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Chile cultural insights

The following cultural insights are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. The content in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.

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Local and Canadian perspectives for the following subjects:


Local perspective

Good conversation topics include family, sports, travel, cuisine and wines. Chileans are very interested in world travel as they have increasing opportunities to go abroad for business and pleasure. Be prepared to answer questions about the place you’re from and about your work. Chileans can appear to prefer talking rather than listening as they try to demonstrate their familiarity with certain topics. Therefore, do not be offended if a Chilean appears to not listen attentively. At times you may have two or three topics of conversation going in a group with people opting in and out at will.

Subjects to be avoided include religion, local politics, human rights violations, and events in recent Chilean history involving the armed forces. These are highly emotional and divisive issues among Chileans. Chileans are a very proud and independent people. Although they will willingly discuss the internal affairs of other countries, the general sentiment is that foreigners should not concern themselves with Chile’s internal differences and how they are resolved. Should they ask you a direct question on these topics, it is advised to provide a diplomatic answer or to speak about the reality of these issues in Canada. Do not criticize Chile, even if your host is doing so.

Avoid the use of humor until you are more familiar with the people, their families, interests and the language itself. Chileans keep creating and adding new words and idioms to their vocabulary. Nowadays, many English words are getting into the regular conversation in particular in places that use a North American business model.

Canadian perspective

You should start by greeting with a handshake between men or a kiss on each other’s right cheek between women, or man and woman. This is always done, whether meeting for the first time or hundredth; more familiar people may add a hug or pat on the back.

Chileans are very family oriented and will be happy to talk about their children. Their tendency to speak in slang can be confusing, even for those who speak very good Spanish. They will be more than happy to explain their unique words and phrases so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand. They will often be the first to tell you that their Spanish is far different from what is spoken in neighbouring countries.

Chileans enjoy talking about their country and will be very interested in learning about what brought you there. Avoid talking about history or politics though, as it can be divisive and you are an outsider. Like many South American countries, Chile has had periods of socialism and dictatorship and this is still very fresh in the minds of many.

Communication styles

Local perspective

The use of cellular phones and social media has changed verbal and nonverbal communication. Cellular phones are ubiquitous and people are expected to be engaged and active in social media for work and personal matters.

Chileans are usually direct. However, the use of indirect, non-verbal communication is common at work. Fear of the consequences, such as losing the job, is the underlying concern that prevents more open and direct communication with managers. Look for non-verbal clues of communication such as delays or flat out ignoring requests from managers. Other cues include: eye contact or the lack of, smiling or serious faces, body language that is open to communication or that blocks it. You may also find out information indirectly through comments or rumors from other managers or staff members at informal gatherings.

Chileans have a closer personal space compared to Canadians. Maintaining eye contact is sometimes necessary to show interest and sincerity, something that Canadians may find difficult when speaking to a person so close. Physical contact with someone of same gender such as placing a hand on another person’s lap or shoulder when talking can occur as a sign of attentiveness or to break the ice. A man might hug a woman younger than him to demonstrate care and to make the person feel welcomed.

When a drink is offered always accept and choose among the ones available. Refusing a drink is impolite and may negatively impact first impressions. It is important to pay attention to the way you eat and seat at the first meeting. Chileans favour formal and proper manners initially. Wear shoes inside at all times.

Chileans enjoy lively and dynamic conversations especially at parties. A loud tone of voice and gestures are used mainly for emphasis and are methods employed to try persuade the counterpart regarding one’s particular perspective or point of view.

Chileans have a particular way of being humorous which can be offensive to some and can also be extremely challenging to understand in the beginning. They laugh and pick on each other’s shortcomings and tend to minimize the negative effects that this action may have on the other person. Greetings and goodbyes are both done with a kiss on the right cheek between women, and between women and men. Men shake hands.

Canadian perspective

Communication tends to involve more physical contact than Canadians will be used to and distance between people when talking may be slightly closer.

