Moving to Santiago, Chile may seem daunting if you don’t know anyone and don’t speak Spanish, particularly if you are on your own. Santiago, however, is an expat haven and it is easy to get to know people.
Even if you have a tendency to be shy, do your homework, figure out key places to go and you will soon start to meet other expats in the city. Every expat who has moved here remembers what it was like, so they are a friendly, supportive group. With the help of the Internet, you can get a good idea of what to expect. Here are some tips on how you can meet expats in Santiago:
Do your research. The Expats in Chile Network and the Santiago English-Spanish Meet Up offer free memberships and frequently host events. The gatherings are informal and people mix and mingle. Another good connection is InterNations. You can sign up for a basic free membership or pay a small monthly fee for the Albatross option
Sign up for the free online edition of Friday’s English-language newspaper, The Santiago Times and start reading about local news and events in town. Also check out I Love Chile, a weekly English publication.
Contact Chile Tours & Transport for an airport pickup. Steve McCarthy from California moved to Santiago (see the April issue of International Living for his story) and started a business called Chile Tours and Transport. He will meet you at the airport and give you some insider information about where to go to meet other expats.
Come to a Santiago Dinner Club gathering. Every month or so, 20 people–expats and bilingual locals–get together for a pot-luck dinner. Everyone brings food to share, something to drink and tales to tell. Check the link and it will give you an idea of what to expect.
Head for Las Condes. This upmarket area of Santiago is crawling with expats. Check out the bar at the Hotel W or hang around and drink coffee at Starbucks.
Teach English. Even if you don’t need to supplement your income, teaching English is a great way to meet other expats. And you will also get to know Chileans who are studying the language. Working is a good way to feel involved in the larger community and there are lots of language schools in town. Even if you don’t have a teaching qualification or an ESL certificate, you can still get a teaching job because you are a native English speaker.
Go to the pub. There is nothing like a pint of Guinness at Flannery’s Irish Geo Pub to get to know the expats who frequent this lively place. Or, if you crave an American-type sports bar, head for California Cantina, where there is happy hour every day.
Go to events on your own. When you stroll into an expat gathering, look for people who are also there solo. Like you, they will be glad to have someone to talk to, so just walk up and introduce yourself. Asking where people are from always works. Invite others who come of their own to join you and by the end of the evening you will have a table full of new friends.
Get business cards printed even if you don’t have a business. When you go to events, you can hand out a card with your contact details. Numbers scrawled on pieces of paper have a habit of getting lost, while business cards get tucked away and kept for future reference. A recent print-run of 100 cards costs about $7.
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