per month; it was one of the most expensive in the city. Most people live in smaller quarters for $1200 or less. Real estate in Santiago is a good investment that will increase in value during the next 10 years while Australia and Canada will stagnate or decline.

      Many Australians lament the influence of Asian immigrants but if they had been absent, Australia would’ve become socialist paradises like California and Europe. Asians, except the Japanese and Chinese, have controlled government better than Westerners.

      Schools run by governments in all countries are bad but Chile has good affordable private options including all-English schools. Your kids can mingle with the strivers of Chilean society by attending these schools.

      Petrol is inexpensive in Chile, about the same price as the USA and Mexico. A car is a liability in Santiago; it’s better to ride trains and buses. Many foolish Chileans borrow money at high interest rates to buy cars and sit in traffic jams. The Chilean President made a great deal of his fortune in the credit card industry.

  24. Roberto says:

    “Schools run by governments in all countries are bad” Seriously? It seems that you are only able to see business opportunities. How come Finland has the best Education in the World?

    • Mark says:

      Are you sure Finns are the best educated people in the world? Why did their national champion, Nokia, implode and allow Apple and the national champion of Korea, Samsung, to steal their market? Could it be that the Koreans are better educated than the Finns?

  25. Jen says:

    I am curious if anyone can give me information on how easy it would be to find a simple job as a non-spanish speaker in Santiago for a couple months (between march and june/july) I am considering going with a friend who will be teaching english for three months and would like to be able to work and earn enough to cover living expenses for the time I will be there. I have a bachelor’s degree in genetics and cell biology, but would be willing to do pretty much anything for a few months. Any help would be appreciated!!

    • Mark says:

      I think it would be difficult to find a short term job other than teaching English. It would probably take 3 months to find a job.

  26. Jeanne says:

    Sophie…yours comments certainly strike a cord with many. Often the expats that do the best, seem to come with plenty of cash so the inexpensive “living” is relative. From my research it seems that a median income in Santiago is around $30k/year. So, rent of around $1200/month , is still a large part of ones income. Perhaps your position is signficantly more.

    With the smog, Santiago is not on my list. Does anyone have any history or knowledge of Valparaiso?

    • Mark says:

      Do you have a citation for the $30K annual income? I’ve been thinking that it’s $18-22K. Valparaiso was a very important city prior to the construction of the Panama Canal but has been sliding downhill ever since. Chileans have invested their capital in the adjacent city of Viña del Mar. There’s no air pollution in the coastal cities. The best opportunities are in the fastest growing city – La Serena.

  27. Cristian S. says:

    I have read some ridicolous comments by my fellow Chilean compatriots, but what can I say, I guess limited exposure outside of Chile makes them think things in Chile are awful – which is not always the case, and not certainly for everyone. Same for the ridicolous Argentine hating on my country, when his country is at the border of the abyss with the rampant corruption under the Kirchner’s, the chaos….enough said.

    Santiago is a beautiful city in every sense of the word. It has Parisian style parks, tree-lined avenues, first world amenities like our ‘public jewel ‘ the Metro (subway) with works of art and very modern stations – as well as a functioning bus system (this being a working development), libraries, museums, movie theaters, malls, book stores, etc, etc. There are many types of restaurants from all over the world as any cosmopolitan city…bike paths for those who are green minded, etc. Also Santiago boasts tons of resataurants, Parisian-style cafes…also novelty attractions such as ‘ cafe con piernas ‘ have lived in many places and visited most of Europe, and never seen this anywhere else :) Lets not forget top-worl hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, the Hyatt Regency, among many others, like boutique hotels and cheap hostels for students, depending on what you want to spend.