Chileans often have a very difficult time expressing negative information or saying a direct “no.” This can be frustrating to Canadians who are used to a more direct approach. If you are enquiring about something on a deadline or when a person will arrive somewhere, be mindful that the response will nearly always be “soon” or “almost there.” Though this is not at all helpful, it’s typically due to the concept of “Chilean time,” which is much more relaxed than in Canada, and because they do not like causing disappointment.

Always make an effort to express yourself in Spanish but don’t be surprised if people don’t understand you (even if your words are correct). International business and tourism are on the rise in Chile but they are still not accustomed to foreign accents.

Display of emotion

Local perspective

Moderate signs of affection and other emotions are acceptable. It is common to see middle class and working class couples hugging and kissing around public places such as parks, pedestrian streets and shopping malls.

Even though Chileans generally avoid behavior that may appear aggressive, arguments can occur during traffic congestion, or in confrontation with police at demonstrations. Chilean society is in transition and one can expect the older generation to be more caring, affectionate and demonstrate more concern for the collective, as compared to the younger generation which some Chileans would describe as more focussed on success and in personal gains.

Canadian perspective

Chileans have no problem expressing happiness and love to joke around but will go to great lengths to avoid confrontations involving anger or frustration.

Couples may be affectionate in public and you will often see parks filled with young couples enjoying each other’s company – this is mainly due to the fact that many of them still live with their parents. Still, it’s not particularly welcomed so that behaviour is best avoided.

Dress, punctuality & formality

Local perspective

In a professional and working environment it is advisable to dress formally. People recognize hierarchy or authority through the way a person is dressed. Men are expected to wear suits and ties in most office environments. Long hair and unkempt beard for men is frowned upon. Women often wear dresses, high-heel shoes and use a modern hairstyle. Wearing business casual at social events is acceptable.

Be punctual to work and meetings. Punctuality is appreciated and expected from Westerners. On the other hand, everyone is expected to arrive late at social functions. Be about fifteen to twenty minutes late for a dinner and thirty to forty minutes late for a party.

The general rule is not to address a Chilean by his or her first name unless they invite you to do so. Generally, only children, family members and friends address each other by first names. However, while getting acquainted with colleagues of your age group and similar education level, it is best to call them by their first name. If they are older than you, address them by their professional titles or as Mr./Mrs./Miss followed by their last name.

Have business cards printed with English on one side and Spanish on the other. Present cards to everyone in a meeting, except secretaries. In the private sector, the approach to time is very similar to Canada. For most businesses and private enterprises the workweek consists of 48 hours. Most people leave their jobs after 6 p.m.

In case of sickness, the person needs to present a note from the family physician justifying the need for taking time off. Also, a worker is allowed personal days to attend to other issues that may arise but this benefit tends to be only available in professional work environments.

Canadian perspective

Dress tends to be quite formal in the workplace (suits, ties) and clothing in general might be more modest than Canadians would be used to. You will almost never see anyone wearing shorts, even when extremely hot outside, though women may wear shorts or short skirts over leggings.

Punctuality is important but you may find yourself adjusting your definition of what is actually punctual over time. Chileans will usually make an effort when working with foreigners but timing is generally more relaxed than in Canada. Though workplace events and meetings will start close to their scheduled time, expect that gatherings in the evenings will not start till closer to midnight, even if the invitation specified 8pm.

Superiors should be addressed by Señor/Don for men, or Señora/Doña for women. Though not commonly used in everyday speech, the formal usted (you) should be used until you are familiar enough to use the more casual tú.

Preferred managerial qualities

Local perspective

Chileans admired qualities such as a high level of education, experience and an ability to establish and maintain good relationships with employees at all levels for a local manager or supervisor. Open mindedness is a desirable quality but managers tend to be conservative in general. They also do not challenge the status-quo within their companies unless they are pressured by higher level managers or by competitors. The expectations remain similar for a non-local manager. However, employees may be more open and willing to accept non-traditional ways of doing things with an understanding that the non-local person may not be familiar with the process. Chileans are willing to offer support and contribute in the best possible way to make the learning process easier for a non-local.

