Culture of Chile
Chilean food is heavily influenced by their European past. Generally the food is simple and has very little spice; in fact many Chileans don't like spicy foods. The most common meal is that of chicken with rice, but also spaghetti, lasagna, hot-dogs, and pizza are very common, as are many types of seafood. But, when they want to treat a guest well, or for special occasions, they have a barbecue, usually with chicken, pork, and beef seasoned only with salt. All meals are served with fresh bread.
Generally the largest meal is lunch which is eaten between 1 and 2:30 in the afternoon. Dinner is typically eaten later in the evening and consists of a cup of coffee or tea with light side dishes such as sandwiches or sopaipillas, which are flat pieces of fried bread similar to scones.
A more traditional food that is commonly eaten is “humitas” which is corn paste mixed with onions and other spices that is then steamed in the husks of the corn. They are then opened and eaten either with salt or sugar depending on your tastes. Another is “Pastel de Choclo” (translated literally it means corn cake) which has a filler of “pino” which is made of a mixture of ground beef, onion, olives, and hard boiled eggs. The pino is covered with corn paste and then baked. It is similar to Shepard's Pie. Mashed potatoes are sometimes used instead of the corn paste. Also, empanadas which is type of pie made from dough which covers a filler. These are either baked or fried. The most common ingredients used to fill empanadas are cheese and pino.
Though you can find fast food places like McDonalds, Subway, and Dominoes in the major cities, the most common fast food places are little shops operated by their owners. Many of these places serve rotisserie chicken with french fries, but most mainly serve the Chilean equivalent of our hamburgers and hot dogs. These are called “Churrascos” which is thick sliced roast beef served on hamburger bun and “Completos” which are hot dogs on a hot dog bun, both are served with different combinations of ingredients but the most common combination is served with tomatoes, guacamole, and mayonnaise.
There are also many fine dining restaurants that serve food to please a wide variety of tastes. This includes many restaurants that serve Chinese, Mexican, Hindu, Sushi, and many other types of food. Though the taste may differ slightly from what you would normally experience due to the difference in cooking styles and ingredients.
The biggest holiday is September 18th which is their Independence Day. They celebrate by participating in traditional dances such as the Cueca (Watch the cueca) and having massive barbecues with friends and family. They also eat empanadas and shish kabob. They also use this time to play traditional (and some modern) games like tops (Watch a game of tops), kite-flying, the pole climb, sack races, and ping-pong.
September 19th is Glories of the Army day which acts as a continuation of Independence Day, but with the addition of military parades.
One must be warned though that September 11th - only days before these festivals - is not a day to be out, especially after dark. This is due to the many riots that take place on this day. The riots are to commemorate the day that Pinochet took over the country.
Chileans celebrate most Roman Catholic holidays. Also many American holidays and traditions are slowly being adopted by them. Such as trick-or-treating on October 31st (which is also the national holiday to honor the Protestant Churches of the Country) and their Christmas traditions. This includes putting up Christmas trees and Christmas lights, which at first seems very out of place because December is the middle of summer there.
The people are very nice to foreigners. In fact, some Chileans say they are nicer to foreigners than they are to their own neighbors. They love to help those visiting to feel comfortable. Also, many speak English and love to practice with native speakers.