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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Chile

Manners & Customs

Thanks to a long history of immigration, Chilean manners have a largely European character. For example, the customary greeting between a man and a woman or between two women is a kiss on the cheek. When men greet each other they simply shake hands. For Chileans, the greeting is very important. Unless there are a large number of people present, it is generally inappropriate to greet someone by simply saying "hello". Take a few moments to greet people you have not met or you have not seen during the day.

Chilean men are more likely to follow rules of chivalry, although Chilean women may tell you this is changing. Men are expected to open doors for women and to give up their seat on the bus or Metro. On the bus or Metro, this is especially true for older women.

Chileans are known to have relaxed attitude towards punctuality. It is not considered inappropriate to arrive up to a half-an-hour late. If you arrive early, expect to wait.

Informal vs Formal

Anyone who has taken a Spanish class knows the difference between and Usted. Usted, the formal form of "you", is gradually phasing out of Chilean society. It is becoming increasingly common to refer to nearly everyone as tú, the informal form of "you." College students often refer to their professors using the tú form, as do children to their grandparents.

Speaking in the Usted form is still a perfect way to show respect. Use Usted when speaking to the elderly and in formal situations. Usted is also used between families and their domestic help.


Lunch (almuerzo) is the principal meal of the day. Since Chilean professionals work long hours, they commonly take the time to eat a leisurely lunch. Lunch usually consists of an appetiser (entrada), a salad (ensalada), an entre (plato de fondo), a dessert (postre) and a drink (bebida). These elements often come together as a special lunch deal called a colación or menú ejecutivo. Restaurants select a short list of options for the colación, but the price is always lower than choosing separate items from the menu. The colación may be available only during lunchtime, from about 1 pm to 3 pm.

The Chilean breakfast is fairly simple. It usually consists of a cup of coffee or tea with bread and butter. It often includes fruit or yoghurt. Supermarkets offer many breakfast options, however, including most popular breakfast cereals.

The evening meal is tea, called once. Once is another light meal, comprising of coffee or tea and bread with butter, ham or cheese.

Tipping & Bargaining

In most restaurants and bars you should tip 10%. Small family restaurants rarely expect a tip (propina). Waiters and waitresses receive low wages, so tips are always appreciated.

There is no need to tip taxi drivers, but a small gratuity will not be turned away.

Tip supermarket bag boys as you see fit. They are not paid by the supermarket and earn only tips. Parking attendants will expect a tip.

You may negotiate prices in most open-air markets and craft fairs, but not all salesmen are willing to haggle. In the provinces, hotel prices are sometimes negotiable, especially during off-seasons. Smaller bus companies will lower prices if they think it will convince you to buy a ticket.





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