Canadian perspective

Being decisive and projecting authority is very important, particularly as a foreigner stepping into a Chilean environment. Your coworkers will respect knowledge and experience so demonstrate that you have these qualities and that you are confident in your role.

Hierarchy and decision-making

Local perspective

The decision making process is centralized, residing mostly with the upper level president or general manager. Next in importance comes the manager, followed by mid and low level managers; all provide some degree of support to the upper levels.

It is acceptable to go to your immediate supervisor for answers or feedback; however, you may get frustrated by the lack of power or lack of involvement lower managers display in making decisions related to your immediate concerns.

Canadian perspective

It is expected that decisions will be made by the management and staff traditionally respect authority. You may go to your immediate supervisor for answers or feedback, but given their aversion to conflict, you may want to develop a trusting relationship with a colleague if you want honest, constructive opinions.

Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender

Local perspective


Regardless of their level in the workforce, women are at a slight disadvantage because of the "machismo" ethic that continues to exist in Chilean workplace. Men still dominate decision making but this is gradually changing as more women enter the workforce and occupy managerial positions.

Women have the same educational opportunities as men. More women are willing to make the sacrifices that a full time career requires. Often, they will hire immigrants (usually women) from neighbouring countries who come to work in Chile as domestics and as caregivers. Women that rise to positions of influence or importance are highly admired and respected by both men and women. However, women still bear the burden of most aspects of life at home although this dynamic is changing.


The majority of Chileans are Roman Catholics. This continues to permeate society at all levels, even though the last decade has seen a shift in people’s attitudes and beliefs that somewhat dampens the effect of the Catholic Church in everyday life. Notwithstanding this shift, a certain sector of society with a more traditional view of the Catholic Church’s role in society, and with considerable power through its educational institutions, continues to resist the push for change among younger Chileans.

The Catholic Church has a direct influence or it is consulted on a regular basis by the government and by the opposition members. However, it is not the strong moral bastion that it once was. Culturally, the Church has lost the moral power once held, even though it remains the place to look for reassurance and security in times of crisis for many Chileans. There have been many scandals involving the clergy that have been discovered in recent years and this has eroded people’s confidence in the Church.

At a more personal level many citizens find themselves disagreeing with the Church’s position on issues such as sexual education in the classroom, abortion and divorce. In the last decade citizens from all walks of life have been advocating for a more open dialogue, within the Church and outside, to address these and other issues. Respect and adherence to Catholic holidays remains very important.


Although not openly admitted, Chile is a country of well-defined and rigid economic/social classes with an increasing gap between higher and lower income earners. The elite and upper middle class, largely in control of the country’s finances and resources, are usually well educated. They are the sons and daughters of successful immigrants from European and Middle Eastern countries who settled in Chile during the 19th and 20th century. They live in distinct areas of cities. Their children attend private schools and private universities.

The middle class includes professionals, middle and small size business people, artists, etc. They also hold education as a priority with a more open attitude towards others. This group is largely made up of sons and daughters of immigrant parents from Arabic countries, other Latin American countries, Italy and Spain. Also, the middle class includes Chileans of mixed descent. This is the group that more appropriately represents the typical Chilean person.

The lower class is less educated and composed of farmers and general laborers. Women are usually at home raising the children or work as domestics in the households of members of the upper classes. The ethnic background of this group is mainly a mixture of Spaniards arriving to Chile from the 15th century and indigenous peoples.

A person’s social class and ethnicity can often be determined by the family name. In rural areas, this division is even more noticeable.

Canadian perspective


Senior level positions have been traditionally held by men, leftover from the era where the women would stay home with the children. However, this is slowly starting to change as more women are pursuing higher education and, consequently, higher powered roles. Chileans will acknowledge that they still have a long way to go in changing their “macho” society but this is evolving and traditional gender roles are now becoming a thing of the past.


