Chile is currently one of the most stable, safe and prosperous countries in South America. It draws an increasing number of tourists each year to see the beautiful Lake District, the snow-capped mountains in Patagonia and Easter Island, which lies more than 370 miles offshore. The Andes lie along the eastern border of the country. Chile is also a popular destination for cruise ships with several ports along the 2672 mile long coastline. Tourism is a good sector for immigrants to look for jobs and offer their services.
Santiago is the capital, and one of the most densely populated areas of Chile and many people move there. The majority of the population is white, with Spanish, German or other European roots. The official language is Spanish and the currency is the Chilean Peso. Immigration is generally quite easy but visas are necessary for most nationalities.
The northern Atacama Desert is a rich source of minerals and copper and this provides jobs for many. The small central valley area around Santiago is where more than 40% of Chileans live and work and it also very agricultural. Traditional Chilean food includes empanadas which are small pastries with a savory filling; and cazuela, which is a Spanish type of soup made of meat and vegetables.
Immigrants will find Chile provides a good quality of life with high standards of development, fair elections, freedom of the press and low poverty rates. It is has a very low corruption rate which is a refreshing change in South America. Incidents of theft are rare, and physical assault is almost unheard of among these gentle people. There is a privatized compulsory pension scheme, the AFP, and an acceptable healthcare system.
The climate of Chile varies hugely and depends upon where you plan to live. The southern most parts reach Antarctica with alpine tundra and glaciers; Easter Island is subtropical; northern Chile has a desert climate with extreme temperatures, and central Chile has a Mediterranean climate. The altitude also affects the climate with areas in the high mountains being much cooler year-round.
Chilean economics boomed in the 1990s but is currently weaker due to high energy prices, lower customer demand and a general slowing of the world economy. Chile has always welcomed free trade and has good policies encouraging business in Chile. Unemployment is around 6% and wages have risen faster than inflation for many years giving most households an income above the poverty line. However there is an unequal distribution of wealth with the top 10% of the population owning almost half the country’s wealth.
Multinational companies and foreign investors are encouraged by the Chilean Government and investors receive the same treatment as Chilean residents. Copper is the main export followed by timber, fresh fruit and food, seafood and wine. Santiago has had massive investment recently, making it one of the most modern metropolitan areas. There are shopping malls and many high rise buildings. Several multinational companies have headquarters in Santiago including Reuters, Proctor and Gamble, Motorola, Microsoft and Yahoo.
You will notice that the banking sector in Chile is a little primitive. Home equity loans are a relatively new product, along with currency futures and options and debit cards. Chile has never experienced immigrants in large numbers. The Spanish Basque families arrived from Spain in the 18th century and are among the politically elite today. English, Germans, Irish and Italians came in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many settled in the southern Lake District and whole towns still resemble Bavaria with chalet-style houses and European style gardens. Croatians and Palestinians have also settled in Chile. Currently most immigrants are from neighboring Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. There is a good ex-Pat community, particularly around Santiago and Frutillar in the Lake District region.
Real estate is readily available both to rent and to buy. Commercial properties are also easily procured. Capital growth in the past has been steady. Prices vary depending upon the area, but ocean front lots start at around $30,000, and family homes in Villarrica start at $200,000. Consult a realtor in the area you wish to live for more detailed information, along with an international mover company who will give you an estimate of shipping costs.