Living in Chile?
Living in Chile
At a Glance:
- Chile has a high standard of healthcare; both public and private healthcare facilities are widely available.
- In comparison with many other Latin American nations, Chile is a country with a low cost of living, yet it is also known for its good quality of life.
- Accommodation in Chile is generally very reasonably priced — in many cases single-family houses are just as affordable as apartments.
- Both primary and secondary education is compulsory in Chile. To make education affordable, the majority of public schools are subsidized.
Chile’s Population: A Melting Pot
Centuries of immigrants and settlers have shaped the population of Chile. With a current population of just over 18 million, the majority of Chileans descend from European immigrants, mainly from Spaniards during the Spanish colonization of the country. However, the nation is also home to a diverse mix of indigenous people of Asian and South American origin. In fact, about 10–11% of the population belongs to indigenous groups like the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group. The Mapuche live in Chile’s Araucanía region in the south. The Aymara and Atacameño peoples can mostly be found in the northern deserts and mountains, while the Alcalufe and Yaghan live on the Tierra del Fuego.
Roughly 90% of Chile’s population live in cities and bigger towns. Chile’s capital, Santiago, is the undisputed center of the country, with almost one-third of the population settled there. There are also many other towns and cities that are worth considering: from Valparaíso, Chile’s second largest city, to La Serena, a popular seaside town in the north, the country has plenty of choice when it comes to picking your ideal expat location.
Different Languages and Traditions
Spanish is Chile’s official language; however, the indigenous languages still exist as minority dialects. For instance, Aymara, Quechua, and Alcalufe are still common languages in Chile, as is Rapa Nui, which is spoken by locals on Easter Island.
Much like other Latin American countries, Chile is predominantly Catholic. In fact, a survey in 2017 found that 58%of the population identifies as Catholic and 14% as Evangelical. Yet, expats in Chile who are not Catholic, or of any faith at all, need not worry: religious diversity is not only respected but protected in Chile. Although the Church and state are separate, there are a number of Catholic holidays that are observed as national holidays.
Health and Medical Care in Chile
Chile has some of the most advanced medical care in Latin America. Expats benefit from modern healthcare facilities, well-trained medical staff, and top-notch equipment. Although private healthcare is available as well, the country has a good public healthcare system and emergency care is always readily available.
Chile’s public health system is the National Health Fund (FONASA). Expats living in Chile will generally only have access to FONASA’s free healthcare if they are residents or pay taxes in the country. There are a number of private health insurance companies called ISAPREs which provide greater access to private healthcare services and hospitals, and are often preferred by expats.
Health Risks in Chile
Common tropical diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, and cholera, are not prevalent in Chile. The only contagious disease which tends to cause problems in the more rural areas is the Hantavirus. The air-borne virus, which is carried by wild rodents, is mostly a concern at campsites where there is the possibility of coming into direct contact with infected animals. Fortunately, the disease is not fatal and hospitals are well-equipped to treat it.
Although drinking water is safe in Chile, you should buy bottled water during your first few weeks. If you have a sensitive stomach, you should also avoid eating raw seafood or unwashed fruits. It is recommended that you have the Hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines before travelling to Chile, as these can sometimes be contracted through contaminated water or food.
Another threat is dangerous insects and spiders, such as vinchucas (kissing bugs) and arañas de rincón (Chilean recluse spiders). They tend to live in remote areas and old houses and, judging by the small number of people bitten each year, are only a minor threat. If you have been bitten, you should go to the emergency room immediately. It is recommended that you try to bring the dead spider or insect with you if possible to help the doctors determine which antidote you need.
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