Although Chile has been a Catholic country since the religion was introduced by the Spanish, it is generally becoming less and less a part of daily life. Still, rituals remain and some Chileans hang on to custom, either out of true devotion or simply to keep up appearances. Sunday continues to be a day where most shops will remain closed, though the day is most often spent with family rather than at church. Catholic holidays are still important with several Saints’ days observed as public holidays in addition to Christmas and Easter.


There is no place with a more apparent class divide than in Chile. Since the overthrow of the socialist government, installation and downfall of the dictatorship and now regular swing between left and right-leaning political parties, those who have managed to stay afloat now make up a distinct upper class of society. The education system perpetuates this by having notable differences in quality between public and private institutions. Those who can afford to send their children to prestigious schools from a young age will see much better outcomes later in life. Even the medical system, though freely available to all, is geared toward those who can pay for better and faster care.


Chile tends to have a rather homogenous society but immigration is rapidly increasing due to their relatively stable economy. There are many Colombians and Peruvians now living in Chile for work, but they are not always well-regarded by Chileans and tend to be considered lower class. There are still some areas with indigenous Mapuche populations who are often quite isolated in the mountains or in the south. They have fought hard to retain their culture, and demonstrations still take place. However, there is increasing recognition of their rights and theirs is one of the official languages of the country.


Local perspective

In general, Chileans tend to believe that things happen according to whom one knows and how close that relation is in order to produce favorable results. It is believed that these relationships, and not necessarily skills and merit, are the key to opening any door and to creating new opportunities in life.

Thus personal relationships with a colleague or a client are paramount in business/working relations. At a first meeting, spend most of the time establishing rapport and then gradually steer the conversation towards presenting your interests. It is advisable to meet another day or later on the same day at dinnertime in a fine restaurant. Progressively invest time in becoming familiar with your colleague or client by integrating their social life and activities. Third parties are very important for making contacts in Chile. Banks and consulting firms can make introductions. In private sector, it is best to become familiar and develop a personal relationship with your business partner before undertaking any significant business dealings.

Canadian perspective

It is very important to establish personal relationships before starting in on serious business. Always begin by building a rapport, asking about their lives and their families. Expect that this may take several minutes before it is acceptable to get to business matters. This is yet another factor involved in Chilean time, so you will need to adjust your expectations of how quickly work will get done.

Privileges and favouritism

Local perspective

There would be definitively an expectation of gaining something. However, this would not interfere in the relationship, should you hold a personal position that is contrary to it and you express it openly at the appropriate time. For Chileans, it is perfectly acceptable to use their contacts to help themselves or somebody else.

In the workplace, higher status individuals may benefit from favouritism. This can be observed in promotions, job opportunities and the general way in which members of another class address people. Somebody from a lower or middle class that has risen to an important position in society is widely admired, however may subtly be reminded that he/she is not one of them. Manual labourers are mostly from the lower class and immigrants from neighbouring countries.

Canadian perspective

This will not be any different to what you would expect in Canada. Chileans value knowledge and hard work so it is not typical to expect to be promoted through special favours.

Conflicts in the workplace

Local perspective

Direct confrontation between workers is rare and people actively avoid it. In the case that there is a concerning issue, a worker may mention the problem to his/her immediate manager. This can produce an unhealthy work environment as people seek to avoid each other. The manager would call the worker and discuss the matter privately and arrive at an acceptable solution. In other situations, the worker can present the case to the human resources manager. Do not be surprised if the worker is transferred or relocated within the company and the root cause is never directly dealt with.

Canadian perspective

If you have a problem with a colleague, expect that it will be up to you to decide whether you would like to deal with it and to make an effort to do so. Your Chilean co-worker may avoid you or pretend that everything is fine in order to get out of confrontations. In many cases, unless it is a problem that will affect ongoing work, it may be best to just move on and leave the situation alone.

Motivating local colleagues

Local perspective

Good working conditions in a positive environment rank first. An adequate income according to level of responsibility is also appreciated. Recognition of a job well done also would encourage employees to perform well. Increasingly, people are asking for more flexible work schedules and personalized benefits to manage the family/work demands better.

