I've been in Chile for four whole days now. :) I absolutely love it here. Sure, things are a little different than home, and I am homesick, but my team is awesome, and so are the friends we're making here.
I wanted to talk a little bit about the differences between Chilean life and life in the United States and other fun facts I noticed. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some things that I've noticed and wanted to pass along.
Firstly, in public restrooms, there is no toilet paper in the stalls. You have to grab toilet paper from a big dispenser by the sinks before you use the bathroom or... well, you get the idea. It's just weird for an American.
Secondly, men and women greet each other by kissing each other's cheek (well, actually, the air next to each other's cheek/ear). Men don't kiss each other on the cheek, for the record. It was really weird at first, but I don't even think about it that much anymore. It's sort of become habit! But I think I would creep people out if I continued that habit in the United States! haha.
Thirdly, at restaurants, they offer free bread, but not free water. Chileans love their pan. Ooh, and water always (ALWAYS) comes in a bottle, and when you order it, they ask if you want agua sin gas or agua con gas, the difference being carbonation (the former does not have it, the latter does). Unlike in the US, most people in Chile like carbonated water (which, I've been told, tastes like really flat Sprite).
Fourthly, lunch is usually a huge meal, while dinner and breakfast are smaller. Ooh, and every morning at the hostel, we eat the Chilean form of Cocoa Puffs (which aren't puffs at all, but rather chocolate flakes), bread with butter and/or jam, and tea/coffee. That's it. Lunch is highly variable for us, but dinner is almost always small.
Fifthly, there is no sales tax. When you see the price on the menu, that's the price you'll pay. It's pretty sweet, actually, and it makes an already cheap lunch even cheaper. :)
Sixthly, (and this doesn't really count as a cultural difference, but it's something I found amusing) our Chilean friends LOVE Ultimate Frisbee, which an American Summer Project Team introduced to them a few years ago. They're super intense about it, and it's hilariously fun to watch.
Seventhly, they LOVE gringos (and no, that's not an offensive term here). Our team has often been stared at (albeit not in a threatening way) by many, many Chilenos, and hollered at by some more. They're not threatening at all, but they definitely are curious about people who are noticeably outsiders. Also, they love our movies and TV shows and music- it's actually really funny when they tell you their favorite bands and movies and TV shows because so few of them are Chilean.
Eighthly, there are stray dogs everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
Ninthly, they use all sorts of slang that even fellow Spanish speakers from other countries don't understand. They also speak way faster than other Spanish speakers, slur their words, and drop sounds entirely. When asked, they say "We don't speak Spanish, we speak Chilean!"
Tenthly, and finally, Chile runs on a... different time system. No one is in a real hurry to get anywhere on time. We joke about Chilean Time, which is 10-15 minutes late. Sometimes even half an hour late. Sometimes even an hour late. They're just not in a hurry to get anywhere.
Anyways, I hope this has given you an idea of what Chile is like! Stay tuned for more updates!