    The negative aspects of the city (like any city it has pros and cons), is the smog, the growing sense of rising delinquency (still very low compared to Latin American standards), and the fact that most of the populace don’t speak good English…good English speakers are few and mostly language students, but this is changing with the state policy of paying scholarships for Chilean students to study abroad. Other small issues are that there are no overnight facilities at the Santiago airport, and no subway from the airport to the city, but these are not first priorities in my opinion. I also consider these days my city to be very expensive, specially compared to the rest of Latin America, to the point where my Chilean friend and co-worker says our lunch in Manhattan costs similarly in Chile. There ar eincome disparities, but no more than in other places in the world, and the changes are not so abrupt, as the poor section of the city is the south part of the city, which changes slowly to better as you move ‘ up ‘. However there are many cheap food options for those who do not want to pay those prices. Santiago is a great city, make sure to visit Santa Lucia park (during the day), places prefered to live in Stgo. are Las Condes, Vitacura, Chicureo, Providencia…Bellavista is very nice and bohemian, but somewhat dangerous due to pick pockets, etc..same as down town around the Alameda and Plaza de Armas.

    Santiago is also a city open for business, the state socialism being described by some fellow poster here is utter non-sense, same with any plans of ‘ expropiation ‘ or state led nationalization programs, at least since the early 70′s and thats not coming back. Chile is welcoming, hope you guys enjoy it, greetings to the Australians.

  28. Mario J says:

    I’m looking to relocate back to Santiago. Hopefully by the end of the year. From my research, cost of living is about the same here in the US. The figures you guys give for rent is ridiculously high even for USA standards unless you are from LA or New York. Some of you must by living in Las Condes or around Providencia to be giving out those figures. A one bedroom apt here in the US is 600$ on average except for states like Cali and New York. In Chile Las Condes and Providencia are considered upper class neighborhoods to locals, so rent will be significantly more. IMO average annual income for the average or majority of the population in Chile is 12-15k in USD, so the majority can only afford 400$ dollar rent or less. My Uncle attended and graduated from La U de Chile. Not even he lives in those areas and he’s a lab researcher for a major medical hospital in Santiago.. Food is cheaper in Chile depending where you go, and you also have more options like the “ferias” on the streets. People are friendly to certain extent. Locals WILL tell you are foreigner just by the way you walk. Last time I visited, even I, being originally from chile, was singled out. Took me over a month to blend in. Beaches are nice, but the water is cold as you go further south. The south is gorgeous. I visited el salto del laja waterfall as a kid. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to settle down permanently after being out of the country for so long, but I’m going to give it a shot considering my job position goes telecommute.

    • Mark says:

      Most foreigners prefer lower Las Condes and Providencia but I met some living downtown and in Ñuñoa and a few rich people in Vitacura and upper Las Condes. I agree that rent and food are cheaper in Santiago but other goods are more expensive. Good luck with your return to Santiago!

  29. Kareem says:

    Hello Guys,

    actually a am torn between moving to Chile or Turkey,
    i am an egyptian living and working in kuwait,. its very boring here and weather is awful, my salary is 1100 dollars a months and i really want to start all over again in chile or turkey i dont know which is better for me, i am a 24 years old and i only speak arabic and english,.. besides i would like to say that i am gay.

    any advise/////

    • Mark says:

      I wouldn’t want to move without savings to any country because it’s usually difficult to find work. I haven’t been to Turkey but I suspect that there are many more English speakers than in Chile.

      • Kareem says:

        very few people speak english in Turkey and thats only in the some touristic areas, regarding savings i have some money in the bank that’s enough for maybe three months till i find a job.. i am really in love with Chile, however its a very far country. I do not know if i will make it in chile or not but a 24 years old guy who wants to relocate in such a beautiful country and i would seek getting the citizenship too. and more more thing. how about the earth quakes in the country? is it very dangerous? is the country prepared to face any earthquake?
        Thank you so much for your quick feedback??

        • Mark says:

          I think you need at least 6 months of savings to live in Chile. Japan and Chile suffer more massive earthquakes than anywhere else in the world. Although this sounds like bad news, the obvious danger forced Chileans to construct buildings that withstand earthquakes; there were few deaths and injuries in the 2010 earthquake. Chile endures a gigantic earthquake about once every 25 years. In contrast, Oregon suffers a gigantic earthquake every 400 years and is unprepared. Many people will die in Portland the next time a quake hits.

