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Expat Argentina Life

Q&A on Expat Life in Argentina

I was recently interviewed by an expat portal regarding my experience in Argentina. Below is the interview.

Who are you?

My name is Damon. I鈥檓 33 and was born in the United States in the San Francisco bay area in a city called Santa Rosa. For the last 10 years I have lived in San Francisco which continues to be my favorite city in the world.

I鈥檓 an industrial engineer by trade and after working for a large IT consulting firm in the US I now work for a startup software analytics company managing our large accounts.

I was recently interviewed by an expat portal regarding my experience in Argentina. Below is the interview.

Who are you?

My name is Damon. I鈥檓 33 and was born in the United States in the San Francisco bay area in a city called Santa Rosa. For the last 10 years I have lived in San Francisco which continues to be my favorite city in the world.

I鈥檓 an industrial engineer by trade and after working for a large IT consulting firm in the US I now work for a startup software analytics company managing our large accounts.

I write about my experiences over at the Blog of Damon.

I currently live in C贸rdoba, Argentina with my girlfriend who was born here. We rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Nueva C贸rdoba.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I鈥檝e been living in C贸rdoba, Argentina since August 2013 so I only have about a month of full time expat experience under my belt.

In 2010 I backpacked around South America for 6 months. Argentina was definitely one of my favorites. I had only planned on staying in C贸rdoba for a few days as a stop while travelling from Mendoza to Buenos Aires. However I loved this city. I鈥檝e always had an affinity for college towns and C贸rdoba is certainly one of them featuring 7 different universities including Argentina鈥檚 oldest and most prestigious. The buzz and energy of the city full of (attractive) students kept me here for weeks. Well that and I met a girl. We鈥檙e still together to this day.

While I had done a fair amount of backpacking I鈥檇 never lived as an expat in a country despite having a strong desire to do so. I moved abroad to experience living in another country, to learn another culture, to learn another language, to learn another way of life. Living with my girlfriend and developing our relationship was another key motivator for me moving abroad.

What challenges did you face during the move?

My main challenge was finding an apartment that satisfied what I was looking for. Before coming to C贸rdoba I tried to do as much legwork as possible from the US to find an apartment. I even thought I had secured a place however the owner gave it to someone else on the day that I was travelling to C贸rdoba so I had to start from scratch upon arrival.

The language was also another challenge for me. I typically have no problems expressing myself in Spanish however as an intermediate I often get lost in group conversations and when people speak fast or unclear. I鈥檓 normally a fairly talkative person however in group settings with Argentines I鈥檓 often quiet and doubt my abilities. That is of course unless we鈥檙e drinking Fernet.

A third challenge for me was the pressure to get settled quickly. I negotiated with my current employer to keep my job while I moved to C贸rdoba. This was a great benefit however the move ended up coming at a very busy time for me and the company. And between looking for an apartment and getting my life setup here, I also had a ton work to complete. Taking a break from apartment hunting to jump into the lobby of a noisy hotel to take an important business call on Skype was a little stressful.

How did you find somewhere to live?

My search started with the local newspaper (La Voz inmuebles) which has classified ads online like Craigslist but with less features and less crazy people. Here you can find temporary apartments for rent although the quality of the photos listed on this site baffles me. While most have a few grainy photos of one room in the apartment, many are listed without photos making the search from abroad quite difficult.

The best option I found were the inmobiliarias (rental companies) which have temporary rentals in addition to offering plain unfurnished apartments. Since I didn鈥檛 want to deal with the hassle of buying furniture I went with the temporary option.

Just walking through the streets of Nueva C贸rdoba you鈥檒l run into an inmobiliaria every couple of blocks and a Google search of 鈥渋nmobiliaria temporario en C贸rdoba鈥 produces another handful of results to choose from. You pay these companies a commission so they have a vested interest in insuring that you find something that you like.

I ended up finding a temporary apartment to rent that met every one of my requirements. I wrote about my full experience about finding an apartment in C贸rdoba on my blog.

Are there many other expats in your area?

No, there are not. I believe the majority of Argentina鈥檚 expats reside in Buenos Aires. I鈥檝e met 2 other expats through the Spanish language school I鈥檓 enrolled in however C贸rdoba doesn鈥檛 seem to be the popular expat destination.

I鈥檝e only been here for a month but have had trouble connecting with other expats. If you鈥檙e reading this and live in C贸rdoba, Argentina definitely reach out as I鈥檇 really like to connect with other expats here.

