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How to Be a Respectful Traveller

Customs and Etiquette in Chile

When visiting a foreign country, knowing and respecting local culture and customs should always be a top priority.

Each country is unique in what it considers acceptable or taboo. It is the visitor’s responsibility to research dos and don’ts to ensure that the visit will be pleasant for both the visitor and the locals.

In Chile, a predominantly Catholic and Spanish-speaking South American country, here are some guidelines on what to do and what to avoid.

Meeting and conversing

·      Men normally shake hands while women pat each other on the right forearm or shoulder.·      Don’t forget to say the appropriate greeting depending on what time of day it is (Buenos Dias in the morning, Buenas Tardes in the afternoon or Buenas Noches in the evening)·      In Chile, the father is considered the head of the family but the mother is a key decision-maker. In a Chilean household, always greet the head of the household or the most senior person first.

Gift giving

·      If invited to a Chilean home, bring sweets/chocolates or wine for the hostess. Local crafts or small art objects are also acceptable; so are trinkets for the children.

·      If you can, send flowers in advance. Regarding flowers, note that yellow indicate contempt and purple or black represent death.

·      If it’s a young girl’s 15th birthday, a gift of gold jewelry is custom.

·      Avoid expensive and flashy gifts as it may be awkward for the recipient. Be tasteful yet conservative.

·      If you are the recipient, open the gift immediately in front of the giver.


·      Women sit before men.

·      Wait to be shown to your seat.

·      Finish everything on your plate.

·      Wait for the host to make a toast before taking a first sip of your drink. When you lift your glass, look at the person being toasted.

·      When pouring wine, use your right hand.

·      Keep both hands above the table at all times, not on your lap.

·      Do not eat and run. Stay for after-meal chit chat.

·      When dining out, note that water is not automatically served. If you want water, ask for it.

·      The person who initiated the dinner pays. Separate checks are unnecessary.

Doing business

·      Initial meetings should be used as an opportunity to build the relationship and establish trust.

·      Try to have one side of your business card translated to Spanish.

·      Hard sell and aggressive approach is a turn off.

·      Being interrupted mid-talk is not considered rude. In fact, it implies that the other party is interested in what you’re talking about.

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