It’s a puzzle to many Argentinean people. Why do so many people from so-called ‘first world’ countries such as the UK and the USA choose to leave those countries and live in Buenos Aires instead? A lot of Argentines would give their eye teeth to live in a first world country – with the standard of living that entails – so why is there so much traffic in the opposite direction?
Three reasons for becoming a BA expat
For foreigners who have a lot of savings denominated in a first world currency, or for anyone able to earn an income denominated in a first world currency while they live here, then the answer might be simple: in order to enjoy a higher standard of living by leveraging off of a favorable exchange rate. In other words: money.
(Interestingly, a recently published ranking of 214 world cities in order of how cheap they are for expatriates put Buenos Aires at 161, the third cheapest South American city behind only Bolivia’s La Paz at 211 and Paraguay’s Asunción at 204.)
So there’s that. But that can’t be the only reason, because many expats who live in Buenos Aires don’t have that much money. In fact, many work for local wages and just barely scrape by, with inflation squeezing them further all the time.
What about love? In any expat crowd there’ll always be a significant fraction of people who’ve fallen in love with a local and stayed in their country in order to be with them.
Money, love…then there are the people who are here just because they wanted new experiences. Extreme familiarity with the country of your birth can, at least for some people, breed contempt. Living in a different country means that things aren’t as predictable day-to-day as they are back home, and while that’s scary at times, it also makes you feel alive and fully engaged with your surroundings.
A different way of life
We’re still missing something though, and maybe it’s this: living in a first world country is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be in the first place. Sure, if you’d never been to (for example) the USA, and most of your information about it came from movies, music and TV shows, then you might think it was some sort of paradise where everyone has great teeth and lives in an amazing apartment in a big city despite having a menial job (…Friends, I’m looking at you). The reality, as anyone reading this will know, is somewhat different. For example, there are still lots of poor people. Living in a rich country doesn’t automatically make you rich. Wages are higher, but so are living costs.
And even if you are rich you might not be happy, because the fact is that having two cars and a flat screen TV in every room doesn’t make you any happier. What does make you happier is more time spent enjoying life with friends and family, and that’s exactly what many people in the first world sacrifice in order to work hard enough to get a lot of material possessions.
Life in Buenos Aires is a little different. The pace is slower, the day is longer. Different things take priority: in many first world countries, it’s all about the ‘5 Cs’ – Credit Card, Condo, Car and Cash. Here it’s the ‘4 Fs’ – Fútbol, Family, Food and Friends. Many people would prefer the 4 Fs to the 5 Cs, or would if they tried the switch!
Ultimately, if it’s a different way of life that you’re looking for, then living overseas as an expat is a win/win: either you’ll find something that you like better and stay, or you’ll return home with a new appreciation of your homeland.
Money, love, new experiences, a different way of life…yep, that sounds like a pretty good list. And surely reason enough to put up with a little bad pizza and dog shit on the sidewalks!