Cachando Chile

  • Cachando Chile
Blog of the month
Published 2011-08-01 00:00
My name is Peg - no wait, itís Margaret - Snook. I forget sometimes because until I moved to Chile, I never used my passport name, but when I discovered that Peg is nearly impossible for Spanish speakers to pronounce (there are no words in Spanish that end in g), I decided that if I was ever going t

My name is Peg - no wait, it’s Margaret - Snook. I forget sometimes because until I moved to Chile, I never used my passport name, but when I discovered that Peg is nearly impossible for Spanish speakers to pronounce (there are no words in Spanish that end in g), I decided that if I was ever going to make a go of it here, I’d have to start with a name that people could understand and pronounce, and so I’ve been Margaret ever since.

I’m from Syracuse, NY, and came to Chile in 1991 for some preliminary field research for my graduate studies in anthropology. One week in I met the guy who has been my husband for the last 17 years. (There seems to be a lot of that going on in Chile).

As my dreams of an academic career in Chile faded away, I did a stint teaching English, started translating, and later worked my way into the world of Chilean wine and food. I earned my certification as a sommelier and now write and teach about Chilean wine. Today I am the editor for Wines of Chile, which promotes Chilean wine abroad, as well as a freelance writer, editor, and translator, mostly for wine-related topics.

When and how did you decide to move to Chile? Is it complicated to settle down in Chile?

I came to Chile to do research and stayed for my husband. Settling in had its challenges, as I’m sure any new culture does, although I’d say that Chile wasn’t really difficult. It was as much a challenge for me to get used to living in a big city (6 million-plus people), after having lived all my life in and around small cities.

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

I had never lived abroad before coming to Chile, but have done a fair bit of traveling in North and South America, Asia, and Europe.

What do you like the most about Chile?

There are many things I enjoy about living in Chile. In addition to being geographically diverse and stunningly beautiful, I love my work and am thankful for the opportunities I have had here that I never would have had I stayed in the US.

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?

Culture shock snuck up on me in very unexpected ways. Because I have always felt so at ease with Chilean people and their culture, there have been things that took me by surprise - notions of family, work, leisure, and class, for example. Much of that ends up appearing in my blog.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

Sure. Living abroad has its benefits, but it comes with certain sacrifices. I miss the everyday involvement with my family, being able to pitch in and do my share with aging parents and caring for grandchildren (I now have two!). Being an expat means that my visits are “special”, but I lose out on the day-to-dayness of just being there for those I care about.

Beyond that, there are many things large and small that I miss to varying degrees depending on the moment and context. I miss my community and local camaraderie, certain foods, smells, and sounds - like cicadas and a wooden screen door slamming on a summer afternoon, or scrunching through the snow on a winter morning; the clean smell of the earth in spring, a summer bonfire, fresh-raked autumn leaves, pumpkin pie in the oven. And Thanksgiving, I miss Thanksgiving… and snowy white Christmases… you know what? I’m just going to stop right here!

Any “memories of an expat” you would like to share with other Expat blog members?

There are far too many memories to mention here, but one of the most dramatic was certainly the earthquake in February 2010. In some ways I felt like it was my final initiation into Chilean culture.

Your blog: when did you start it? For what reasons?

Cachando Chile began about 3 years ago and came in through the back door - against my will even. It was the final assignment for the final course of a master’s degree in book publishing. I had no interest in blogging and fought against “wasting my time” on a blog when what I really wanted to do was work on my book. Little did I know how quickly it would become an important part of my life!

In Chilean Spanish, the title means “Getting Chile” and this is my way of exploring, trying to understand, and sharing aspects of Chilean culture. Still an anthropologist at heart, I guess.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

Absolutely. It opened up a whole new world to me, including that of other Chile bloggers, especially Eileen Smith, of We have a lot in common and started following each others’ blogs and soon decided to meet in person and have been friends ever since.

There are also people who follow and comment on the blog who are part of the greater “Cachando Chile Community” that help make the project so enjoyable.

Expat blog : when did you register? Any particular reasons?

I’m really not sure when I registered for Expat blog - it was quite a while ago. I was looking for other like-minded blogs and bloggers - and there it was - a whole world full of expats blogging about their experiences all around the world!

Which advice would you give to people who would like to live in Chile?

It’s basically the same advice I’d give anyone who was about to live in another culture. Get out there and participate. Learn the language, get involved, and talk with people. Work if you can; volunteer if you can’t. The more you participate, the richer your experience will be.

I’ve also found that it’s important to have a “home team” - other people who are going through a similar experience, people from home who get what you’re going through, because sometimes you just need to be an insider for a while. Here in Chile we have a group called Chilespouses that is a lifesaver for many of us. We are all English-speaking women in committed relationships with a Chilean and plans for long-term life in Chile. We started with 10 or so women 11 years ago and are now up around 700. We share all kinds of information through a closed Yahoo group and then smaller subsets get together based on common interests. In the end, the group helps us adjust better to our new world and makes the experience of living in Chile just that much richer.

Cachando Chile