1. You lose your breath walking to your local panaderia (located a block away).
While Northeasterners in the US have occasional snow days, Santiaguinos have excessive pollution days. Smog levels in the Chilean capital are easily five times what the World Health Organization deems a safe maximum threshold, compelling health authorities to create “smog alerts” for high pollution days. Running outdoors becomes especially challenging as you find yourself gasping for breath within 30 seconds and wondering if you are, in fact, causing yourself more harm than good with your physical activity. The fact that during winter, smog ominously hangs over the city much like dark clouds hover over Mount Doom is also a bit disconcerting.
2. You just can’t deal with calefonts anymore.
Here’s a scenario you may experience one too many times: mid-shower, you let out an ear-splitting shriek because your calefont – heating appliance – has just run out of gas. Not wanting to exacerbate the cold you’ve had for a month already (see #1), you hobble out of the bathroom, blindly groping your way down the hall while shampoo drips into your eyes, and unhook the kitchen’s calefont from the stove. You then lurch your way back to the bathroom, heaving the gas appliance as you go, and hook it to the shower, doing your best to ignore the faint smell of gas escaping the barrel while you make the switch. You hop back into the tub and continue showering, hoping everything’s properly connected and that an accidental gas leak won’t cause you to die an atrocious flaming, naked death.
3. Other Latinos don’t understand a word you say because of your new Chilean accent.
You’ve finally wrapped your head around Chilean Spanish — dropping every word’s final syllable as well as a few in between, just for safe measure — only to realize you can no longer communicate with anyone outside of Chile. Your conversation partners respond to you with bewildered stares or encouraging nods, very much like adults condescending to a jabbering toddler before shoving a pacifier into his mouth. To add insult to injury, you find that you still don’t understand 40 percent of what Chileans say, either.
4. You haven’t read a book in three months because they cost an arm and a leg.
For a variety of reasons — including an outrageous 19% value added tax and a dependence on foreign imports rather than Chilean publications — books in Chile are frighteningly expensive. Saunter into any bookstore and you’ll quickly feel your morale wane as you see prices as high as US$80.00 for a new hardcover. Unable to read a decent novel for half a year, you’ll have watched so many Community re-runs to the point you’re be able to parrot entire segments in each character’s respective voice. Your roommates will want to kill you, and so will you.
5. You think all men are lurid catcallers.
Expecting most male passersby to whisper some sort of lascivious comment as you walk by them on the street, you viciously snap at one about to open his mouth only to realize he simply meant to alert you to the fact your bag was open. You also occasionally find yourself preemptively whistling at men just to beat them at their own game, in complete defiance of all feminist / humanist principles you ordinarily embrace.
6. The price of palta has gone up.
Avocado, your staple and godsend, costs 100 pesos more. It’s time to go.