-Where were you born?
Castro Valley, California, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
Buenos Aires, Argentina
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my husband and various combinations of our four daughters, ages 16, 17, 19 and 21
-How long have you been living in Argentina?
Just over a year
-What is your age?
47 years old
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Argentina?
We were living in Mexico last year and really wanted to live in a large city with cultural and educational opportunities for our kids plus a sophisticated populace that is creative, passionate and receptive to new ideas.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
We just have the typical tourist visa, requiring trips to Uruguay via ferry every three months.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
When we lived in Mexico last year, we got our family’s insurance through www.WorldNomads.com but here we decided to get a policy from a company in this country. We use OSDE and it is very reasonable while offering a great deal of coverage. Very easy to sign up, and great people to work with.
-How do you make your living in Argentina? Do you have any type of income generated?
My husband and I work virtually--we own companies in the US. I have a company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, (www.Real-WorldMindfulness.com) through which I offer online courses in mindfulness as well as one-on-one training via phone and email. My husband has a company that sells his line of magnetic jewelry in retail stores throughout the US. We hire Argentine web designers, industrial designers, call staff and others here for projects because we love meeting the people here and working face to face. There is a very creative and highly-skilled pool of freelancers here and we enjoy partnering with them--and paying them much more than they’d get paid by Argentine companies for the same work! Most of our fulfillment and other systems are based in the US.
-Do you speak Spanish and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Well, I learned Japanese when I was in my twenties and I’m here to tell you that learning Spanish in my 40s is much harder! Still, I do attend two three-hour lessons a week and try to continue my progress with the language. The difficulty lies in the fact that I write/read/speak English almost all day (work and family) and don’t get a true immersion experience.
I definitely feel that if you are going to live in a place for any length of time you’d better be interested in learning the culture as well as the language! We do our best to blend in, support everything we can, and build meaningful relationships with those in our community here.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Almost never. Our kids have all been here with us, though they are heading to various universities in North America. I can’t think of anything I miss other than being able to go to a play and understand it. There are so many wonderful opportunities for recreation, learning, and just plain fun. We have more friends here than we ever had in the US, and we’ve all got plenty of time to relax and enjoy life because it is a priority here!
-Do you have other plans for the future?
In the next year, all of our kids will be out of BA and we plan to leverage our apartment here by swapping with other people around the world. It’s a great way to see new places and live like a local while building a relationship with someone who stays in our place! We will certainly visit our daughters (in NYC, Nova Scotia, Oregon) by swapping, and plan many trips in the future (no short jaunts…at least a month or two in each location). Since we work virtually, we can go wherever we like as long as we have internet access.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We expected to rent here but bought a place in the first month for less than a quarter of what it would have cost us to buy a comparable place in, say, Portland, Oregon (where we are from). It was one of the easiest real estate transactions we’ve ever experienced. Our apartment is brand new with three bedrooms and two bathrooms and though it's not in a trendy neighborhood it is very close to everything and two blocks from the subway line. We have been very happy with our apartment, our building, the management, the location, the neighborhood, everything. We've already done the buy-and-remodel thing many times, so it's wonderful for us to have a new place that requires no time or attention whatsoever. We hope to keep this place for many, many years.
-What is the cost of living in Argentina?
Hard to say exactly because we keep shifting the number of people in our household! But the fact that we have no cars or costs for car insurance/maintenance means we save a lot of money there (especially with a bunch of young drivers!) and of course, we save a lot on our health insurance and other costs compared to living in the US. In a strange way, this has been a fantastic way to save money for college as we are still paid in dollars but have expenses here in pesos. It frees up cash to pay for three college tuitions at the same time! In addition, our daughters have found some really great educational opportunities here--private universities with programs in Spanish that attract students from the top private universities in the States. For the same course/teacher/everything, our daughter will pay about $500 for a semester that will cost that student from Stanford sitting next to her more than $8000! Yeah. So, we’ve definitely learned some great ways to save money on living AND college expenses.
-What do you think about the Argentine people?
I love the people here. I’ve lived abroad in a number of places, and there is something about Argentina that really inspires me. The people have been through so much with the economic/political issues in the last few years, and they have learned that though they can’t control the government, they can certainly choose to value what matters most--relationships with family and friends and making time to do the things you love to do.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Argentina?
It’s got such incredible scenery, from the Patagonia to the colored hills of Salta and Jujuy. Really spectacular. But most of all, I really love the city of Buenos Aires--it is so vibrant and full of passion, history, beauty, and surprises. I do like the change in seasons--the hot, humid summers and the chilly winters, the changing of the colors in fall, etc.
The cost of living (because we are paid in dollars) is great because we can have what feels like a very luxurious (though in some ways also very simple) lifestyle. We go out to coffee every day, one meal out a day, we have lots of social outings to meet friends, and there is plenty of time to walk the Palermo parks or discover new barrios.
I guess that I could get really worried about the political and economic instability here, but the truth is that I'd rather live in a place that has already been through a big bubble-bursting experience than live in a place in which there is fear that it all might go to hell. ;-) Here, everything DID crash and people survived and it's remarkable to see their resiliency as well as their way of digging in to make their community better.
I love the national pride here--something I do not feel for my own country and frankly I don't usually value patriotism for its own sake but here, it's somehow refreshing! All in all, it is a fascinating--though not perfect--place to live.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Argentina?
Although I know a number of people who have come without any kind of plan and figured out ways to make enough money to live here, it makes a lot more sense if you have some sort of idea what you want to do. Don’t come down thinking you are going to make a lot of money teaching English--you won’t get paid well and the work is grueling at times, often requiring a great deal of travel via public transit (which is fine and all, but not for several hours a day). If you’re coming with the idea that you want to be creative and play with your possibilities--that is great, but it really helps to have a group of others as support and to share ideas. I started a group here called the Creativity Lab and we meet weekly to play with new ways to get inspired and to form a group of like-minded but diverse people from around the world who are carving out a whole new life here in BA.
You can learn more about that on my blog at www.SexySpanishClub.blogspot.com
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Argentina?
More about creative expats in Buenos Aires at www.SexySpanishClub.blogspot.com
Great daily photos of Buenos Aires at http://akworld.net/BAweekly
Photos, restaurant reviews and playing with food at http://www.saltshaker.net
Reviews of various activities and places, scoops and more at http://www.buenostours.com