Asado! Choripan! Milanesa! Noquis con tuco! Empanadas Fritas de Carne! I could go on, trust me. These are some of the few delicious meals one can get in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I moved to after college. I lived in Argentina ten years after college. It was a life-changing experience and something that I still hold very dear to me.
I remember the first night in my new apartment in Buenos Aires; I lay in bed with a feeling I could only explain as daunting. I wondered if I had made the right choice, if I would make friends or if I would be able to make a new life in this foreign land. Now looking back over the last ten years of that experience I would not change it for anything. For me, the key to success was getting connected to the local culture.
Every chance I would get I tried to go to local music concerts, late-night food spots or anything I could find. Getting to know the people and the culture helped me develop a love and appreciation for those days in which I was wishing I was anywhere but there. Trust me those days do indeed come.
I remember meeting other ex-pats during my time and there seemed to be two main groups: the immersed and the disengaged. The immersed retained their home culture yet tried to engage with where they were living, whether it was going to a local sports match or nature outing. The disengaged seemed to always be yearning to be home and stayed within a closed routine and circuit. After years of living somewhere, they hadn’t even done the most mundane things in their foreign assignment. I always appreciated those people who tried to get involved in their local culture.
- The internet is a wonderful thing! No matter where you live somebody at some point has visited or lived in your global city. Check out some blogs for recommendations of food, museums, opera halls or sights to see. Make a list of a few places you want to and take your family of adventure.
- Whether you are there for business or part of the diplomatic core, you will be interacting with locals. I encourage you to ask them about their favorite foods or things to do wherever you live.
- Getting plugged in! Whether it be an international English speaking church, ex-pat reading group or sports team I suggest you find a third place. A third place is any place outside of work and family life where you can connect with other ex-pats in a different setting. Some of my deepest and most lasting relationships come from friends I met in these spaces.
- Food is a great way to get to know somewhere. My mom used to tell me: try everything at least once! I have eaten some different things, some I loved, others I like and others… I downright found nasty. I can now say I love blood sausage and disdain marinated pig spinal cord.
I cannot over-emphasize to you how important it is to try to make your home away from home the best experience possible for you and your kids. Whether it is trying local bites or exploring the touristy spots, the memories you make will always be there with you.
Stephen DiTrolio – and his wife Courtney live in Princeton, NJ. Stephen has lived most of his life outside of the USA in Costa Rica, Argentina and Belgium. Stephen is currently doing his Masters at Princeton Theological Seminary.