My name is Katie Metz, and I’m a yanqui (Argentine slang for an American) from Philadelphia living in Necochea, Argentina. I’ve called this small seaside city home for the last four years.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I met my Argentine boyfriend (now husband) Daniel six years ago. After maintaining a long-distance romance for two and half years, we finally decided that for the benefit of our relationship, one of us would need to make the leap into the unknown. For personal reasons, we decided that it would be easier for me to move to Argentina than for Daniel to move to the United States, particularly since he’s involved in his family’s business. I moved to Necochea, a coastal city of 68,000 inhabitants in the province of Buenos Aires, back in March 2009.
2. How do you make a living?
I work from home as a freelance Spanish-English translator. It took time to build up a clientele, but I now have a steady stream of interesting projects from high-quality clients. I love the flexibility of working as a freelancer, but there are times that I miss the camaraderie that one finds in an office environment. And yes, sometimes it’s very tempting to spend the entire day in my pajamas with my hair pulled back into a messy bun.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Facebook helps me keep on top of what’s going on with family and friends back home. I also stay in touch with my family via text messages, emails, and phone calls using magicJack and Facetime on my iPod. We talk frequently, but there’s no set schedule.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Argentina?
I enjoy the slower pace of life in Argentina. I work comfortably from home, and my flexible schedule ensures that I have plenty of time for the family and friends that are so cherished here. I have an excellent relationship with Daniel’s family, and we often spend lazy weekend afternoons together chatting, drinking mate, going for drives around the city, etc.
I live just 10 minutes away by car from the Atlantic Ocean, and if the mood strikes me, I’m able to go for a walk on the beach in a heartbeat. I also enjoy relaxing down by the river (only five minutes away on foot), and Daniel and I often picnic along its banks when the weather allows. Being surrounded by natural beauty provides a sense of calm and serenity.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Argentina?
Life in Argentina brings with it a good deal of uncertainty, due to both political and economic instability. As a result, sometimes I feel as though it’s hard to make plans for the future, which is probably why many Argentines seem to live for the moment. Also, few businesses here understand the concepts of efficiency and customer service. Argentine bureaucracy can be infuriating, and the number of steps one must complete for the simplest of transactions would test even the patience of a saint.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss my family and the friendships that I had cultivated back in the United States. I wish I had more opportunities to visit my family in Philadelphia, but the expense of traveling is a limiting factor. Fortunately, family members have been able to travel to Argentina a couple of times since I moved here.
I also really miss certain foods that are unavailable here, particularly ethnic foods like Chinese or Mexican. While I enjoy Argentine cuisine, some days I’d give my right arm to have a take-out carton of beef lo mein or some spicy chiles rellenos.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Being married to an Argentine certainly opened a lot of doors for me socially, as I was automatically welcomed into my husband’s circle of family and friends. Also, back in the U.S., I was involved in music and choral singing, so I joined a chorus here in Necochea. As a member of Coro Alta Mira, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and feel more like part of the community.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Argentines are creatures of the night. Most families typically eat dinner at 10 or 10:30pm, and run-of-the mill social events may end at 2 or 3am. Weddings begin late in the evening and are generally going strong until 6 or 7 in the morning. I’ve been outlasted by old ladies on more than one occasion. I honestly don’t know how people get out of bed the next day!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
The attitudes and customs of porteños (residents of the city of Buenos Aires) do not necessarily reflect what you’ll find in the rest of the country or even the rest of the province of Buenos Aires. There’s much more to Argentina than just the capital.
Everyone assumes that all countries south of the (U.S.) border must love spicy food. Well, I’m here to tell you that the vast majority of Argentines can’t tolerate spicy food—even too much black pepper sets off alarm bells. And no, they don’t eat tacos here either.
Lastly, not everyone dances tango. A lot of young Argentines think of tango as something for the geriatric set.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living here in Necochea is, on the whole, lower than that of Philadelphia; however, rampant inflation is quickly eating away at the difference. For example, it has become very expensive to dine out, so my husband and I almost always have meals at home, whereas I used to eat out quite a bit back in the U.S.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Try to maintain realistic expectations about what your new life will be like. Connect with other expats who can offer advice and understand your situation, even if they don’t live around the corner from you. And lastly, be willing to laugh at yourself and the blunders you’re sure to make as you adjust to your new surroundings, language, culture, etc.!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I began this blog in 2008 as a way to chronicle my experiences in Argentina, to keep in touch with friends and family back home, and to connect with like-minded people with an interest in this country. It’s fun to share my perspective on life in Argentina as an expat, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about my stories, recipes, and tips from both foreigners and Argentines. The blog has also helped open a few doors to job opportunities, another unexpected (but welcome!) benefit.
Katie's blog, Seashells and Sunflowers
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