Au-Pair in Chile, September 2016
Of to the south... but NOT following the sun! That was my slogan when I left for Chile in July. I started in the sunny Germany and traveled to rainy Araucaria, the lake and volcano region of Chile.
I knew all along that this experience was going to be a big change for me, however, some Europeans might have an especially hard time adjusting to a new life in Chile:
- Toilet paper belongs in the trashcan, not in the toilet.
- Every street corner has a stray dog who is just waiting to follow you around all day.
- A day without palta (avocado) or a completo (hot dog with avocado) is a lost one.
- The only thing one can rely on when meeting a Chilean is the unpunctuality, the “tiempo Chileno” (minimum half an hour late).
- One who cannot make a fire is immediately judged as a “gringo”.
It is, however, impossible not to love the Chileans along with their lifestyle, which is so different from the German one. Overall, there is way less planning, and more living! Here, the present is what counts; not the future. Those who let this feeling soak in will learn a lot not only about the culture, but also about themselves.
I immediately fell in love with my new home Pucon. This region is dominated by a volcano, called Villarrica, and is very famous for being an outdoor paradise. This is why thousands of tourists travel here to enjoy the variety of nature and sporty activities (skiing on the volcano, kayaking, rafting, horse-back riding, hiking, and more).
I have to say, it was hard to meet new people in the rather small city of Pucon, but having patience was well worth it. Initially, my Spanish was very limited to “Hola” and “Ciao”, which made having deeper and more meaningful conversations with other people rather difficult. However, the Chileans did not exclude me because of these problems, and with the help of some gestures and their little English skills, I was able to make new friends and learn a lot about their lives in Chile. Now, after 85 days in Chile, I am able to say that this way of communication is over. Today, with a little patience and many, “¿Puedes hablar un poco mas lento por favor?” (could you speak a little bit slower please), I can speak with salesmen, team members in our club, and many others. I am free to have pleasant conversations and discussions with them.
In addition to having a hard time communicating with Chileans while I was out and about at first, it also seemed impossible for me to communicate with my Au-Pair child (Nayeli, 4 years old), who grew up bilingual. Now, however, it seems like I have to force myself to actually speak German sometimes. Only one child? Sounds like a breeze! Often this is the case, and most of my mornings are free because she’s at kindergarten. In the afternoons, I have time to fully concentrate on taking care of her. Rainy days can feel pretty long when you are just two people in a big house, but usually we are outside until the evening at playgrounds, visiting my or her friends, going for walks, or relaxing on the beach at the lake.
In order to summarize my experience as an Au-Pair: Nayeli is my little sister now and no blood can change that. When she cuddles with me in the evenings and says, “I love you big sister”, then I know I made the right decision by coming to Chile. My year spent in Chile was an unforgettable experience, and despite its ups and downs, I would not want to change it for the world.
Here, you find more information about our Au-Pair program: