You ar1e in : Culture

  For itinerary enquiries please email us at :

Chile Culture


Background Description

There is no definitive way to describe the Chilean culture as it is a mix between the Indigenous Indian culture, the culture from the Spanish Conquistadores and latter day cultures from different European settlers. The official language is Spanish, or to be precise Castellano, which is spoken exceptionally fast and abbreviated where possible so, to the unaccustomed "gringo” ie – you, who has just finished a concentrated course in learning to speak Spanish, you will not understand very much!


The Chileans, by nature are kind and, compared to the often innate "aggressive" nature within the younger element British culture, they are relatively "innocent". They do, however, have a tendency to be economical with the truth if they happen to make a mistake and will prefer to give you incorrect directions to get to a destination just so they can give you directions - a kind of "saving face" ethic or one that could be described as "insecurity". Indeed the “unreliability” that is endemic in the culture has created the need to have a public notary throughout each city in order to formally legalise any transaction, such as the selling of a car to employee work contracts. Unfortunately a persons word is not not considered reliable enough.


In theory Chile is a Roman Catholic country and the vast majority of people are Roman Catholic, however, this does not stop a very large proportion of both men and women cheating on their partners. It is quite common for married people of both sexes to use the facilities of a motel, which is discreet and where a room is rented out by the hour, to enjoy time with their lover. There are numerous motels throughout Santiago and most other cities that exist specifically for the use of couples requiring privacy.


The national dance is called "the Cueca" - brought out to celebrate the Independence Day on 18 September each year and involves a man and a woman trying to "out flirt" the other whilst stomping legs to a regular rhythm and waving one arm with a hanky. The experts will be dressed in the national costume of Chilean cowboy (a “huaso”) and cowgirl and dance it very well.


Socially, Chileans will have a normal breakfast, sometimes an “once” (a snack with a drink at around 11am) and lunch normally from around 14:00hrs for at least an hour and often longer. Dinner is usually a late affair with 21:00hrs quite a common time to sit down to eat. Social gatherings will invariably start much later than the time on the invitation and even at formal functions it is rare for the Chileans to show up bang on time. It is also quite common for people not to show, even when they have accepted an invitation. Evening events will usually come to life after 22:00hrs, including restaurants (bear this in mind when dining out as a “restaurant” atmosphere will occur late in the evening). Sunday is a family day when families will try to be together.


With regard to alcohol consumption the attitude is relaxed, even though there are severe penalties for driving a car over with too much alcohol in one’s blood, but the fear of being caught does not deter people from drinking as much as they want. However, it will be quite the norm for younger Chileans to opt for a soft drink when out with friends with Coca-cola being a main choice. In fact Coca-cola, Whisky and Pisco are the favourite drinks among the Chileans. Pisco is a grape-based brandy and used to make the national drink – a Pisco Sour, but this is also claimed by Peru as its national drink. Pisco is also mixed with Coca-cola to form the drink “Piscola”.


Chileans do take pride in their appearance. In fact, culturally, it is very much a "presentation" society, whereupon people make sure they look good no matter how poor they may be or what few clothes they may possess. So, if you are invited to any kind of social event make sure you look good - it is important here. For a woman is is paramount to look feminine, attractive and sexy, whatever age you may be and consequently most foreigners in Chile love the way the women look!

Social behaviour is also very important, especially table manners and controlling the need to burp or break wind. To do either, even by complete accident, will be considered extremely rude, not even as a joke.

Chilean gastronomy is basic, but tasty. The principal dishes are sea food, red meat on a barbeque, a chicken or meat stew called “Casuela” and the famous “Empanada”, which is a pastry-filled pie containing either mince or shell fish or cheese.

Considering that most of the population lives in the central section of the country and that this enjoys a Mediterranean climate, it is not surprising that the Chilean way of life is an outdoor one.

The national sport is football, with players such as Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas making the grade to play for European football teams and recently a couple of tennis players have gained respect in the tennis arena, especially Marcelo Rios who was ranked number one in the world a few years ago.



Chilean Iconic Cultural Figures

There are two Chilean people that stand out when it comes to making their mark on the world stage and both for their literacy contribution. They are poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.


Gabriela Mistral
Nobel Prize Winner in Literature 1945


Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957),
is a pseudonym for Lucila Godoy and Alcayaga, was born in Vicuña, Chile. The daughter of a dilettante poet, she began to write poetry as a village schoolteacher after a passionate romance with a railway employee who committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.


The love poems in memory of the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her known throughout Latin America, but her first great collection of poems, Desolación [Despair], was not published until 1922. In 1924 appeared Ternura [Tenderness], a volume of poetry dominated by the theme of childhood; the same theme, linked with that of maternity, plays a significant role in Tala, poems published in 1938. Her complete poetry was published in 1958.


