Crystal: Bay Essence
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Chile, etc.
My name is Crystal. I’m originally from California with a base in Pennsylvania, lived in Chile on and off over the course of three years and finally settled in Santiago in December of 2011. Like many expats, I studied abroad in Chile, fell in love with a Chilean, and decided to build a life in this foreign country that is steadily becoming home to me.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My Chilean partner and I began jotting down some of our experiences in 2010, but decided to put more effort into it earlier this year. We are always in search for new things to do and use our bilingual blog to express our impressions on the adventures we get into and our opinions thereof. We narrowed down our posts to travel, food, culture, expat life and a few other related topics. It has become a way to give people an idea of what life is like abroad, document our experiences and demonstrate a part of our creative side.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Top 10 Perks of Living in Chile: For those of you who are thinking about moving to Chile, or fellow expats, here is a list of what I consider perks of living in Chile with a link to a post reflecting the other side of the coin.
Comidas con Onda: El Cinzano (Spanish): We have three different series on food: Comida con Onda, La Ruta de las Picadas and Mundos Entre Chile. This link is part of Comidas con Onda and is about an awesome restaurant and bar with a lot of history in Valparaiso.
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?
As soon as I got to Chile, I fell in love with it! My life isn’t that different from what it was in the states, and there are only two things that I miss from home: my family and my car. After permanently moving here after my first stay, there were some things that needed getting used to and some hardships that go along with being a recent graduate, finding a place for myself in the professional world, living with my boyfriend after 2.5 years in a long distance relationship and getting used to being away from my family and home country.
Oddly enough, I always experienced reverse culture shock every time I go back to the US as Chile begins to feel more and more like my real home.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Chile? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don’t think there is any way that you can fully prepare for making such a huge move to a foreign country, however in my case, there might have been some room to be desired for preparations. I moved to Chile just 2 days after graduating college and made my decision to move less than two months beforehand! If I could have done something differently, I would have at least acquired my residency visa before moving (it was long process to legalize my degree from Chile). On the plus side, I already had a place to live and I was very familiar with Chile beforehand, so the move wasn’t as drastic as it may sound.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
First off, I don’t look like the typical gringa, and most people don’t think I’m a foreigner… until I begin to speak my non-Chilean-accented-Spanish! For some reason, just about every time I go out, I am asked for directions. My first thoughts would usually be, “I’m lost too!”, “Even if I knew, I’m not sure I could say all of that in Spanish!” and more importantly, “Does it look like I’m from here!” After realizing that yeah, I guess I might look like I’m “from here”, I would politely say that I don’t know where anything is. After a couple months of familiarizing myself with Santiago, people still come up to me, and I can now say that half the time I can actually be of some help now.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Chile?
- Research job/study/volunteer opportunities and try to land one before you get there. Start early! If you don’t personally know anyone here, contact expats and review expat resources.
- Sometimes the best policy is to simply accept that things are done differently. Save yourself the stress and aggravation because you will always encounter similar situations when living abroad.
- Take advantage of the fact that you are in Chile! Explore the country, master Spanish (read as Chilean), make Chilean friends and try to meet other expats. You may want to immerse yourself in Chilean culture as much as possible, but it’s a breath of fresh air to have expat friends who knows what you are going through.
How is the expat community in Chile? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I came here not knowing anything about the expat community or that resources and websites for expats even existed. It is a larger community than I initially thought, and the people and different groups are very helpful. You will be surprised as to how many like minded people with similar stories you will find here.
How would you summarize your expat life in Chile in a single, catchy sentence?
Adventuring in life, love and travel in Chile.