Customs of Chile


Desayuno (breakfast): typical time. Café con leche plus toast with jam and butter
Almuerzo (lunch): 1:30 PM. Can last 2-2.5 hours, used to be leisurely time with family plus nap, now lunch at nearby restaurant plus talk of business. Wine often drunk with lunch. Water con gas and sin gas.
El Té (tea): 5:00 PM. Café con leche, café helado or tea. Iced tea is rare. Marraqueta (French bread) or pastries.
La Comida (dinner, note: “Véngase a comer” means “Come to dinner” and not lunch as it would in Spanish. La cena, “supper” in Spanish is not vernacular here): 9:00 PM. Resembles lunch but is less abundant and elaborate.


Concept of Time: When it comes to social events, Chileans expect guests to be “fashionably late.” They enjoy a leisurely meal in the company of friends and family and stay at the table after the meal is over to talk (la sobremesa). Work and school hours and public transportation schedules are geared towards punctuality.
Soccer, tennis, skiing and horse riding are popular.

Social customs

Personal Distance: Amongst strangers or friends, Chileans stand closer (than is comfortable to Americans) to each other in lines, public transportation and conversation.
Greetings: Shake hands when introduced. Male-male continue to do so with subsequent meetings. Male-female shake hands if the relationship is formal; if social, hold hands and kiss on one cheek. Female-female also shake hands if the relationship is formal; if social, hold hands and kiss on one cheek. Family members greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. Brothers or fathers and sons will grasp hands and hug (abrazo). The greeting process can be a long affair as each person greets the new person who has entered. Chileans value intimacy and physical contact is an important demonstration of those with whom they interact. Chilean women, especially those of the same family, link arms when they walk along the street. Chileans may appear unaware of strangers around them but are very welcoming once a certain link has been established.
The Saint’s Day: Birthdays are celebrated both on the actual day of birth and on the day of the saint that corresponds to a person’s name. For females, this also applies to the feminine version of a male name.
Forms of Address: vs. usted in formal relationships is reversed in certain situations. When a young man and young woman meet each other, the form is used. The usted form is reserved for a more intimate and exclusive relationship. Adults use the usted form with children to indicate that they are upset with them.
The “Uniform”: Chilean men dress very conservatively in blue and gray suits. While women may dress as they please, bright colors are frowned upon.
Women’s Roles: Suffrage in 1949. Women more accepted in professional roles. Feminine versions of male occupations used to mean “the wife of a _____” (e.g. arquitecta or abogada used to mean wife of an architect or lawyer). Now they often mean a female in that occupation. However, some workplace discrimination still exists. Males are now more helpful in housework.

Castillo-Feliú, Guillermo I. Culture and Customs of Chile. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Print.

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