That Chilean Feeling

Santiago Chile

Santiago Chile

When you think of South America, your mind might conjour thoughts of hiking the Peruvian jungles to the summit of Machu Piccu, the thunderous bone-wrenching power of Iguassu falls, or …. If you are anything like myself …..Sofia Vergara and Shakira playing volleyball in their bikinis.

But what about Chile?
That quiet, unmentioned country, snaking its way up the side of Argentina and the Andes Mountains, unconcerned about the reputation of “Latin Culture”. In fact before the World Cup, many would struggle to name any person from Chile past the local legend Marcelo Salas.

This is a country that thrives on being different, embracing its quirks and native history, all whilst adapting the unofficial motto “Tranquillo”. They walk slowly, they eat slowly and necking your beer simply isn’t done. Life here is taken at a relaxed pace. I mean, how many Chilean sprinters were at the London 2012 Olympics?

But for every rule, there is an exception. Chileans speak at a pace that I’d define as ‘supersonic’ …. on Speed. And Red Bull. Even fellow Chilenos are known to lean into one-another to mutter “What the f@#k is he saying weon?”

No that is not a typo! It’s WEON, not AMIGO. Their language fell of the tracks and just kept going, with most locals now insisting their first language is “Chileno”. Break through this lingual nightmare and you will positively grin at the sounds of the locals chatting with their emotive sing-song style, every sentence capped off with the uniquely used words “po” (uh-huh) and “cachai” (get it).

Let me test your Spanish then. What is a Terremoto? Do you give up? It means earthquake. But in Chileno? It means a drink that will make you head melt, and you feet quiver. It’s effectively a pint of disturbingly cheap wine, some grenadine, and a big-ol dollop of pineapple ice-cream! If you can drink more than 3 of these without drooling on yourself, then you are a better man than me. Or, you are an alcoholic.

Now I’ve never attempted the exhaustingly long journey from top to bottom of the country in one go, but trust me, it’s long. A lot longer than your manhood. In the south you have the stunning Patagonia, with awe-inspiring scenery, bringing you close to that ever-elusive white continent. Here you can trek through mountainous regions head-to-toe in your ‘North Face’ gear, fly-fish in a great lake region bigger than the whole of my beloved England, and search for Moby Dick on Isla Mocha, the original setting for the classic tale. To the north, you can stargaze under some of the world’s clearest skies whilst indulging in the locally brewed Pisco and visit the driest desert in the world, San Pedro de Atacama. Ever wanted to go to a salt flat and take those perspective photos, where you hold your friends in your hands like little ants? Yep, you can do that here, for a fecking lot cheaper!

Finally, what are the women like you ask? Well that’s easy. They are Latinas.
So when you eventually get round to booking that South American excursion you’ve been not-so-secretly planning at work, will you play it safe with Rio DJ and Buenos Aires, or would you dare to take on the longest country in the world? You should.

P.S. I do not work for the Chilean tourist board, but I bloody ought to!

Essential Vocabulary
Po – uh-huh
Cachai – You get it?
Weon – friend / big balls
La Raja / filete – Great!
Flaite – Uneducated/Low Class/Chav
Cuico – Snob
Bacán– Cool
Al toque – right away
Nicagando – No way!

About 

Hi, I'm John, from England. After graduating from University, I felt it was time to stop constantly staring at the world map and watching films like 'Into the Wild' and 'The Beach', and it was time to find out what this 'life' thing is all about .... That was around 2 years ago. So now I find myself moving from place-to-place, injecting myself with as much culture as possible. So far, I've travelled through Northern, Central and South America, living in Guatemala, Chile and China. During my time in Latin America, I learnt 'questionable' Spanish and funded this crazy train through hostel work, bar jobs, TEFL teaching, and when things have got really tough, street busking with my trusty guitar and songbook.

Written By

Hi, I'm John, from England. After graduating from University, I felt it was time to stop constantly staring at the world map and watching films like 'Into the Wild' and 'The Beach', and it was time to find out what this 'life' thing is all about .... That was around 2 years ago. So now I find myself moving from place-to-place, injecting myself with as much culture as possible. So far, I've travelled through Northern, Central and South America, living in Guatemala, Chile and China. During my time in Latin America, I learnt 'questionable' Spanish and funded this crazy train through hostel work, bar jobs, TEFL teaching, and when things have got really tough, street busking with my trusty guitar and songbook.

4 Comments

  • Great piece sir, always handy getting specific with one’s slang.
    You forgot to mention the hippie haven and possible UFO spotting in La Serena, in the Elqui Valley (Valle del Elqui). I’ve had a handful of Chilenos casually mention a UFO experience. It’s so common they get blase about it.

  • Fantastic, funny article John! Chile isn’t somewhere I immediately think of when I think of places I’d love to visit, but this has piqued my interest!!

  • Nice article John. I love your experience in traveling. It made me want to visit the place ASAP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *