From South Carolina to Chile: Our Chilean Adventure
My name is Lori and me and my husband Jim and 3 of our six children moved to the south of Chile in 2013 from South Carolina, USA.
1. Why did you move abroad?
In 2007 we lost a child and then in 2008 our real estate business collapsed with the bubble. We were increasingly unhappy with life in the US and decided that we wanted to spend the last part of our lives doing something adventurous and building the small farm we had always dreamed of. So we retired early and moved to the Los Lagos region of Chile to stay at a friends vacation home to explore and see if we could find our dream farm.
2. How do you make a living?
We were able to fund our move and farm purchase through savings, equity in the sale of a property, and some inheritance we had recieved. But in order to supplement our small retirement income with 3 children still at home, we try to live simply and be more self sufficient on our homestead by growing our own food. Jim is also starting a small business importing automotive products.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We use a Magic Jack app to talk for free to family and friends in the US. Through this we can text our children plus we use Instagram to send photos.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Chile?
My favorite thing about living here is the incredible natural beauty. We have the Andes to the east with the spectacular snow capped Volcan Osorno, sparkling blue lakes, and the rugged rocky coastline similar to California. I like that we are at the edge of the wilderness. And I love the people. They are simple and friendly.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Chile?
The hardest thing is the language. Jim and I both studied languages in college. Jim spent a year in France as a young man and learned french fluently in 6 months. We expected to pick up spanish quickly but it didn’t happen. Our teens learned quickly being in school all day and though we can get around well enough we still struggle a lot! Older brains? Not enough exposure? Who knows but we are still trying!
6. What do you miss most?
I don’t miss much quite frankly and have adjusted well to a different lifestyle and culture. Ok, just one thing…. I am not a big shopper but I do miss Costco and Michaels’ Crafts. Shopping here is different and though we are used to it now, it was a big challenge. There just aren’t the variety of goods that are available in the US. For example. we are building our house. We want to use PEX tubing for in floor radiant heating. We find it at the local hardware store but they don’t sell the crimping tool that you need to attach the hoses. They sell CPVC tube but not the glue. The other store sells the glue but not the tubes!
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Jim is naturally very outgoing and friendly so we meet people wherever we go but the thing that made the biggest difference for these life long homeschoolers was to put our children in the local schools. We feel a part of the community now and through the school we found out about the great programs at the Teatro del Lago, the Theater on the Lake, (Lago LLanquihue). The whole family sings in the chorus and my boys take voice and violin lessons. We have made so many friends and many of them don’t speak english!
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
I still do not like the customary greeting here which is a kiss on the cheek for the ladies. Some men are polite and just touch cheeks, others give a wet (yuck!) kiss on the cheek, and others if they know you are a gringa may just shake hands.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Most people in the US don’t know geography very well and most think Chile is a 3rd world country in the jungles of the Amazon. But Chile is very modern and the standard of living high and though I live in a temperate rainforest here in the south of Chile, Chile is nowhere near the Amazon!
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?
Cost of living is relative. South Carolina is in one of the cheapest areas in the US to live and I was really good at shopping second hand and sales. Living here seems more expensive to us, but for our expat friends from New Zealand it is cheaper to live here.
The 19% IVA tax really drives up the costs of goods esp. on imported items. Food is expensive but it is easier and cheaper to get locally grown foods at the local ferias. Cars are expensive because of some funky legislation on used cars but used cars retain their value better than in the US. Gasoline is expensive averaging $5 per gallon because it is all imported but bus fare is cheap and most people use them. Electricity is expensive - 20 to 30 cents a kilowatt hour. Rent can be cheap - $250 to $400 for a 2 bedroom cabin in a small town or out in the country.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Try not to compare your new country to the old one too much. I find that a lot of expats complain about how things don’t work the same way as back in the good ol’homeland. Sure, it may be better or more efficient in the US but it’s the way they do things here and they may like it that way.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my private blog right before we left so family and friends could keep up with our adventure. About a year into it, I decided to make it public because we were getting so much interest from other people we didn’t know who had heard about us through the grapevine. I still put family events on there but I also put travel and homesteading articles plus how we made our move and what we had to do to become permanent residents. And I started another blog called Patagonia Nature Journal because I am so fascinated by nature in Chile.
Lori's Blog, Our Chilean Adventure
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