A whole new world, here are my five “First Impressions” about Santiago, Chile.
French-born raised in Asia and Europe, I landed a few days ago in Santiago, Chile and gathered some of my first impressions to remember and share before they turn into habits.
Number one : the mountains’welcome you to Santiago !
When descending towards Santiago, the first sight that caught my eyes were the Andes mountains above which the planes flew over before landing. What an incredible experience, both inspiring and thrilling: the majestic “Andes Cordillera” was right under the wings of the plane for a close encounter with its peaks, aligned like a welcoming committee in white uniform, towering above the city. The fun fact is that people from Santiago know which direction to take based on this landmark, their compass pointing to the East. However, I still have an unsolved question: how do they know the direction when there is fog? Things that make you go, hmmmmmm.
If you’re interested in exploring Los Andes, check out this great horse-back tour here!
Number two : upside down!
Flying from France to Chile, I knew I would switch from the North Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, and that everything would be upside down. However, actually experiencing both Summer and then Winter within a 15 hours time gap made me realize, all at once, that a new adventure was indeed about to begin! It is winter now in Chile and though the average temperature is not too cold in Santiago, it makes me think about the name “Chile” – whose origin is not definite – though it most likely came from a native Indian word sounding like “Chilli”, adopted by the Spanish, and for which I found in one source the meaning of “snow” or “very cold” (but it could also be “where the land ends”). Hopefully, Spring and Summer will nonetheless follow!
Number three : a strange connection !
On my first day, a clear day, I went up Santiago Sky Costanera to get a 360º degrees view over the city, admiring its density and the nature all around. Then, walking through the city for the first time, discovering one area and then another, the architecture, the vibe, I experienced both differences and similarities to my familiar European and Asian surroundings. Surprisingly, although very different, Santiago reminded me of Hong Kong and South East Asia. Eventually, I realized it may be because of the people’s extreme friendliness, always willing to help you if you are lost and need help. The funny thing, is that Hong Kong is actually on the opposite side of the world from Santiago when going through the epicenter. Who knows, I may have felt some hidden link stretching between these two cities!
Number four : like “canned sardines” in the underground!
Moving around and using the Santiago Subway has been a memorable new experience for me. Whereas I am used to large crowds in the metro during peak hours, Santiago has brought it to a whole new level. In order to adapt, it has to be understood that anybody willing to get into the train during peak hours, has to fight for it: it does not matter what age or condition you are, the local way prevails and nobody will think twice about squashing everybody else. With French irony, every time I get in, I feel like singing as loud as I can “Les Sardines” (“Sardines”, a French song by Patrick Sébastien) about poor sardines which do not have space in their tin. Watch out for the crazy French girl, I might vent one of these days!
Number five : la idioma !
As a European, I have learned and practice the “Spanish from Spain”, being quite proud at the way I have been able to adopt some local Spanish expressions like “vale” (ok) – that I was used to using more frequently:). Except now in Chile, people would rather use “ya” or “bueno” – as expressions. In addition to the accent, this is just an example among so many that, although people understand me and though it might be an over-statement, it looks like I have to learn a whole new language especially as some words have a completely different meaning. The point is, that I do not want to be rude or funny unknowingly, so I do my best to learn the local slang and blend in like a local!
These are just a few bits and pieces of my beginning adventures in Chile, as I haven’t been here that long. What I can say though, is that I have already come to love the city and what it has to offer. I would therefore like to conclude with just one piece of advice for the new travelers: take it all in, let the city in and you may end up having the experience of a lifetime!
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