8 rules for your first expat year

EXPAT RULES

So you’ve decided to move to Buenos Aires. It tougher than you might think. Most expats experience some serious culture shock after the first few months of honeymoon anesthesia wears off. Here are some hints. I welcome more.

1. Avoid all needy expats at all costs

There is a love/hate relationship between expats and themselves. It’s the nature of the beast. On one hand it’s nice to be around folks who’re like you. On the other hand expats who are not here for love are, at best, a fairly unstable bunch and generally don’t have family or non expat support groups. At worst expats go braindead doing all kinds of stupid things they would never do back home. If you are acclimatizing to a new place, you’re better off not being around energy drainers.

2. If you are a needy expat, stop it

Look. It’s tough. The food is different. The weather is different. The bugs are different. You are lost all the time. People act differently.

That’s why you’re here! Enjoy it! I promise you that the only ones who’re really going to be intrested in your problems are needy expats who just waiting for a chance to dump their problems on you in return.

3. Take classes

This is a super awesome way to make friends. Cultural centers, workshops, take a night class in painting or dancing or singing or woodworking or anything else you’ve always wanted to do. Spanish class doesn’t count (see #1) .

4. Excercise

It’s hard to excercise in a new place. Go running. Join the local soccer game. Or start your own (hopefully not with 100% expats). Join a gym. Take yoga classes and meet people. Whatever, just do something.

5. Realize that moving to a new place is tough

Things get better with time. You’ll eventually not be lost and you’ll be able to communicate just fine but it takes time. How long that time is and how much you enjoy it while you’re in it is up to you.

6. Every day do at least one nice thing for yourself that helps you feel at home.

One step each day. Even if it’s only one tiny little thing. It could be signing up for the gym, buying yourself a flower, drawing yourself a picture for your wall, relaxing and listening to some good music, something.

7. Learn the language

The sooner you can talk like you do in your native language the sooner you can be yourself in your new home. Until you can talk fluently you won’t be able to express who you are. This is unbelievably frustrating. You can take it down a notch by learning faster.

8. Get involved in the culture and community in which you live

I can’t speak for other places but it’s great to live in a place where not everything is owned by a multinational corporation (yet?). Take advantage of not having to feel isolated from your fellow human being. See where you can apply some of your skills. Try something out that you never have before. I’ve hardly got involved at all in the community around me after two years. I wish I had.

 

The Manshake

ANTEBESO

Cheek Kissing.  It’s a custom I really love. For American’s such as myself it seems really intimate but it was explained to me on arrival by a coworker who pointed out that from a health perspective it’s far more sanitary than shaking hands. First of all you hardly touch cheeks and second of all people are likely to be less likely to have touched said cheek to something nasty earlier in the day than their hand. The hand is disgusting. Everybody knows this. But they smile and just grip harder…

Also I love the etiquette of kissing. In the vast majority of meetings everyone goes around and greets every other person, kissing them as they do the rounds. Every guy expat has had the male/male kissing experience. You know, the “oh my lord I am kissing a man.” Or for the Italians out there: “Oh my lord I am kissing a man not twice but only once.” This can be uncomfortable the first time as you’re right next to the person’s face when these thoughts are going through your head. However, they pretty much go away after a few months. Just kidding, they usually go away immediately.

However, this weird fear is not only on the part of expats and it turns out that somes Argentine guys don’t like kissing expat guys. It’s true! Why? I am not a porteño guy so I don’t know the motivation but I understand it as it was explained to me. So for most porteños this is just an automatic thing they do, they don’t think about it much. However, as soon as an expat is thrown into the mix, some question the acceptability of their own culture. Apparently the porteño is aware that it’s not the custom of the expat and for that reason he himself feels uncomfortable that perhaps his own culture could be misconstrued. Or that it just suddenly seems awkward. Or he doesn’t want the expat to misunderstand this as some kind of sexual advance. Or I have no idea.

Anyways, this is when the manshake enters. The manshake is when a porteño guy kisses everyone in the room (girl and boy alike) until he gets to a male expat, at which he shakes hands. Personally I can’t imagine myself in the States trying to bow to Japanese people to avoid seeming aggressive. Also it’s probable that I have the motivations way off on what these Argies think. Who knows?

Until next time.

Beso