Chile Language & Customs

The Chilean culture has a lot of diversity
Roadside shops are very common
Roadside vendors are very common and a bit of a traffic hazard!
A yummy pisco sour!
A Chilean town with the Andes in the background
Santiago de Chile with the Andes
Santiago de Chile
Away from the Chile ski resorts

Chile Language & Customs

Wagner Custome Skis

Chile Language

It would be incredibly wise for all visitors to Chile to learn at least some basic Spanish, even if you’ll only be staying at one of the high profile ski resorts. At Valle Nevado ski resort there are a few staff on hotel reception that can speak fluent English, but most staff do not speak English or only a few basic words. At Nevados de Chillan your chances of finding Anglophones are a little higher, and higher again at Portillo which is gringo central. Nevertheless, many of the staff at Portillo do not speak English.

Thankfully the Portillo dining room has menus in both Spanish and English. However at other ski resorts expect that the menu will be in Spanish only, so you might want to have your menu decoder or phrasebook handy. The only problem is that the typical culture of the waiters is to stand over you when you’re looking at the menu. You’ll feel under pressure to do some translating pretty quickly. If you ask for “un momento por favour” or even “cinco minutos”, the waiters will still tend to stand over you!

In relation to signage around the ski areas, Portillo has lots of dual signage (as well as various signs in Portuguese). El Colorado has a few English signs around the ski resort, whilst at other ski resorts you’ll need to have a general understanding of what some crucial terms mean such as: peligro (danger); acantilado or roca (cliff); ice (hielo); no pasar (no trespassing); limite area esquiable (out of bounds); area cerrada/accesso prohibido (area closed); or solo expertos (experts only). Some signs will have a picture to aid your translation, but many won’t.

The Latin American version of Spanish in Chile is not typical of Latin America. Chileans typically use unusual pronunciation, lots of slang and they may speak really quickly compared with other South Americans.

Customs and Culture in Chile

The customs and culture of the Chileans is different to that of the gringoes from North America (or the dingoes of Australia). However at the upmarket ski resorts, any differences in culture are generally very subtle. If anything a strong Brazilian culture may be more apparent at resorts such as Valle Nevado and Nevados de Chillan where there is a large Brazilian contingent.

The culture is more apparent in Santiago and even more so in the small towns of Chile. The culture is almost a cross between typical South American culture and a European culture, except that it’s very conservative and understated. So masochism for example isn’t as evident as it is elsewhere in South America (thank goodness!). Also the conventional culture and the large Roman Catholic influence are gradually lessening. Social norms have changed dramatically in recent years with an avalanche of outside influences, and it continues to change.

One aspect you may notice is that the only consistency of Chile ski resorts is their inconsistency (with the exception of Portillo). The grooming and lift report may be incorrect, the road access report may be wrong, and you’ll need a very relaxed approach as there will be a lot of mañana mañana. You can probably take your watch off in Chile as they often operate on “ish” time. Some businesses will take forever to process something that should take a couple of minutes. To check out of a hotel takes 20 minutes. To pick up a pre-booked rental car takes half an hour. Order fast food and it certainly comes to you very slowly, even if the name of the establishment is Pronto! Try not to get frustrated, just relax and get into the Chile vibe.

Like other parts of South America, Chile still has a major emphasis on the classes, and there’s a huge gap between the highest and lowest incomes. If you only stay on-mountain at the ski resorts, other guests will only be the very elite of Chile, whereas if you stay down in the towns, you’ll get a more rounded feel for Chile.

And don’t expect that you’ll get to experience some great Latin dancing at the ski resorts. There seems to be a tendency for the resorts to play really old daggy songs in English from the 60s, 70s and 80s.