This is the final part in George’s Story, if you missed the first parts, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
I arrived in Argentina in June of 2012 and it was freezing! I already knew that when it was spring and summer in the States, it was fall and winter in Argentina but apparently my body was still lagging seasonally.
After arriving at Cordoba’s airport, my spouse and I were greeted by my parents. It was extremely emotional for all of us. After all, when they moved to Argentina seven years earlier, I had made the choice to stay in the States. This produced a fall out and neither of us ever expected to see each other again until now.
My parents were instrumental in helping us through the transition.
I had a home of my own and it was fully furnished. Even the fridge and pantry were flowing with different types of food. They had pretty much thought of everything. We felt a great deal of euphoria in the first few weeks we were here. It was a new country and my spouse and I were eager to explore it but eventually, the new wore-off and we realized we were very far from our friends, family and essentially the only life we had ever known. Soon the euphoria turned into desperation and depression.
There were a couple of tough adjustments; the first being the language. We meant to speak Spanish the whole time but that plan lasted a good ten seconds before we went back to speaking English in the house and on the streets. My spouse was born in Ft. Lauderdale to an Irish mother and a Puerto-Rican father. Although he spoke and understood Spanish to a certain degree, he was unaccustomed to how different the Argentine Castilian was to the standard Spanish we were used to hearing from our family and friends in the States. Even I was a little thrown off by some of the words, sayings and jokes and I was raised by Argentine parents.
However, the biggest obstacle for us had been separating the things my mother had told us about how easy it would be to integrate to Argentina with the actual facts.
At the time I was 35 and my spouse was 29. We hadn’t anticipated any issues finding work, but we also didn’t know that an employer could screen potential candidates based on their age and gender. It became obvious that we were going to have to figure out the truth about life in Argentina for ourselves. So we asked around. Eventually we learned that it’s difficult to get work if you’re over 27 and virtually impossible after 30. Of course there’s always the option of working under the table, which we have done as freelance writers in order to survive here.
Another obstacle we discovered was the stigma that certain people have in regards to Americans. I can’t tell you how awkward it is to get invited to a party and hear people bad mouthing Americans and calling us “colonizing terrorists.” This initially made it really difficult to make friends and for a time we decided to live in a virtual bubble. Eventually, we reached out to other expats and they in turn introduced us to Argentineans who are kind and open-minded. Some even speak English too.
The food however took some getting used to. Argentines are quite fond of their barbecues, which consist of everything from cow brains to kidneys, ribs and entrails. We found very little variety beyond the empanadas, crumb sandwiches and “Dulce De Leche” spread. I missed the variety that was available in the States. I was craving Chinese food, good old southern fried chicken, fried Okra, bacon, maple syrup, waffles, stuffing, turkey slices, pepperoni, pizza rolls, Hot Pockets, Shanghai wings, waffles, General Tso’s Chicken, New York style pizza, tacos, burritos, even the Cuban and Puerto-Rican sandwiches (called Pernil) that I’d grown accustomed to. Granted some of these items are hard but not impossible to find here. Other dishes can be made from scratch if you’re lucky enough to be married to someone who loves to cook, like I am. But for the most part, a lot of the American, Mexican, or oriental style dishes are served at restaurants with an Argentine twist to them, which simply doesn’t work for me.
However, Argentina has given us the chance to do something we love quite a bit and that’s to explore and see new things.
In the last two years, I’ve visited the Sierras (mountain region) of Cordoba. I’ve been awestruck by the rock formations and breathtaking depths.
I’ve also visited the capital in Buenos Aires which is far more similar to the States than anything I’ve seen in Cordoba. The buildings in the capital are taller. It’s a bit more hectic and people are always buying things in much the same way as they do in Manhattan. Some areas, especially the business district, where a lot of the national and international banks are located, reminded me of downtown Miami. Recently, I’ve also had the chance to visit the province of San Juan. Did it have an emotional resonance for me because I was born there?
Unfortunately I have no memory of my life in San Juan as I only spent my first year and a half in this province. So the answer to that question would be no. So have I integrated to Argentine life after two and a half year of living here? Um no and I don’t see myself ever doing that, at least not fully, but that’s okay. My initial fear was that I would have to give up who I was to assimilate to Argentinean society, but I’ve come to realize that I can truly have the best of both worlds without having to lose anything and that’s one of the biggest hurdles I’ve managed to overcome as an expat.
A huge thanks to Jorge (George) for sharing his story with us over the last few weeks! I love the perspective because each expat experience is completely unique. From your background situation, to logistics on the ground where you move, to what you miss most from your “home” country.
We’ll be reposting our own expat story in this format in the coming weeks.