Santiago vs Buenos Aires

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Jul 26, 2006
Well, I’ve got a bit of time on my hands now so in answer to BBW’s question of what Chile is like…

Firstly, Santiago is not Buenos Aires. It lacks all of the charm and cultural life. Chileans do not care much for their architectural heritage and there’s little left of the French style buildings that used to be common all over the city. They have a tendency to value new over old. I like to think of them as yuppies who like all new shiny things over preservation. Old buildings are torn down all the time in the name of progress. I guess it’s a sign of the country’s economic success but it’s not one I appreciate. From a purely architectural point of view, it’s a probably a good thing for Buenos aires that argentina hasn’t had a recent run of sustained economic success as I suspect much more of the city’s architectural gems would have been pulled down in order to build these lovely tower blocks we see popping up every day.

Anyway, Santiago has little to recommend itself; nightlife is average and there’s a major lack of bookshops, theatres and other cultural life. It’s a business city and is more north American that European-big shopping malls accessible pretty much only by car, lots of big 4x4 clogging up the streets. And the smog…worse than anywhere I’ve been in my life. In winter, you can actually taste the air.

Santiaguinos also lack all the charm and courteousness of Portenos. You’ll never walk out of a shop with a smile on your face after being charmed by the shop keeper in chile. A cursory ‘buen dia’ is the best you could ask for. I love the convoluted manner of argentine Spanish, so over the top: “Jovencito, buenos dias. Serias tan amable de decirme la hora por favor.” Or ‘Buen dia, en que te puedo ayudar?’, a polite and courteous form of Spanish you’ simply won’t hear in chile (nor anywhere else in latin America for that matter). Santiaguinos are also rude and aggressive and walking down the street is a battle.

It is, on the other hand, a remarkable city for its cleanliness and modernity and a testament to chile’s economic success. How many other cities in the world would be able to build a spanking new Metro line and huge underground ring-road in not much more than 2 years? In Buenos Aires it’d take 10 years. In London 20.

Despite what I’ve said, I like santiago more than I did 3 years ago when all of the negatives I’ve described were much much worse. The attitude of Chileans has changed considerably; they’re no longer quite as rude or aggressive and I think they’re becoming more accustomed to their wealth. Less nouveau-riche in their attitudes. Also, 3 years ago food in chile was quite revolting (except sea-food). Now the international cuisine is of a far higher quality than you’ll find pretty much anywhere in argentina. Chileans are more structured; if they cook French food they cook French food-they don’t cook French food with the chef’s ‘toque personal’ as so often happens here to ruin the meal. Eating out also used to be much more expensive in chile but now it’s no more than in Buenos aires (due to inflation here). Red-meat is bloody awful in chile though.

Out of Santiago, the country is different. The people are friendlier and chile is a beautiful country. The lake district is simply stunning, Chilean Patagonia is (from what I’ve been told by foreign travellers- I’ve never been) is better than argentine Patagonia, the desert in the north is amazing (as far as a desert can be amazing) and Valparaiso-where we’re moving to-is one of the world’s most unique and incredible cities.

Chile is also much more business friendly, it has an open and very stable economy, it’s far easier to get residency, there’s very little corruption, you can earn money that is worth something in the outside world and the police are unbribable, friendly, helpful, wear cool green uniforms and ride dirt bikes.

Also, the basic things that we take for granted in the ‘1st world’ like an efficient postal system, buying things online, being able to organise a phone line without having to wait weeks, consumer law etc and the aforementioned lack of corruption and trustworthy police are things that don’t exist in argentina

At this point in time, chile suits me more than argentina. And having a Chilean girlfriend obviously helps a lot with many aspects of life over there. I’m not leaving sticking 2 fingers up at the country by any means. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and will continue to come back and visit whenever I can.

If I were a city man, had a pension or had a foreign currency salary and had to choose between Santiago and Buenos aires (or Santiago and any other city in argentina) I would always choose argentina. It’s more fun, it’s currently cheaper, it offers so much more culturally, the people (on the surface) are friendlier and easier to get to know, the city is far more attractive and the buzz and energy of Buenos aires is something you will find nowhere else in the world.

Like any place, chile has its pros and cons. Argentina also has its pros and cons. For most expats and people reading this forum, I’d say that argentina has more pros than chile. There are plenty of things to sla g off in chile and any determined expat could find them. I’m sure these expat forums over there are full of threads banging on about Chilean surliness or bureaucracy blah blah blah. I think people just need to find their place and be happy…
Cheers, mate. You've (inadvertently) sold me on Chile, and it shall be my next port of call.
Hmmm...and if i told you that peruvians eat their babies, strip search foreigners on entry to the country but had a good police force would you fancy going there as well????!!

I actually really like uruguay, it's like the missing link between the lack of corruption in chile and the fun loving argentina...
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