Canadian perspective

Gaining status and recognition are probably the more motivating factor than money, in most cases. Otherwise, this topic is probably not very different to what you would find in Canada.

Recommended books, films & foods

Local perspective

In the internet era there is plenty of information on the cultural/political/economic and military events the country has undergone over the last four decades. The Chilean music, literature and films of the last 50 years reflect the deep changes Chilean people, the society, and its institutions have experienced. However, the younger generation has deep gaps of knowledge regarding Chile’s history due to years of censorship and weakening of the public education system.

Pablo Neruda is Chili’s most prominent poet whose work is translated into English and French. He is winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Literature and has written poems including: 100 Love Sonets (Cien Sonetos de Amor), Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (20 Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada; Five Decades) (Poems 1925-1970) Cinco Décadas (Poemas 1925 1970).

Isabel Allende is one of the most read authors in Latin America. She currently lives in United States. Her books and have been translated into over 25 languages. Her books include La Casa de los Espiritus (The House of Spirits), De Amor y Sombra, (Of Love and Shadow) Cuentos de Eva Luna (Eva Luna Short Stories). There is also Antonio Skarmeta, author of the book Ardiente Paciencia upon which the 1994 American movie The Postman was based. Other books written by him translated into English and French are Soñe que la Nieve Ardía, (1975), No Pasó Nada (1980), La Insurrección (1982). He is author of several short stories and scripts for television and cinema.

Chileans are very fond of the acoustic guitar which is a central instrument of their folkloric music. Many popular musicians learn to play this instrument informally .It is usually present at gatherings of friends and family.

Chile’s most internationally known and appreciated musical group, named Inti-Illimani, was formed in 1967 from informal jamming sessions of university students. They have survived and strived for excellence for more than 45 years. Their music originally rooted in Chilean folk music, has developed into a very particular style ranging from vocal to instrumental arrangements, using more than 30 instruments in their recorded productions and live concerts. Their albums are available in the major music retail chains in Canada. Following in popularity and with their own distinctive popular style are: Los Jaivas, Illapu, Los Prisioneros, Congreso and more recently, Gondwana.

Solo singers that have reached popularity in Chile and within Latin America at different times in the last two decades include: Miriam Hernández, Alberto Plaza, Fernando Ubiergo, and Jose Vasconcellos. The late Violeta Parra and her music best represent the traditional/folkloric music of Chile. Her song Gracias a la Vida is well known all over the world. The Violeta Parra Museum in Santiago was inaugurated in October 2015 featuring many of her visual works. The museum is the realization of her children who managed to collect her work that were disseminated all over the globe.

New writers, musicians and local artist continue to appear in the last decade with some born outside of Chile. An example is Maria Merino Tijoux, daughter of Chilean parents living in political exile, born in France in 1977.


Although the cuisine in Chile is mainly international, there are a number of typical dishes. Empanada, a small meat pie, baked in oven or fried, is generally served with soup in the winter. Pastel de choclo, best described as a corn pie, contains ground beef, onions and chicken. Humitas are seasoned corn paste wrapped in cornhusks and cooked in boiling water. Parrillada is a selection of meat grilled over hot coals. In restaurants, the parrillada is served in its own small grill, to conserve the warm. Curanto,a typical dish of the southern region is made out of a combination of foods prepared by steaming in an outdoor installation. Also popular, especially in the countryside are Pan Amasado - bread baked in an earthen oven and Sopaipillas are fried squash patties, especially popular on rainy days.

Chile’s seacoast, the longest in the world, often offer a variety of seafood. Shellfish (mariscos) such as urchins (erizos), clams (almejas), prawns (langostinos) and giant mussels (choros) are among the foods preferred by local population. Some of the most appreciated kinds of fish are hake, salmon and trout.

Chilean red and white wines are internationally recognised, with an ample variety to choose from at reasonable prices. There is also a wide variety of locally produced and imported beers and spirits at affordable prices.

