While stable and growing, Chile is not a paradise, though it is catching up with the most developed countries and tries to fix the neoliberal economic model that produces one of the highest inequality levels among the OECD countries. It's not that noticeable if you are coming from a country with a similar level of development (like Eastern European ones), but immigrants from Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand are often disappointed with the downgrades.

The perfect option for living in Chile is earning money from abroad — from online business, remote work, or freelancing. It makes you independent from the Santiago-centered realities of the Chilean job market. You can still find jobs in other regions but they are scarce and the salaries are significantly lower. Also, the best-paying jobs are usually related to mining — the country's main source of income.

Service jobs and manual labor outside of the mining industry are poorly paid — the salaries often stay under the taxation limit. The available positions are competitive because less than 30% of Chileans have university degrees due to the prohibitive costs of higher education. Increasing immigration from the neighboring countries contributes to the problem even more.

Spanish language

In Chile less than 10% speak English and this number depends a lot on the region. Nowadays, it's totally possible to stay in an English-speaking bubble in Santiago or cities that are popular tourist destinations, but your daily life will still be difficult without Spanish. Also, it's more of an option for people who work remotely — a good local job often requires a conversational level of Spanish.

Cost of living

Chile is a relatively expensive country, and as a newcomer you will often pay more for the first couple of years. Without any additional sources of income, US$25,000 in savings is a good amount of money for two persons to settle down and live for one year. Don't plan your expenses too tight against the time — business and especially immigration processes are not fast here.

If you have kids, be aware that quality education in Chile costs too much in relation to local salaries. See the living costs for different cities on Numbeo.

Starting a business

While it's possible, and there are some success stories among immigrants, starting businesses in Chile has the following complications:

  • If it serves the local market — you don't know Chilean consumer's behavior.
  • If it serves other businesses — you don't have connections to be trustworthy.
  • If you are going to hire locals — you will need to adapt to Chilean working culture or find ones who will adapt to yours.
  • As a foreigner, you are a target for con artists and scamming.
  • You will need to understand Chilean tax codes and labor laws.
  • Banks will not open a full account for you (see the guide to banking in Chile).
  • TE7 visa for investors and businessmen is one of the most complicated because you will be explaining your business plan to the immigration department.
  • To incorporate you will need a legal representative who must be a Chilean resident.
  • You will be constrained without the national ID and RUT number while waiting for your visa (it could take up to 8 months currently).
  • If you are from a common law country, the bureaucracy may drive you crazy.
  • You will need to speak at least conversational Spanish.

Most new businesses fail even when the owner is in their home country, so good luck but don't bet your life on it.

Air quality

The cities in valleys, like Santiago, Chillán, Temuco, Osorno, often become "sealed" with cold air in winter, keeping the pollution inside. Outside of Santiago, wood stoves are still the main source of heat. The government tries to curb pollution with various measures and the future looks clean because of the giant renewable energy projects, but for now smog is a problem. On a side note, electricity costs are very high.

The pollution is nowhere as bad as in many other countries, and it’s highly seasonal — from May to September with peaks at 5–8 pm during cold weather. You can monitor it and see the historical data at the national air quality system.

Ethnicity and gender

Women and minorities in Chile still encounter problems that are no longer present in other developed countries. Your experience may vary depending on the region and neighborhood.

Women walking alone can get cat-called in the streets. While there's a strong feminist push to stop obvious harassment and discrimination — the "machismo" behavior is still considered acceptable by many men. If you are immigrating to live together with a Chilean partner, keep in mind that domestic violence is still a serious problem here.

Despite legalized same-sex civil unions and a push to legalize same-sex marriages, being openly LGBT still can draw negative attention. Hate crimes are rare but they can happen. Chile also has a significant (15–18%) evangelical population, which is frequently LGBT-hostile.

In contrast to Brazil or Caribbean countries, African and Asian ethnicities have not been represented in Chile for the most of its history. In the last few years, high immigration rates from Haiti abruptly increased the percentage of the black population and produced a public backlash. While negative reactions towards black people are rare, many Chileans will assume that you are Haitian. If you are Asian, people will often call you Chinese (chino). Both "chino" and "negro" do not carry negative connotations in Spanish.

In general, there are no visible discrimination trends but wearing ethnic or religious clothing can cause some tension — it's better to look "globalized" and blend in. Also, you can encounter prejudices based on skin color in both ways. For example, there were cases of bullying European immigrant kids for looking like a "rich white person" (cuico) in a public school where all students have darker skin (whiter kids usually go to expensive private schools). The reason for this is the strong historical segregation of social classes based on skin color and a mutual hostility in the society as a result.


Some people come to live in Chile and expect everything to suit their ideas of how things should be done. When that doesn't happen, they become angry and complain all the time. Don't expect Chile to change for you — accept how things are, adapt, and have fun.

Recommended articles