Letter from Chile

Last week, I took a business trip to Santiago, Chile.  A prospective client was holding a pre-proposal conference, which are scheduled with very short notice and no opportunity to reschedule.  So off I went, returning a couple of days later.

Besides the business, I like visiting Santiago.  I’ve found it very much a place with really good food: not quite Paris or Barcelona, but light-years better than the suburban experience I encounter when travelling within the US.   I’m also glad to escape the weather in New York City in August.

I like to watch the people on the streets and in the subway.   It’s not necessarily that the people are better-looking than in other parts of the world, but there’s something about how they dress and carry themselves that’s different from New York.  Perhaps their mothers told them not to slouch.  On the weekends when I ride the subway, there’s always some number of young couples being sweetly affectionate.  It reminds me of happy moments from my own youth.

The Chileans are more capitalist than we are, and more matter-of-fact about money.  When you pay with a credit card in a Chilean restaurant, you tell the waiter how much you’re tipping, so that he can punch it into the machine.

It’s not perfect: there’s more income inequality in Chile than the US, and Santiago does have slums.  Most of the jobs come from small businesses, but their share of the nation’s economy is smaller than other Latin American countries.  So I imagine that many Chileans get along by scraping together odd jobs and selling this or that.

Nevertheless, it seems to work.   Business gets done.  People are polite, but don’t waste your time.  Other than the usual caution about pickpockets, I’ve always felt safe walking the streets.

The Chileans seem to have gone through the transition that we’re banging our heads over right now in the US, and come out the other side.  And for them, it seems to work.  But to get to this point, the Chileans had to endure about 20 years of military dictatorship, which we (the US) inflicted on them.

How will we manage the transition that we face?

It’s coming, like it or not.

4 thoughts on “Letter from Chile”

  1. Life is a lot different there than it is here in the US.

    Willing to bet they don’t have people that own every electronic gadget there is; there is also probably very few cars that are owned compared to what we own — the guy next door to me has 2 vehicles, plus his kids each have one.

    It’s probably a simpler way of life.

    Nobody gets it yet that we are shot to hell regarding the job market — I just went through another round-a-round with a company; 3 weeks ago i submitted a resume and nobody there seems to know if the job is available or not or if there are even interviews. Poor communication and just bad company structure — the market is shot to hell as far as full time jobs with benefits go.

    Every single company seems to have some worm in the apple.

    So the solution is odd jobs and run your own show?

    Easier said than done. I’ve said it a million times: Entrepeneurship is not for everyone and it takes a gripload of blood, sweat and tears to get a self-owned company off the launching pad and into orbit.

    And many of these businesses never get off the ground and many more just fail.

    I think we’re gone geese any way you look at it. I still can’t believe what’s happened — not only to me and people like NWP and Collegeguy (where is he, anyway??? Can anybody account for him?) I also can’t believe what’s transpired with the job market and hiring in general.

  2. I miss Collegeguy, I hope he is here. Anyway, agreed on all points. I am considering going back to school but the reality is even “safe” jobs aren’t that way anymore. Even these safe jobs that have openings are all parttime. I’ve been applying for parttime teaching, and computer jobs, yes parttime. I have been unemployed 4 1/2 years, why? Why do employers bypass me to hire someone else?

    The guy I am interested in (working on this, and think this will be more successful than finding a job)owns a pet food store and he is struggling, though he said he’s been getting more and more customers. People in town all buy from him because he’s well liked and also to keep another business in town. I try to shop local because I like the idea that maybe more smaller companies will either be able to do more things for the town but also maybe more hiring. Not to mention that I feel small businesses are the wave of the future again and yes I want to start one myself.

  3. We’re seeing some of the transition already, as people stand on corners with signs or go door-to-door looking for work, and the number of panhandlers increase.

    There’s an old joke where a guy takes a wheelbarrow full of trash out of a plant every day for decades. The guard diligently inspects the load, and lets the guy pass. Finally, on the day that the guy is to retire, the guard asks why he was taking trash for so many years. The guy said, “I was stealing wheelbarrows!”

    This is the sort of thing that we are seeing as houses get stripped for copper and aluminum.

  4. There are more little “stand alone” businesses: pet sittting and dogwalking seem to be 2 of them.

    One guy I know works as a personal endurance trainer. Somebody else sells tickets to local events, theatre, sporting and others.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a question I was asked vuia phone on Thursday morning:

    “I just received a resume. What is it for and who does it go to?”

    Are you kidding me? This is better than ‘The dog ate my homework” or “The sun got in my eyes.”

    This is why the unemployment rate is nearly 10%: what kind of companies are hiring people like this??? You can’t ask the office manager “I just got a resume. do we have a job open?”???

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