Canadian perspective


Pablo Neruda, Isabel Allende, Roberto Bolaño


No (Oscar nominated film about the final years of Pinochet’s regime), Bear Story (Oscar winning short film)


Chilean food tends to be of the “comfort food” variety so think warm, heavy dishes such as plates of meat (including offal) or thick bean stews. Pastel de choclo is similar to a shepherd’s pie, with a layer of meat (beef and chicken), onion, egg and olives topped with ground corn. Typical Chilean empanadas will be filled with beef, egg and onion (empanada de pino) or with cheese (empanada de queso) though you can find others filled with crab, shrimp or ham. Because of the long coastline and proximity to the ocean, you can always find incredible fish a la plancha (grilled) or frito (fried).

Some of the many oddities of Chilean cuisine are their affinity for mayonnaise, their hotdogs (completos) and their wonderful Chilean-style poutine called chorillana (fries topped with gravy, beef, onions and a fried egg). Chile is also one of the highest bread-consuming countries in the world and you will find it served at every meal, often with chorizo (a combination known as choripan) or with a chunky salsa (called pebre).

In-country activities

Local perspective

When in Chile I recommend attending concerts, reading newspapers and magazines geared toward different social classes. Also, the television programs reflect the culture and current mentality in the country. The media is increasingly controlled by a few families that maintain a similar view and therefore the diversity of voices has diminished.

Do not miss visiting the Museum of Memory and Human Rights – El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos which was inaugurated in January 2010. The museum seeks to draw attention to human rights violations committed by the Chilean state between 1973 and 1990. Its mission is to allow dignity for victims and their families, stimulate reflection and debate, and to promote respect and tolerance in order that these events never happen again.

It would be advisable to double-check your impressions, ideas and conclusions about the country and its people with a cultural interpreter. There are many Canadians living in Santiago and elsewhere in Chile. Some of those people may be willing to be cultural informants and to share their experiences with you. Another source of possible cultural informants is Chileans that have returned to their homeland after living and working abroad.

The particular geography of the country has created clear and distinct cultural regions. Do not miss the opportunity to visit a northern, central and southern city to have a better appreciation for the country. The cities and towns along the coastline are also important places to visit.

Canadian perspective

Be sure to take the time to walk around the city centre, wherever you may be located, and try to find a walking tour if one is available. These are often led by locals and are the best way to learn about the history, the art and hidden gems found in the city. Because of the nature of being in a country that regularly experiences earthquakes, there are incredible examples of contrasting colonial and modern architecture on display in nearly every town. In Santiago, a short walk will take you from the neoclassical buildings in the city’s Centro neighbourhood, to the bohemian Bellavista, the postmodern style of Providencia and the ultra modern business district of Las Condes.

Chile in the winter can simply be described as grey, due more to the overwhelming smog than the dismal weather. This is a product of the continued dependence on wood burning heaters as well as the mountains that trap the smoky air. During this time, take the opportunity to escape by skiing in the spectacular Andes or enjoying the thermal pools outside the cities.

The poet, diplomat, and politician Pablo Neruda, is a very important person in Chilean history. His three houses (in Santiago, Valparaíso and Isla Negra) are all well worth a visit. You will learn about his many loves – his wives, his land and the sea – all of which inspired the beautiful poetry still read today.

Everywhere you look there are fantastic wineries and you don’t even need to venture far from Santiago. There are a couple that can be reached on the metro line but even more opportunities if you are willing to travel for an hour or two. The Casablanca valley (between Santiago and the coast) produces some of the best sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs in the country due to the cooler sea air. South of Santiago, in the Colchagua valley, is where you will find spectacular Malbecs, Syrahs and Carmenères, the latter of which is one of Chile’s proudest contributions to the wine market. North of Santiago, in the Elqui valley, the climate is more suited to producing Pisco, a liquor distilled from grapes that is similar to brandy.

If you are able to explore the farther reaches of the country, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Torres del Paine National Park, one of the amazing natural wonders of the Patagonia region. There are two main hiking trails, typically taking between 5 and 10 days to complete, but those on a more limited schedule can still have a worthwhile experience by visiting just Glacier Grey and the towers.