Pablo Neruda
Nobel Prize Winner in Literature 1971


Pablo Neruda (1904-1973),
whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana", among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia - his first publication - and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.


Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.


The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el Corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterised by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el Corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.


In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico, where he rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto General, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda production. Shortly after its publication, Canto General was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla is repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las Uvas y el Viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda exile. In Odas elementales (1954- 1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns - things, events and relations - are duly presented in alphabetic form.


Neruda production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras Completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.


Further Neruda works:

  • Geografía infructuosa / Barren Geography (poetry), 1972
  • El mar y las campanas / The Sea and the Bells, tr. (poetry), 1973
  • Incitación al nixonicidio y alabanza de la revolución chilena / A Call for the Destruction of Nixon and Praise for the Chilean Revolution, tr. (poetry), 1974
  • El corazón amarillo / The Yellow Heart (poetry), 1974
  • Defectos escogidos / Selected Waste Paper (poetry), 1974
  • Elegía / Elegy (poetry), 1974
  • Confieso que he vivido. Memorias / Memoirs, tr. (prose), 1974
  • Para nacer he nacido / Passions and Impressions, tr. (prose), 1978


Chilean Food

Chilean food offers the visitor a large and varied choice of restaurants. In order to help around the menu, we list some of the typical Chilean names for dishes.


Typical Chilean dishes are:
Casuela - a chicken or red-meat stew with potatoes, rice and cooked vegetables.


The Empanada
- a pastry-filled envelope with either red meat, and olive and yolk of an egg; shell fish or cheese. There are also two types of cooking, one is to fry the pastry and the other is to bake them in an oven. The best oven baked empanada are the ones cooked in a traditional earthe-ware oven.


Grilled Meat (barbecue)
The barbecue is a main stay of summer-months cooking whereupon everything goes! Red meat is usually cooked exceptionaly well on the barbecue, helped doen with some delicious Chilean red wine!.


Natural Food Produce


Fresh Fish
With the cold currents of the Pacific Ocean lapping all of the Western shore of Chile there is no shortage of delicious fresh sea food. Chilean sea bass (corvina) is exceptional along with numerous shell fish.


Fresh Water Fish
The lakes and rivers of southern Chile offer some of the best salmon-fishing in the world and a swild smoked salmon from this part of the country is yet another exceptional delight on the taste buds.


Thanks to the fertile central valley and superb Mediterranean climate, Chile offers delicious fresh vegetables, expecially esparagous, corn, tomatoes and artickokes from is dryer north.


As with the vegetable department, the soils and climate combine to produce some of the best fruit anywhere, especially peaches, apples, pears, grapes, lucuma and chirimoya.


Not a food, but produced exceptionally well in Chile due to the combination of soil, climate and temperature. The best varietal wines are the reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere and in whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon.


Typical Chilean Food for Menu Translation Purposes

Typical Chilean Dishes a Fish: Pescados and Foods


The Empanada:  A pastry filled with either mince meat, onion and an olive or cheese or shell fish.


Parrillada: Various meats cooked on a charcoaled grill.


Pastel del Choclo: Sweetcorn with mince meat, an egg, onion, an olive and a cream of corn topping.


Casuela: A stew of chicken or meat with potato, pumpkin and vegetables.


Humitas: Sweet corn with spices wrapped in corn leaves and steam cooked.



Fruit Native to Chile (Fruta)


  • Lucuma
  • Chirimoya (Custard Apple)
  • Tuna (Prickly Pear)
  • Kiwi
  • Papayas
  • Melon Calameno
  • Camote



Fish: Pescados


  • Albacora: Similar to Swordfish.
  • Atun: Tuna
  • Bacalao: Cod
  • Calamar: Squid
  • Congrio: Eel-like fish but not eel.
  • Corvina: Similar to Bass
  • Jurel: Mackerel
  • Lenguado: Sole
  • Reineta: Very Nice White Fish!
  • Salmon: Salmon


Shell Fish: Mariscos


  • Almejas: Clams
  • Camarones: Prawns
  • Centolla: King Crab
  • Choros: Mussels
  • Erizos: Sea Urchin
  • Gambas: Shrimps
  • Jaiva: Crab
  • Langosta: Lobster
  • Locos: Abalone
  • Machas: Razor Clam
  • Ostiones: Scallops
  • Ostras: Oysters
  • Picorocos: An alien-looking creature that lives in a rock-like shell.


Beef: Carne


  • Filete: Fillet
  • Lomo Liso: T-Bone
  • Posta Rosada: Sirloin
  • Pork: Cerdo
  • Jamon: Ham
  • Lomo: Loin
  • Tocino: Bacon
  • Chuleta: Chop
  • Pernil: Leg
  • Costilla: Ribs
  • Lamb: Cordero
  • Pierna: Leg
  • Lomo: Loin
  • Costilla: Rack of Lamb