Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Chile, etc.
Hello! My name is Briana Belden, I’m from Emmaus, Pennsylvania, U.S and I moved to Chile in November 2009 with my husband, also from the U.S. We had saved up money at home and decided to move to Chile to invest in the country. We bought property near the coast (5th region) and built our own home there. My husband did the building himself (with no help) and without electricity. It was saws and hammers the whole way, impressive stuff.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about our experiences because I felt like family and friends at home were missing out on a huge part of our lives here by only being able to see pictures I had posted (infrequently) online. I wanted to show them and others what we had accomplished here in Chile. I began blogging this past April.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite blog entries are as follows (though I still feel like I’m just beginning to blog and hopefully there will be many more in the future!). Hope you enjoy them!
- Why Chile - this one explains in a little more detail why we ended up here.
- The Opposite of Complaining
- Progress isn’t Cheap
Tell us about the ways your new life in Chile differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life in Chile is drastically different than the life I led in the U.S. though we chose our situation in Chile – chose to start over again here – and knew that it would be a very difficult road from the beginning. Money struggles were one of the biggest challenges we have faced here. Also the comforts of home (that I think come from living in a place you have lived your entire life) were not at our new home in Chile until we physically created them ourselves. We literally built our lives over from the ground up in every way possible and that was extremely difficult. Even though we’ve now been in the country for almost three years I think we still occasionally experience culture shock though it’s not as severe as it was in the beginning! I thought I spoke Spanish before coming here….
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Chile? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
No I don’t think we were prepared before coming here but I doubt anything could have prepared us adequately for what we found here either. We had both traveled extensively and lived abroad for various time spans before moving to Chile so that wasn’t the most difficult thing. If I could I would have made some Chilean friends in the U.S. to ask them about the intricacies of the people here, their character mainly, so that we could have been more prepared for the situations we were to encounter here.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh man, there have been so many (some very frustrating and some funny) but none that I can think of off the top of my head! If I think of a good one, I’ll share!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Chile?
- Be flexible and patient – things here take time
- Save money before you come, more than you think you will need. Living in Chile can be done on the cheap (depending on where you will be) but it’s not as inexpensive as other places in South or Central America. I’ve met many people who were unprepared for that and who thought finding a job would be a breeze. Finding a job in Santiago as an English teacher for example is not too tough but other regions can be tricky.
- Don’t trust anyone without knowing them. I know this may sound cynical to some (and a no-brainer to others) but Chileans are known for their pickpocketing and ability to scam you if you’re not careful. It’s nothing to worry about but remember, keep your eyes open!
How is the expat community in Chile? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here in Chile has been wonderful. I have found many like-minded individuals here both living in Santiago and my home in the 5th region. There are many groups (for example, on Facebook) that are easy to join and that host parties and get-togethers year round. Sometimes I wish it were harder to find English speakers so that my Spanish would improve more!
How would you summarize your expat life in Chile in a single, catchy sentence?
What a long, strange trip it’s been.