          One of the citizenship requirements is that you speak Spanish. Learning a new language consumes much time!

          • Kareem says:

            Thanks for your feedback…,,
            actually i would over look the earthquakes matter as the country is a bit prepared and used to earthquakes,.. actually all i can bring with me to chile is $ 6000, regarding learning the language, i love languages and cultures and that wont take long time to learn. but i feel like you discourage me from relocating to chile I dont know if that because you think i wont fit there..
            do you recommend any preparations that i shall do before coming to the country..
            sorry if i am being too much and keep asking questions ..
            Regards..

          • Mark says:

            I think you should go to Chile in a year or two after saving more money but everyone has their own tolerance for risk. I’ve also seen many people underestimate the difficulty of learning a language. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do and if you’re also looking for a job, you’ll be very busy.

  30. Carol says:

    I am relocating to Chile- not yet sure which part but it’s a toss up between Vina del Mar, Santiago, and La Serena. I am bringing my 2 recued rabbits and 2 rescued chickens. Anyone know of a place that would rent to me? It would be great if there were at least a small yard for them to scratch in.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for stopping by! It’s a pain to find a place to rent even without animals so I don’t envy you for your search. Good luck!

  31. Lato57 says:

    I a was born in Chile and lived in the SF Bay Area for the best 25 years of my life. I will be eternally grateful to all those Americans who helped me in every step of the way. I have traveled extensively and you just don’t know how good you have it in the USA. I have been living in Chile for the last 10 years. Living in Santiago can be great or terrible, depending on your attitude, where you come from, your age, and most important, the people you find along the way. Santiago has great weather, good parks and lots of activities. If you bring some extra cash, and can visit other parts of Chile, you will have a good time. Chile is a beautiful place, very similar to the west coast of the USA. (1) The more involved you are with everyday life items such as rent, banks, utility companies, buying property, having employees etc, the least you will enjoy being here. You always want to live in Providencia, Las Condes (near Metro Line 1) or Santiago Center (Bellas Artes-Lastarria) Here are a few other facts about living in Santiago.
    Room in Hostel = US $400 per month
    Transportation= US $100 per month
    Food = US $ 200-300
    As a tour guide or English teacher you will make aprox. US $ 500-600 per month. Most jobs are part time (20 hours per week if you are lucky) and pay between 12-15 dollars/hr. If you are young and adventurous, you will have a good time.

    Rent = US $ 600 ( 1 bed 400 sq/ft)
    HOA + Utilities = US $200 (no CATV, no phone)
    Transportation= US $100 per month
    Food = US $ 200-300
    As a full time English teacher or some other occupation, you will make aprox. US $ 1000-1500 per month. It’s going to be difficult to afford you own place. Computer related jobs, SAP consultants and others, can expect higher salaries. I am not sure if you will like living here that much. See (1). A gallon of gas will cost you about US $ 6 dollars. Having a car is not recommended.

    Cheers

    • Mark says:

      If you bought a condo in Santiago for $200K ten years ago, it’s probably worth $400K today but if you bought a condo in the USA for $200K ten years ago, you’d be lucky to break even. The biggest advantage of living in a growing country is high profits in real estate.

      As you note, the job market is Santiago is poor because the pay is low. It is worthwhile to move to Santiago only if you own a business that can be located anywhere. Chile still needs to reduce taxes, repeal many laws that impede business, and allow foreigners to open bank accounts and stay in the country much longer than 90 days.

      Some young people will enjoy an adventure teaching English for a year or two but it’s not a great career for older people trying to raise children.

  32. Pily says:

    Argies always talking bad about Chile. Envy is bad. They are bad economically whereas Chile is the most developed country over here and is developed right now

    Chile is a wonderful place to live.

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