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From California to Chile: Memoirs of a Gringa
17 December, 2012 08:20
My name is Maggie and I’m originally from a small city outside of San Francisco, California. I moved to an even smaller city in Rhode Island after high school. After graduating from college the first time I fell into a rut. I didn’t quite know what to do with my life (it probably didn’t help that I had a degree in anthropology). I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s in education with the plan of moving abroad as soon as I graduated.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I knew for quite a long time that I wanted to live abroad. It wasn’t hard for me to choose a location. My mom is Chilean and grew up in Santiago. The majority of my family lives in Chile so it just seemed like a logical choice.
2. How do you make a living?
I arrived in Santiago in October of 2010 and within a few weeks I found work at a British school. I’ve been working there ever since teaching multiple subjects in English to fifth grade students.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
The internet makes it incredibly simple to communicate with people back home. Someone should erect a statue commemorating the inventor of Skype. I honestly can’t imagine living abroad and not being able to stay in constant contact with people back home. Both Skype and email have allowed me to stay in contact with family and friends on a daily basis. And of course, Facebook is useful too.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Chile?
I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Chile is such a beautiful country. At the end of the year I will be moving south to a small town called Villarrica that is surrounded by forests, volcanoes and lakes. It really doesn’t get any better than that. And the wine is pretty awesome too.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Chile?
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression. People here are incredibly nice. But every once in a while I meet someone who assumes I fit in with whatever ridiculous stereotype they have of people from the States. However, I imagine this happens all over the world to most people regardless of where they are from.
6. What do you miss most?
Target. And online shopping.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I’ve been living with two expats (from Brazil) for two years. Through them I’ve been able to meet people from Chile and other expats from around the world.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Mayonnaise. They practically drink it. Okay, that’s a gross exaggeration. But it’s really, really popular here. I’ve been served food more than once that has been decorated with mayonnaise. On the plus side, they totally make up for it by being equally obsessed with avocados.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Some geographically-challenged people associate Chile and South America as one giant tropical continent. People have actually asked me if I’m surrounded by hammocks swinging between palm trees. Some people assume Chile and the Amazon Rainforest are the same thing. So for the record, no, I’m not living in the jungle in a Swiss Family Robinson style tree house, and no, I don’t have a monkey as a butler.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
For me everything sort of balances itself out. I’m not making as much money as I would teaching in the States (assuming I could find a job there). But I’m also spending less on things like groceries and health insurance.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Seriously, just give it a shot. Be open to new experiences. It’s definitely not always easy, but eventually things will settle down. And really, what’s the worst that can happen? If you hate it you can always move back home.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started blogging regularly when I moved down here. It’s mainly a way for me to keep my friends and family (and a bunch of strangers) updated on my life in Chile. I’d also like to hope that a few of the aforementioned people in need of an atlas have stumbled across my blog and realized that Chile and South America are not one in the same.
Maggie's blog, Memoirs of a Gringa
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