Chile Flag

Facts and Statistics

Location: Southern South America, bordering the South Pacific Ocean, between Argentina and Peru

Capital: Santiago

Population: 15,980,912 (July 2005 est.)

Ethnic Groups: white and white-Amerindian 95%, Amerindian 3%, other 2%

Religions: Roman Catholic 89%, Protestant 11%, Jewish NEGL%

Language in Chile

Spanish in the official language of Chile. There are also quite a few indigenous languages such as  Mapudungun (spoken between the Itata and Tolten rivers) and Aymara (spoken in the mountains of the north).

Chilean Culture & Society


. Most Chileans are Roman Catholics.
. The religion has played a large role in defining social and political life.
. Religious instruction in public schools is almost exclusively Roman Catholic. 
Abortion is actually illegal due to the influence of the Church. 
. Divorce was illegal until 2004.
. Most national holidays are religious in nature. 
. Chileans of more mature generations still celebrate their saint's day as much as they do their own birthday.

The Role of the Family

. The family occupies a central role in Chilean life.
. Extended families are very close and will frequently congregate for major occasions and celebrations.
. Family and business are intertwined to the extent that nepotism is seen as a positive concept.
. Many small firms will be 100% family run.

Class Structure

. Chilean history has had a large influence on modern day class lines.
. Generally speaking, class in drawn along financial lines.
. Today's wealthiest class are more or less the same land owning families of before.
. A middle class has developed of late and now accounts for nearly a half of the population.  
Classes are fluid and it is possible to move either upwards or downwards depending on your salary.

Social Profiling

. Due to class structures it is commonplace for people to try and deduce another's position in the social rank.
. This is primarily done through external appearances, i.e. dress, etc.
. As a result they present themselves in the best possible way.

Etiquette and Customs in Chile

map of chile

Meeting & Greeting

. Men will usually shake hands.
. Women generally pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder.
. These are always accompanied by the appropriate greeting for the time of day - "buenos dias" (good morning), "buenas tardes" (good afternoon) or "buenas noches"(good evening).
. Between friends and family things will relax and become more unreserved - men may embrace and energetically pat each other on the back whilst women will kiss once on the right cheek.
. Always let your Chilean counterpart progress to this stage of formality. 
. Like many South Americans, Chileans use both their maternal and paternal surnames. The father's surname is listed first and is the one used in conversation. 
. If you know of any titles always try to use them. 
. If no title exists then simply use "Senor" (male) or "Senora" (female) followed by the surname. 
. When addressing older people with whom you have a personal relationship, who may be referred to as "don" (male) or "dona" (female) with their first name.
. First names are used between close friends - wait until invited to move to a first name basis.

Gift Giving Etiquette

Gifts are usually given for birthdays and Christmas. Some general etiquette guidelines include: 
. If invited to a Chilean's home, take sweets/chocolates or wine for the hostess. 
. Send flowers in advance. 
. Do not give yellow roses as they indicate contempt. 
. Do not give purple or black flowers as they symbolize death. 
. Do not give scissors or knives as they indicate you want to sever the relationship. 
. For a young girl's 15th birthday, a gift of gold jewellery is the norm. 
. Gifts are opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

. Dining etiquette can be quite formal in Chile.
. As a general rule, observe and follow if ever unsure.
. Here are some basic dining etiquette guidelines:
- When sitting wait to be shown to your place. 
- Women sit before men. 
- The hostess invites people to eat. 
- Keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table. 
- Always use utensils to eat. 
- Avoid speaking with eating utensils in your hands. 
- It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate. 
- Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink. 
- The host makes the first toast. 
- The most common toast is "Salud!" 
- When you lift your glass, look at the person being toasted. 
- Pour wine with the right hand only.

Business Etiquette and Protocol in Chile

Meeting and Greeting

. Chileans like an element of formality in all they do.
. A firm handshake accompanied with a smile and appropriate greeting is normal in a business setting.
. Direct eye contact is important.
. Some women may not shake hands with men, although this is becoming less common.
. Chileans stand very close when conversing.
. Always use surnames and titles - wait to be invited to use someone's first name.
. Business cards are exchanged on the initial meeting at the very start.
. Try and have one side translated into Spanish.
. Keep cards in good condition - a tatty card will reflect badly on you.

Business Meetings

. Chile has a relationship driven culture so initial meetings should be used to build a relationship and establish trust. Devote time to non-business discussions and wait for the other party to initiate the change in topic.
. Pay attention to hand movements - gestures change in meaning across cultures.
. It is common to interrupt someone while they are speaking. 
. Meetings are not always linear in their progression. Schedules are not very structured and issues can be tackled all at the same time. 
. It is important to be patient as time is not of the essence in Chile - meetings will last as long as they need to last.
. Remember that decisions are not made at meetings so it is important to provide all necessary information during the meeting.
. Chileans are generally indirect in their communication styles, but can become very animated and assertive when if they get emotional.
. Communication styles tend to be tuned to people's s feelings. Confrontation is generally avoided in order not to jeopardize another's honour or dignity - it may therefore be necessary to read between the lines in order to fully understand what is really meant.
. Never openly criticize anyone.

Useful Information and Links about Chile

Currency - the currency of Chile is known as the Peso (CLP)i. Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP or Euro.

Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for Chile.

Translation Services - do you need an English to Spanish translation?

News - check out all the latest Google news on Chile.

Intercultural Know-how - use the Intercultural Business Communication tool for tips on doing business in Chile.

Dialling Code - the international dialling code for Chile is +56.

Management - for information about being a manager in Chile visit the free Management in Chile guide.

Time - Chile is -4 hours GMT. Get the time in Chile now.

Hotels - Hotels in Chile.

History - read about the long and rich history of Chile.

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