Exploring Chilean Culture

Chile is a friendly country and home to a stunning variety of natural wonders, from the towering Andes Mountains to the penguin colonies of Patagonia to the historic city of Santiago. In Chilean culture, Chileans tend to be proud of their country’s achievements. They come from a culture that celebrates customs like La Minga in the island of Chiloé, when friends and neighbors help move wooden houses or churches from one location to another, and then celebrate afterward with food and drink.

A passion for the arts, especially literature, is shared by many across Chile’s diverse ethnic groups. Chile’s most famous writer, Nobel Prize Winner Pablo Neruda, called it “the country made for poets.”

Study abroad in Chile Host a Chilean student in the U.S.

Chilean People and Community

A family in Chile

The Chilean family continues to be rather traditional in its values and customs. The father is generally the primary breadwinner of the family, and although many women work, their income is considered supplementary. Because fathers spend much of their time at work, the children are usually closer to, and less formal with, their mother. Chilean families are some of the smallest in Latin America, with most parents having one or two children. Chilean culture tends to be very family-focused, and children are taught to have a strong respect for their parents.

Chile is not the typical Latin machista society. Most men want their wives to work and are proud of their accomplishments. In fact, statistics show that women have made great strides in Chilean society. However, a closer look reveals that even though women are taking advantage of higher education opportunities, and are becoming professionals, there are many women who continue to assume traditional roles. There is a great deal of pressure for women to marry, to have children, and to continue the concept of “family.”

Young people are not encouraged to be as independent as in other cultures. They depend more on their parents for permission to go out, or to participate in after-school activities. Parents expect to be an authority over their children for a longer period of time than in other countries. Another aspect of family life that is important to note is that boys and girls are sometimes treated differently. Boys are generally given more freedom, while their sisters are more protected.

Language and Communication Styles

People in Chile

The official language of Chile is Spanish, and some people also speak English, German, or Mapudungun (the language of the Mapuche). In Chile, people do not refer to the language they speak as Español, but rather as Castellano. The two terms are equivalent. Castellano just happens to be the preferred term in South America.


While breakfast is usually very light (bread and jam with milk for the children, and café con leche or tea for the adults), lunch is the main meal of the day in Chilean culture. It can include meat (beef, lamb, pork, or chicken) or fish with rice, pasta, vegetables, soups, and salads. In the afternoon, enjoy an onces: tea or coffee with bread and butteror marmalade and pastry. Some families have a late dinner, which includes similar foods as lunch. A variety of fruits is available throughout the year.

Dinner is usually referred to as la comida, and not cena, as in other Spanish speaking countries. Dinner is usually one main dish that is interchangeable with what was served at lunch. Chilean people enjoy a leisurely period of “table talk” after each meal.

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