Excerpted from the Chile Career Guide
The family is at the heart of Chilean society, and extended families tend to maintain close ties, gathering for large holidays and celebrations. Family and business often are intertwined, and nepotism is not necessarily viewed negatively. Many small firms are completely family-run.
Generally, Chileans eat a simple breakfast, a larger lunch and have tea, known as an once, between 5 and 6 pm. Because of this, Chileans eat a late dinner, around 9 to 10 pm. Bread is a staple of the Chilean diet and includes varieties such as pan amasado, allullas, dobladitas and marraquetas; this last one is often referred to as ‘French bread’ or pan francés.
During the past few years, Santiago has been booming with attractions all over the city. Once considered the ‘ugly cousin’ of Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, Santiago has been catching up to its neighbors.
In Chile, excellent customer service generally is not the norm; this can be frustrating for newcomers. Service in restaurants can be very slow, even in the more expensive establishments. Tips are 10 percent and not mandatory, but it is important to leave one regardless of the quality of service.
When greeting, women and women, and women and men share an ‘air kiss’ on the right cheek. Men usually shake hands, although close friends, especially young men, may also kiss each other on the cheek. The same is followed when parting.
While Spanish is the official language, other languages spoken in Chile include Mapudungún, which is the language of the Mapuche people, Aymara in the northern Andean region, Rapa Nui on Easter Island, and German.
Chilean Spanish is rapid, and speakers often drop the final letters of words, including the ‘s’ at the end of words indicating the plural.
If You Want to Act Like a Local
- Tipping at cafes, restaurants and hotels is optional, although giving a 10 percent tip is highly recommended, regardless of the level of service.
- If invited to a Chilean's home, one should bring sweets such as chocolates or wine for the hosts. Flowers should be sent in advance, in an odd number, and they should never be yellow (indicates contempt), purple or black (death). Red roses indicate romantic intentions. Flowers should be unwrapped.
- Slapping the right fist into the left open palm is a sign of aggressiveness and may indicate an imminent physical confrontation.
- Gifts are opened when received.
Appearances are important to Chileans, as this can indicate hierarchical status, so you should dress well. In a business setting, you should dress formally and conservatively in dark tones, with a suit and tie for men and a business suit (skirt or trousers) for women. Men often will put on their jackets when leaving the office. Women may wear more casual clothing in hotter weather, although this is a recent trend. Business dress is more casual in certain regions of the country and certain sectors (for example, among those in the tech industry), and ‘casual Fridays’ have become increasingly popular and accepted at companies. Secretaries and clerks in larger companies often are given uniforms to wear. This is not seen as negative or discriminatory, but rather as a comfort for employees.
Managers in Chile tend to be formal and conservative. Work generally is conducted under autocratic systems in which managers give orders and subordinates are expected to unquestioningly carry them out. It would be considered rude to challenge someone of a higher status and rank.
In order to book an appointment with a senior-level executive, it is necessary to have a contact or to establish a rapport with the executive’s administrative assistant, who serves as the gatekeeper. Meetings should be made at least three weeks in advance for a high-ranking official. The best hours for scheduling a meeting are from 10 am to 1 pm, and from 3 to 5 pm. Never ask to schedule such a meeting during lunch.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Chile Guide.