National heroes

Local perspective

Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme: Army General who signed the Independence Act from Spain on September 18, 1810.

Arturo Prat Chacón: Navy Captain and hero of the war Chile fought in 1879 against Peru and Bolivia.

Manual Rodriguez: Soldier and guerrilla who fought against the Spaniards for the war of independence.

Canadian perspective

This can be a very politically charged topic but most Chileans will agree on the deserving reputations of writers Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. North American audiences will recognise actors Cote de Pablo from NCIS and Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones and Narcos.

In 2010 there was an accident in a copper mine in Copiapó in which 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days. Worldwide, people watched as they were eventually rescued and reunited with their families. The men became known as “The 33” and their story has recently been retold in a Hollywood film. The capsule in which they were rescued is on display at the Naval Museum in Valparaíso.

Football fans can be extremely passionate about their team, and divisions run deep between Colo-Colo and Universidad de Chile. Avoid showing any allegiance toward a side unless you are sure of your stance and know your audience. Even then, stay away from public places on game day because rival fans are known to start physical altercations.

Shared historical Events with Canada

Local perspective

I am not familiar with any shared historical events between Canada and Chile. The two countries at the extremes of the continent had little relations until 1941 when diplomatic relations were established. The liberalisation of trade barriers, the improved telecommunications and transportation systems have contributed in transforming Canada into one important trading and investment partner for Chile. The signing of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement in 1997 is one the most important economic events.

There are about 40,000 persons of Chilean origins living in Canada that also contribute in many ways to enrich the cultural and economic exchange between the two countries. They are open in expressing their gratitude for all the opportunities Canada has offered to them and to their children.

More recently, Canada removed the requirement of obtaining a tourist Visa for the Chilean people wanting to visit Canada. There are many Chilean undergraduates and graduate students in Canadian universities.

Canadian perspective

There are no particular shared events between Canada and Chile that could affect working relations. In recent years there has been some resistance to Canadian-run mining operations in the north of the country, due to concerns about environmental effects, but this will generally not affect day-to-day situations.


Local perspective

The knowledge in Chile about Canada and Canadians continues to be limited. Canadians are often still thought of as similar to Americans. Chileans are not aware of the cultural/ethnic diversity that exists in Canada and tend to assume that all Canadians are white and of European background. There are no other stereotypes that could be harmful to effective relations.

Canadian perspective

Canadians may have an impression of South American life and culture, but Chile tends to challenge these beliefs. Despite its internal struggles, Chile is one of the most economically stable countries on the continent. There is very little to be concerned about in terms of crime, other than possibly petty theft, which would generally be no different to what you would expect to find in Canada. It will quickly become second nature to keep your wallet and phone in your front pockets (or purse) and any flashy jewelry at home.

About the cultural interpreters

Local perspective

Female, practicing psychotherapist in Ottawa, working with immigrants and refugees for over 15 years. Arrived to Ottawa in 1981. In Chile, I attended the University of Chile to become a Science teacher. In Ottawa I have pursued a Masters degree in Counselling, a degree in Gestalt Psychotherapy and a Certificate in Clinical Supervision. My contact with Chile is constant as all my family members are living there. My last visit was in 2013. Access to internet Chilean radio and newspapers keeps me informed on current events. I have noticed the changes in the culture, language and social interactions and the increased level of diversity that newcomers bring to Chile. The society in moving from a collective model to a more individualistic model more on par with North America where the use of technology and social media is taking a more important role.

Canadian perspective

I grew up in the suburbs outside of Toronto, the oldest of three children. My background is English and Canadian. I studied modern languages and literature at the University of Toronto and spent a short time in France to study the language. In 2012, I left Canada to spend some time in South America, volunteering with an NGO and teaching English to business professionals. It was there that I met my Kiwi husband and from there moved to New Zealand. I have been living in Wellington for the past two years and currently work as a researcher with one of the government organisations.

Related information


Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.

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