Filed under: chile, development, food, international relations, santiago, south america, travel
My first morning in Chile I awoke feeling dizzy and nauseous. At first I recalled my doctor had said I might suffer from altitude sickness in the Andes, then I came to my senses and realised I hadn’t eaten for more than 24 hours. After devouring a muesli bar and some macadamia nuts that weren’t confiscated at customs, we ventured into the street.
I was still alarmed by the fast traffic that zipped past. Evidently highway proximity doesn’t have the same negative real estate effect it does in Australia, as we were opposite the Hyatt and next to a five-star hotel, where men in top hats and red coats were escorting people out of their vehicles.
We crossed a pedestrian bridge and arrived where our landlord recommended we have breakfast, which turned out to be a giant shopping mall, similar to but plusher than those found in Adelaide or Calgary. It began with a large plaza where about a dozen restaurants were open for breakfast. These were no cheap Latino eateries, in fact it was hard to find a word of Spanish. There were half a dozen named in English, while the rest were a mix of French and Italian. I was flabbergasted; we may as well have been in North America. For our first breakfast in South America I had a crepe and Tim had a panini, both with espressos.
We discussed cultural imperialism over breakfast, but perhaps it would be fairer to say globalisation. As much as it seems easy to blame the United States, the restaurants were generally Italian, French or Japanese inspired. Australia has a similar lack of distinct cuisine; our culinary strengths come from multiculturalism. I wonder if foreigners visiting Australia are disappointed by the lack of a distinct local cuisine? I’ve always appreciated living somewhere with such variety, enjoying visiting places like Italy and Vietnam where reliably distinct dishes dominate, but inevitably tiring of the homogeneity. Yet finding such variety here after expecting cultural immersion was unsettling.
After breakfast we wandered the mall for a while, where my surprise continued. They have Zara and Topshop and United Colors of Benetton! I needn’t miss European fashion either. This is certainly not a developing country like most of its neighbours. Granted, thanks to a mixup by our landlord we were in one of Santiago’s ritziest neighbourhoods, so this is not typical of Chile. But it is Chile nonetheless. I’d reassured wary older relatives that Chile was a first-world country, in the OECD, safe enough. I’m not sure I really believed it, but I do now.
After wandering we returned outside only to stumble upon a Boost juice. If I was shocked before I was floored now. This business founded in Adelaide had extended to Santiago! How could we not support a local business gone global? So we sipped our juices while looking in the window of the Quiksilver shop next door.
I was rather relieved we were only in Viticura for one night, because as Tim observed, we hadn’t flown halfway around the world to do the same things we do at home.
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