Last week, we shared with you the first part of our interview with Ryan Lou where he talked about Startup Chile and living in Chile. In this week’s article, Ryan shares with us the beauty of the Chile’s culture and her people.
Founder of Krawst.com
Interviewed by Ridza Salim
Written by Melissa Chia
[This is the second and final part of our conversation with Ryan Lou, the founder of Krawst.com.]
“After spending nine months there (in Chile), it was a different beauty that I fell in love with; its culture, its welcoming people and a strong community of fellow startup founders. That brought the place together.”
What were some of your expectations before you went on the trip? Were they met?
Search ‘Chile’ on Google Images and you get the most picturesque images, with beautiful mountains, the snow capped Andes, sandy beaches, exotic girls and the largest outdoor swimming pool (one kilometre long) in the world. That was my vision of the place. After spending nine months there, it was a different beauty that I fell in love with –its culture, its welcoming people and a strong community of fellow startup founders. That brought the place together.
To be honest, the first few days there were very difficult. I arrived alone and I did not know anyone. I did not do any homework, so I did not know any Spanish and I had to order food by pointing the items.
The first time I really felt welcomed was when I was walking down the street one day and a young girl spotted me, and she started waving with a big smile on her face.
I think if we all treated someone different from us with that much enthusiasm, the world will be a much more amazing place to explore.
How was your experience with interacting with the Chileans?
I think I always had some difficulty interacting with Chileans, my Spanish never got that good (I mean, I already struggle with Chinese!) and when I interacted with the locals, it was in English. Thankfully, a lot of participants from Startup Chile were fluent in English.
But, I cannot overstate how welcoming they are of foreigners. At one travel conference, people came up to me in droves to ask me how they can get more people to visit their travel resorts, hostels and hotels. They knew immediately I was not fluent with Spanish, but that did not stop them asking for my thoughts; they would grab a friend who could speak to me in English or try to have a conversation with me over Google Translate.
Were there any stark cultural differences or similarities with Singaporeans (e.g. how they view life, work, leisure)?
Definitely. The more I travel, the more I realise that people around the world are similar. They have the same aspirations, they love, they live, they do, but I think one of the biggest differences (between Chile and Singapore) is their passion.
When the local soccer team wins a major tournament, everyone takes to the streets to celebrate – it can get really rowdy! It is also a really common sight to see couples making out in public. Go to the local park anytime during the day, and the benches and ground is filled with couples.
Protests also happen very regularly in Chile, primarily students taking to the streets to get the government to fix the broken education system. In Chile, the people express themselves freely, it is part of the culture, and gradually I began to understand and appreciate it.
Are there any must-see attractions, must-do activities and must-try food?
Chile is so diverse, which allows for lots of different experiences. If you are in the city (Santiago), do check out the Museums. They are free every Sunday. I lived right at Belles Artes at the fine arts district, and there is always something interesting happening in the day.
Then, visit the coastal cities. Valparaiso is amazing, it is a port town built on a hill and its urban planning is what the city of San Francisco was modeled after.
That is not all. In the North are the beautiful deserts and to the west, the Andes Mountains. There is more than enough for travelers to see in Chile!
Any advice for our readers who want to go to Chile?
I went there without any preparation so you can too! Learn to say a few simple words in Spanish, learn how to say 1 to 10 in the language and be friendly.
For everyone traveling to Latin America, safety is one of the main concerns. Unlike some of the other countries in the region, Chile is really safe. The police are there to ensure safety, like in Europe, but you have to watch out for snatch thieves.
Any last words for our readers?
I think Singaporeans tend to overthink things. When an opportunity comes to immerse yourself in a different culture, live or volunteer abroad, do not hesitate even if it throws a huge wrench in your plans.
There is a lot of beauty in the world, which we sometimes miss when we stay blocked off in one place.
Welcome foreign faces, it is difficult for anyone moving to a new place, sometimes just one genuine smile can make a huge difference.
Be passionate about everything you do, and do not be afraid to show it.
Photos of Chile