Even in my original stay in C贸rdoba during my backpacking trip I remember that fellow gringos where a rare sight here. Outside of the hostels you just don鈥檛 run into many foreigners.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I find the locals here to be very friendly especially when they learn I鈥檓 a foreigner. Perhaps its because foreigners don鈥檛 come here too often?

I鈥檝e only lived here for a month so the number of locals I鈥檝e gotten to know intimately is limited however one of the things I鈥檝e enjoyed is the amount of personal interaction that goes into each shopping experience.

The other day I went to a hardware store to get a zapatilla (power strip). In the US this would involve me selecting the strip off the shelves and paying for it at the register while saying no more than maybe 3 words to the clerk. In Argentina it鈥檚 a full interaction. After explaining what I was looking for and making my selection I talked with the store owner for 15 minutes about f煤tbol (he was a Boca Juniors fan while the other guy working in the store supported Belgrano of C贸rdoba), life in the US and asados (we both love them). It was awesome. Interactions like these are the norm when dealing with the store owners.

One common theme in my interaction with locals is that they are surprised I鈥檓 here when they learn I鈥檓 from the US. Given the current economic and political situation in Argentina, many locals have dreams of a better life outside of Argentina and are often surprised I鈥檓 here. I assure them that their country has plenty of amazing things to offer this American.

What do you like about life where you are?

There are a lot of things I like about living in C贸rdoba, Argentina.

I like the variety that this area offers. Last weekend I went hiking and fishing in the foothills with my girlfriend鈥檚 brother. There are several small towns neighboring C贸rdoba reachable by bus that provide for excellent day trips. The nightlife here is also very good. When the students are in school every bar and disco in the Neuva C贸rdoba area is packed on Friday and Saturday night. I don鈥檛 know what is in the water here but the people are very good looking.

I like the D贸lar Blue. Argentina certainly isn鈥檛 the cheapest place to live however when compared with San Francisco, things tend to be cheaper here. However with the strong black market for US dollars 鈥 known as 鈥淏lue鈥 Dollars – I can trade my home earnings for an additional 30-35%.

I like that everything is new. Going to the store in San Francisco to buy bread is not fun but here it is. With my intermediate Spanish everything becomes an adventure and I like that.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I don鈥檛 know anyone here. My girlfriend is the only person that I knew well before moving here and during times when she is gone or we鈥檝e had an argument I feel very lonely in this new place.

There are certain small things and customs that I miss from back home. I miss the coffee from the US. The coffee here is not good, in my opinion. I miss NFL Sundays with family and friends. I miss free refills and unlimited water at restaurants. I miss good Mexican food 鈥 although the Argentine鈥檚 love of meat rivals my own.

I鈥檓 currently working for a US company while here in Argentina. I鈥檓 incredibly blessed to have this opportunity and there are hundreds of great things about it however one thing I dislike is that I鈥檓 not as ingrained in the community as I would be having a local job here. I wouldn鈥檛 trade my setup for anything however it would be nice to interact with the locals all day rather than just with the Americans who are my clients and coworkers.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

I think living abroad is an amazing experience. In just one short month I鈥檝e had so many great things happen and learned so much about myself. So my first piece of advice for those hesitant on trying to live abroad 鈥 as I certainly was 鈥 is to go for it. Things will work out.

My second piece of advice is don鈥檛 pay for anything with a credit card. Those companies will convert pesos to your home currency at the official market rate. Instead bring cash and change dollars to pesos at the black market rate and that steak dinner and bottle of Malbec instantly becomes 30-35% cheaper. If you weary of travelling with lots of cash, another option is the money transfer service Xoom. With this service you can transfer pesos to yourself at a rate that is slightly less favorable than the current Dolar Blue however still well above what the official market rate is.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan on living in C贸rdoba, Argentina for a minimum of 6 months. After that period of time I鈥檓 going to re-evaluate things and make a decision as to what I want to do. Staying here longer is certainly a strong possibility. The 2014 World Cup is right next door in Brazil and I鈥檝e always wanted to go.

Despite the country鈥檚 poor economic condition I feel like there is a lot of opportunity here especially for foreigners who are not dependent on the unstable Argentine peso. I plan to explore some of these opportunities during the next six months and see where that leads me.

Finally, feel free to reach out to me as I鈥檓 happy to answer any questions. The best way to reach me is via the community section of my blog.

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