What I Know Now: Chile Edition

Headshot of Maggie Peyton.
Maggie Peyton
November 3, 2022

At long last my time in Santiago has come to end. Generally, my expectations were met or exceeded. Food, clothes, transportation, people, language: let's get into it.

Most young people here are on the edgier side of fashion trends. Lots of black and ripped clothes and piercings and tattoos - right up my alley personally. Dyed hair is normal and ranges a lot. I was not sticking out too much with my now-super-faded-and-grown-out blue tips. It feels like every single person has a fanny pack and black combat boots. To keep it consistent, the fanny packs are most typically black, and everyone, from all ages, sports one. There are many anime shirts and colorful pieces but there is almost always something black involved.

I really enjoyed getting to use a new public transportation system. The metro line to get to the primary campus of the main partner university we work with is the longest in South America—pretty cool and impressive if you ask me. The trains came so quickly and are so efficient. I was very impressed. There are a lot of station closures due to external interference, but they communicate these things consistently and well. Twitter push notifications make it easy to know the current state of the metro.

Chileans are generally very nice and helpful. They sometimes give that ‘evil’ I’m-judging-you-don’t-get-too-close-to-me type of look, but its not frequent with people who look like foreigners. Chileans claim that they can tell who on the street is Chilean based on the degree of their scary look. I, not being Chilean, wouldn’t know. Older Chileans tend to be conservative and xenophobic. They have some awful things to say regarding colorism and poverty and immigration. Fortunately, younger generations are protesting regularly to try and bring about progress and improve quality of life for people who have been historically ostracized from society. The Mapuche, the indigenous group native to Chile and Argentina that was there before Spain’s colonization, continue to have a ton of influence. In spite of their positive additions to Chilean society, they are pushed to the periphery.

Many of the Chilean “modismos,” or modifications, to the Spanish language, stem from the language of the Mapuche. “Pololo, polola, or polole” is a word derived from the Mapuche name for a beetle that becomes one entity with its partner. (This information is from my internship supervisor, so if it's not correct… I’m going off of the really cool explanation I was told.) The first is referring to a masculine partner, the second is feminine, and the third is gender neutral. In Chilean Spanish, rather than referring to boyfriends/girlfriends/significant others by the better-known word “novio, novia, novie,” they use this term. Novio/novia/novie is used to refer to a fiance/fiancee.

Now for the food. Oof. Generally speaking, Chilean cuisine is not for me. Their national foods are largely meat and sandwich centered. They do hotdogs in a special way and call them “completos” - basically just a hotdog smothered in mild sauces and vegetables. “Mote con huesillos” is a drink made with the super sweet juice of peaches that you get from cans or jars of peaches, completely undiluted. At the bottom of the glass, there are hard, dry grainy oatmeal-esque pieces - which I find completely flavorless and a little jarring in their extreme difference in texture from the liquid. To top off the… delicacy, a dried peach (the “huesillo”) is added. This is the best part. Its competition for first place in terms of my taste buds and personal preferences could not be less stiff.

Before I arrived, I listened to some Chilean indie music (indie is my favorite genre if the Mitski shoutout in my bio didn’t give that away), and I got to see one of my favorite artists FREE and LIVE just 11 days after landing here. 

I definitely learned more about Chile in my time here than I ever could have learned about it while living in the States. There is geography, history, art, and more that I had never even thought to discover. Its an interesting and dynamic place, and it will be very entertaining watching its future unfold.

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Headshot of Maggie Peyton.

Maggie Peyton

My name is Maggie and I'm from Chicago, Illinois (one of the best cities in the States in my completely unbiased opinion). I'm left-handed, could watch Encanto every day, and I am a huge fan of the singer-songwriter Mitski. I study Public Policy at the University of Illinois in Chicago and am excited to learn more about Santiago. I hope to find a community away from the one I have at home and make Santiago my own.

2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Public Policy
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