The Chilean Perception of Time

Alicia Heiser is a student at Gonzaga University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad and participating in service-learning with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile.

Since arriving in Chile, I have completely abandoned my previous perceptions of the daily rhythm of life. In the States, I am somewhat a control freak, and I love to have every minute of every day planned out. But here, one of the most distinctively different things that I have experienced is the much more laid back perception of time. To me, Chileans seem to slow down and appreciate the little moments of their day to day lives much more than we tend to do in the States. Here are just a few ways that the Chilean sense of time is different than what I’m used to:


A very common stereotype about Latin Americans is that they are frequently late, and I can attest to the fact that this is pretty accurate. While Chileans still stress the importance of being on time in professional and academic settings, with family and friends they have a much more laid back approach. It is typical to be 15 to 30 minutes late to a meeting with your friends and family. To me, this allows a pace of life that is much more relaxed. It allows you to live in the moment more, because you’re not so rushed to make it to your next appointment.


In Chile, lunch is the main meal of the day and is highlighted as an opportunity to take a break and spend time with your family (if possible). Lunch is frequently eaten between 2 and 3, and if I have time in between my classes I go home to sit down and eat lunch with my host family. This provides a nice break in the day that is yet another way that Chilean culture allows people to live in the moment.

A traditional Chilean once, typically consumed between 7 and 11 in the evening.
A traditional Chilean once, typically consumed between 7 and 11 in the evening.

Daily Perception of Time

Furthermore, the Chilean concept of daily periods of time is completely different than what I’m used to in the States. There is no word for “evening” in Spanish, and afternoon (or “tarde”) seems to seamlessly switch to nighttime (“la noche”). To me, this causes things to happen much later in the day, with dinner being consumed later in the evening. Because the afternoon is so long in Chile, it’s not uncommon to go to the beach or play a game of soccer at 5, 6 or even 7 in the evening. The more relaxed perception of daily time is yet another way that Chileans have developed a more laid back day-to-day rhythm.

Overall, living in Chile has given me the opportunity to slow down and live in the moment by approaching my daily routines in a more relaxed and intentional manner. Anyone coming to Latin America should be prepared to completely change their daily routines for the better by slowing down and appreciating the little things that they experience in their day-to-day lives.

The world awaits…discover it.

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