Chileans are famous for using the phrase un poquito más (“just a tiny bit more”) when quoting prices, bidding jobs, or telling you how much longer something will take. The problem that Americans and Europeans have when they hear this phrase is that they take it literally and then get surprised and frustrated when the tiny bit more turns out to be significantly more. For example, if a clerk tells you that a hostel room costs 21,000 pesos ($40) per night with a single bed and a room with a queen bed just costs “un poquito más” you had better ask exactly how much more. The price could be 31,000 pesos ($59 or $19 more), which is nearly 50% more expensive. This scenario really happened to me in Valdivia not too long ago and reminded me of the problem.

To the American and European way of thinking, a 50% increase in price is not “just a tiny bit more” but it is in Latin America, Chile included. The other part of this problem for new immigrants lies in the fact that Chileans love to quote the base price and then if you ask for a bigger, better, more robust, etc. model, meal, room and so forth they will only tell you that it costs a tiny bit more. The foreigner simply presumes, therefore, that the increase in price is less than 10% or so, and is often shocked to find out later that it is actually 40% to even 70% higher. Also beware of the common variations of the phrase: (1) un poco más (“a little more”), (2) un poquito más (“a tiny bit more”) and (3) un poquitito más (“a really tiny bit more”). The same potential misunderstanding arises when they use any of these versions, although un poquitito más can be how they convey what we would think of as “a little more.” The bottom line is that it is best to ask for exact prices in Chile.