1) Valparaiso is one of the hilliest cities in the world. They have elevator like lifts on a railway that uses a pulley system to get pedestrians up the hill. They are cheap and so worth it when your calves are killing you!
2) Chile is a long, narrow country and is quite prone to natural disasters. Fires are prominent, but the real issue is with earthquakes. According to weather.com, Chile suffers about one earthquake every day, but can sometimes reach up to 300 per week. The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile- with a whopping magnitude of 9.5, claiming more than 5,000 lives. And of course, in a country that is made up of so much coastline, there is a constant threat of tsunamis.
3) Valparaiso is a UNESCO world heritage sight, and was once a booming port city. While the opening of the Panama Canal caused a severe decrease in traffic through the port, it is still one of the busiest port cities in South America. While we were in Valparaiso, American warships stopped here on their way to San Francisco. It was in the newspaper that they were coming and were to be greeted with a band and cannon fire. We were close enough to be able to hear their arrival from our window.
4) There are 2 separate taps in the sink for hot and cold water. Never expect to get a perfect medium; it's either ice cold or scorching your skin. They have very hard water with an extremely high mineral content. It is completely safe to drink, it doesn’t contain pathogens but I did notice it really dried out my skin and hair. I noticed no taste difference and had no ill effects when drinking from the tap.
5) Greetings are especially important in this culture. The very first day we arrived, we were told that even if we didn't speak the same language as guests we should do our best to give them a very warm greeting and a long goodbye. Even the women we worked with would come in every single morning and kiss us on the cheek, ask us how we slept, and how we were feeling. When they ask how you slept and how you are, they expect a real answer- just saying “good” will not suffice. Good byes were just as important with more kisses and well wishes.
6) This is not a place where English is widely spoken, and Chilean Spanish is quite different from any of the Spanish I’ve ever heard. Chileans speak very fast and drop letters when they speak. They have a completely different set of vocabulary as well, which was kind of overwhelming at first. However, for the most part people were helpful when I asked questions or didn’t understand. After about 3 weeks I was getting the hang of it. It just takes some time to get used to.
7) Valparaiso in particular is a very artsy city. The buildings are colorful, street art and murals cover the walls, and local artists have stores, workshops, galleries, and booths everywhere. It was really cool and refreshing to visit a place where the importance of art is evident and artists are celebrated.
8) Chileans have a high standard of living. The infrastructure is great, they rank among the top education systems in Latin America, they have a reliable public transportation system, and it is safe to walk the streets at night.
9) Every food or drink item you buy has a very clear label with the nutrition facts and ingredients listed. If it is something imported from America they paste a sticker over it to comply with their labeling standards. They also have large warning signs on the front of an item if it is high in sugar/fats/calories/etc.
10) Everywhere we go we love to eat street food. Here we were obsessed with the churrasco sandwiches. They are sandwiches made from thin strips of sautéed steak, and you can order them different ways. Our favorite was with avocado, tomato bits, onions and lettuce. These sandwiches were BURSTING at the seams! You can get hotdogs made the same way, with all the fixins, called Completos. Half of an avocado comes on nearly everything you order, you won’t pay extra for guac here! Another favorite across Latin America is empanadas. Here they make ones with a filling called Pino. Pino is mixture of ground beef, onions, raisins, black olives and hard-boiled eggs. We tried it and it is better than it sounds, I’m just not a fan of olives. Of course we can’t forget that they are well known for their marvelous seafood and wonderful red wines as well.
Chile is a spectacular country but we only got to explore a small portion of it, we will surely be back to experience Patagonia when it is not so frigid. We really enjoyed our time wandering the streets looking for art and soaking up the views from atop the hills. We decided that the only thing we didn't like about this place was how far away it is from home.