Chile Travel Tips
The following basic rules of etiquette should assist travellers to Chile to avoid some possibly embarrassing and awkward moments.
Spanish is the official language of Chile so it’s good to learn a bit of Spanish. At morning time you say “buenos dias”. In the afternoon it is “buenas tardes”, and then in the evening it is “buenas noches”.
Don’t be intimidated by their personal nature
Chileans are, in general, very friendly sociable people who are very devoted to their friends and family. So don’t be put off by them asking personal questions and taking interest in your background.
Hand shaking is customary
A sturdy handshake with a smile and eye contact is always a fail-safe greeting with someone in Chile. Chileans tend to stand closer to one another than some travellers may be used to - but take this as a compliment as they are interested in meeting you and want to get to know you.
Avoid hand gestures
Particularly in conversation, many hand gestures may be misinterpreted as offensive in Chile.
Rude hand gestures - the 'chin flick'
If someone does this to you in Chile it means they could not care less about you - basically "get lost".
Common sense comes into play with the dress code. Many Chileans prefer a European style of sophistication when in social situations, however this doesn’t mean they wear fancy dress to a family dinner. As long as you look clean and neat – that’s the main thing. Avoid wearing revealing clothing or t-shirts with offensive writing on them.
Arrive fashionably late
Always arrive late for social functions and if you're invited to a home it's expected for you to arrive thirty minutes late to a party.
Rather than flashy expensive gifts - tasteful gifts like quality liquor or stationery, leather appointment books, books about your home country or office accessories are appreciated. If invited to a home you should bring flowers or quality chocolates for the host. Avoid giving black, purple or yellow flowers. Gifts are usually opened upon receiving them.
Dining and entertainment
European style table manners are generally a vital part of the dining experience in Chile. Don't sit until you’ve been advised where to sit and are instructed to do so. Using toothpicks or licking your fingers at the table are considered poor etiquette. Keep your hands above the table at all times, don't eat with your hands, and don't leave food on your plate.
Drinking and toasting
Don't pour wine with your left hand and don't pour it holding the neck or the bottom of the bottle. Wait before a toast is made before having a drink.
At restaurants a 10% tip is considered acceptable if the food and service was standard and 20% if it was exceptional.
So they call you a “gringo”
Do not take offense to being called a "gringo" - Chileans tend to call tourists this and essentially means an 'English speaking foreigner'. Many Chileans do understand English and use the term gringo in a non derogatory way.